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.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A New Definition (perhaps) of Right and Left

Recently, I have been thinking about folks who are at odds with liberalism. Makes me rethinking, right and left. I think a good way to see it is that Leftists put process first and last, we are always in process while the Right puts conclusion first last foremost and often in thy face.

What is the implication of this... Marx was all about process, and Stalin all about conclusion, Jesus was all about process and most church leaders about conclusion, Jefferson as a revolutionary was about process, as a slave owner and president, was rather about conclusion (that is why he is SUCH an interesting fellow!!!)

Name calling is conclusion, clearness is about process. Reaching back into the past of movements is about conclusion, that is to see the history of a movement as a Merry go round, while seeing a movement as a river is ... process.

So, Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, called faith. He fell, half the pieces said, my, look at us, where are we now? The other half ... each small piece claimed to be Humpty.


At 12:11 AM, Blogger Plain Foolish said...

Lorcan, I think you are being a bit conclusion-oriented yourself in this post. I think we all have that tendency, particularly over issues that move us strongly. I know I can be dreadfully conclusion oriented at times.

"Huh. If they wanted to, they'd see the harm they're doing. They just don't want to, so they can keep stealing from those who don't have so much..." and such. Except that it's supposed to be my job, as the person who does see the harm, to speak out, not in hatred or dismissal, but in concern, to be the voice calling my neighbor and myself to unity. It's my job to say, but what about the effects elsewhere...

At 4:41 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Perhaps, but what are the issues here? We have Friends who say they leave the RSOF because of liberal Friends and their focus on being inclusive, we have Friends who wish to streamline Quaker process or allow our schools to separately incorporate because Quaker process is too slow to buy up more property, we have Friends who insult each other, say they hate certain Friends, so am I conclusion oriented in wishing that in seeking to root Quakerism in our past traditions, we root our traditions in seeking unity in a process that seeks to walk with God, rather than a movement which seeks to name God? Well, yes, I am conclusion oriented. I don't think that "returning to accepting Christ" is the way to unity, returning to Jesus' teachings as expressed in the Sermon on the mount is ... once again, it is process over conclusion, but maybe I am not being clear in this. I am struggling to find the right words to express why Quakerism has always been about process rather than outcome, short of writing a book about it.

At 6:35 AM, Blogger Thee, Hannah! said...

I suspect that being conclusion-oriented to at least some degree is "the nature of the beast" and pretty much unavoidable, which is all the more reason for us to be mindful of process.

As a sort of specific example, our meeting (like most meetings, I'm sure) has gone through some rather painful episodes whose immediate outcome and wider, less defined influences would have been significantly different had there not been a push to "streamline" process. The same-sex union issue comes to mind; we lost several members over that decision. The members we lost still show up from time to time and are still friendly with most of us, but they will tell you that, while they may or may not agree with the final decision, they could have lived with it, or at least would have left us less bitterly, had they not felt that their concerns were dismissed and ignored in the effort to expedite things.

In this particular case, the former members were opposed to same-sex unions. I completely disagree with them on that but I still feel that steam-rolling them was inexcusable. There was no easy answer--our GLBT members would have been hurt had we not passed it, and some of our more conservative members were hurt that we did, but either way, pressuring the outcome shut down lines of communication and cost us spiritual resources.

At 8:27 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

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At 8:30 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Moving on in conflict is one of the most difficult things a clerk faces. Many Friends don't understand the process, and it is good to often discuss it. I have seen Friends feel steam rollered when a meeting comes to a sense of the meeting, in spite of their continuing lack of unity. There is a way this is in process and another where it is not.
Sense of the meeting in process: The Friend with the objections says, "This meeting is wrong, and I can never be in unity with this, I will continue to stand against this unmovable." In this case, the Friend has removed his or herself from process and the meeting can find itself to have arrived at a sense of the meeting, recording that the Friend has stood aside, rather than against. BUT, there should be immidiate tendering to the Friend to explain the process, and invite the Friend to stay in process.

A clerk should not come to a sense of the meeting if a Friend says, "I am not in unity with this, and just cannot see how the meeting finds this way. I remain open, listening, but just do not see it yet."

In the second case, if the Friend is obstanant, and employs years of circular arguments, rather than really tries to understand the movement of thought among Friends, then the clerk might ask the Friend to stand aside, rather than against. However, if the Friend remains obstanent, after much labor, then the meeting might come to a sense of the meeting, as that Friend has really removed him or herself from the process. In such a case, the Friend should not feel steam rollered.

At 8:38 AM, Blogger quakerboy said...


How sad your Meeting suffered because of supporting GLBT folks and their relationships. I wonder how this would have been handled differently if the issue were inter-racial marriage or sexism within the Meeting?

I understand how that all sides should be heard on issues. But, at what point do you say, "this is just not right...we must support equality of all people?" I don't have an answer for that.

I can tell you, as a gay man, that it hurts and hurts badly for Friends to condemn my relationship with my partner of 22 years.

I can guarentee that the GLBT folks in your Meeting were hurt just as much as the folks who left, perhaps moreso. Any discussion or questioning another's worth and dignity can not help but be divisive and hurtful.


At 10:17 AM, Blogger Thee, Hannah! said...

Lorcan: My feeling is that the sense of the meeting was reached, more or less, but that there was a failure of tendering and a massive failure of nonviolent communcation along the way. At least one of the Friends in question was unwilling to stand aside, but in return was treated poorly by the meeting on the whole.

Quakerboy: Of course our GLBT members would have been hurt, and as I said, I did not/do not agree with those who opposed same-sex marriage, but that doesn't mean that they did not also deserve to be heard respectfully. They did not oppose out of a wish to harm anyone but because they honestly and after much consideration felt they could not accept this (incidentally, they were mainly older Friends and a few who were raised in more traditional Southern circumstances).

The same might apply to myself as an atheist. I know there are those in the meeting who would disapprove of some of my viewpoints, and believe me, the calls for a return to Christocentric Quakerism both scare and hurt me. I am not an atheist because I wish to denigrate Jesus or cause conflict with the convinced Christians among us, but because I cannot honestly accept the idea of God. Should I be shamed by the meeting until I learn to keep my mouth shut and go through the motions of Christianity, dishonestly?

I normally cringe at the idea of hauling historical examples into this sort of discussion but I have to think that if this were a debate about interracial marriage or sexism, time period makes a big difference. Interracial marriage 150 years ago was virtually as unthinkable as same-sex marriage is now, and I have to assume that there would have been a faction of dissenters even within the SOF, as much as we would like to think otherwise. As it is, society as a whole has gotten somewhat used to the idea of interracial marriage and has made progress on sexism, and I think that in general the SOF is ahead of the curve on same-sex marriage. We're not there yet, and I think that that is a terrible thing for our GLBT adherents, but the results in this case were that 1) the Friends were still opposed to same-sex marriage and, 2) they had been skewered by people whom they considered to be f/Friends who were in favor of same-sex marriage. That's a step back, not a step forward.

I don't have to accept or agree with their views, but I don't have the right to give them short shrift because of it.

At 11:01 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Hi Thee Hannah!
Thee is right, that interacial marriage was not allowed in most Quaker meetings until surprisingly late, much to our instituitonal shame. Black Friends where not given full membership, so they would not access a right to marriage, when one had to marry members... and Black Friends had to sit on back benches reserved for Black people in many meetings.

Craig, thee is right, that in cvil rights struggles there is both perpirator and victim concerns... and yet, in order to move forward in God, we must find a way to lovingly interact with those in our society who have closed their hearts to one another.

All this seems to me to be a single struggle ahead of us, to be able to lovingly move towards each other, without insult, and hurt, not to make war agaisnt each other. This is why I persist in asking Friends to meet for clearness, to grow to each other, not dig these trenches of hate.

I really think we can ... I really do. It takes courage and faith, and most of all love.

At 6:55 AM, Blogger Plain Foolish said...

Lorcan, I apologize. My words did not express my idea well, and I am afraid I came out more confrontationally than I had intended. (Note to self: no posting when ill...)

While I am very much a liberal in many ways, I was raised in a very conservative setting, and find myself horrified at the current state of affairs in the USA, where "liberal" and "conservative" seem to have become armed camps represented by blue and red.

While I know that the situation with Chistocentric Friends has been sitting heavily on you recently, this post seemed to me to draw the broader cultural situation in heavy lines, putting me on one side of a line and most of my family on the other. While I know that many want to make those lines stronger, I feel sometimes as though I am trying to stretch my fingertips across to my family.

No, I don't feel that it's right when either "side" refuses to listen to the other outright. The resentment only continues and drags at both until schism erupts.

I'm hearing so many hurt feelings here and am wondering what can be done to bring everyone closer to unity...

At 7:27 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

dear fFriend"
No need to appologoize, I think in blogging, we should read with ear we listen to Friends with, a developing conversations, taking each other at best intention. I took no offence in thy first responce, and I think we are getting to some light all together on this... I think the point is, we all have a right and left side, and so do communities, right centered people help get to conclution, but without their leftest self ballance, attack that which they disagree, leftist oriented folks can flounder about in process for ever, it is all about ballance, however, in order to come to ballance, we have to learn to not attack each other... as a few bloggers do, rather than doing as thee has done, made a point well, and fairly, then built on it, if thee started, as some do, with insult and projection, we get no where.
Thyne as ever

At 7:28 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

PS Hope thee is feeling better!

At 7:59 AM, Blogger Plain Foolish said...

I'm still at the crackers and ginger ale stage, but better, yes.

I would hope, as you have yourself pointed out before, that I am using my "listening ears" not only with Friends, but with everyone, whether Jew or Gentile, a slave in this world or free, and so forth.

What concerns me deeply is that I see a hardening of hearts going on, and I wonder if part of it is the strife that's ripping through the world. When people fear, we harden our hearts, and it becomes hard to hear that which we don't care to hear, or we hear it though a screen that distorts it. *sigh*

At 9:51 AM, Blogger Mark Wutka said...

Hannah, I don't think it is right to force someone to either accept a particular belief or be quiet or to leave. The area where I have difficulty, and I am not saying that you yourself are doing this, is that I don't think it is right for someone to join the RSoF and expect it to conform to their beliefs.

Lor, you provided a good example of the difficulty I just spoke of. You said we root our traditions in seeking unity in a process that seeks to walk with God. Doesn't your statement exclude people who don't believe in God? When JoeG was speaking about acceptance being primary, I got the impression that it was over issues like this. That walking with God is no longer primary, but coming up with a definition that fits everyone is.

What I think you are losing in your insistence on focusing on the Sermon on the Mount is that a lot of the New Testament talks about how we maintain our life in the Spirit, and how to know when we stray. For example, Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit being love, joy, patience, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. That seems more process-oriented to me. He is saying "this is an indication that you are going in the right direction." For some people the Sermon on the Mount is just a list of things you should do, and yet it is extraordinarily difficult to do some of them, perhaps impossible to live them for a lifetime through pure human effort. There are even Christians who just say "oh, that's impossible for humans to do, so I don't have to do them." But the key there is that we can do those things with God's help. That is what I think you are losing by pitching the other parts of the New Testament, like Philippians 4:13 that says "I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me." (NET).

One of the things about a process is that it generally has a goal, whether that is something that means the process is done, or a set of results or guidelines that tell whether the ongoing process is actually working. If you only worry about doing the actual steps of the process, it is like driving with your eyes closed. If you think of the river as a process, a river is shaped and guided by its banks. Over time, it may reshape its banks thereby reshaping itself, but without the banks, it is just a large, non-descript puddle spreading out in random directions.

At 10:13 AM, Blogger Mark Wutka said...

Hannah, I just want to make it clear that although I don't think it is right for someone to join the RSoF and expect it to conform to their beliefs, I don't think it is wrong for someone to join even though they don't necessarily share those same beliefs.

I wish I had a better term than "beliefs", because it is a mixture of faith and action, not really just believing in some set of facts.

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Thee, Hannah! said...


I don't think so, either, but that's not what I am advocating, nor have I ever done so.

Realistically, it is inevitable that there are going to be a range of beliefs with in the SOF; this happens in any group, religious or otherwise. How narrow does the definition of "acceptable beliefs" have to be before the RSOF edits itself out of existence? And who gets to decide what defines "acceptable belief", and by what criteria?

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Thee, Hannah! said...

Sorry--I didn't see the second post.

. . . which is problematic because there is no concrete definition of what are "those beliefs".

The dissenters in question were not half-hearted Quakers. One couple were birthright and the product of several generations of committed activists and social workers, albeit from a somewhat more Christocentric and conservative background than some of us. In their perception, we had all joined their religion and were trying to bend it to conform to our views.

At 1:09 PM, Blogger Mark Wutka said...

I didn't think Hicksite Quakerism was supposed to have "acceptable beliefs", because we are about listening to and following God, not believing X,Y,Z.

That being said, from the early days the Quakers used the Christian bible as a guideline for whether they were staying on course or not. I'm sure there were various understandings of Jesus and Christ, but I think there was a general understanding that the spirit that was in Jesus is that which guides us as well, and that Paul and the other NT authors were guided by that same spirit, and that understanding came out of the direct personal experience of that spirit. I'm obviously glossing over the debate over the nature of the relationship between that spirit, Christ and Jesus of Nazareth.

Friends also used advices and queries to help guide themselves, and there was at least some notion of authority, or at least openness to correction for individuals and meetings. Who decides what is correct or incorrect? God. It is our job as individuals and meetings to put aside our individual concerns and work at discerning God's will, and be open to the possibility that our will may be at odds with God's. That idea seems to really go against the grain of our individualistic society.

When I look at our practices today, at least within my monthly and yearly meetings, I see that we have dispensed with most of these traditional guides (we still have queries, but their usage and importance has greatly diminished). At the same time, I hear terminology that makes me think we have lost the sense of what meeting for worship and mfw with attention to business really mean. I hear people say that we work by consensus - which implies individual agreement, not coming to unity on our discernment of God's will. I hear "What canst thou say?" used as a justification for using our own opinions. It just feels to me like we have lost our focus. I can't help but wonder that it is because in our recognition that ultimately we are listening to and following God, we have dispensed with the secondary guides that let us know we ARE listening and following. I don't think that is the same thing as having a set of acceptable beliefs, although it does imply some kind of acceptable definition of where we are going and how we get there.

I'm not saying that you, Hannah, are responsible for any of this. Just when you mentioned "acceptable beliefs" and who gets to decide what is acceptable, I really felt moved to steer away from that notion, because I don't think that's what we are about.

With love,

At 1:45 PM, Blogger Thee, Hannah! said...

I'm not saying that you, Hannah, are responsible for any of this. Just when you mentioned "acceptable beliefs" and who gets to decide what is acceptable, I really felt moved to steer away from that notion, because I don't think that's what we are about.

I don't, either, but then I'm confused about what you meant by:

Hannah, I just want to make it clear that although I don't think it is right for someone to join the RSoF and expect it to conform to their beliefs, I don't think it is wrong for someone to join even though they don't necessarily share those same beliefs.

because I agree, and yet I feel like we're arguing, which means that apparently I didn't make myself clear about something somewhere along the line.

At 2:31 PM, Blogger Mark Wutka said...

Hannah, I guess I didn't really feel like we were arguing, and it does seem to me like we are mostly in agreement. It's just that when I first posted, I thought I was speaking more in terms of "belief" and I wanted to clarify that it wasn't what I really meant, and maybe I should have left the "Hannah," off the beginning since it wasn't specifically addressed to you. I guess I just mentioned you because it was your comment about feeling shamed or silenced is what triggered my response. Other than telling you that I don't think you should be made to feel that way, the rest of my reply was more to everybody.
Sorry for the confusion.
With love,

At 7:40 PM, Blogger Thee, Hannah! said...

And I apologize for my defensiveness. Thank you for clarifying. Peace, in return.

At 8:09 PM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Well, ... here is a bit from me, as we walk towards a unity we may never reach...

Non- theist Friends. I am not sure there is such a thing, in reality. Most of humanity acknowledges an infinite and an ordered universe. I think that some Friends, in reaction of limited definitions of the infinite respond that there is no definition of that infinite, and hence no God. I think these are opposite sides of a similar coin, and I prefer the thin edge of the coin which states that our human experience does not prepare us to understand a concept of an ordered infinite. Belief in an ordered infinite universe, is a belief in God, just a falling out on semantics.

I do think we are caught between two Quaker original ideals. The absolute honesty aspect, part of which accepts we do not but approach absolute truth, and the Christian world into which our faith was born.

Unfortunately we are also caught between an old world and new, an old world that did not have forensic truths for the common people to question the history of Gospel, and the modern world that has the ability to examine the history of the bible and realize that it does not correspond to the mundane history of its times, and so, in absolute honesty, what are some of us to do...?

Well, ... it is a dilemma. Unless we realize that definition of Unity which Mark brings up ... unity is a process towards. Compromise gives up, and says we will settle with this. Unity say, we will stay in process and it will be arrived at in God's time.

Even for Non-theist Friends, they are Friends when they acknowledge the process of moving towards rather than the compromise of declaring arrival at...

Or so it seems to me.

At 6:06 AM, Blogger Mark Wutka said...

Lor wrote:
Unfortunately we are also caught between an old world and new, an old world that did not have forensic truths for the common people to question the history of Gospel, and the modern world that has the ability to examine the history of the bible and realize that it does not correspond to the mundane history of its times, and so, in absolute honesty, what are some of us to do...?

There's a humility aspect here as well. First, it seems that there is a perception that because we have accumulated so much scientific knowledge we know more about the ancient world than the people living in it, especially because we think we can disprove things that appear in the bible. I find it troubling that we use this knowledge to discount the whole bible, or at least the portions that we don't like.

We have developed a standard of expected factual integrity that was not used when the bible was written. Something could be factually untrue, yet still be accepted because it spoke to one's condition. That tradition does still exist, though. I doubt that the story of "the boy who cried wolf" was based on a factual event, yet there is a truth to it that is borne out by experience. Most New Testament scholars believe that the story where Jesus says "let him among you who is without sin cast the first stone" was not in the original version of John (it doesn't appear in the earliest known versions), yet it is usually left in because it sounds like something Jesus would say, and perhaps our inward Teacher tells us that it is so. Finding factually untrue things in the bible does not invalidate the whole thing.

Second, when we do try to find out what the original authors actually wrote, we need the humility to recognize that in the absence of the original manuscripts, the best we can do is guess, and those people doing the guessing have biases, both conscious and unconscious. I think most of us have a tendancy to gravitate toward scholars who we agree with, we even seek them out, just to find justification for our own opinions. At my yearly meeting this year, for example, the bookstore had books with titles like "The Lost Gospels", "What Jesus REALLY Said", "The Gnostic Gospels", and "The Gospel of Judas". I would characterize that selection has having a particular slant towards discounting the canonical bible (in fairness, the bookstore did have the summary from the 2005 FGC Gathering Bible Study). I'm not blaming the bookstore, they brought the books people wanted, probably even requested. To be both humble and honest, we should at least recognize this tendancy in ourselves, and possibly try to widen our view.

Finally, our humble approach to the bible should recognize that we can't properly understand the scriptures, as George Fox would say, "without the same Spirit by which they were written". It is not an intellectual exercise, but a spiritual one. We must allow the bible to be opened to us by this spirit, instead of allowing our ego and intellect to pick and choose the things that we most want to hear.

With love,

At 6:27 AM, Blogger quakerboy said...


I agree with you that all sides should be heard in a conflict, but in the end the Gathered Meeting has to determine what to do in any given situation. Frankly, I'm not sure how a Meeting could go forward on an issue when not in unity. Can you explain a bit more about how these members who were opposed to same gender marriage were shut out of the conversation? How did the issue go forward without unity? Did these Friends stand aside or just leave?

About your fear of Christian Friends. I can understand if you are equating Christian Friends with those who claim Christianity but use their faith as an excuse for intolerance and hate. Those folks scare me too!

I am assuming you are a member of a Hicksite Meeting. Honestly, I am excited about the "revival" of Christianity in the historically Hicksite Meetings. I have no idea what your Faith and Practice says, but I assume that it is not exclusionary regarding your belief or disbelief. I am well aware Quakerism is a creedless religion, yet I feel it is important to agree with your YM's Faith and Practice before joining a Meeting. YM's Faith and Practice were developed over time with much thrashing and discernment and serve as a uniting factor in our Religious Society.

The big issue is honesty. Do I join a Meeting when I am in total disagreement with what the understandings of the YM's Faith and Practice says? Again, I'm not sure what your YM's Faith and Practice says, but I bet ya that it makes room for you!

Having said that, I am a member of a Conservative Friends Meeting (Wilburite). We are united in our use of Christian language to describe the Holy. This serves us well. I would have a problem with an atheist to joining our Meeting simply because of where we are as a YM as illuminated by our Faith and Practice.

Do we have non-Christians (inluding atheists) in our Meeting. Of course! Do I love them and stand up for thier right to believe as they do? Oh yeah! But they do not expect our Meeting to conform to their belief system. When they come to our Meeting, they are well aware that we are, for the most part, a Christian oriented Friends Meeting.

In the end, Hannah, I honor and respect all paths and thier right to believe and worship as they will. I also believe that all of us will eventually be brought back into the Kingdom of God and we will all rejoice that our brokeness and division has been healed.

Until that time, we do have divisions and perhaps that is not a bad thing. I celebrate your right to worship in a Meeting that honors you and your beliefs. I also celebrate that there is a place for me to worship and be in community with folks of like mind. I would never tell you or your Meeting that they are wrong for welcoming atheists. My bet is that you would say the same for me and my Meeting regarding Christians.

It all boils down to this...we are free to unite with faith communities where our beliefs are respected and honored.

Peace, Hannah. And your Meeting and those who left are in my prayers.

I'll be posting something on my blog about why I, as a gay man and having been deeply hurt by those claiming to be Christians, continue to follow Jesus. I hope we can have some good dialogue on that issue.

Peace out!


At 6:39 AM, Blogger quakerboy said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 6:41 AM, Blogger quakerboy said...

Lorcan wrote: "Unfortunately we are also caught between an old world and new, an old world that did not have forensic truths for the common people to question the history of Gospel, and the modern world that has the ability to examine the history of the bible and realize that it does not correspond to the mundane history of its times, and so, in absolute honesty, what are some of us to do...?"

Mark did a good job resonding to this. Let me just add that I am in the same mind as Shelby Spong when he writes that much of the Bible is midrash...stories told to make a point. They are not necessarily factually true stories.

My Christianity has more to do with listening to the Inward Light and having an understanding that the Inward Light, for me, is Jesus. That understanding has been formed by my having been born into a traditionally Christian Southern Appalachian culture. The Christian language has been what has formed me and has been the language I and my ancestors have used to descibe their religious experiences.

Someone once told me that the Dalai Lama encouraged folks to stay in the relgion of their birth. I kind of understand that. I can be around my Buddhist friends and chant with them and feel good and warm and connected. But let me hear Ralph Stanley singing "Give me Jesus" and I melt into a puddle of tears. It touches my heart like nothing else can. It gives me hope and helps me make it through another day in a world that is filled with hate, war, violence, bigotry and Bush :-).

Sorry for all the rambling (gosh, I'm good at that...ADHD boy here :-)).

Bottom line is that it doesn't matter if the story (or myth) is true or not. The important thing to ask is does it resonate with our Spirit and does it make me a better person. When that happens, it becomes Truth for me.

Be good...enjoying lots or rain and wind from Ernesto here in NC.

At 10:50 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Dear fFriends, Mark and Craig:

Both of you are right, we are fully in unity that the important light is in the meaning, not the story, however, in making this central story a necessary fundamental, the danger is that folks place the elements of story over meaning. The pitfall is seen, for me, in for example the writing of Bonhoffer, where brilliant paragraphs on faith end with, this is only possible through Christ. It not only objectifies Yeshua the man, but places his image too much on a par with God for me, and I find that to be inherently divisive. It is the reason for the prominent place of Thou Shalt Have No Other God Before Me, in the ten commandments. Once an image, no matter of who, is placed between one and God, God is eclipsed and the message of unity is destroyed.

I fully agree, Mark that the language of Yeshua's day was the language of myth. I also think that there is that in his movement to transcend that, I think the meaning of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, first of all, is likely historical, and is very much in keeping with Hill elian movements of his day, and that the meaning of the story is lost when Yeshua, not the unity of God becomes the focus of the story.

I am not saying that the Society of Friends should be anti Christocentric, but I don't believe that it must be exclusively Christocentric to inherit our roots. Not even the most Ludite Amish community has been able to resist the human need to grow and evolve. As to modern historian's methods... I do think we can learn a tremendous amount about the past that does not come to us through eye witness accounts alone. We can use both archeology and comparative analysis to add much to, of example, Josephius, whose writing is colored by his writing to the Romans interest. But more importantly, much of the bibles history, is not contemporary to Yeshua's time, and as a result, for example, there was no town of Nazareth at the time of his birth. The bible is a vital work in understanding Quakerism, however, as many of my Wilberite Friends express, it is colored by human faults in its construction.

The danger of fundamentals in our faith, fundamentals of conclusion rather than process, is that it makes growth towards understanding concepts like Gay rights problematic.

Dearly thine in the light

At 5:03 PM, Blogger Mark Wutka said...

But more importantly, much of the bibles history, is not contemporary to Yeshua's time, and as a result, for example, there was no town of Nazareth at the time of his birth.

You don't know that there was no town of Nazareth. It has certainly been conjectured, but I have read arguments going both ways. One of the reasons I wrote about humility before is that I think it demands that we pay close attention to what we know and don't know.

The pitfall is seen, for me, in for example the writing of Bonhoffer, where brilliant paragraphs on faith end with, this is only possible through Christ. It not only objectifies Yeshua the man, but places his image too much on a par with God for me, and I find that to be inherently divisive.

The thing is, a number of people, Friends and other Christians, have said that they have encountered the divine as Jesus. That doesn't mean that everyone does. I'm sure you have read these things, too, certainly you have read Bonhoeffer. It sounds to me like you just discount his experience because it doesn't fit neatly within your theological framework. I would hope you would be able to listen to him and others and be open to the idea that your view may not be entirely correct.

At 7:11 PM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Dear Brother Mark:

It is not me declaring that they are not Quaker. It is my on going objection to their saying that to be Quaker one must accept the perfection of Jesus, or the deity of Jesus, or how ever THEY define Christianity.

I was raised Quaker, and was not overly aware, well not aware at all of the implication or reality of my mother's background, as she was not observant or even raised by an observant Jewish family. I grew up a Quaker, until the age of ten, in a community with a large number of Jews and felt very much an outsider. It was unconcievable to me that I would be thought of as a Jew or think of myself as Jewish. At ten, I moved to a Ukrainian community which an active nazi presence. For the first time, I began to understand what it was to be objectified as Jewish, as I walked to meeting and nazis would chant at me, "Jew Boy... " One neighbor, who I concidered a friend told me that Hitler should have killed all the Jews, adding, "Your mother as well..." As a Quaker, I had no idea of what to say to him, and more, he did not feel this statement should make me angry, I should understand the "taint" of Jews in a community. I WAS for many years of my life angered by this. I had internalized the notion that it was unfair, because I was not a Jew, as well as unfair to Jews. The process of coming to know the implication of this objectification made me, last year, profoundly saddened by the robbing of Yeshua of his Jewish identity by non-Jews and to see it as an act of violence with terrible consequences through history. In my light the objectification of Yeshua as a Christian object of veneration is as terrible an act as slavery. Slavery is not right if one could imagine a good master. The making of a human into an object is simply wrong in my light. I remain open to the words of Friends who seek to show me that this experience of Jesus is other than destruction of Yeshua as a Jew, a rabbi, and a Jewish martyr to Roman occupation, but as yet I remain not in unity. For those who say I am less a Quaker for it, well, my response is the same as Hannah Bernard, she as a woman could not see the meaning to virgin birth, and I as a descendant of the tribe of Yeshua cannot see the value in the destruction of Hebrew scripture he taught, the change of the Jewish definition of original sin to that of evil human nature, the destruction of his humanity. I remain unconvinced. If it is a lack of humility, forgive me, but to me it is an inability to take part in a holocaust which began with his execution and goes on through the ages, not only the destruction of Jewish lives and bodies, but the burning of Hebrew Scripture in the rewriting of the same by non-Jews to prove the non-Jewish identify of this great rabbi.
For some, who became convinced of our faith later in their life, they would say this is not being a "Quaker Quaker," I do not find unity in alienating me from my Quaker faith by following the truth.

Thine in the light

At 4:02 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Dear Mark, I've been awake, awhile now, had to get up and explain a bit more, its now a little before 6 am. The question that always made me uncomfortable with Christianity, that question that is uncomfortable in the bones of every survivor of the holocaust, as every Jew will be for every generation forward, just as every Romany person will be, and every Gay person will be ... that survivorship of, if I were there I would not be here ... that question is, "Why did the Jews not accept Jesus..."

It brings up the lie of the trial of the Sanhedren, and that, for me, is not a myth, it is a lie. Jews did not try Yeshua. It was not the way Pilot worked, nor could have worked, it is not history, it is as vile a moment of anti-Semitism to construct that lie, as the vile as the words that came out of the mouth of Mel Gibson the other day. It did not surprise me that the man who made the film the passion, who depicted Jews as a bunch of grotesques, putting Yeshua on trial, would say things about Jews he said... It is not holocaust denial. It would be as if today a movement began to say that Anne Frank was tried in Auchswitz by fellow Jews and turned over to the nazis to be gassed. It is an abominable idea...

This Jew, like most Jews cannot accept one our own as God, because it is not what Jews do, it is what our oppressors did, and do. It is a Greco Roman concept, foreign to that part of Yeshua, which sought to cleans the temple, to restore the nexus between faithful Judaism and the Judeian State.

Humans tend to objectify people and things. Judaism was one of the first great religions to attempt to break humanity of this ... to say do not make an image of God, to do so you objectify G_d. Huge statement. So, does it surprise me that some experience God as Jesus, no. There are many who are honestly pagan in our SOF, I am not drawn to such worship, but I am a little baffled by one form of Roman paganism in our Society pointing fingers at neo-Western European paganism and saying, Your are not Quakers because of your pagan practices, while not looking at the defining moment in their own religious imagery. All the while, the creation of their own pagan God, deprives one of my tribe of the most important gift we have from God, which is our humanity.

So... in order to have unity in theology in the Society of Friends, either we should stop this notion of continuing revelation, or not allow membership to anyone who has any chance of finding in their nature any taint which would lead them away from established "truths". It seems that would not portend well for Jews Gypsies and Gay folks.
Thine dearly in the light

At 9:00 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Dear Friends:
The part of the equation I don't think we in unity is on the call for dominance of Christianity as a central part of Quakerism. Here is a model that might speak to thee. Once, England set about conquering the world. In order to get conquered people to fight for them, the granted status of subject to conquered people. The problem was, it was a one way obligation. Once the Empire collapsed, Britain sought to exclude from membership in the whole many former subjects, but they had already become a multi ethnic nation, much more so than many were willing to accept. They wanted them to remain other, and yet be British enough to stay in line and not speak out for family now excluded from citizenship.

There is a sense in European culture of white entitlement going back to Rome. Romans come to Judea and wind up taking all the land and the wealth, and then laying claim to the memory of one of our own, even distorting our scriptures to justify this taking. Now, it is not enough to take all this, Europeans must also say that we have no right to our landsman, and more, in the name of this taking, for centuries the image of our landsman is used as a symbol for genocide against us.

Now, here in the Society of Friends we not only allowed others to become convinced Friends, we also allowed marriage out from our community, so eventually non-Europeans, Blacks, Jews, Asians, became Quaker. Now, there is a movement to return to a time when the questions raised by this broadening was not an issue. Well, to me this is not a new story, it is the same story as Quakers taking sweat lodges from Natives, without asking, without acknowledgment ... it is the opposite side of that same coin. It is one thing, if Natives in our society invited us to sweat, but no, it is seen by many Natives as just another example of the hubris of White empowerment. Telling us that one should not join a Christian Religion is one is not accepting of Christianity does not deal with the issue completely, many of us who were raised Quaker, find in our past questions which God leads us to new light, and well, we don't chose to be read out of our meetings again, as was done in 1828. For one thing, the split did not serve the orthodoxy all that well.

But, that there are many mainstream Quakers, who for centuries taught that taking is part of life, that taking of eating, loving another, all those takings, need atonement -- how do Christocentric Friends atone for the destruction of Yeshua? By accepting that some Friends are fully Quaker while they deny the central role of Yeshua's deity or perfection. How do Friends atone for the taking of sweats lodges from Natives? By seeking fellowship with Natives who are outraged, and saying, I am listening.

Thine dearly in the light

At 9:19 AM, Blogger Mark Wutka said...

It is not me declaring that they are not Quaker. It is my on going objection to their saying that to be Quaker one must accept the perfection of Jesus, or the deity of Jesus, or how ever THEY define Christianity.

I'm not saying that you must believe specific facts. What I was objecting to when I mentioned humility is that I have occasionally heard you state as fact things that are still quite debatable (Nazareth not existing, for example).

Also, the perfection of Jesus, at least its possibility, has been a core tenet of Quaker theology from the beginning, if only because of the idea that any of us could be perfected.

I'm still a little too shocked by the rest of what you said to make a coherent reply. Wow, I just saw your third reply. Atone for the destruction of Yeshua?

At 10:19 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Hi Mark, let me explain that ... this is why conversations are so much better for this... A great deal of who we are, is our humanity. Part of that humanity is our potential for sin, not through evil, but the acts we do that can separate us from others, hence the need for both atonement and forgiveness. In destroying the humanity of Yeshua by making a perfect idol of him, is it possible that thee takes the most important thing he posses as human?
Thine in the light
PS Maybe it is better to break this into little bites like this... I don't mean to shock thee, only try to have thee understand what others feel in their bones... after the holocaust, it is almost impossible to understand Jewish identity unless thee can know the internalized pain of genocide.

At 11:44 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Dear Mark:
There is a profound effect that cannot be intellectualized. My father never understood my mother's experience of racialization. He once said to me, when I was in my late teens that he could not understand her sense of Jewishness which he never experienced when they were first married, but, as she was not raised Jewish... etc... well, I had nothing to explain it to him, other than to say, I understand it in my mother, as I feel it too.

It is not possible to intellectually know what it is to be made uncomfortable in thy skin. If thee has not been in a room where Jews are being discussed, they are this... they are that... and though thee might say, these things that you are saying are racialist, but, not to say, thee says this about me... then thee cannot know. The denial of thy own blood is to experience the story that thee learns about the apostles denying Yeshua, but in reality, few of thee have faced that denial in the face of real genocide - to deny thy blood in the face of genocide. When thee has looked in the mirror and seen that, it is hard to ever again take
lightly the denial of a Jew his identity.
Dear Mark, I know and do not take lightly the zeal of thy belief. However, when it comes to humility, to tell the one who for his life has been humiliated by Christians, to be more humble, it is not a question of humility. Someday, even if thee has before, walk with me through the holocaust museum... there is more, which I will email thee in a mo...
Thine lovelingly in the light

At 3:39 PM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Dear Mark:
This might help me to explain the taking aspect of Deification or Canonization...
I know a lot of folks who new Dorothy Day. The Catholic Worker is just down the way from me. Now, there is a movement in the Catholic Church to canonize Dorothy Day, and it is opposed by every single close friend of hers. Why. Well, once one venerates someone, really something, one claims it. So, the person who fought against institutions becomes the excuse to follow an institution. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., made a national saint, he was as close to canonized as he could be. It is seldom remembered how strenuously he opposed the Vietnam War today, I know I've said this on the blog before, so forgive the repetition, But, for Charlton Heston, it was reverence to say the Gulf War was a war the even Dr. King would have supported. Now, for Heston, this was a claiming, a taking. He, I'm sure felt Black Americans and we few who did not jump on the liberal Bandwagon which turned against King in his last years, for being to vocal on Vietnam, for us, we feel that White mainstream America has claimed him and more taken him from the meaning of his life. They made him a White Middle-class American and so, in time the Letter For the Birmingham Jail is forgotten and the I Had A Dream speech is quoted in showing that we all have reached a promise land, which Dr. King might not agree we have met...

Tolerance, not humility ... for those humbled by history. King tolerated those who did not understand, loved them, but was in no way humble about the truth. He began one his greatest speeches with a statement of humility...
"I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." And that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart,.."

One really should read the whole speach, but he ends with...

"This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighbourly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: "Let us love one another, for love is God. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love." "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us." Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.

We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word."

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood - it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on."

We still have a choice today: non-violent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message - of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation comes a moment to decide, In the strife of Truth and Falsehood, for the good or evil side; Some great cause, God's new Messiah offering each the bloom or blight, And the choice goes by forever 'twixt that darkness and that light. Though the cause of evil prosper, yet 'tis truth alone is strong Though her portions be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own. 
And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. 

If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. 

If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. "

How can the humiliated children of Dr. King's tribe be humble in the face of Charlton Heston? Have they no right to reclaim this man for all of our sake?

At 6:24 PM, Blogger Mark Wutka said...

I'm sorry to have caused you hurt because of my statement about humility, and I certainly feel the lack of it on my part. I am at a loss for how I can continue this conversation. I can't help that you have a painful association with Christianity, even though the treatment you received is not what I would consider Christian behavior. Regardless, I do not wish to add to that.
With love,

At 6:51 PM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Dear Friend Mark:
I think thee is missing the point. I have no problem with Christianity. I have a great problem with "Christian" fFriends defining Quakerism in a way that not only excluded non-Christians, but Christians who see Christianity differently than they do. I listen patiently to Christocentric Friends, for example today, in meeting telling us that their view of Jesus' teaching is the only road to God. I don't find the same patience when we who see Yeshua as a rabbi and a man state our beliefs (which by the way I would never do in meeting, as it is not a place for back and forth debate...) I'm neither giving thee the finger, as thee put in thy blog, or put off by thy faith, just not going to leave Quakerism because some feel I or others are not Quaker Quaker enough. That's not a matter of humility and thee has in no way been less than humble, we both have been direct and honest with each other.
Thine dearly in the light

At 8:07 PM, Blogger Mark Wutka said...

I don't believe I have ever advocated kicking people out because they weren't Quaker enough. I have, I know, suggested that we use the bible as a reference point to ensure that we are on track. I don't think that it quite the same thing, but I am sure that even that suggestion would rub a lot of people the wrong way.

While I don't necessarily agree with you about rejecting a fair portion of the New Testament, I think you'll find that most of the time, the objections I raise are to things that you assert as factual that are only possibilities or theories. It seems like most of my conversations with you have been around issues like that. My comment about humility was along that same line. If you had said something like "it is possible that Nazareth never even existed during Jesus' lifetime", I probably wouldn't have objected. But when you said that it didn't, I take issue with that.

I am certain that I have not advocated that someone must believe that Jesus was divine, or anything else like that. I know that I have suggested that we remain open to that possibility, and I understand if you have a problem with that.

And to be honest, yes, I did feel like you were giving me the finger.. initially. But I think it was because I wasn't really listening to what you were writing. All I heard was "Christians are responsible for the Holocaust" and "To make up for killing Jesus, you have to deny that he was divine" (the latter being not only a lack of listening, but a misreading of what you actually wrote). When I went back and read it again, I felt really ashamed of my initial reaction.
With love,

At 8:12 PM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Dearest fFriend, Mark:

There were two conversations going on here. One, was my post about Friends who define out faith in one way or another, and the other was as thee said, our speaking in circles about each other. I know thee feels in thy bones the cross of Jesus ... I know.
I never felt that thee did not respect or did not speak tenderly to this issue so close to both our heats.
Thine in the light

At 8:06 AM, Blogger forrest said...

Getting to be lots of comments, maybe time for a new post...

I recently started a discusssion[see friendly skripture study]--which is going nowhere--on a passage in Revelation where "Christ" is chewing out a church for keeping members who teach "false doctrines." My initial rejection is: "Bleh, this is weird!"

But I'm also rereading Jacques Ellu's book on the Apocalypse, and find his comment muy eye-opening (maybe even illuminating.):

"... the accent is put upon doctrine and the way in which it is practiced. Works do not suffice nor faith (confessed in a formula.) An exact doctrine that permits having an exact practice is also necessary."

The present Society of Friends is whoever it is, whomever God has brought in for God's purposes. Because our various branches have gone so many ways, we've lost the ability to say "The Society of Friends is a group of people who believe ___." Now we have the practice driving the doctrine.

As I understand it, our practice rests upon one underlying doctrine: That God is present, concretely powerful and loving, available to all.

Whether or not God "persons to someone" (takes on some particular form and personality) seems unimportant. If a Christocentric Friend insists that the God I know must be, in essence, his Jesus--or if my friend Patty wants to imagine that the Universe (a spiritual reality, not one limited to material physicality) doesn't get personal--I would agree with the first and disagree with Patty, but either version "works". A religious group can emphasize a variety of aspects of God and still see Spirit as the primary reality, and still base its practice on that understanding.

A materialist can (in practice) join the Society of Friends. That's nice, no doubt she's a good person or she wouldn't want to join us. But she is utterly useless to our essential purpose: to know God and do God's will.

Anyone can sit with us; anyone should we welcome to sit with us. But that sitting has a purpose, and our welcome is for that purpose. Soldiers have invaded meetings with the intention of breaking them up (17th Century England) and done us less harm, than making us forget why we are together.

At 10:40 AM, Blogger Thee, Hannah! said...

I'm sorry--I didn't mean to abandon Quakerboy. School started again and I've had no time.

In case he sees this:

They left, which I suppose technically was "willingly", although they would rather not have left and did so with a bad taste in their mouths.

"Hicksite" would probably be putting it mildly. The current congregation is probably mostly agnostic (haven't polled them, mind you), but mixed. "Christians" as they are recognized in the South are a minority; a lot of people admittedly became Quakers as part of a move away from more conservative denominations. This applies to our YM, too.


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