Thursday, December 30, 2021

#364 / Quaker Evangelism

 

I am still thinking, today, about what I was thinking about yesterday

Will the worst predicted consequences of climate change do us in? Or, will we go out, really stupidly, in a worldwide atomic war? I am not taking bets. I am just asking the question, and it seems clear to me that the future of human life, as we currently know it - the future of our "human world" - is going to depend on something beyond "technology" and artful politics. Both will be needed, I am quite confident of that, but our future, if we are going to have one, is ultimately going to depend on some kind of spiritual transformation, something that is an example of one of my favorite words, "metanoia."
Met·a·noi·a
/ˌmedəˈnoiə/ 
 
Change in one's way of life resulting from penitence or spiritual conversion.
 
If it is correct that we must achieve, together, and not just individually, some kind of "spiritual transformation," and if it is true that such a transformation is absolutely required if we are going to have any hope of heading off the calamities we can see ahead (mass extinction, the collapse of human civilization as global warming and climate change proceed, social disintegration both within nations and internationally, and/or atomic war), how can that possibly be achieved? If bringing about such a spiritual transformation is, actually, much more important than developing any specific technical or political agenda, or outlining any specific set of solutions to our problems, what can we do?

I think we could do worse than to consider the history of the Quakers.  
 
George Fox, pictured above, initiated a spiritual/political movement - in fact, a genuine spiritual/political revolution - which was based on a pretty simple operational principle. Small groups of men and women gathered together not to discuss any specific agenda or set of ideas that attendees brought to the meeting from outside. Instead, those who met together "waited upon the Spirit," in silence, with the idea that the Spirit would let them know what they should do. Operationally, as I say, there is nothing more basic. People get together, without bringing an agenda to their meeting, waiting for a collective direction to emerge, and then acting on that. 
 
There is no liturgy or catechism associated with Quaker worship and Quaker life. The guidelines Quakers follow are contained in books titled, "Faith and Practice." You have to have faith - that is needed - that a true direction can come to a small group when they all wait together, with a sincere expectation that some direction will be provided. Then, both the individuals and the group "practice" the directions they have received. A typical list of Quaker guidelines for life, coming out of what is now more than three hundred years of experience, can be found in that "Faith and Practice" guide that is linked above. You can click on any of these links to get a feeling for what has eventuated from years of Quaker experience:
 
The Quaker Meeting of Melbourne, Australia, has published a little online guide called "Quakerism 101" that also sets forth the basic principles:

Testimonies are not fixed dogma, but a distillation of Friends' faith in action over the centuries. Here is one formulation of the testimonies from the Friends General Conference. There are many other formulations of these same basic ideas from other Quaker sources.

SIMPLICITY-- focusing on what is truly important and letting other things fall away.

PEACE --seeking justice and healing for all people; taking away the causes of war in the ways we live.

INTEGRITY
-- Acting on what we believe, telling the truth, and doing what we say we will.

COMMUNITY -- supporting one another in our faith journeys and in times of joy and sorrow; sharing with and caring for each other.

EQUALITY -- treating everyone, everywhere, as equally precious to God, recognizing that everyone has gifts to share.

SUSTAINABILITY -- caring for the earth, valuing and responding to all of God's creation; using only our fair share of the earth's resources; working for policies that protect the planet.  
(An easy way to remember these testimonies is by the acronym "SPICES" -- simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, sustainability.) 
 
Margaret Mead has often been quoted in this blog. She tells us "never [to] doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” 
 
But if such "small groups" need not only a good idea, and commitment, but some kind of spiritual impetus and motivation to set aside their "normal lives," in order to be able to change the world, then adopting Quaker practices is something well worth trying. 

Economic and political conditions today have lots of similarities to those of the late 17th Century, when George Fox found a method that permitted small groups of men (and women!) to confront oppressive realities and to transform them. 
 
Of course, the stakes today, are quite a bit higher. I think it would be worthwhile to give Quaker Evangelism a try!
 
 
Image Credit:
https://www.fgcquaker.org/cloud/barrys-meeting-page/pages/cactus 

1 comment:

  1. While these are good principles, which my wife and I follow scrupulously (without the God part), they do not require a religion to make them part of our lives.

    The problem with religions is that they are based on faith, not on open and unfiltered, rational observations of the world, the entire world, around us.

    Faith in gods is exclusively human centered, and does not apply to the natural world, setting humans apart as "special" and not subject to natural processes and interrelationships with all life.

    Yes to:

    SIMPLICITY-- focusing on what is truly important and letting other things fall away.

    PEACE --seeking justice and healing for all life; taking away the causes of conflict with the natural world and each other in the ways we live.

    INTEGRITY -- Acting on what we know to be true, telling the truth, and doing what we say we will.

    COMMUNITY -- supporting all others in our life journeys and in times of joy and sorrow; sharing with and caring for each other.

    EQUALITY -- treating every living thing, everywhere, as equally precious, recognizing that every being has gifts to share.

    SUSTAINABILITY -- caring for the earth and all that herein lives, valuing and responding to all life; using only a necessary share of the earth's resources needed by all life; working for policies that protect all life.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for your comment!