Category Archives: Quaker Quaker

Thoughts on Dually-Affiliated Friends

I’ve always felt a certain discomfort about Nontheist Friends and other dually-affiliated Friends. (But, you protest, aren’t you a dually-affiliated Friend?? Yes, but I don’t identify as a Buddhist Quaker or a Quaker Buddhist: I am both a Buddhist and a Quaker.) Some of this discomfort about Nontheist Friends stemmed from preconceptions I, as a theist* (more on that later), had. A few weeks ago, I joined a Nontheist Friends Google group. At the time, I was questioning my belief in God. I’d recently come across several passages in Buddhist books that described theism as, basically, the adult version of a blankie: the belief in a supernatural being that could, at a moment’s notice, if one prayed hard enough, fix all of your problems. This was not my kind of theism, so I began to wonder if I might actually be one of those “nontheist Friends” I actually mocked with another Friend a few years ago:

“Here’s what I don’t get about nontheist Friends. What, exactly, are they DOING in Meeting for Worship? Who do they think is leading them?”

We had a good laugh and moved on.

And, thankfully, I’ve moved on, too. I now feel that ANY one, regardless of faith or belief, should be welcomed into Meeting for Worship. As I’ve said previously on here, if the person sitting next to me calls that which moves him or her to speak “God”, “Jesus”, “Holy Spirit”, “Spirit”, “Gaia”, “Allah”, “innate humanity”, “connection to the universe”, “bodhichitta”, etc., that doesn’t change that we are being moved by the same One.

The conversations I’ve had via email with nontheist Friends over the past few weeks have been helpful to me. They, overall, appear to be a thoughtful, kind, open group. Nontheism is not just made up of the “Angry Atheist” (i.e., the person who lost his or her faith in God because of a traumatic event and is angry about it) or the “Overly Rationalist”, as I have thought in the past, but a wide variety of beliefs about the world, people, the universe, etc. There’s currently an engaging discussion going on about “supernatural events”, e.g., ghosts. My time spent interacting with this group has been helpful not only in dispelling preconceptions I’ve had (and I likely still have some that need to be dispelled, so I am planning on remaining on this email list for a while), but also in helping me narrow down what, exactly, it is that I believe.

And what became apparent to me in reading these emails is that I am not a nontheist. It’s just not what I believe. Panentheism–the belief in God as universe and more (similar to the idea that the whole is more than the sum of its parts)–is closest to where I am right now.

So, while I’m comfortable with worshiping with those who would describe their worship experience differently than I would, I’ve come to realize what I am not comfortable with in our Religious Society. This realization was brought about by a comment a Friend made on facebook about his experience at this year’s FGC:

“I heard no references to Jesus from ordinary participants, and remarkably few to God. I heard, multiple times, that Quakers can believe anything and have no rituals. There was evangelizing by “nontheist Friends” who had a table offering tracts (albeit tucked away out of the flow of the crowd) and one of whom buttonholed me, unsought, in a hallway. There was no sign I could find of evangelizing either by mystics of the Jonesite sort or by Quaker traditionalists within FGC.”

Here’s the thing: while I am a Buddhist, I don’t expect my Quaker Meeting to be Buddhist. I don’t expect messages delivered in Meeting for Worship to be given in Buddhist terms. I don’t–and wouldn’t, unless I had a very, very clear sense of being Led–give ministry in Meeting for Worship using Buddhist terms.

Quakerism, while it is a faith where anyone can join us in worship, no matter what they do or not believe, is a religion rooted in Christian mysticism. Historically, those are our roots. And what concerns me about this Friend’s comment is I worry that some dually-affiliated Friends may be trying to deny those roots. Again, I do not believe that one needs to be Christian to be a Quaker. (I do not identify as a Christian.) But I do feel that one needs to understand and respect Quakerism’s Christian roots. Quaker language and tradition have evolved from these roots, to be sure, but the roots are there.

I want to make clear that I do not believe all dually-affiliated Friends are trying to deny Quakerism’s roots and change Quakerism into some kind of “melting pot” religion. I know I’m not the only dually-affiliated Friend who wholly respects Quakerism for what it is.

But for those dually-affiliated Friends who may be trying to disentangle Quakerism from its Christian roots and reform it into a religion that matches their particular faith, I would ask these Friends to reconsider their actions. Is Quakerism made better by the existence of nontheist Friends? I would say yes. Is Quakerism made better by the existence of dually-affiliated Friends (pagans, Buddhists, Jews, etc.)? I would say yes.

But should Quakerism as a religion become Nontheist, Buddhist, pagan, or Jewish, etc.? I answer no.

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Filed under convergence, convergent Friends, different faiths, meeting for worship, Quaker Quaker, quakerism, universalism

Quaker Quaker

This post is actually not about Quaker Quaker, but about the idea of a Quaker Quaker, which was explained a bit here:

If we became a religious society of Finders, then we’d need to figure out what it means to be a Quaker-Quaker: someone whose theology and practice is Quaker. (Quoted from here)

The past few months have been trying for me, as I’ve struggled with labels: whether I can call myself a Christian or not, whether I’m a Buddhist or not. I never questioned whether I was a Quaker, because I am that to the core of my being: but I questioned what kind of Quaker I was: was I a Christian Quaker? a Buddhist Quaker? or a (simplicity forbid!) Christian Buddhist Quaker? how about a Buddhist Christian Quaker? Or maybe a Quaker Buddhist Christian? What about a Universalist Christian Buddhist Quaker?

All along, the answer was right there in front of me each day when I checked the Quaker Quaker blogs: I’m not a Christian Quaker or a Buddhist Quaker or any of those other hyphenated Quakers (that oddly enough aren’t hyphenated) I listed above. I’m just a Quaker. I guess I could say I’m a Quaker Quaker, but that seems a bit redundant.

I found my label over a year ago, when I first realized that Quakerism was the right place for me to be spiritually and was already my spiritual home. But then things got complicated. Conversations with my sister-in-law made me question whether I was Christian or not; going to church (Catholic and Episcopal) for holidays made me uncomfortable. I started feeling the need to define myself further: okay, I’m a Quaker, but what kind of Quaker am I?

When it became increasingly clear to me that I’m just not comfortable calling myself Christian, I started becoming more interested in Buddhism. And I’ve learned a lot from Buddhism, mainly practices that have allowed me to become a more compassionate, friendly person. (And one great trick for dealing with my mind wandering during Worship: just think “Thinking!” whenever I catch a thought and then let it go and start again.)

I enjoy Buddhist practices, especially tonglen (check it out for yourself; it’s such a wonderful idea), but the truth is that I just don’t believe in Buddhist faith. I like the idea of karma as an inspiration for compassion, but I don’t really believe in it. It’s so tempting to me with Sugar dying to believe in reincarnation so that I can dream about meeting her again, but reincarnation just doesn’t feel that real to me. I like following Jesus’s teachings, as he is such an example to me of someone who led their life in complete accordance with God’s will. But I’m uncomfortable with the theology of Christianity.

When I call myself a Quaker, I do it with no reservations. Both Quaker practice (Meeting for Worship) and Quaker faith (that everyone has an equal share of the Light) are things that feel real to me. There are no explanations needed when I say I’m a Quaker (unless the person I’m talking to doesn’t know what a Quaker is). If I tried to say I was a Christian or a Buddhist, I would have to explain exactly what I meant and would know that a significant percent of Christians/Buddhists wouldn’t agree that I was one.

I’m just a Quaker, plain and simple.

[EDIT: I feel the need to add that I have nothing against hyphenated Quakers. If you feel that you are both Christian and Quaker, or Pagan and Quaker, etc., then there’s nothing wrong with calling yourself by both names.]

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Filed under buddhism, christianity, discernment, faith, God, Jesus, Quaker Quaker, quakerism, statement of faith