Today after Meeting for Worship, we had an instructor come in to teach my Yearly Meeting’s Quakerism 101 course. During Meeting for Worship, he gave a message that I found very disturbing. The beginning of his message was how Quakers were more concerned with practical matters of faith than theological ones, which I felt kind of spoke to my condition about my last post. But then his last couple of sentences were about how fundamentalism was something that should be eradicated.
I know that this isn’t such an abnormal sentiment in liberal circles, but I don’t think it’s a good one to have. Frankly, I think we need fundamentalists to challenge our faith and provide a counterpoint to those of us with “fuzzy” faith. Likewise, I think fundamentalists need us as well. And to paint a kind of religion as an enemy makes it too easy to paint those of that religion as enemies as well. And as soon as we do that, we close ourselves off to those people. We shut them out, instead of being open to sharing with them and learning from them. I think that’s a grave mistake.
Is it easier to just wish everyone who disagreed with us, or who in our opinion have influenced the world more negatively than positively, would just disappear? Of course it is. But that’s not the reality. The reality is that those people, those fundamentalists, have that of God in them too.
Who knows how different our world would be if fundamentalism were abolished. Maybe it would be a good thing; maybe it wouldn’t be. But in my opinion, it’s not for us to try to guess how it would or wouldn’t be different. We’re gifted with the world we have now, and that world includes fundamentalists. There’s no getting around that.
During afterthoughts, I stood up and said pretty much what I’ve just shared with you all. I wasn’t happy to stand up to someone who our Meeting had invited over to teach Quakerism 101, but I felt it had to be done. I wasn’t going to sit idly while the seeds of intolerance were sown in my Meeting, which is what I felt that message had done. And I was, frankly, surprised that he had voiced it; what did that reveal about the assumptions he was making about all of us? That no one in the room knew fundamentalists, that everyone in the room would be happy if fundamentalism just disappeared?
When our guests were introduced, my breath caught as a young (i.e., my age or slightly older) married couple stood up to introduce themselves. They were Presbyterians and had come to get our perspective on things. What kind of perspective did that message give them?
Overall, though, it was one of the better Meetings for Worship I’ve attended recently. I don’t know if it’s me or the Meeting, but recently most of the messages have seemed bland and insipid to me. I’m trying to have patience, as I’ve made a commitment to my Meeting and I’m not about to break it, but it’s difficult sometimes.
After Meeting for Worship, I stayed for the first Quakerism 101 class. Unfortunately, I found it disappointing. I was surprised that George Fox’s “there is one that can speak to thine condition, Christ Jesus” account wasn’t included, as that, to me, was the start of Quakerism. When someone asked why Quakers were being imprisoned, the instructor said on charges on heresy and treason, because, for example, some Quakers claimed that Jesus was not the son of God. *pause* Maybe my history’s shaky, but I was pretty sure that early Quakers were emphatically, passionately Christian. My understanding was the heretical claim of the early Quakers wasn’t that they doubted Christ’s divinity, but that they claimed that God could speak to each one of them and that there was no need to have clergy as an intermediary. Am I wrong, or did I witness a kind of revisionist history that is more in accord with current liberal Quaker views than what really happened?
Sometimes, I just get very frustrated at my Meeting. Sometimes I feel like people are standing up because they have something to say instead of standing up because God has something to say through them. And it’s not just new attenders, either; I’ve wondered that about seasoned members as well, even about people who are on the Worship and Ministry committee with me. This makes me worry that problem is not with the Meeting, but with me.
In any case, I’m waiting for guidance about this as patiently as I can bear.