Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rufus Jones got me to thinking

"Whatever your mind comes at, I tell you flat God is not that!"

Undoubtedly, our F/friend Rufus did not want anyone to put God in a box. It seems that so many contemporary unprogrammed Friends are drawing inspiration these days from our hero from across the great schismatic divide, that many believe he was an FGC progressive instead of a Five Years Meeting liberal.
I have been told however, that Rufus Jones knew enough about some god or another to deliver sermons every First Day at his Friends “church.” Like many contemporary Quakers who reject the idea of an even somewhat articulate deity, Rufus could articulate theology with the best of them in a manner that accepted all but marginalized each. Like most liberals, Rufus Jones seems to have had a bone to pick with particularity.
Of course, many of those intelligent persons who lean toward the left side of the religious/spiritual/political spectrum insist that they love diversity. And they love unity. But there is a conundrum that rises to the occasion every time diversity is a means to a universal unity instead of a means to better problem-solve within the context of multi-particularity. If you claim to love diversity, you must allow it to exist in all of its extremes, as well as in all of its shades of Quaker Gray. Otherwise, you marginalize all of those people who insist upon maintaining their unique corporate identity while, at the same time, you are cherry-picking - and then homogenizing for the marketplace - all of the more attractive aspects of the particular. In the end, you end up eating Chi-Chi’s instead of authentic Mexican, or drinking St. Pauli Girl instead of a real German Lager. It’s like corporate chicken versus homegrown, which has quite a few flaws in the presentation, but eats all the better. In other words, if you limit diversity to including only those particulars that are entirely aesthetically pleasing, you get a corporate chicken - minus the blood and gore and having to pick the feathers - but it sure doesn’t digest as well and you miss out on the whole process.
Food and farming examples may not strike a chord with everyone, however. But, what might, is that the more we as Friends take up the attitude of Rufus Jones, the more we limit true diversity by marginalizing all of those persons who believe that God has been revealed to them in specific ways. On the other hand, by maintaining our particularities as group founded on the principles of Jesus-centered and Spirit-revealed primitive Christianity, we have an identity with which we can contribute to a diverse world, learn from listening to other particularities, and having meaningful conversations with the Other about how we can make our world a better place. We cannot BE diversity, but we can successfully participate in the greater reality of a pluralistic society. Pluralism is great, it is syncretism and the colonialization of other faiths that is bad.

1 comment:

Babette said...

What holds me steadfast to Friends are the concepts of the Inner Light and Continuing Revelation. It is these two issues, I believe that divide the two branches of Friends more than anything, not the issue of Christ centered worship. At times I sense that this issue is not heard.

elizabeth roebling
asheville meeting

santo domingo,dominican republic