Archives For Quakers

This is the last installment for the review of the book “If God Is Love” that I brought over from my other blog.  This book was a major factor in forming my current view of the Church of Christ.

<<<<<<< Post from August 16, 2011 >>>>>>>>

This is a continuation of my discussions of the book entitled “When God Is Love” by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland. Here is the quote for today:

Working to make the world a more gracious place wasn’t a priority in the churches of my childhood. Some of this negligence was a result of apolcalyptic interpretations in which the world was doomed and damned anyway. One man insisted we shouldn’t work for peace in the Middle East because we were simply postponing Armageddon and the return of Christ. However, the primary reason the church didn’t have time to change the world was because we expended so much energy trying to save souls. We’d work for weeks on revivals, evangelism programs, mission support, and the like. We didn’t have time for soup kitchens, visiting prisoners, or working with the homeless — unless of course, we could figure out a way to work in an altar call.

When I became convinced of God’s intention to save every person, my perspective on the purpose of life changed. Salvation became a lifelong adventure in which God is gently and patiently drawing us away from self-absorption and toward authentic relationship with God and one another. The point of life was no longer to get saved or to save others. The purpose of life was to live graciously. Freed of personal anxiety about God’s acceptance and no longer obsessed with creating others in my own image, I was able to focus on what it means to be rather than do.

Working to make the world a more gracious place is still not much of a priority in today’s church. While I am yet to be fully in the camp that God will in his own way bring all souls to him, I am fully on board that much of the current church approach to those outside the faith is misguided. When we quit looking at others as projects to be converted and instead as fellow human being to be loved our whole approach to them changes. They become fellow children of God and not heathens to be saved.  The way we point others to Christ is through our actions and not our words or even necessarily those words found in our ancient books.

Lets finish up with a follow up quote on this subject.

Saving souls isn’t about altar calls, but about responding graciously to those we encounter in our daily lives. Being gracious is not about inviting others to our church, but about living an inviting life — one both attractive and winsome. The purpose of life isn’t to create more Christians , but “to let our lights shine before others, so they will see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven” Matthew 5:16

A few posts ago, and several other times on this blog, I have stated that we all at some time, and often many times, question what is our purpose in life. Why did God create us. I think Mr. Gulley and Mr. Mulholland have got it right in that regard. We are to be like the Son and let our lights shine in order to point others to Christ. Altar calls and such just don’t hack it. They never have and they never will.

The book review post I want to bring over from my other blog at RedLetterLiving.net  is one that had a profound effect on me during my three year search into current Christian organizations. In fact this book review spanned over five posts. (I haven’t decided yet whether to bring all five here or not). Phillip Gulley was one of my first encounters with the Society of Friends, otherwise know as Quakers. It would definitely spur much more reading about this group of Christians.

Here is a slightly edited version of the March 2009 post

Today I am going to talk a little about a book entitled “If God is Love – Rediscovering Grace in an Ungracious World” by Phillip Gulley and James Mulholland. I must admit up front that I am somewhat fascinated by the Quaker religion of which both of the authors are ministers. Although one of them came through Baptist and Methodists to get there. I greatly respect the position the Quakers have taken on non-violence going all the way back to the Revolutionary war. This is a very readable book on a very important topic.

There has been an ongoing debate throughout Christianity’s history on the correct balance between the all powerful and sometime vengeful God and the God of agape Love. Just what the correct balance of this is somewhat attuned to the corresponding debate between law and gospel. Both are needed but how much of each is appropriate for a well rounded Christian? I must admit that this book is full of God’s love and has little of God’s power in it. I must also admit that I lean in that direction also but not to the extent of the authors.

The following is, in my opinion, one of the most striking quotes from the book:

The theology of love begins with the assumption that all people are God’s cherished children and deserving of love. “We love because he first loved us. Those who say ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers and sisters, are liars, for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” 1 John 4:19-20. Jesus demonstrated his love for the outcasts, those many considered unloveable. Regrettably, many Christians have been unwilling to adopt the ethic of Jesus — a theology of inclusion, acceptance, and love. We’ve been unwilling to love and accept our enemies. We haven’t even been excited about loving our neighbor.


This quote I believe sums up the Quaker stand on non-violence. They have taken quite a bit of abuse during all our wars because of this stand. Another memorable quote is as below:

God has no grandchildren. My children cannot inherit my faith. I can’t save them. Each of us is on a journey. My role as a parent is not to convert my children, but to live a life consistent with my experience of God’s radical love and trust that such a life will attract them.

I don’t know that I have ever seen such a powerful pronouncement of Christian parenting before. The old saying that parents have been spouting for eons is “don’t do what I do, do what I say”. I know I got my dose of that as a child. It didn’t work on me and probably didn’t work for most of you. Our parents, like all Christians must show the love of the Lord in their actions as well as their words. One does not work without the other.  Finally the last quote I want to present is:

Share everything with your brother. Do not say, ‘It is private property.’” This isn’t the rhetoric of the Communist Manifesto or the Mother Earth Catalog. This is a line from the Didache, an early Christian document used to prepare novices for baptism. The Didache was such a respected teaching that it was nearly included in the biblical canon. This line may have been its undoing. Religion has long resisted the command to be universally concerned, especially when this concern comes with a price tag.

I understand this tendency. Whenever someone asks me to respond to a need, I have to overcome a long litany of mental excuses. I don’t know enough about the persons’ situation to give wisely. He or she might not use the money appropriately. I’m already giving to other causes. These may all be legitimate considerations, but I sense my deeper motivation — I want a rationale for keeping my money. I don’t’ like Jesus’ command to “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you (Matthew 5:42)

I was struck by so many of these types of dialogs in the book. They definitely made me think about how I am living out my life.  According to what I have read elsewhere the main reason that the Didache document as quoted above was not included was that the emperor Constantine, who oversaw the compilation of our first Bible, did not consider it supportive enough of the State so he vetoed its inclusion in the final version.

I highly recommend this book to any who is willing to struggle with these types of issues. No one ever said (or should have said) living your life by the words of Jesus Christ is easy! Indeed, it should be and is quite difficult.

Connections….

March 3, 2012

Source: A Genuine Willingness – QuakerQuaker.

We long for connections to others. We want to belong to something greater than ourselves. At the same time, we demand autonomy and freedom from constraints imposed by virtue of belonging to a group. These opposing pulls cause stress on both institutions and individuals as we try to meet the requirements of our outer and inner worlds. How do we genuinely balance our need to be self-determining persons and, at the same time, contributing members of society?

The answer depends on our definitions. If my interpretation of self-determination is how much I can gain for myself in terms of power, prestige and wealth, then the possibilities for balance between a person and community are negligible. On the other hand, if I characterize myself primarily by my role in a given social unit, then I risk losing my true identity.

These are some pretty heavy words from my Quaker friend David Madden over at the QuakerQuaker blog site. As usual he has given me a lot to think about in this area. The first thing that came to mind was a blog post I made months ago about how if stoplights were invented today Republicans would be against them. 🙂  After all isn’t the purpose of stoplights to get you to do something you don’t really want to do. It definitely impeded our autonomy in getting someplace as fast as possible.

It does seem that my Republican friends, and much of the world for that matter, view almost everything from a very self-centered viewpoint. If something does not benefit them directly they are pretty much against it. They are tuned in to the “survival of the fittest” worldview.  Where is the balance point between self and community? That seems to be a big question especially in today’s political sphere. I think this very question gets down to the basic difference between our two political parties. One is focused almost entirely on autonomy and the other toward community.

All of us, especially in the U.S. treasure our autonomy to one degree or another; we believe that is one of the defining differences between us in the U.S. and the rest of the world. Like most things in life that fact has a good side and a bad side.  In that regard I want to also include a quote here from my hero Will Rogers:

All we hear is “What’s the matter with the country?” “What’s the matter with the world?” There ain’t but one thing wrong with every one of us in the world, and that’s selfishness. — Will Rogers

We like to think of ourselves as being compassionate. Even George W. Bush wanted people to think of him, rightly or wrongly, as a “compassionate conservative”. (I’m not at all sure there can actually be such a thing 🙂 )  In order to be compassionate we must be attuned to others in our society. We must also take to heart the words brought to us by Jesus Christ with his new covenant.  We must at least put our brother’s welfare equal to our own. Selfishness is counterproductive when in comes to community. We no longer seem to understand that fact.  And that is a very sad thing.

But what do I know….

Source: email from Friends Committee on National Legislation

“Until our policymakers start recognizing that clinging to visions of global military domination only undermines security, we’ll be stuck with the same old war mentality wrapped in a shiny new strategy document.” — FCNL’s Bridget Moix   …

If the US really wants to shift to a new, more effective strategy for promoting national and global security – as Obama and Panetta claim – then policymakers should get serious about planning to prevent wars, not fight them. After all, decades of planning to fight various numbers and forms of warfare at any given time has led to, well, various numbers and forms of warfare at any given time. Go figure.

This unquestioning reliance on military hammers as the tools of choice for dealing with security threats, and the enormous expense in lives and money of doing so, has sapped the imagination, human resources, and funding for alternative approaches. Approaches that are based on the realities that our security in this country is inextricably linked to the security of others. In other words, the fewer wars that are fought, the safer everyone is. (Not rocket science really.) And we need a strategy that faces the fact that the threats the Pentagon itself identifies – violent extremism, weapons proliferation, climate change and regional instability – require non-military tools to manage.

What will it take to get our politicians off our old line war mentality? That is perhaps the question of the century. We spend much much more of our government income on our war machines than anyone else on the earth.  So here we are getting ready to pull out a significant portion of our military from the Middle East. The “Arab Sunrise” which the citizens pretty much accomplished themselves has made our presence for the most part unwanted in that area of the world.

This would seem to be an excellent opportunity to draw down our military and its bloated budgets. But the “hammer makers” (when all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail)  has it appears even convinced Mr. Obama, despite his rhetoric in 2008, not to do that. Instead we are planning on just moving it to the Pacific rim area. Let’s hope that we don’t antagonize China by this move. They have  ten times as many young people available to be soldiers and of course they are awash with U.S. dollars as we now depend on them for almost all our consumer goods. What would happen if they became our next enemy?

I know the century is pretty young yet but if we can’t get beyond spending so much of our assets on “military hammers” then we will eventually be in big trouble with or without riling China. Eventually is a relative word but it can come on us much faster than many believe. Let us all pray that someday our representative in congress take to heart the God-given idea of beating our swords into plowshares. That idea comes from a source worth listening to.

But what do I know….

I am going to do something unusual here and do a post primarily by merging the thoughts of two posts of my fellow bloggers. I read these two blogs back to back today and could not get over how well one message meshed into the other. The first one is by Bill Birnbaum from www.adventureretirement.com entitled Senior Citizens and Technology. The second one is from Quaker friend Raye from www.quakerquaker.org entitled Time For A “Station I.D.” – When Speaking Of Personal Experience

Let’s start with the first post. As the title implies Bill was talking about how senior citizen’s deal with technology. Before I start I want to tell you that I enjoy each and every post that Bill puts out. He is on my automatic watch list. Here are some excerpts from his post:

That fellow on the airplane represents the common stereotype – that senior citizens are resistive to technology.  Seems to me though, senior citizens aren’t so much resistive to technology.  It’s simply that they insist that any new technology they might adopt serve some useful purpose.  They ask, “What can this new technology do for me?”

Bill went on with the story about how he is struggling to decide whether to move to a smartphone and also get a GPS for the car.

After I read the post I looked around my office. I am typing on a quad core desktop unit with a 22 inch flat screen display as well as a 32 inch hdtv display hooked to it. Beside that is my Samsung Moment Smartphone plugged into its charger for the night. Just to the left of that is my netbook which I have connected to yet another 20 inch flat screen. This one, when it is not being used on road tripes, is constantly running a digital slideshow of my 12,000 plus pictures (half digitized from the old film world and half taken with my Canon 12.1Mb Rebel Xsi DSLR camera that sits on the shelf behind me. Also on that shelf is my Kindle loaded with scores of books I am in the process of reading. And this is just in my study! I won’t bore you with going through the rest of the homestead. Suffice it to say that this senior is not at all resistive to technology 🙂 I embrace it just as easily as the younger generations today.

Then I read the post by Raye. Here is part of it:

Sentences that begin with “Quakers do” or “Quakers believe” or similar, and then proceed to fill in with their observations are very likely painting with too wide a brush.  Those who identify themselves as Quakers are a large and complex bunch of groups and individuals.  I understand that trying to be precise in language can be cumbersome and frustrating.  But it seems to me that going to the trouble of adding phrases such as, “in my experience,” “Quakers I have met,” “I read in an article by so-and-so,” gives more integrity to the communication.  Friends I have met who belong to certain monthly or yearly meetings don’t fit neatly together in one theological or cultural lump.

So here I sit trying to combine these two posts. Let me say that like Quakers, I believe seniors are indeed a large and complex bunch of groups and individuals. It is hard to pin us down on just about anything related to living. Some like Bill are more adventurous and some like me embrace technology as soon as it comes available. Some are like my wife who is completely happy in life with just her mystery novels (paperback versions) and her 3,000 piece puzzles spread out on her hobby room table. I know Bill will agree that sometimes we senior bloggers like our Quaker brethren paint with just too broad a brush.

Nonviolence

July 17, 2010


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 in the fifty odd years 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. Through some pretty diligent study of Quaker practices I have found that I am very much aligned with many Quaker belief. Being a nonviolent person is not something that I suddenly decided to do; it is instead a vital part of my very being.