I just said I wouldn’t be posting. But I am, because during my readings of other Quaker blogs, it has surprised me how much some Friends in liberal meetings seem to not fully appreciate which branch they’re in, where it’s headed, and what that all means.
To cut to the chase, Christianity is no longer mandatory in the liberal branch, certainly not at an individual level, and only slightly less at a corporate/YM level. The same may soon be true of theism, though it’s too early to tell.
Love em or hate em, them’s the facts.
And Marshall, for one, recognizes this. Yet two posts I’ve seen recently seem to be in denial, unless I’m reading them wrong:
- Paul L was recently surprised when someone at his meeting didn’t think he should be able to tell the children “Jesus is our great teacher” (emphasis mine).
- And Martin Kelley recently said that non-Christians should still be admitted as “individual members,” but not given a say in a meeting’s “public identity,” which he indicates should be “the kind of strong liberal Christianity that Friends have practiced for 350 years.”
I’m not too concerned to speak against these calls for re-Christianization, because I don’t think I need to. As I commented on Martin’s post, that train already left the station. Christians will always (and should always) be a part of liberal Quakerism, but as one part among many.
Rather, I want to try to help figure out the best way forward for all involved. And my main suggestion at this point is that anyone who finds themselves unhappy with the post-Christian-ness of a given community should leave it.
Not because you’re not welcome personally — individual Christians should be welcome in liberal monthly meetings, and Christian meetings should be welcome in liberal YMs — but because trying to make a whole community re-embrace Christianity is only going to make you frustrated and unhappy. It’s as futile as trying to hold back the tide.
- Start a worship group within your current liberal meeting, which would formally state (or informally expect) that “this is a Christian worship group.” Unless your group doesn’t want to be subordinate to your liberal meeting (or if they don’t want to have oversight of it), in which case…
- Why not start a new meeting? I’ve never done it, but I can’t imagine it’s that hard. You could even stay affiliated with your current yearly meeting. Unless you don’t want to be, in which case…
- Why not affiliate with a Conservative YM? One of the Conservative YMs has taken a meeting in Greece under its wing, and I doubt they would object to doing the same for somewhere closer.
- And if that doesn’t suit you, why not stay independent? Independent Quaker meetings have a long and distinguished history, and there’s not a thing wrong with more of them. I believe Liz Opp’s worship group is currently independent, though also considering affiliation with Northern YM (liberal) or Iowa YM (Conservative).
(There’s of course another option — learn to be OK with being in a community where the outward profession of Christianity is optional — but I respect the fact that this isn’t for everyone.)
In fact, these are all gestures I’m considering myself to find a spiritual community that is more what I’m looking for. (Yes, a nontheist Friend who is also dissatisfied with liberal Quakerism!) Because it seems a lot more productive than arguing.
I noticed that this post was added to QuakerQuaker recently by Liz Opp, for which I am grateful, but I want to point out that her title is misleading. Her title is “Zach suggests that Christian Friends in liberal meetings consider some options”, as though I’m addressing all ‘Christian Friends in liberal meetings’ in this post, while in reality I’m only addressing a subset of that group – Christian Friends in liberal meetings who are uncomfortable with non-Christians being full members of their meetings.
With all due respect to Liz, it’s a pretty big mischaracterization, though I have no doubt it was unintentional.
For the record, I would be quite sad if all Christian Friends left liberal Quakerism or segregated themselves within it. As I said in response to Diane’s thoughtful comments below, many of the Friends I love and respect the most happen to be Christian! This would include many of my friends in the Boston area, many wonderful people I met at the YAF gathering in New Jersey, the wonderful Friend-in-residence at my local meeting, and countless others I have been blessed by over the years – most of whom, like me, are perfectly happy to be a part of a liberal Quakerism that includes Christians and non-Christians alike.