I’m With Stupid

August 7, 2016     Message delivered at Durham Friends Meeting

You’d think that someone standing up to bring a message would talk about something he knew. Wouldn’t you? That would be reasonable. But this morning I want to talk about what I don’t know and how important it is to me to accept my limitations – especially my limitations on understanding.

I'm with StupidSo to give it a title, we might call this message “Two Cheers for Lack of Understanding”, or better even, “One Cheer for Ignorance and one for Confusion.” I even have a prop for today to help you follow along. I have this T-shirt “I’m With Stupid.” That’s me.

Or Really what I want to say is ‘that’s me and the Disciples,’ because I’m really struck by how much Jesus’s Disciples are confused. I take comfort from the Disciples in their ignorance and confusion. I learn from that.

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I didn’t always think this way. I grew up thinking that being a good person, being a religious person, meant believing certain things. And by “believing certain things” I took to mean “knowing certain things.” Knowing their truth. The cornerstones of religion were “beliefs,” I thought, and I needed to learn those things and know them.

What beliefs? Well I wasn’t very sure, but there seemed to be a lot of things. The Presbyterian Church I grew up in had a worship service in which we read together or recited together statements of belief. There was nothing uncommon about that. That was true of most Christian churches you could attend then (Catholic or Protestant), and true of must churches you could attend today.

For example, we recited the Apostles Creed. This is a statement accepted as authoritative by most Christian Churches, Protestant and Catholic. Here’s how it goes:

Apostles Creed: Traditional English Version 

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. 

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. 

I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. AMEN.

That’s a lot of beliefs to believe. This Apostles Creed is a very old statement of Christian beliefs. It’s called the Apostles Creed because some people have thought that it originated with the Apostles – that is, with Jesus’s Disciples. We’re pretty sure that’s not true. This Creed may come from the 3d or 4th century, but it doesn’t come directly from the Apostles.

It took me a very long while to realize reciting statements like this wasn’t going to work for me. As a young man I realized I couldn’t succeed at knowing spiritual things in the same way I had come to know geometry or the causes of the American Revolution or the parts of speech or even how to row a boat. Those were things I could learn, be confident I knew, and feel good about knowing them. But I realized spiritual knowledge was different. Trying to have spiritual knowledge in the form of certain, creedal beliefs was just going to lead to dead ends and frustration and failure. At least for me.

This realization has something to do with why I was drawn to Quakers. From their beginnings, Quakers have refused to subscribe to Creeds like the Apostles Creed. For Quakers, it is what God says to us directly, not what others tell us God wants us to think.

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So let’s talk about the Disciples: what they knew and how they knew it. They are hand-picked by Jesus, they follow him around, they hear him preach, and sometimes they make the necessary arrangements. They’re like advance men in a campaign.

We don’t notice them much in the story, or at least I don’t, unless we really focus attention on them. They’re in the background, and they never do anything that’s particularly praiseworthy.

“And they were amazed at Him.” How often do we hear that said of the Disciples? They are with him day and night. They hear every word that he says; witness every healing; wrestle with every parable. Over and over again, despite all this preparation, Jesus says something to the Disciples “And they were amazed at Him.” “Amazed.” They seem never to know what to expect, no matter how much they have heard him before.

Often they don’t even get it after Jesus has tried to help them understand.

In Mark 4, for example, (and I’m going to stick to that Gospel, today) Jesus tells the parable of the Sower to a large crowd. It’s the one about seed being scattered and only some of it thriving. Afterwards, he has a private meeting with the Disciples. Jesus explains the parable, something he didn’t do with the crowd. And then he asks, “Do you not understand this parable?” (Imagine him looking at blank faces, dismayed.) “How then will you understand all the parables?” (Mark 4:13). Jesus sounds a little frustrated.

A little later, in Mark 7, Jesus has a dust-up with some Pharisees about what makes a man “unclean.” Again, Jesus speaks to a big crowd, and then afterwards he talks with the Disciples alone. Again he seems frustrated. “Then are you also without understanding?” (Mark 7:18).

Not long after that we come to the story of the loaves and the fishes, when a great crowd listening to Jesus preach is fed with seven loaves and two fishes. (Doug Gwyn has preached about this here at Durham recently.) Right after this, Jesus and the Disciples get in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. The Disciples forget to bring any bread on this trip, and they start fretting about this. Jesus again gets a little frustrated. “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear. And do you not remember?” (Mark 8:17-18). There’s that note of frustration, again.

At the end, as he nears his death, Jesus asks three of his Disciples (Simon, James and John) to be with him while he prayed. All Jesus asked was that they stay awake. But they don’t. Three times they fall asleep (Mark 14: 32-42).

Hand-picked, the Disciples don’t appear to do a great job. They regularly misunderstand what Jesus is teaching, even when they get special make-up classes that aren’t available to the multitudes. They don’t understand. The Disciples aren’t pictured as the sort of people who would write the “Apostles Creed” with its list of specific beliefs and its tone of certainty.

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Why are the Disciples so dim? I can think of two possibilities.

One is that they’re just characters to draw us into the story. In Plato’s dialogues, for example, Socrates does his teaching not by lecturing about things but by asking questions of young men who follow him around – sort of like disciples. Socrates regularly provokes these discussions in the middle of a walk, or a in the midst of a party, about big topics like piety or justice or knowledge. Somebody will say something casually, in passing, and Socrates will say, “so you think justice is ‘giving every man his due?’ And the person will respond yes, that’s what I think. And Socrates will ask them a question: do you mean this, or do you mean that? Do you mean justice is what “seems” to be their due, or what “really” is their due?

Every time, whoever Socrates is talking with will take the dumbest alternative. They’ll pick “appearances” (what seems to be the case) over “reality” (the heart of the matter) every time. Reading Plato gets to be like watching The Price is Right. You’ll find yourself shouting at the page “don’t take Door Number 1.” Don’t take the first choice. Don’t take “appearances.” Down that road, you know, Socrates will make them look stupid. But they always take Door #1 first.” Socrates winds up making everyone look a little dim-witted. You start thinking you know the right answer, and then Socrates will show you that you’re wrong, too. But he’s drawn you in.

I don’t think this is what is going on in the Gospels, however. I don’t think the Disciples look stupid in the Gospels because the Gospel writers were using the same story-telling device. Rather, I think the Disciples regularly get it wrong because spiritual understanding is hard. The Disciples were good folk, they were trying hard, but what they were trying to learn is hard. The y just didn’t get it right much of the time – most of the time.

Jesus teaches in parables, because what he’s trying to teach can’t be written down in a formula or a paragraph we memorize and recite. He’s trying to get us to approach life in a very different way. Love your neighbor, even your enemy. Fear not, even though the world is a scary place and death even scarier. Welcome the stranger. Be grateful and approach the world with humility. All these lessons run against our instincts; they even run against common sense. (And I can’t help but notice that none of those lessons are even mentioned in the Apostles Creed.)

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Even at my best, I’ve come to think I’m like the Disciples. I regularly don’t get it, don’t see it or hear it. Regularly, I don’t understand. Sometimes I fall asleep in Meeting. Perhaps you’ve noticed and were too kind to mention it.

Me? I’m with Stupid.

Paying attention to the Disciples should help us see that none of us are likely to have this all figured out.

Nevertheless, the Disciples stay at it, and that’s what I’ve learned from them. Spiritual understanding is hard and elusive, even when we have good teachers. The important thing is to stay at it.

Listen patiently for God to speak to us if and when God will. We may not hear much, but what we hear we can trust.

 

 

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Not a Calvinist, If I Ever Was

July 11, 2016

On the Writer’s Almanac yesterday (July 10), Garrison Keillor noted the birthday of John Calvin, “theologian and ecclesiastical statesman.” I first knew Calvin as the founder of Presbyterianism, my earliest religious experience coming thorough Brighton Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York. My Dad, having been raised a Baptist, could be heard muttering nearly every Sunday afternoon about what he couldn’t accept in the morning sermon because of Calvin’s strictures. My difficulties with Calvin’s ideas are similar to my Dad’s, but now they are all my own.

Keillor noted that Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion were grounded in five “general rules” or principles, and that (in English) these could be remembered through the mnemonic TULIP:

Total depravity: all people are born sinful.

Unconditional election: God has already chosen those people who will be saved.

Limited atonement: Jesus died to atone for the sins of the elect only.

Irresistible grace: If you are among the elect, you will inevitably repent and become Christian.

Perseverance of the saints: You can never lose your salvation.

It is not my experience of myself or of others that we are “totally depraved.” I experience in myself and in others good intentions and selfish ones, generosity and outright meanness. As Friends say, I know this experimentally. It would strike me as false to try to see human beings as “totally depraved.”

But what repels me most about these principles is the air of certainty they contain about God and about God’s intentions toward human beings. How does Calvin presume to know that “God has already chosen those people who will be saved?” Or that “Jesus died to atone for the sins of the elect only?” There is a spiritual arrogance in that.

For me, the beginning of spiritual wisdom is humility about what I understand, which I know to be very little. I catch glimpses of God. Occasionally I know what is the right thing to do. But of “general rules” I know nothing.

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Unless You Are a Pacifist…

May 30, 2016

“Unless you are a pacifist….”  With these words, E. J. Dionne begins a thoughtful column about Obama and Hiroshima’s Moral Lessons concerning the President’s recent visit to the first site of a nuclear bomb strike seventy-one years ago.

Unless you are a pacifist, you accept that evil acts — the destruction of other human lives — can be justified, even necessary, in pursuit of good and urgent ends.

Dionne has nothing further to say about pacifists in this column published on the eve of Memorial Day 2016.  Should one be a pacifist? Dionne doesn’t say explicitly, but he goes on to discuss only the alternative: that you are not a pacifist.  Here’s the second sentence:

But unless you are amoral, you also acknowledge the human capacity for self delusion and selfishness. People are quite capable of justifying the utterly unjustifiable by draping their immoral actions behind sweeping ethical claims.

Thus, Dionne brackets the reasonable man’s approach by positioning it between “pacifism” on the one hand and “amoralism” on the other.  The position of the reasonable man turns out to be Obama’s, and also turns out to be that of Reinhold Niebuhr as expressed in Moral Man and Immoral Society (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1932).

For the record, this pacifist does acknowledge “the human capacity for self-delusion and selfishness.” It is because I recognize my own capacity for selfishness that I am a pacifist, not because I think myself purer than others.  I suspect most pacifists would agree. So why don’t we pacifists acknowledge that “evil acts can be justified, even necessary, in pursuit of good and urgent ends”?

Because, as A. J. Muste put it elegantly, “there is no way to peace; peace is the way.”  The “no” has to begin somewhere. Why not with me?  Justifying evil acts can have no end in sight.

I am glad Dionne praised President Obama’s speech at Hiroshima, and glad that he excavated its roots in Niebuhr. But I wish he hadn’t raised the possibility of pacifism and then sidestepped its challenge so casually.

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The Greatest Commandment

May 24, 2016

As an anchor in my understanding of what God is asking of me, I turn often to the Bible passage often known as The Greatest Commandment. It’s told in three of the Gospels. Here’s the version from Matthew (22:34-40):

34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 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.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

There are also versions of this same story in Mark (12:28-34) and in Luke (10:25-28). For me, this story contains the distilled essence of Jesus’s teaching. Nevertheless, the more I look at the three versions, the more I am struck by the differences–and one element in common.

What leads up to the encounter? In Matthew, a group of Sadducees had been talking with Jesus, testing him, no doubt trying to trip him up. Then the Pharisees take up the questioning. Referring to the Mosaic requirement that a man marry his brother’s widow, they ask Jesus with which brother will the woman be reunited after the resurrection. In answering, Jesus scolds them telling them you “know neither the scriptures nor the power of God.” (Ouch.) Nearly the exact same story appears before the Greatest Commandment account in Mark. In the Luke version, there is no adversity. Jesus has been talking with the 70 he has appointed to “go on ahead of him, two by two.” He then has a private word with his disciples, telling them “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.”

Who asks the question? In Matthew, it is a Pharisee who asks the question, and he is identified as a lawyer. In the Mark version, it is a scribe who asks and it is not clear that this scribe is a Pharisee (or a Sadducee); he is simply identified as one who heard Jesus disputing with others. In Luke, the questioner is identified as a lawyer. Presumably he must be one of the 70 since there were no lawyers among the disciples. The Sadducees and Pharisees are nowhere about.

Who answers the question? In Matthew the question is asked, and Jesus answers straightaway. In Mark, the scribe asks and Jesus answers, and the scribe responds that Jesus is right. After being praised, Jesus tells the man that he is “not far from the kingdom of God.” In Luke the answering and the praising is the other way around. Jesus turns the question back on the lawyer asking him “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” After the man answers, Jesus praises him, saying, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

Does it matter who asks the question and who answers it? Perhaps not. Does it matter whether Jesus told his interlocutor that he was “right” or that he was “not far from the kingdom of God?” Perhaps not, even if those don’t mean the same thing. Perhaps these are insignificant details in tellings of basically the same decisive story. Jesus is drawn into efforts by the Jewish authorities to show him up, and instead he deepens their understanding. Jesus adroitly sidesteps rank ordering the Ten Commandments by gathering their essential guidance into just two. I find the differences in what happens next more interesting.

What happens next? In Matthew, Jesus continues disputing with the Pharisees by posing a question to them: “What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?” In Mark, Jesus raises the same matter but asks a question: “How can the scribes say that Christ is the son of David?” He asks it while teaching in the Temple; apparently he has turned away from disputing with the Pharisees. Does that matter? Perhaps not.

In Luke, however, the dialog with the lawyer simply continues. Having said that one should love your neighbor as yourself, and having been told he was right, the lawyer asks Jesus, “who is my neighbor?” In response, Jesus tells a story, one of the most memorable and oft-discussed stories of the Gospels, the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 29-37). That story doesn’t appear in Matthew or Mark. I can’t help wondering why not. Surely anyone who had witnessed the encounter as described in Luke would have found that exchange fascinating and memorable. Any retelling would have included that story. So why didn’t Matthew or Mark include the parable of the Good Samaritan along with the Greatest Commandment? I don’t know. Perhaps the author of Luke drew that story from some other occasion and grafted it on to the encounter we know as the Greatest Commandment.

Who dares question Jesus? One other detail fascinates me about the Greatest Commandment accounts. Mark adds to his account, right after Jesus tells the scribe he was right, that “After that no one dared to ask him any question.” Matthew adds roughly the same sentence but puts it after the ensuing discussion with the Pharisees about who is the Christ. “No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.” And Luke? He does include this sentence, but not until ten chapters later (Luke 20: 27-40) when he tells the story that in Matthew immediately precedes the Greatest Commandment story, the exchange with the Sadducees about which brother will wind up with the wife after resurrection. In Luke’s account, Jesus does not rebuke them; rather one of them says, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” And Luke adds, “For they no longer dared to ask him any questions.”

We generally praise teachers for inviting and encouraging questions, and criticize teachers who shut down questions. That’s why this detail common to the three accounts—even if differently placed—fascinates me. Perhaps the gospel writers are trying to communicate that Jesus’s understanding was far beyond that of any mere human. Perhaps. But if that is so, what leads some of us to be so certain about the precise meaning of the details of Jesus’s teachings?

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Arguing for Shared Security in the NYTimes

May 5, 2016

I have a letter in today’s New York Times.  It’s title A New Foreign Policy Elite and responds to an op-ed piece yesterday by Evan Thomas (don’t know him) on Why We Need a Foreign Policy Elite.

The Times (as it does) edited my letter, largely by removing mention of Afghanistan/Iraq/Syria to the list of failings of the long-playing foreign policy elite we have.  They said Evan Thomas had noted that failing; I just don’t see that he did.  But I decided enough of my letter would survive that I wanted it published.  I wanted the occasion to say this:

Membership in that foreign policy elite requires unswerving commitment to the proposition that the United States must maintain overwhelming military superiority vis-à-vis the rest of the world. That commitment will bankrupt us while making us less and less secure.

And this:

We need a new foreign policy elite committed to seeking shared security in a partnership with other countries, one based in dignity and human rights, not unquestioned military might.

Of course I wouldn’t have used the word “elite” if I were writing my own piece, but a letter to the Times is a counter-punching opportunity.  I needed to stay somewhere in the frame that Evan Thomas provided.

I did want the term “Shared Security” to make it, and it did.  Shared Security is a Quaker view of U.S. foreign policy jointly produced by the American Friends Service Committee and Friends Committee on National Legislation.  I was one of many who helped launch that statement, and I’ve written about it before herehere, herehere, and here.

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What’s Wrong With “Christian Fiction”

April 14, 2016

Walking the shelves of my local library, I was surprised to find a label on a book that said “Christian Fiction.” It was just above the regular label that makes books findable in  the stacks.

christianfictionTopsham Public Library puts labels on fiction that say FIC, and then below that, again in caps, the first three initials of the author’s last name: JAM for a book by Marlon James that I’m reading now. Across the river, Brunswick Public Library puts  labels on fiction that say FIC, then below that the author’s last name, below that the author’s first name, and below that the first eight letters of the title.  That’s a little more detail, but it’s essentially the same idea.  Without these labels a library user would have a hard time finding a book.

The “Christian Fiction” label, with the image of the cross, is clearly meant for a different purpose.  It categorizes the book, and for certain readers calls it to their attention.  In a way, it recommends it.

genre labelsThis is a genre label, and I’m familiar with other such genre labels.  I regularly see books with similar stickers on them that say Mystery or Science Fiction or Western or Crime.  Some people stick predominantly to books in just one genre, and these labels help them find them.  Publishers, I gather, have begun marketing books under the genre label “Christian Fiction,” and library services companies have begun such selling spine labels.  Library patrons, I understand, ask for books in the genre.

I have no problem with a “Mystery” sticker or even one that says “Classic,” even if I think the book so labelled is no such thing.  So why does “Christian Fiction” give me pause?

One reason is that it has my public library recommending a book (yes, all such labels recommend) on a basis that I don’t think a public library should use. Another reason is that there is no corresponding label in use that says “Islamic Fiction” or “Jewish Fiction.” (I gather some libraries do label some books Jewish fiction, but not mine.)  These are reasons that go to the heart of the intellectual freedom issues with which libraries regularly wrestle.  The American Library Association provides professional guidance for librarians on such matters.  Here’s what the ALA says in recommending that public libraries not use labels like “Christian Fiction:”

What are examples for determining whether a genre label is a viewpoint-neutral directional aid or a prejudicial label?

Fiction genre labels such as romance, mystery, and science fiction are used by many libraries as viewpoint-neutral direction aids. While there may be some differences of opinion about which titles fit within specific genre areas, the choice of genre is viewpoint-neutral and does not suggest moral or doctrinal endorsement. On the other hand, some public libraries label Christian fiction with a cross as a symbol. This practice, especially when other religious fiction is not designated, communicates a message of preference for Christianity, a violation of the separation of church and state that is prohibited by the establishment clause of First Amendment as well as the Library Bill of Rights. People of all persuasions and traditions have sincere, heartfelt concerns when their government addresses religious issues, fundamentally different from an interest as to whether a library item bears a “Mystery” or “Western” sticker. In recognition of this, some libraries seek to avoid entanglement with religion by using a label to identify “inspirational fiction”, including material that does not have religious-based content. As long as both the selection of materials to be so labeled and the label used are viewpoint-neutral and inclusive, this practice would not violate the Library Bill of Rights.

The most important reason I don’t like the practice is something different, and it goes to the question of what those who use the label mean by “Christian Fiction.” Genres have rules that authors need to respect (not necessarily follow slavishly) to make a book count as belonging in the genre.  Here’s one list of the genre rules of “Christian Fiction:”

Rules :
1. Accept the infallible authority of the Bible
2. Addresses life’s dilemmas through faith in Jesus
3. Believing that Jesus is divine, died, and rose again for the sins of humankind and will return again.
4. No profanity, sex, or extraneous violence
5. Characters do not have to be Christian in the beginning, but will be by the end.

I have no problem with someone writing a book that adheres to those rules. I have no problem with a publisher selling such a book or with a library acquiring it.  But I do object to a public library affixing a label that says “this is what it means to be Christian.”  The genre label hijacks the word “Christian” for a very particular understanding of what it means to be “Christian.”

No, I don’t think you have to believe in the infallible authority of the Bible to be a Christian. No, I don’t think you have to avoid reading about “profanity, sex or extraneous violence” to be a Christian. (I wonder, have those who promote the label read the Bible? Do they know how much profanity, sex and extraneous violence it contains?)  And there’s a creed implicit in those rules: I don’t think you need to accept a creed to be a Christian.

I don’t want my library to be subtly coaching people about what it means to be a Christian, and that’s what this genre label does.

also posted on QuakerQuaker

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The Gist of Quakerism

April 13, 2016

Chuck Fager has been running a series of Quaker FAQs to provide an introduction to Quakerism.  Of course he knows people disagree about such matters, but Chuck has a gift for plain speaking and he thinks his plainspoken FAQs might help people (even, or especially Friends) understand Quakerism better.  He’s now up to the sixth installment in the series, which in turn are collected into a booklet.

I’m enjoying the series, but I was intrigued by this item that leads the sixth installment:

Q. Can You Sum Up Quakerism In Only Two Paragraphs?
(Yes. Here goes.)

About 360 years ago in England, God had an idea. He (or She) wanted a group of people to come together and do some special pieces of God’s work, in some particular ways. So when a man named George Fox climbed up a place called Pendle Hill, God called to him and showed him that there was “a great people to be gathered” there, to do that particular work, in those particular ways.

That “people” or group was the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers. It appeared because God gathered it, to do some particular work, in the particular ways we’re supposed to do it. (What we call the Testimonies are part of this work; but only part.) We’re not done yet, and God’s not done with us, and that’s why Quakers are still around.

Fager takes Quakerism to be a movement: a gathering of people for a purpose that continues to the present day.  I understand why he can see it that way, and I know he isn’t alone in seeing Quakerism in that way.  But it isn’t how I see Quakerism.

The gist of Quakerism for me lies in its being a particular spiritual discipline, a particular approach to knowing God.

I work from the assumption that all who seek God are seeking the same God, whoever or whatever God is.  God is hard to know so people come up with different understandings. That’s awkward, but that is the way it is.  Efforts to simplify knowing God lead regularly to trouble.  That’s my principal beef with fundamentalisms of all kind: they think they’ve got it all figured out.  Because God is difficult to know, people have different approaches or practices to help them.  Because people are different, I don’t see any point in insisting that there is just one best way to know God.

The Mass works well for some people. Monastic life works well for a few. Hymn singing is essential for some.  Fasting, the Labyrinth, sacred dance, Bible reading, even community suppers: all these work for some.

This is the clearest understanding I have (also the most generous) for why people divide into different religious groups even if everyone is seeking the same God.

For me, gathering with others in waiting worship is best for me.  Too many prescribed, ‘authoritative’ words from others tend to drive me away. I need a more active approach, and I prefer silence (at least my own) to saying things that call forth my doubts.  Too much ritual is not good for me as a steady diet, though I find occasional doses quite moving.  I find that waiting worship in Quaker meeting.  That’s my discipline, my approach.

Underneath any spiritual discipline is a hunch about why it works — when and to the degree it does work.  For me, that hunch implicit in waiting worship is that God is still wanting to speak to us, still has more to say; we have to still ourselves and listen. We can do this by ourselves, but joined in community we can do better, hear more and more clearly.

Are those Quaker meetings that have turned to pastoral form a break with this core spiritual discipline? (I am a member of such a meeting.)  I don’t think so, especially if they still provide a significant place for waiting worship.

The practice of waiting worship: that’s the gist of Quakerism for me.  It’s important to add that I’ll worship in community with anyone who wants to try the same approach to knowing God.  I don’t need them to agree with me about the gist of Quakerism.

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