Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Refusing to feel marginalized among Friends

My God, My God – Why hast thou made me so different!
To begin with, I have never felt a love like I feel from the Creator God. I have never felt drawn to be close to anyone in a healthy way until I could accept that I was loved. YHWH’s love for me made it possible for me to love others, even my enemies. I know YHWH and the divine desire for my life because of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, who I deem as being the person in history through whom salvation comes. I believe this salvation is universal.
To share this in a liberal meeting might mean spiritual marginalization. It’s not that folks won’t accept me for where I am at spiritually (at least most folks will), but that, because I have found a path for myself, and am able to express it in meaningful ways through the use of a specific language, I feel that I am suspect in the eyes of most “seekers.” How often have I heard it said that “there are many paths to the divine.” That may be true, but is that an appropriate response to someone whose life has been saved, and changed dramatically, through the experience of divine particularity? Where is it that I get support for my particularity in the FGC expression of Quakerism? Where do I find a place in the context of the Religious Society of Friends where I feel like I am worshipping the same God as others in the sense of a truly gathered meeting?
I found support for my particularity in Conservative Friends, and my family travels the width of the state of Michigan once a month to participate in worship in the name of the Christ, Jesus. Our family’s leading to dress plain, and make specific use of the biblical narrative, in coordination with Christ-centered waiting worship, is buoyed by our relationship with Crossroads Meeting in Flint, where we are affiliate members in Ohio Yearly Meeting.
However, I am feeling like I exist on the fringes of Conservative Friends because, as I presented at Yearly Meeting this year, I do not believe in the blood atonement. I am not a believer in a virgin birth (I do believe firmly in resurrection), or am I a believer in the infallibility of the Scriptures. In fact, while I have a deep and abiding love for Scripture, I am often the recipient of leadings by the Holy Spirit that stand in firm contrast with parts of Scripture. Am I alone among Conservative Friends in an understanding that Paul did not write many of the letters attributed to him, or that I can disagree with Pauline theology even though I value it, or that, in fact, Paul was just wrong about some things? When I presented at Ohio Yearly Meeting, someone immediately spoke aloud that my theology resembled that of Elias Hicks. I wonder what Conservative Friends think of my support of same-sex marriage. I must admit, I haven’t brought it up.
Of course, I am not Elias Hicks, but I deeply value the relationships that I have forged within my Hicksite meeting in Grand Rapids, where my family has full membership. Regardless of our differences, I know that I can contribute to the health and direction of the meeting, and that it has been one of the most valued spiritual relationships of our lives. I also enjoy that it allows me an opportunity to explore theological leanings without perceived burdens.
On the other hand, I value the community of eldering that exists in Ohio Yearly Meeting – the stability of knowing that the biblical narrative is being lived out in the manner of Friends as it has been for a few hundred years – with Jesus at the core.
As I began to write this, I felt like I was on the margins of both groups of Friends, but now that I think of it, I may have the best of the spiritual world at my fingertips. Perhaps God has brought me to a space in the middle because I can learn valuable spiritual truths from both groups. Perhaps I can serve as a reminder to Friends of one persuasion that the biblical narrative is a valuable asset to our community, and to Friends of another persuasion, that the roots of apostasy were laid in the First Century, and remind Christ-centered Friends that the “doctrines of men” are just that. The Bible informs our faith, but the Holy Spirit waters our spiritual seeds. Blood atonement, and indeed, all of Christendom, might be at the end of their long run.
In the words of some Friends, I am a (Quaker), not a Christian – But I am thoroughly Christ-centered, believing in the salvific work of YHWH through the life of Jesus of Nazareth, and if the middle is where I must be, than I guess I will just have to continue to reap the blessings.


julie said...

Conservative Friends really take infallibility seriously? I thought that was an Evangelical problem.

Scot, Jenn, and the whole Hee Haw gang said...

I think of the differences between infallibility and inerrency. Inerrencists believe every jot and tittle of the text is without error, and that there is no possibility of contradiction. Most Conservative Friends that I know believe that continuing revelations would not, in most cases, contradict the text because it is inspired by the same Holy Spirit.

Anonymous said...

"Blood atonement, and indeed, all of Christendom, might be at the end of their long run."


John Richards said...

Dear Friend Scott,
I must say that I have enjoyed thy writings here and in the other blogs. Thee speaks to my condition as well. I love to read the Bible and find many amazingly rich layers of meaning and truth contained in scripture, yet my main source of spiritual nourishment comes from a Christ centered way that is best described by Conservative Quakerism. I am not one to agree with every jot and tittle of any theology, because I am led by the spirit, not words on a page. I am a member of a wonderful Liberal meeting and have always felt a part of the family. There are truly some wonderfully caring and loving souls in my liberal meeting. I would like to experience Conservative Friends Meeting in the name of Christ. I do hope to soon visit with Keystone Friends, across many miles and the only Conservative Meeting in my home State of Pennsylvania. The way I see it is that Christ is leading me no matter where I am, and that may agree with your middle way of Quakerism too. We are truly blessed to have this mode of communication.

Thy Friend in Christ,
John Richards.

Mike Wine said...

Thanks, Scott, for the thoughtful piece. I tend to have a polyglot of perspectives also concerning faith/trust in Jesus' way. For years I was a firm evangelical Anabaptist semi-plain Brethren...whew! I love to read the Scriptures daily, love to sense the Spirit of God come upon me in MfW and other times and even find a number of aspects of simple/plain dress meaningful. But, since I know that revelation is ongoing and not static, I cannot be content with my former views of Scripture. It is a joy to be open to new insights. Jesus needs no 'protection' via the Apostles Creed or other formulations. He and his life and his teachings can stand on their own merits and their own intrinsic power to persuade. And, I can learn from the Sufi traditon or the Zen segment of Buddhism...or others who listen to that light!

Richard58 said...

You and I are quite similar. I belong to an FGC meeting but I am very Christocentric. I know that many people in my meeting probably do not share my views but yet they respect my religious beliefs as I respect theirs. So we all get along quie well.
However I do think I would feel more at home at a Conservative Friends meeting but there are none near me.
Even so I am probably not your typical Christian either. I do not take the Bible literally. I believe a lot of it is myth designed to teach us about God. The Genesis story is a perfect example. I do not believe in the creation myth. I believe in evolution. But I believe that Genesis teaches us that God created the world and that we humans are his special creation.
I also disagree with some things that Paul wrote. I believe in following the Inner Light more than scripture. So this puts me at odds with some of my non-Quaker Christian friends. But so be it.
I am at peace with my views.
So hang in there. You are not alone in your thinking. Take care.

Julie said...

Hey, I wanted to make sure that you saw that Touchdown Jesus in Ohio was smitten by the wrath of God. I thought of you when I heard about it.

John Richards said...

Dear Friend Scott,
I wanted you to be aware that the links posted by the spammer are to a Chinese porn site. I know the spammer has many names, but maybe you should report them or block them.

Your Friend in Christ,

Shawna said...

I am just getting myself ready for Ohio Yearly Meeting, which starts tomorrow, and I find myself browsing your blog.

I missed your talk last year, but my husband caught it, and he liked it very much. There is a wide range of belief among conservative Friends.

Usually, one only hears the views that sound most Gurneyite. The rest of us are usually mature enough to be able to let other people believe what they want without lecturing them... this is the way I like to look at it anyway.... others may disagree.... :)

Same-sex marriage will be brought up this year. It should be an interesting discussion. It won't be resolved this year... but I have hopes that it will eventually be resolved in favor of justice and mercy, rather than in favor of close-mindedness and comfort zones.