I posted the following on a public forum today, but thought it would be an interesting start to a post here on my blog.  As someone who is fairly new to Quakerism, but not new at all to the Emergent Church movement and other such “religious” endeavors….I am amazed at the huge divide that exists within Quakerism.  The divide seems to exist on either side of the liberal/conservative lines.  I’m going to come right out as someone from the conservative camp before I go on.

However, I think that my particular background, specifically coming from strong ties in Orthodox Judaism (and also Messianic Judaism) has given me a different perspective on this divide.  Here is my reply, loosely in response to a post about how Christian Quakers and non-Christian Quakers could view one another to gain better mutual understanding.  (I think mutual understanding is good…what I don’t understand is why there is an argument AT ALL within Quaker circles about the role of Christianity…Quakerism at its outset was a Christian movement…more on that later.)  This blog post is NOT in response to what I read on that forum…this is just a spin-off of what it made me think about.

“Primitive Christianity was Judaism, folks….:)
The disciples came out of the synagogues, however, and went into homes and streets to share with people who would be otherwise unknowing of the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph…the great love of G-d through the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). The great spirit of “primitive” Christianity was that it became revealed that ALL people have that Light Within, the Inner Teacher! All have a calling to Messiah, and He came to teach ALL OF US of H-mself. Primitive Christianity opens the doors to all, and seeks to identify for them…..”you hear that still small voice inside of yourself? You see the beauty of this Creation, do you feel the pull of something larger than yourself????….THAT’S G-d, and here is Who He Is….”
Just as in pre-Christian times, when the altar to the “Unnamed G-d” was identified in NAME by Jewish people who had a covenental relationship with H-m…so I see our role as Convergent QUakers (as such)….I never doubt that someone of another faith is actually hearing from G-d. However, I do take it to the “next level”, and think that this G-d, of all faiths, does have an identity, rooted in history and Truth. This will come to everyone at some point…even if after death (yes, I am Orthodox in this way). That doesn’t mean that I don’t have sensitivity to others, or that I can’t relate to what they are saying.
The questions are interesting, and helpful in that they help people evaluate their own “trigger words”, where they hear something with a Christian or non-Christian designation, and immediatley shut down any openness to the speaker of such words. This creates division where there need be none….but there will always be lines that are unable to be broken when you hold to an Orthodox belief as I do. That doesn’t mean I have to shut down to people, or think there is something wrong with them…but I can peacefully choose to disagree! :)”

So, the way I see it is that “Primitive Christianity” was Judaism as renewed through the arrival of Messiah.  Subsequently….as man began to tag on their own forms and aesthetics to Christianity, Quakerism (among other movements) was formed in response to this “Christianity” that seemed to be far removed from the simplicity of our Great Messiah’s original Message.  In George Fox’s day, it was a given that the G-d of the Jewish Torah and the Christian New Testament was the One True G-d.  The question existed in how it is we are called to follow and worship H-m.  The original intention of these pioneering Quakers was that everything shoud be stripped away so that all that was left was G-d, and Jesus Christ as revealed in the scriptures, and experienced in every person’s heart as our Inner Teacher.  George Fox would be rolling in his grave to know that not only has everything been stripped away, but Christianity ITSELF has been stripped away and demolished.  Then, erected on this demolition site are some flimsy altars to political and social activism, and some “practices” that look no less like Zen Buddhism.

I am not bashing Buddhism or activism…I am merely saying, that at least to these new Quaker eyes, that the originial intent of Quakerism has been replaced in many circles with things that are their own cultural reality that just bear the name “Quaker”.

In this day and age, we can’t take it as a given that the G-d of the Bible is True…because this is the minority belief of late.  However, I also find it strange that within Quakerism there would be time spent on wondering or debating if Christianity, in either liberal or orthodox form, is a central part of Quakerism.

At what point does Quakerism become NOT Quaker?  If Quaker identity is all “up for grabs”, and we can pick and choose as we like as to “what this means to me”, what makes it Quaker?  Is it the silent worship?  Well, I find that in many other traditions.  Is it the pacifism?  The Amish, Mennonites, and Buddhists among others all take the pacifist route.  Is it the testimony of Plain Living?  Again…not exclusively Quaker.  Is it the idea that G-d is in all of us?  Again, not only Quaker.  Is it the “government” of the religion…the ways of discernment, etc…  What drew me to Quakerism was the writings of the pioneers of this great faith and Way, and the combination of ALL these things that were part of the first inclinations of this movement.  I have no desire to stand in a cafeteria line to form my faith, but I want to cling strongly to a community and a Way, and then pass that heritage on to my children.  I think there is room within that, as a thinking and open person, to allow sources from all faiths to “speak to my condition”….but just because that source “speaks to my condition” and I happen to be a Quaker doesn’t make it a Quaker source.

I am sure that this will induce ire in many who read this (if any read this….)…but please read my tone not as argumentative.  I am genuinely asking these questions, and I am trying to be as honest as I can in describing a real confusion I have about this Way that my family and I have been called to follow.   I don’t invalidate anyone’s beliefs, nor would I ever think that someone is “not Quaker” because they don’t see things as I do.  I am commenting on the movement as a whole, and my personal confusions about it.