Study of Quakers – Some Personal Thoughts (con’t)

Ok now on to some of the few things where I feel Quakers beliefs fall a little short .  

The core of Quakerism is as solid a foundation as I think I have ever come across in Christianity. But, much of it seems to eroded especially during the period between 1800 and 1900. I’m sure there are many meetings that still stick to the core tenets but there appears to be many that also have drifted to other beliefs. This saddens me.

I do lament Quakers apparent marginalizing of some of the words of Jesus. Jesus clearly taught that all should be baptized. His great commission

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”–  

Matthew 28 as shown here very much emphasized this practice. Whereas most Christian sects greatly play down the “do as I have commanded” part the Quakers play down the physical aspects of baptism. If I understand them correctly most Quakers believe that this should be a personal process and no public ceremony is necessary. I will have to study their history more to see how they think this aligns with the words of Jesus. While a public ceremony may not be necessary I think it help to re-enforce other Christians.  

The other practice is communion. I understand again that Quakers believe that their communion with Jesus is a personal thing but I think the public ceremony does strengthen the corporate bond with our fellow believers. I think they claim that the quiet time is where they experience Jesus and that the ceremonial act of the Eucharist is unnecessary. Maybe my life long liturgical upbringing is just getting in the way here.  I just don’t know at this point.

One other area that troubles me a about Quakers is that since they don’t align with any creeds  or confessions so their congregations, or meetings as they call them, are across a wide spectrum. They seem to go all the way from Unitarian to very fundamentalist evangelicals. If I were to choose to join a Quaker meeting, and I may someday do just that, I will have to do a lot of research as to just what that particular meeting practices. This lack of uniformity is troublesome to me. The messages of their founders is so strong it is really a shame that they can’t seem to coalesce around some central tenets in order to be a more united group. I know Quakers, following George Fox’s lead, veer away from creedal documents but I think they would be better off if they were not quite so shy of more forcibly demonstrating their core convictions. This variation within the movement is certainly regrettable but I guess this is pretty common to all Christian denominations so it is not unique to them. By their lack of conformity they seem to reflect a lack of conviction and that is indeed regrettable to me.

Some areas that I have touched upon during my study warrant further investigation. One of those areas is Quakers being shunned for marrying outside of their sect and shunning in general. I think these are things of the past but I am not sure. Shunning seems to be the exact opposite of showing our love for the God within each person? At first glance these issues are a little troubling to me. But, before I pass personal opinions on them I need to study them some more.

So to close out this rather lengthy discussion on Quakers I believe that the core tenets of Quakerism follow the words of Jesus more than any other version of Christianity I have studied to date. They are certainly an action group whereas many other forms of Christianity are more words than deeds. So, to summarize more than a month of postings, I think I have finally found a religious movement that lives by the words of Jesus in both thoughts and action. At least as I understand them. Are they perfect? Certainly not but are any of us? Just because this series of posts are complete does not mean that my study of Friends is finished; in reality it is likely just beginning. There is MUCH more I want to learn about this group of Christians and especially how they put the Lord’s words into actions.

Study of Quakers – Some Personal Thoughts

After this fairly thorough study of Quakers I am ready to summarize my personal thoughts on Quakers and their beliefs and practices. First of all I must say that I am very much attuned to most Quaker beliefs. I think that Quakers really understand what Christ taught on how to live our lives. Not only do they believe it but they practice it in their daily lives. More so than almost any other Christians. I very much admire them for that. Their testimonies, which to me are really statements for their personal actions truly reflect what I think Jesus had in mind about living our lives. I might not be, at least yet, a Quaker in membership but, by this study I am convinced that I am one in my heart.

Many of the strong feelings I have had throughout my life I have now found to be very much aligned with long established Quaker beliefs. I was eight years old when I gave my best friend a black eye over some dispute that I can’t even remember. Immediately after that incident I was totally devastated over the violence I had done. I promised myself that I would never strike or injure another person in that manner. I have lived up to that promise since then. Along these same lines I have always felt that the various wars we have been involved in were totally against God’s will. The Quaker belief that God is in each of us and therefore if you kill another person you are killing God also.

I recently went through a round is emails with a Christian friend about Biblical Inerrancy. After much discussion I was told, maybe not in so many words, that if I didn’t take the whole bible as being totally the word of God then somehow I needed to rethink whether I am really a Christian. I knew there were other Christians out there who didn’t buy into the inerrancy logic but having grown up and lived in that tradition I did not run across them very frequently. It was certainly relieving to find that Quakers for the last three hundred years have been espousing what I personally believe is the true message of the Bible. It contains words of God, but it is not THE word of God. The word of God is Jesus as the apostle John states at the very beginning of this Gospel.

I believe in simplicity, especially when it come to religious institutions. It has always been an affront to me that Christians throughout history have spent billions of dollars making giant cathedrals for themselves in order to “worship” God. In the early times this was totally Catholic in nature but Protestants have also fallen prey to this practice. Jesus did not tell us to spend our money on idols to him; he told us to spend it on his kingdom work. Many believe that if we don’t have lavish surroundings then our guests will look elsewhere for their spiritual needs. To me just the opposite is true. So, when I found out that Quakers purposefully keep their worship facilities very simple. I found another reason to think that they are one of the few denomination that really “get it”. On a personal level, their beliefs on simplicity also align with my anti-stuff campaign I have tried to wage most of my life.

I just can’t get over the fact that most of my strongest life beliefs end up being part of Quaker practices and traditions. This fact totally amazes me!

Next time will go over some of the things that I believe Quakers fall short on. This list is much smaller than the one above.