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But there is also something else happening.  A growing number of Americans (nearly a third, according to one Gallop poll) describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.”  Books with titles like “Christianity After Religion,” “Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time,” and “The Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus” are gathering a growing audience.  And the Emerging Church movement, seeking to live, as Harvey Cox puts it, “in a new Age of Faith rather than the old Age of Belief,” is inspiring many young people (and not a few of us old folks!) with fresh winds of the Spirit.  It feels like once again, as in the old Buffy Ste. Marie song, “God is alive, magic is afoot.” And more and more people want to be a part of it.

SOURCE:  An Emergent Witness for Friends? – QuakerQuaker.

It is nice to see that my two favorite flavors of following Jesus blend together with the quote above. Quakers are more about making sure people see the light within them than they are about increased membership. The Emergent movement has a similar view. It is all about “being” a follower of Jesus than it is about spouting certain beliefs or creeds.  I must say that I am more inclined daily to include myself in the “spiritual but not religious” category. It is more about lifestyle than it is about believing the “right” things.

For the most part mainline churches today are about what you are supposed to believe instead of how you are supposed to live. Each has their own creeds that you must sign into in order to belong with them. If you cross that creed/belief line you are in jeopardy of losing your membership. Many people particularly the young just don’t align with that approach to spirituality. Instead of what to believe they want to know how they can help. Instead of getting a free ticket to heaven they want to know how to pay their debt to society.

Older generations, such as my own, have been very comfortable being told what to do. In that regard I want to bring in yet another post from a Quaker friend:

Then there are those who want an authority to tell them what to do, think, feel. That authority could be a priest, it could be a dogma, it could be a ritual, it could be a tradition. Whatever it is, it provides a kind of security that a whole lot of people find sorely lacking in their lives. If they can find it in religion, they grab it and don’t let go. Security is the second of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I have no argument with those who find it in this way. My heart goes out to them. I’m genuinely glad for them….

SOURCE:  Growth and the Society of Friends | Letters from the Street.

As in the previous post here, doing the “other gospel” of being rather than believing is just too hard for many. The something-for-nothing emphasis doesn’t require the day-to-day energy of the “being” version.

I find it amazing that so many young people today have already discovered what it took me year to find. They realize that to earn their place in humanity requires effort on their part. They see the “being” of the Emergent church as a driving part of their lives. Get-out-of-jail free cards are just not enough for them.

1.  As we often proclaim, Friends are, for the most part, non-creedal and non-hierarchical.  When we are at our best we’ve avoided creeds, and when we are at our worst we’ve just been bad at them.  One of the apparent features of the emerging church movement seems to be a general disinterest in formal creedal statements of belief that everyone is expected to conform to in order to be “in.”  Friends’ attempts to wait for the Spirit to lead rather than turning to a human leader is one of our historic precedents.  Our testimony on equality, so radical at the time of the early Friends, speaks to the cultural reality of the new Jesus People and the spiritual reality to which they aspire….

2.  Friends have long held an abiding faith in the continuing revelation of God.  We may disagree on what that revelation is, and our different branches may have different views on how that is revealed to us, but it is safe to say few Quakers believe that God went away when the canon was closed.  Popular evangelists like Rob Bell and Shane Claiborne draw large crowds of young Seekers precisely because they speak of meeting the Holy Spirit through experience, not concept.   For many of the speakers of this new Movement, and I can only assume for their aspiring listeners, the stories they want to hear are not about what God can do for us, but what God is doing in the world – and how can we be a part of it.  Isn’t that the continuing revelation of God?

3.  To these new Followers of Jesus, faith means an abiding trust in the non-violent and redemptive love of God for everyone regardless of race, religion, social status, sexual orientation, political beliefs, criminal occupation, or anything else we humans use to separate ourselves.  This new Awakening expends little energy on theological debate and like many Friends does not equate Christian life with questions of reward/heaven versus punishment/hell.  Sin and salvation are not so much ignored as trumped by Grace.  And in a world filled with poverty, violence, addiction, exploitation, hopelessness, fear, and suffering of all kinds, the emerging church is longing for a prophetic witness for peace and reconciliation.

Friends, let us learn from this movement of the Spirit in our day. Let us join with them and pray with them and grow with them, not that they may “become Quakers” (whatever that means), but that together and across traditions, we may see what Love can do in our world today.

SOURCE: An Emergent Witness for Friends? – QuakerQuaker.

I apologize for the length of the quote above but I didn’t want to edit anything out as I usually do.  I am currently a convinced non-engaging Quaker. That is I believe much of what they practice but don’t formally belong to a meeting.

As the words above say Emergents, like their Quaker brothers, have a rather strong aversion to creedal stands. Creeds, which are man-made statements of beliefs that are often used to qualify a person for membership into a particular religious sect. They are often also used to exclude instead of include. I know that the Nicene Creed was used to push me out of the church I once belonged to.  My case was somewhat typical I suppose.

I love the phrase  “For many of the speakers of this new Movement, and I can only assume for their aspiring listeners, the stories they want to hear are not about what God can do for us, but what God is doing in the world – and how can we be a part of it” That almost sums it up for me. It is all about “being” not “believing”.

When two organization that I hold dearly in my walk with Christ come together in whatever form I am ready to celebrate. Quakers don’t need to become emergents nor the other way around. Emergents are about living our faiths, not about further fracturing into yet smaller groups.

Here are some thoughts from Randy Oftedahl over at QuakerQuaker:

Now I believe there are many paths, and God in His love for human variety has given us an infinate number of ways to follow the Spirit, depending on what best speaks to our condition. But sometimes I think Quakers, perhaps because we have a particular history as a “peculiar people” or more distinctive worship and organizational forms, of for whatever reason, may be prone to a kind of spiritual pride or elitism we would reject if we found it in a fundamentalist or charismatic sect. Have other Friends ever wondered this?….. Can Quakerism become an idol? I suppose as a created thing, it could become an idol as much as any other created thing if we let it. Can we focus too much attention on the path and lose focus of the destination? (I may know this experientially). Since the Spirit of Christ can be just as truly heard in all churches/sects/creeds – or in none – might it be more in keeping with that Spirit to speak of small ‘q’ quakerism and not let our path get out ahead of our Guide?

It seems a given in our current spiritual world for each group to lord it over all the others. Each group/sect/denomination (however you want to split it up) thinks they are superior to all the others. They all have some reason or proof of their claim of superiority. Many use the circular logic of saying their religious documents prove that they are the really spiritualists of the world. Quakers, who I have a personal affinity toward are no exception.

The quote above brings up a serious question within the church of Christ. Can your religious institution become an idol that actually gets in the way of your understanding God and his nature? When we lord it over others because we think we have it right and they are wrong we are indeed doing harm to the body of Christ. When we split over our superior attitudes we do harm.  I see that the Indiana Meeting of Quakers are about to split over differences mostly involving pelvic issues. It saddens me to see even Quakers driving “superior” stakes in the sand. I was hoping that they were somehow above thinking they have religious superiority.

Randy asked the question “can Quakerism become an idol?” I think he really answered his own question and in my mind all religious institutions to one degree or another exhibit this trait. The secret to escaping this superiority condition is to admit that each of us are likely wrong about many things dealing with the nature of God. That is one of the characteristics that has drawn me to the emergent movement.

The emergent movement is not a new denomination threatening to take over but instead a new way to thinking. Here is how Wikipedia describes that concept:

Emergents can be described as Protestant, post-Protestant, Catholic, evangelical, post-evangelical, liberal, post-liberal, conservative, post conservative, anabaptist, adventist, reformed, charismatic, neocharismatic, and post-charismatic…. Some attend local independent churches or house churches while others worship in traditional Christian denominations. Proponents believe the movement transcends such “modernist” labels of “conservative” and “liberal,” calling the movement a “conversation” to emphasize its developing and decentralized nature…

When all of us finally admit that we are just as likely to be wrong about some of the things we believe about the “truths of God” as anyone else, that is a first step to bringing the church back together as Jesus intends.

About Those Creeds….

February 16, 2013 — Leave a comment

Source: Deal Or No Deal? Creed Or No Creed? – QuakerQuaker.

“Friends have no creeds.”  We Quakers often say that. We are committed to no human words but rather to following the Holy Spirit. We believe God speaks to us today – speaks to all who still their hearts and listen. “No official words can substitute for a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.” We believe that commitment to creed would be a kind of idolatry.

Most Christian denominations, on the other hand, do have a creed. They have an official statement of faith they use to distinguish their beliefs from the beliefs of other denominations. Those statements of faith often lead to wrangles over precise wording, and sometimes schisms.

The above words by Doug Bennett over at Quaker-Quaker I believe pretty much tell what Quakers think about creeds.  I must admit that when I got down to studied the common creeds in use today I found that almost all of the statements are about our understanding of God. In that vein I can understand the reluctance of my Quaker friends to embrace creeds. Today creeds seem to be mainly used as a tool to separate one group of Christians from another.

I know from personal experience that many of the different flavors of Christianity will tell their congregants that they must believe in the total truth of their particular denomination’s creeds or other statements of belief. I was told that since I believed that the earth is more than 6,000 years old and therefore did not believe in the total literal and inerrant bible that I would no longer have membership in the church I had joined over eight years before.  The new minister called to that congregation believed it was his duty to exclude me and a couple of the more vocal participants in the weekly bible study.

Jesus Christ did not tell us that in order to be his followers we must pledge 100% allegiance to any particular man-made words or even beliefs. He did give us example after example of how he expected us to love God and to love one another. Those two things were what he wrapped his church around not words that were conceived by men many years after his death and resurrection.

I am not as creed averse as my Quaker friends. I believe that many creeds invented over the years, and there are literally thousands of them, have at least some  redeeming merit in their thoughts. It is just that when they are used as a condition of being a follower of Christ that raises my ire. None of us, and I am including every human being who has come after Jesus, totally knows the heart or conscience of God. That is simply an impossible task. We in our meager attempt sometimes get it right but often get it wrong. That does not mean that we shouldn’t try to know what God expects of us but more that we simply can’t assume that we, to the exclusion of others, have it down pat.

One of the primary things that empresses me about the emergent movement is their admittance that they just may be wrong about some of what they currently believe about the heart of God. They believe that being a follower of Jesus is a life long learning experience that no one, and I do mean no one, ever graduates from. That is one belief that I don’t ever envision being wrong.

On A Short Leash…..

January 24, 2013 — Leave a comment

Source: On a Short Leash – QuakerQuaker.

Had occasion to recall a dog that I used to walk. Normally, she was well-behaved and a joy to take to the park. One day, however, this good dog showed a quite different side to her regular disposition. She pulled and pulled and would not stop when I told her to heel. After several attempts at same, I was forced to yank her leash and propel her anxiousness backwards.

Apparently, a dog can forget about the person at the other end of the leash.

Now, what about dog spelled backwards? Do we sometimes forget about God walking along with us in this life? Do we still, as early Quakers cautioned, sometimes race ahead of God’s Spirit? And, do we force God to get rough with us – even to propel us backwards, so we remember what it is to walk the right way through life?

Thanks Clem Gerdlemann for this post on QuakerQuaker. It got me seriously thinking about being on a leash with God on the other end. While I am a strong believer in God having given us free will I also believe that He gives us personal revelations to help guide us through life.  Jerking our chain to bring us back to reality is part of those revelations.

So, I kind of believe, along with Clem that God has us on a leash. I would only differ in the length of the leash. I know when I walk my sixty pound basset hound I for the most part let her have the full fifteen feet of the retractable leash. She can go pretty much wherever she wants. Since bassets “hear and see” with their nose what she smells determines where she goes. Sometimes it is necessary to let her know who is in command, but given her sixty pounds that takes a good effort on my part 🙂

Like bassets we humans don’t often use all our senses when we travel through life. We often get hung up on this or that and it is most often a self-focused this or that. When we forget that Jesus’ command was to love God and to love each other we certainly deserve a jerk backwards. But, I think God’s leash is more than long enough for us to hang ourselves. He is just not in the business of “making” us do what He wants.

The Quaker belief of the “light of God” in all of us is the leash to me.  You might call it a virtual leach if you want. God ingrains in each of us his messages of life but he leaves it up to us to grow that light into a beacon that shows others the way to Him.

I am a regular reader of a Quaker blog called Quaker Quaker. On a recent posting  by Mac Lemann I learned a little about Mary Dyer. Here are some of his words from that post:

I had recently re-learned, at Pendle Hill from Marcelle Martin, the story of Mary Dyer and the other Quaker martyrs hung on Boston Common. Mary was a follower of Anne Hutchinson (see the Antinomian Controversy) who preached that every Christian believer could read, interpret, and preach the word of God and that the Grace of God is freely given. Mary was later convinced by George Fox in England of the Truth and power of Friends. Because of her conviction that God’s law is love and tolerance and despite the fact that the Massachusetts government, essentially the Puritan church, had passed a law banning Quakers from their colony, she returned to Massachusetts again and again in defiance of the worldly law and was martyred for her beliefs.

After gazing at the statue for a few minutes I turned and strode to the center of Boston common where Mary was hung and buried in an unmarked grave. I stomped my foot and jumped up into the cool air and sunny sky. I felt myself slam down onto the land forbidden to Quakers in the 17th century and I thought, “Goddamn it! I am a Quaker on Boston Common!”

When we think of Christian martyrs we most often think of the Inquisition or as I do the post-Constantine era of Christianity. We don’t often relate it to what later became the USA.  Most of us remember hearing stories of the Salem witchcraft trials but not many know about the hangings on the Boston Common for heresy. We don’t often remember that even though we have a separation of Church and State in our constitution that wasn’t so of the thirteen colonies that initially formed our country. Many including Massachusetts, Road Island, and Pennsylvania were made up of primarily the same religious sect and not very tolerant of other beliefs.

Can you imagine one Christian colony putting to death a citizen because they believed that all Christians can have opinions of biblical text or that God will eventually grant salvation to everyone? Thank heavens for those like Thomas Jefferson who had a more tolerant view of religious sects.

For a little more information here is what Wikipedia says about the Boston Martyrs:

The Boston martyrs is the name given in Quaker tradition to the three English members of the Society of Friends, Marmaduke Stephenson, William Robinson and Mary Dyer, and to the Friend William Leddra of Barbados, who were condemned to death and executed by public hanging for their religious beliefs under the legislature of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1659, 1660 and 1661. Several other Friends lay under sentence of death at Boston in the same period, but had their punishments commuted to that of being whipped out of the colony from town to town.

“The hanging of Mary Dyer on the Boston gallows in 1660 marked the beginning of the end of the Puritan theocracy and New England independence from English rule. In 1661 King Charles II explicitly forbade Massachusetts from executing anyone for professing Quakerism. In 1684 England revoked the Massachusetts charter, sent over a royal governor to enforce English laws in 1686, and in 1689 passed a broad Toleration act.”


Eternal Presence….

November 18, 2012 — Leave a comment

Several years ago I came across a small book entitled Quaker Spirituality – Selected Writings. I’m still not sure what made me pause on the title but I am glad I did. Inside that book was an essay by Thomas R. Kelly (1893-1941) talked about the “Eternal Presence”. I didn’t know it then but this essay put me on the path to learning much more about Quakers. It gave me the most complete understanding of who God was that I have ever had in my life up to that point.

Here are some of the words from that essay. I am just going to give you bits an pieces but enough to get its message across:

The Quaker discovery and message has always been that God still lives and moves, works and guides, in vivid immediacy, within the hearts of men. For revelation is not static and complete, like a book, but dynamic and enlarging, as springing from life and Soul of all things. This light and Life is in all men, ready to sweep us into its floods, illumine us with its blinding, or with its gentle guiding radiance, send us tendered but strong into the world of need and pain and blindness. Surrender of self to that indwelling Life is entrance upon an astounding, and almost miraculous Life…..

We are men of double personalities. We have slumbering demons within us. We all have also a dimly-formed Christ within us. We’ve been too ready to say that the demonic man within us is the natural and real man, and that the Christ-man within us is unnatural and the unreal self but nothing could be further from the truth….

It is an amazing discovery, at first, to find that the creative Power and Life is at work in the world. God is no longer the object of belief; he is a Reality, who has continued, within each of us, his real presence in the world.

One of the most basic tenets of Quakerism is the “light of God is within each and every one of us”. It is up to us to show this light to the world of need, pain, and blindness.It is up to us to show God within us.  It is an amazing discovery to understand that “WE” contain the real presence of God in this world. God is not some mythical bearded guy up there that decides who will go to heaven or who to punish with hell.  God is real; he is within each and every one of us.

This revelation changed everything in my attitudes.  No longer did I consider myself a miserable sinner who can do no good. I know I now have a small piece of the presence of God in this world. I am to do what he expects me to do. I am not a worthless piece of snot that I taught growing up. I am instead the light of God in this world. When you accept that fact everything changes. You are no longer living for yourself but now are living to show God’s love through your deeds and actions.

When I read the above words it was a sobering moment for me. It made me look upon the current religious establishment with a different view.  It was indeed a very inspiring little book for me.

In 1997 Richard Carlson wrote a very popular book entitled Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff…. and it’s all small stuff. In that book he listed one hundred things to make our lives more peaceful. Some of those topics that I took to heart included:

  • Let Others Be “Right” Most of the Time
  • Learn to Live in the Present Moment
  • Surrender to the Fact that Life Isn’t Fair

Most of the things we worry about the most have little real impact on our lives.  They are just clutter that gets in the way of having a happier life.  As I have come to “not sweat the small stuff” I also come to realize that most of what I was told I must believe as a Christian is also small stuff!

I know this sounds like a rather shocking statement to hear that many of the things of the present day church are just small stuff. But, the more I studied the more I found that to simply be the case. It seems that Christianity has become a recitation of creeds about Jesus rather than taking to heart the actual messages he gave us.  There have been literally hundreds, if not thousands, of creeds put out by various leaders and councils of Christian churches and all believers were then expected to automatically pledge allegiance to each of them. In studying them they almost all include things to believe instead of things to do.

The creed that is recited weekly in most liturgical churches today is the Nicene Creed (click on this link to see the words).  If you take the time to actually look at the content of this creed you will see that they are all about what to believe instead of what to do. The messages of Jesus were actually the reverse of that. He spent much of his ministry teaching us how to live together and how to please God.  Almost nothing from the text above actually came from Jesus.

When I started studying the practices of the Quaker faith is when this realization came to me. Quakers are very creed averse and I came to find for a very good reason. They believe in acting out faith instead of proclaiming beliefs.  When we realize that what we do matter more than what we believe it changes everything. It was an epiphany for me personally to finally realize that fact.

The Christianity of belief in creeds is small stuff compared to actually acting on the words Jesus spoke. Where did we lose this critical understanding? When did Christianity become a “sit back and wait” instead of “acting out our faith” religion? It certainly wasn’t that way in the early church.

Lets get our attention off the small stuff and back to the true messages of Jesus. One of the emergent movement’s focuses is to get back to the true meaning of the Bible as a whole and the gospels in particular. That true meaning is enveloped in the words of Jesus.   They must take front and center over absolutely everything else.

Here is an interesting article from the blog quakerquaker.org that I thought worth putting here. He has quite a few valid arguments but I’m sure most will ignore them due to him coming to the “wrong” conclusion.

The essence of the Good News of the Gospel as taught by Jesus is very simple and can be understood by even a child. The purpose of life is to have good and fulfilling relationships with other people and the larger community of life. 

Jesus saved us, not through his death, but by showing us how to live our lives. His entire life on earth was about overcoming evils and temptations, and his death was the conclusion of that struggle. Just as we are faced with evils and temptations in our lives, Jesus struggled against those same temptations as a human. In overcoming them, He taught us the way to live. It is only by so doing that we can be truly happy. Salvation is the product of developing a genuine love for other people and for God. We reject salvation if we choose not to love others like God loves us. Salvation is not dependent on the doctrinal specifics of the religion you have followed on earth. The choices that we make on a daily basis are what determine whether we end up in heaven or hell.

God gives everyone the freedom to choose their beliefs and live their lives accordingly. Salvation is available for people of all religions. All religions have goodness in them. There are many paths to heaven. The requirements for salvation are simple: live well, believe rightly, and you will be saved. Truth is love in action. Actions performed out of love are genuine expressions in a physical form of what love means. All people who live good lives, no matter what their religion, have a place in heaven and the Kingdom of God here on earth.  

Real “salvation” is found in the practice of certain principles Jesus taught that still apply today, such as the Great Commandment, the Sermon on the Mount, and his parables. We need to focus on what Jesus said in the Gospels rather than the theological musings of early Church leaders who never met Jesus personally, such as Paul. Jesus told us that the kingdom of God is found within us. That means we don’t have to die to go to heaven. We create heaven on earth by living out the teachings of Jesus. The core of his teaching is following the radical grace of his Great Commandment – “Love God and Love one another” rather than Pharisee-style legalism or having the “correct beliefs” (please refer to the Good Samaritan parable which discusses this principle).

God does not judge us. We judge ourselves by what we love and how we live. Salvation is granted to all people who love God and try to live a good life according to what they believe is right. We play an active role in our salvation every day of our lives. When we look to the Divine and live according to what we believe is right, we move closer towards heaven. If we shun good, we move closer to hell. Thus, salvation and freedom of choice are inseparable from each other.

We learn about the teachings of Jesus in the Bible. The Bible is a very complex compilation of books that are far too rich to be limited to literal interpretation or viewed as “inerrant” or “infallible”. The Bible is not a history or science textbook. When using the Bible, we need to know the relative value of each book in the Bible. The Gospels relate some of the actual teachings of Jesus, as well as some of the mythos which built up about him based upon some of the rival pagan mystery cults that were prevalent at that time. The Old Testament relates the tribal and cultural myths of the Hebrew peoples which set the stage for the prophetic and messianic expectations that were prevalent during the time of Jesus. The rest of the New Testament, such as the letters of Paul, Acts of the Apostles, and the Book of Revelation, relate the theological presumptions and bias of some of the early Church leaders who were influenced by their historical and cultural environment. Just as Jesus taught through the use of parables, we can find useful insights in various stories of the Bible by viewing them as allegories and metaphors for our own spiritual journey and growth process, from the Garden of Eden to the Heavenly City, which can be applied to our everyday lives. It then becomes our story.

In one of the most defining moments of his ministry, Jesus was asked which commandment was the greatest. Matthew 22:36-39 “[Jesus], which is the great commandment in the law?” And he said to him, ’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

In the Gospel of John, he reclarified the Great Commandment. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34). Or as I like to put it – Love God through loving service to others.

This teaching of the Great Commandment of Jesus fulfills the intent of the Golden Rule and surpasses it with the higher intent of love. By following the Great Commandment, we can order our Ruling Loves in a Heavenly manner – Love of God, Love of Others before Love of the World (Power, Money, Prestige, etc.) and Love of Self. Obviously Hellish Ruling Loves would be in an inverse order. Heaven and hell are often states of consciousness that we choose by what we love.

God is Love and nothing but what is good can come from Him. By following the core teachings of Jesus, we can become the children of God by becoming that radical love. As we live, we choose what kind of love we will be. We may choose to be egocentric and regard ourselves as the only reality where our own needs, desires, and feelings are all important. Or we may choose to focus on others. In the former instance, we shrink in spirit, allowing a part of our potential as loving beings to atrophy. In the latter instance, we grow spiritually, heightening our awareness of the nature of love and thus also of the nature of ourselves and God.

Loving service to others is the way love works. True happiness is not possible unless it is in accordance with being of use to others. The spiritual life involves the active development of a useful and meaningful life in service to the betterment of the world as a whole. Whereas the religious life often connotes withdrawal from the world and life, active participation in the world is a commitment to actualizing faith and charity. The life of charity and faith parallel the union of love and truth which is the essence of God. As we increase compassion, integrity, understanding, and healing in our lives, we are helping God create a “new Heaven and a new Earth.” It is the responsibility of all people to develop their own beliefs and live their lives accordingly.

If there is an afterlife, it is likely that we continues to live in a heavenly life or a hellish one, based on the quality of life choices made here. Heaven and hell are not rewards or punishments distributed on judgment day but the present inner experience we freely choose. We may choose to enjoy peace and openness, or to close ourselves in fear. We can discover the highest joy of a loving life by giving to others, or the loneliness of self-centeredness. We may choose to enjoy peace and openness, or to close ourselves in fear. Life is an opportunity for learning and spiritual growth. As we choose between giving and taking, loving and hating, right and wrong, we participate in the creation of our own spiritual character. To become an angel, reject self-centered longings, do what is good, and love God.

Heaven is for everyone who wants to live there. The only reason someone would go to hell is because they have chosen to go there of their own volition. Those who choose hell are people who put themselves above all else, repeatedly indulging in things which are hurtful to others. The only reason hell exists is to preserve the freedom of choice which God grants to all His people.

The Gospel is a powerful vehicle for inner and societal transformation. Inner transformation results from connecting to something larger than the ego. By settling down and heeding the promptings of the Spirit, we can connect to God as that interconnectedness or ground of being underlying all things, especially living beings, in the Universe. This divine connection through Christ then transforms how we behave when we are mindful of this interconnectedness by helping us to see Christ in others and prompting us to live out the values within the Sermon on the Mount. Our changed behaviors cause different responses from others which can lead to communal and societal transformation through the power of the Gospel. When we view this interdependence as love then we tend to get the same back from it. From this foundation, we should try as much as possible to extend loving-kindness to all other living beings which is the primary point of the Great Commandment of Jesus.

We create unnecessary suffering when we forget about the profound interrelatedness of all things. How we treat each other, other living beings, and our environment should be based upon this understanding. The ethic of reciprocity, commonly known as the Golden Rule, is a good, general ethical guideline for daily living, but the radical nature of love which Jesus calls us to goes far beyond mere ethical reciprocity. It is important that we consider the needs of others, especially the less fortunate, before our own wants and desires.

At the bottom of this post is a link to a heartfelt post by a convinced Quaker. A convinced Quaker is one who has come from outside the sect. In this person’s case it evidently was from Catholicism. This post struck me deeply as I saw myself in much of Laura’s writing. For those not going to the original post here are a couple of quotes that I want to comment on:

“Hard” was life before I learned about Quakerism. “Hard” was wondering how to handle a violent situation in a compassionate manner and thinking I was the only person in the world who had grappled with such an issue. “Hard” was feeling completely alone amongst friends, unable to shake the conviction that something was wrong with spending hundreds of dollars on entertainment and thinking I was doomed to be a social outcast forever because I felt that way. “Hard” was taking every word that came out of my mouth seriously,  really thinking about speaking the truth and speaking kindness, and believing that I was peculiar and alone for being so serious about everything.

“Hard” was trying to live up to the light in me without even knowing that the light was there.  Without knowing that others were on the same path as me, that there was a meeting of people who sought the same things I sought, who could comfort and support me in my time of need. Without knowing there was a long, rich tradition of writing about the very questions I had. Without a weekly meeting to be enveloped and nourished in corporate worship. Those days were very hard indeed, and I don’t want to go back to them.

I, like this convinced Quaker, have struggled with some of my feelings about violence in all its forms, extravagant spending on “entertainment” , Christian organizations that spend almost all their resources on themselves, and other such things.  It seemed like the Christian organizations I was in for some time were more focused on a future life in heaven than one here or earth. So, to my total disappointment these types of matters did not come up very frequently.

One of the foundational concept of Quakerism is “living up to the light” this comes from the words of Jesus at Matt 5:14-16

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Quakers believe that everyone has light from God shining in their lives. Some never allow it to even get to the surface but it is there none the less. I have come to be very much aligned with the concept of the light within each of us. It should be our task everyday of our lives to let the Lord’s light shine in our lives so that others can realize what being a Christian is really all about. It is not about hunkering down in our churches waiting for the end.  It is about living day-to-day. Living my life in a Christian organization that did not follow through on that very basic concept was indeed a very hard thing.

Should this be harder? – QuakerQuaker.