Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Can We Separate Out Tribe From Faith?

Recent discussions remind me that tribalism seems to be a part of the human religious experience... that we who seek a rational relationship with God must also weigh tribal affiliations which seem to be an immutable part of many.

What we do with these tribal affiliations is the question. I am rather convinced that idolatry which William Penn accused most Christians who were not Quaker, can be seen in many Quakers today - and in Penn as well. Well, what do we do? Penn sought light by describing what he felt was Christian idolatry. And yet, as modern history uncovers the story of the creation of the image of Jesus... what would Penn say of his own condemnation of other churches? Would he in fact decry his early writing or extend it to rethink his own Christianity?

Hmm... I am often thoughtful of my own tribalism, of which I try, in a search for truth, to be conscious. Among some peoples, with whom I work, I engage in ritual purification ... so as to not pollute their homes in their tribal faith. I also keep several old Quaker customs which are no longer in general use, I remove my hat when a message is being given. I do so to show respect and attention, but I keep separate that action from faith. I could leave it on, but for fear of sending a message that I do not respect that particular speaker, and so I show equal respect...

For me, to be a Quaker, is to transcend the tribal in my life, however to be equally present to God in everyone else. The implication in that ... I find to be important.

4 Comments:

At 2:22 PM, Blogger Larry said...

Profound post, Lor. Yes, we're all tribalists, but enlightenment frees one from being serious about it: the NY Yankees, Notre Dame, Duke, Quakers: all tribes, but with God's help they may be more.

Are you inutterably convinced that Quakers are the best (faith, whatever)? then you're a tribalist; Jesus does not perceive us like that.

The best thing Joseph Campbell ever said (wrote) -to me- was his description of the three stages of consciousness:

Family is all; Father (mother) is God; all warmth concentrated there.

In school you form groups (tribes, teams, glee clubs, classes, your school, your church, your nation-- all tribes. All positve affect is focused there and all negative affect is focused out. (I often think of the Japanese attitude in WWII.)

The third stage is to join the human race. All men are brothers; the 'neighbor' is universal. Human kindness (love) spreads out to include the race.

(of course some see a 4th stage: all sentient beings; others a 5th all creation. That's okay, but that step from tribalism to humanity is the big one for me.)

Do you know Quakers who have made it? Quakers who haven't?

Thanks for opening an important subject, ole buddy.

 
At 3:27 PM, Blogger david said...

all sentient beings? I've yet to see clear evidence sentience has evolved on this planet.

 
At 6:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once heard Daniel Berrigan asked whether it would be better
if we were vegetarians. He answered that it would be a good move, once we had stopped being cannibals!

That step from tribalism to humanity is a big one, all right.

Rudy

 
At 4:30 AM, Blogger kwattles said...

You write: "Penn sought light by describing what he felt was Christian idolatry. And yet, as modern history uncovers the story of the creation of the image of Jesus... what would Penn say of his own condemnation of other churches? Would he in fact decry his early writing or extend it to rethink his own Christianity?"

I don't follow you in this tightly packed sequence of thoughts.

How does Penn seek light by describing idolatry? I went to chapter 7 of his Primitive Christianity Revived, as a first stop, to see how that might correspond to what you're saying. He describes the tendency toward idolatry, with references in the Hebrew scriptures, and he posits a counter-tendency that he thinks Friends have latched onto.

But what does this have to do with the "image of Jesus"? What has modern history uncovered about the creation of that image? How does it undermine what Penn said about other denominations?

Are you saying, basically, that tribalist idolatry is good, or that it has good aspects, and that Penn would have to rethink his approach if he were aware of the importance of iconic imagery, ritualist behaviors, etc. in the primitive Christian church?

Thanks for helping me understand your point here.

 

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