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.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Rufus Jones

A Friend recently wrote about Rufus Jones, "From what I can tell Rufus Jones was trying to slip some 20th Century modern liberal progressivism into Quaker theology by claiming that this was a core belief of George Fox. As you point out, Fox never used the phrase we use it today. All this isn't to say there isn't something to the phrase but it misrepresents the relationship of the divine to the individual. " and goes on to suggest Friends read, "None Were So Clear: Prophetic Quaker Faith and the Ministry of Lewis Benson"

So... is this a divergence or an attempt to return to the divisions of the great schism, and if it is, is this in the spirit of our faith or is this simply an affirmation of base tribalism. To answer this, I think we might examine the effect of Rufus Jones on our community of faith.

Rufus Jones, was instrumental in ending the schism, which lasted from 1828 - 1955. He was the director of the American Friends Service Committee for some thirty years, and under his leadership the AFSC won the Nobel Peace Prize - he was a genuine peace activist.

Jones mentored Howard Thurman, whose works inspired Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Jones mysticism, with its practical application of addressing evil with love, healing division not sowing disunity is in many ways the modern popular view of what it is to be Quaker. Unlike Fox, who did little to oppose such wrongs as slavery, he was in the mold of John Wollman and Elias Hicks, who felt it the concrete expression of duty to God, to oppose the evils of the world through positive acts of love. Jones' real success is measured, not only in his own accomplishments but in the seeds he sowed in such theologians as Thomas Merton or Harry Emerson Fosdick.

The difference I have noticed between the life of Rufus Jones, and the author of this odd statement about him, is that Jones' life spoke of bringing the world together, not the creation of cliques and divisions. His life spoke of the power of being an activist for peace.


At 5:32 PM, Blogger Liz Opp said...

I suppose every (Quaker) hero can be viewed as flawed in some capacity. We each probably have different Quaker heroes and are less likely to see the flaws in those whom we admire.

Other than that, Lorcan, I'm curiously confused about the statement that Jones "was instrumental in ending the schism..." I assume you mean the Orthodox-Hicksite split in the Philadelphia region? At least, my weak understanding of Quaker history would match that assumption up with what you suggest here.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

At 8:50 PM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Hi Liz:
I would say there is at least huberous in saying that Jones did not understand the nature of God and the Indvidual. It is to claim that the writer does. Remarkable, to say the least.

Many Friends, if not most Friends believe that Jones laid the foundations for the healing of the schism begun by the disownment of Elias Hicks in 1827, which split our society into a forward looking and a backward looking body. Hicks looked towards inclusion as the model for peace - love as a triumph over fear, and the Orthodoxy, as looking back to fundamentals for definition, a policy which lead to fraction after fraction.
Just as John Woolman did not live to see Hicks make the final arguements against slavery, that slaves were prize goods if not human and therefore could not be owned by Quakers, Jones did not live to see his seeds give fruit, as he died in 1948, and the healing began in 1955.
Jones, with his modernism and mysticism, looking inside for a simple statement of love and belief, rather than a set of principles unique to a Quaker or Christian tribe, made it possible for Friends to reunite in a God that niether side owned.

I think the proof of his remarkable light, is in the pudding, so to speak. He spoke truth to nazis, he brought people together. It would be so unlike him to create a block to people speaking directly to him. It is quite in keeping with the trend to entrench in a tribal past that so many convergent Friends' blogs don't allow free comment, build wall after wall while proclaiming themselves as peace makers.
Jones walked thorough this world with the courage of love. Fear builds walls, and looks back, while looking forward takes openness and a rejection of fear.
Blessings to thee as well, dear sister.

At 1:12 PM, Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

Two rather dry points:

First, I don't think the Friend was suggesting you read "None Were So Clear" (though that's a good book), but rather "That of God in Every Man: What Did George Fox Mean By It?") The link he supplied took you to a list of books by Lewis Benson and both these titles were on the list, but it's clear from the context that he was recommending the latter.

Second, while it seems to be true that Rufus Jones' interpretation of "That of God in Everyone" is the prevailing modern interpretation, I think that just about all Quaker historians would now agree that Lewis Benson's interpretation is closer to what George Fox himself had in mind. We're still free to disagree with George Fox, of course, but agreeing with him or with Lewis Benson isn't an insult to Rufus Jones; it's just a recognition of more recent scholarship.

At 5:03 PM, Blogger Lorcan said...

No, I think the insult is the phrase that Jones misrepresented the relationship of God and the Individual.


Post a Comment

<< Home