The Christian Bibles Are Prize Goods
I raise this issue, not because I believe there should be no place in the SOF for Christian Scripture, but because there is a trend of late to return to a time when some Friends are describing this work as fundamental to the definition of Quaker.
The final argument against Quakers owning slaves, was made by Elias Hicks, a few years before the Hicksite/Orthodox schism. He argued that, even if one did not accept that Africans were fully human as he did, that they were prize goods, taken in war, and forced at sword and gun point onto the ships. I would point out to those who argue that this ideal or that ideal was not spoken of by George Fox. This was CERTAINLY a different stand from Fox, who wrote in a letter to the governor of Barbados, in 1671:
Another slander they have cast upon us, is, 'that we teach the negroes to rebel'; a thing we utterly abhor and detest in our hearts, the Lord knows it, who is the searcher of all hearts, and knows all things, and can testify for us, that this is a most abominable untruth. For that which we have spoken to them, is to exhort and admonish them to be sober, to fear God, to love their masters and mistresses, and to be faithful and diligent in their service and business, and then their masters and overseers would love them, and deal kindly and gently with them ...
This change, to say that our Black Sisters and Brothers should not diligently serve slave masters is a profound answer to those who wish to retreat into a mythical Quaker idyllic past. This statement that products of war, products of slavery are as evil as the process that produced them was not an easy row to hoe, but Friends stuck by it. Hicks, in the last moments of his life, was covered by a cotton sheet, as it was mid summer and very hot in the house. He touched the sheet, and frowned and tried to throw it off. It was quickly replaced by a light woolen sheet. Hicks felt it and smiled, and shortly there after died content.
The Christian bible did not come about by a process of convincement. It came about because hundreds of other points of view and books describing the life of Jesus were destroyed and often the people holding those points of view were murdered and died horrific deaths. Christianity was not only spread by the sword, the orthodoxy was created by the sword, the heretic's fire, the rack and the noose. It was not a matter that the most convincing won out, it was simply that the strongest, most violent won to promote this story of peace.
Today, most civilized nations will not use the medical findings of nazi researchers who used concentration camp inmates as test subjects. No mater how good the research the end was tainted by the process. And that process does taint. I wonder if it is the fear of truth, that makes so many of the new orthodoxy afraid of dialogue. They don't allow free comment on their blogs, they don't meet for clearness with those they accuse and liable. They lock the intellectual door of their meetinghouses and retreat into a past before we dealt with the racism and ignorances of our Quaker past.
I am not judging Fox. He was a product of his day. He began a process that resulted in the like of Elias Hicks, Rufus Jones, a process that resulted in the doors of our meetings being wide open and welcoming.
I am not saying we should bar the door to the Christian Bible, as we did to other prize goods. However, perhaps those who use the bible as a beam to bar the door to other Quakers might show a little Christian humility.