Monday, April 17, 2006

What This Christian Is Looking For In Quakerism

This post is a continued discussion of one of the topics that were raised by my April Fool's Satire "Press Release - Seventh Day, First of Fourth Month" and the follow-up/clarifation post called "April Fool's Satire Not Intended as Sarcasm". There have already been many thoughtful responses from several points of view posted as comments on this blog itself and as new posts on other blogs. (For example: here, here, here, and here )

The thread I want to pick up here is the one initiated by Pam (aka earthfreak) who wrote:
I guess I just feel like there are so very many religions where you can cleave to christian doctrine, why are you a quaker??
I take this question to be very important - not least because it illustrates how easily we can end up talking past each other and failing to communicate. Pam had evidently thought that the Christian "doctrine" I adhere to is pretty much the same kind of thing one can find in any non-Quaker Christian Church and I had said nothing in the original post to indicate otherwise. In a top-of-the-head first stab at a reply I said
I hope to find time within the next few days to answer with the care that the question deserves. In the meantime, I'll just say here that for some Quaker Christians, including me, the Christian "doctrine" we believe in is quite different in important respects than anything taught in the Protestant, Roman Catholic, or Orthodox Churches. The Quaker understanding of Christianity (or at least this particular Quaker's understanding of Christianity) doesn't really exist very much outside of Quakerism, which is one of the reasons some of us would so deeply regret having it disappear here too.
So now the time has come try giving that promised answer "with the care the question deserves". Why do I want to be part of a Quaker Meeting, as opposed to -- for example -- a Methodist or Baptist or Catholic Church? What am I looking for in Quakerism that I don't expect to find in other Christian bodies?

My answer, I have to say, is not necessarily the same answer that other Quaker Christians might give.

So here it is: What I am looking for in Quakerism is a church in the full-bodied sense of that word as it was used by George Fox in an argument with a priest
I told him the church was the pillar and ground of truth, made up of living stones, living members, a spiritual household, which Christ was the head of; but he was not the head of a mixed multitude, or of an old house made up of lime, stones and wood.
This teaching (doctrine?) of Fox's seems to have caused a near riot at the time, but Fox seemed to think it was pretty important to maintain it.
This set them all on fire. The priest came down from his pulpit, and others out of their pews, and the dispute there was marred. I went to a great inn, and there disputed the thing with the priests and professors, who were all on fire. But I maintained the true church, and the true head thereof, over their heads, till they all gave out and fled away.
But instead of relying on Fox's words, let me try to explain in my words what this "church" is (and isn't) that I am seeking to be part of. It is not a purely human institution with a human hierarchy, a body of customary practices, a book of rules, a liturgy, a set of sacred rituals, etc. It is not an "association" (to use a word that Martin used that pushed my buttons) of people who decide to hang out with each other because they are good people and have been able to find something in common. Rather, it is a body of people who are so united to Christ Jesus (the "true head" that Fox referred to) and to each other that they have become one body, able as a body to serve Him and witness for Him, and to do the kind of prophetic and reconciling work (not to mention humble service) that He did in the flesh before his crucifixion and resurrection. They will do His works because they allow Him to guide them. "Doctrine" or "teaching" as such is not the point of such a community, but it's obviously a little difficult for any group to wholeheartedly serve Christ if many members aren't even sure he exists.

Notice that this kind of church community founded on the real teaching presence of Christ is not what most Christian denominations have in mind when they call themselves churches. For many churches, the "presence" of Christ is felt to center in ritual acts such as the eucharist, water baptism, etc. The authority of Christ is presumed to be something that can be handed down from generation to generation by the laying on of hands ("ordination") and to be wielded at will by the clergy or other hierarchy of the present generation. The suffering and sacrificial death of Christ is seen as a past event that we benefit from vicariously, or a ritual event that we re-enact as sacrament, rather than an ongoing reality in which we participate as the members of his body doing his work in the world. Conventional morality is preached (or isn't in some cases), but the radical demands of the Kingdom of Heaven as outlined in the Sermon on the Mount are not. This is not to say that folks in these other churches are not "real Christians", still less that they (or non-Christians for that matter) are not "saved". But it affirms that since Christ Has Come to Teach His People Himself, a far deeper experience of radical discipleship and faithfulness is possible than these other churches offer.

Of course, the question is whether the Quakerism of today can offer it either. So many of us seem to have forgotten, if we ever knew, that this was its whole purpose in the beginning. Perhaps we are no closer to its reality, despite the witness of our forebears, than any other religion or Christian denomination. Perhaps I as an individual would not really be ready to fully give myself to this full church experience if it were to become fully realized. I'm sure it's also true that such a Church will not be brought about by membership purges or Quakerism 101 classes or any other purely strategic activity by those who long for it. (In fact, I'm convinced by the history of Quakerism in the 19th century that membership purges and schisms are exactly the wrong way to go).

Nevertheless, it was from Friends history as interpreted by a few contemporaries that I first "caught" this vision, and it has been in Friends' Meetings that I have felt it surging somewhere not far beneath the surface time and time again over the years. That's what I'm looking for (and what in some small measure I actually find) in Quakerism. However short of this our actual practice may presently fall, this vision still in some sense defines what Quakerism really means as far as I'm concerned.

Perhaps I have raised more new questions than I have successfully answered. I hope people will respond and will challenge me to clarify (to the best of my ability) whatever I have obscured by my choice of words.

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41 Comments:

Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

P.S. Alert readers may recognize that the context of Fox's statements concerning "church" was that the priest had said "a woman is forbidden to speak in the church." Fox thought the woman in question should should have been allowed to speak, but he relied in this instance principally on the argument that they weren't really in a church anyway. They were in a steeplehouse, but the steeplehouse is not a church. And they were in a "mixed multitude" (i.e. an ecumenical discussion group) and that is not a church either.

The woman, by the way, had asked a theological question about the proper interpretation of a certain passage in the New Testament. Fox evidently found the question itself interesting and remembered it decades later as he wrote about it in his Journal for he describes it thus: "At last one woman asked a question out of Peter, What that birth was, viz., a being born again of incorruptible seed, by the Word of God, that liveth and abideth for ever?".

The woman and her family, by the way, were "convinced" by Fox's preaching and became Friends.

6:02 PM, April 17, 2006  
Blogger Mark Wutka said...

Thank you for your explanation, Rich. I think it does raise some interesting questions that we have probably wrestled with before in your blog. One might argue that what you describe as a body united under the headship of Christ does describe liberal Quakerism. We seek, corporately, to discern and follow the leading of the inner light. Is it important that we call that light "Christ" or that we even understand it as the light of Christ? Must everyone use a Christian vocabulary?

I'm not saying that that is what you are saying, but more that I don't really understand what it is you would change. Or is it that you think that we have gotten away from the idea of corporately discerning and following the inner light?
With love,
Mark

9:08 PM, April 17, 2006  
Blogger Dave Carl said...

Rich,

I'm interested in how you answer Mark's questions as well. I'd like to add a query or two with respect to this statement:

"but it's obviously a little difficult for any group to wholeheartedly serve Christ if many members aren't even sure he exists."

Can you say precisely what you mean by "he exists?" And what it is that convinces you that he does? I'm interested in knowing pretty specifically in what form (or perhaps formlessness?) his existence takes, independently from a poetic or metaphorical allusion to something subjectively experiential (if that fits).

People (some Christians included) sometimes say that "God is love" --so is there a difficulty if a non-Christian or non-theist Friend wholeheartedly serves the cause of love? What if they completely take the message of Jesus to heart without believing that he currently has any sort of existence beyond an inspirational image?

In Friendship,

Dave Carl

10:10 PM, April 17, 2006  
Blogger Zach A said...

Rich, I started out writing a comment, but it's so long (and has so much of my own thoughts vs. direct responses to yours) that I think I should post it on my blog.

12:29 AM, April 18, 2006  
Blogger john said...

Rich,

I think there is a lot of overlap in what we discover in Quaker gathering. I came to Quakerism as a mystic without any special commitment to Christianity, or any intention of coming closer to Christ, but living in communion with Friends has given me a deeper sense of my own roots in the prophetic faith of Abraham. Moreover, I have begun to experience the continuing prophetic vocation of the Suffering Servant image of Isaiah that culminates in the Cross. For me the work of the Cross and the presence of the Risen Christ are not matters of belief, but matters that are borne out by Friends and friends who endure sacrifice to serve others.

Foremost on my mind right now is my friend and mentor Tom Fox, and part of my inheritance from Tom is a vision of the Church as a community based on sharing meals and servanthood. Many people refer to Tom as a "peace activist," but I know him as a baker, a father, and a listener. His work in Iraq was never about polotical change; his focus was sharing meals, fellowship, listening, and serving, healing, and humanizing others through direct human contact. It seems to me that this is the stripped-down-simple vocation of the Church everywhere. When Jesus spoke about judgement in Matthew 25, the criteria was not professed belief, but servanthood of real human needs.

The servant church did not begin with Tom, and he is not the only Friend or friend from whom I have inherited this demanding legacy. Assessing the scope of this vision and and its impact on the various communities who come together as Church is something I don't have the talent or wits for, but we have to start somewhere, and important conversations are already underway here. I'm interested in carrying this learning forward into a group study on discovering the servant church, to begin in May.

What is the servant church? Here are some thoughts that seem prominent:

The servant church is a basic community: Basic community is based on real human interactions and direct contact that humanizes ourselves and others. Basic community is founded on personal relationships between imperfect people.

The servant church is covenant community: Covenant faithfulness "is active dedication to ... becoming a people that hallows the earth, regardless of cost or failure; it has nothing to do with unshakeable belief..." (Corbett 3).

The covenant – to become a holy people – requires that a hallowing way of life be established somewhere, in a specific land; the people covenants to hallow the earth through its way of life. (Corbett 5)

Membership in the community is based on "the practice of a specific covenant" rather than "the profession of specifc beliefs" (Corbett 3). That covenant for the servant church is "enact[ing] the reign of the Peaceable Kingdom on earth, not by political power and not by monetary might, but by faithful service" (TSC 3).

Hindus, Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, Christians – the people of peoples gathering as “church” is united by no creed or ritual but by a shared covenant to honor and protect basic human rights. [...] The covenant to recognise universal human rights converts participating faith communities into peace churches; the covenant to consider no one an alien or enemy is the historical substance of pacifism.(Corbett 113-114)

The servant church is a way to chose full communion: Communion is the practice of what Corbett calls "'religio,' a 'rebinding' into open society [that is] the distinctively human form of sociality and civility." In practical terms it is a quality of fellowship among people based on sharing meals and building bonds of community. Instead of excommunication, the servant church guards these bonds with dedication, always creating practical avenues for its members to live more faithfully to the covenant.

The servant church is catholic: The servant church is truly catholic in the sense of universal and all-embracing. People of every nation and religion, unbelievers as well as believers, are included in its fellowship.

The servant church includes the Bible as a shared inheritance: The prophetic heritage of Abraham endows the servant church with an inclusive idiom and historical depth, and as shared memory, the Bible can be a resource for prophetic guidance to the seeking community.

The servant church is a heritable legacy: Current practice of the covenant is more than isolated acts of conscience; because of their historical depth, these enactments can transmit the covenant to future generations.

1:28 AM, April 18, 2006  
Blogger Martin Kelley said...

Rich wrote:

>It is not an "association" (to use a
>word that Martin used that pushed my
>buttons) of people who decide to hang out with each other
>because they are good people
>and have been able to find something
>in common.

Hi Rich,
I'm always happy to push someone's buttons, grin. Actually my use of that term comes from Betsy Cazden's excellent pamphlet Fellowships, Conferences And Associations: The Limits Of The Liberal Quaker Reinvention Of Meeting Polity (so blame her). When using it I was trying to describe the current status quo, the accomodation most Friends meetings made (partly to stop the nineteenth century wars). In many ways, we've disbanded the old monthly meetings--the forms we hold to now are often very different. I think I've been clear enough on my own blog that I don't feel fed by this kind of association meeting.

Just as a beginning of an answer to Mark, there's Michael Sheerhan's observation in Beyond Majority Rule that the most significant divide between Friends isn't Christianity vs Universalism but between those who have experienced (or believe in) a gathered meeting and those who don't, a distinction which cuts across the theological lines. I find this a useful way of looking at it--has someone experienced the divine inbreaking (regardless of the language they give it) and trust that there's something bigger happening in meeting than individuals meditating? Friends who don't trust that gathering Spirit will by necessity turn to a kind of programming -- decision-making and organization that rely solely on human ingenuity.

Your Friend,
Martin
Quaker Ranter

11:33 AM, April 18, 2006  
Blogger john said...

Friends who don't trust that gathering Spirit will by necessity turn to a kind of programming -- decision-making and organization that rely solely on human ingenuity.

..or they will leave, which sadly happens.

12:22 PM, April 18, 2006  
Blogger Paul L said...

All I can say is, Amen, Friend.

4:50 PM, April 18, 2006  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

Before commenting on the various comments, I want to reiterate that the purpose of this post was to answer a very specific question: not "Should all Quakers be Christian?" (Which I've never said), and not even ("Is Quakerism Essentially Christian?" (which is a question I've addressed in other posts). But "Why do I, as a Christian, want to be a Quaker and not part of some other Christian denomination?") And the answer - in a nutshell - was that outside of Quakerism there are no Christian denominations even trying to be the "church" as I understand that term, whereas the Quaker movement at least started out with that aim.

Now to the specific comments:

Mark Wutka says One might argue that what you describe as a body united under the headship of Christ does describe liberal Quakerism. We seek, corporately, to discetn and follow the leading of the inner light. Is it important that we call that light "Christ" or that we even understand it as the light of Christ? Must everyone use a Christian vocabulary?

I sort of agree with Mark here, but not without some caveats. I have heard ministry that I felt came from Christ even though I knew that the speaker did not "believe in" Christ. I have even been in business meetings which seemed to me to have responded to the leading of Christ and His Holy Spirit even though some of the members present would deny that that was what they were doing. And of course I agree that Christ, the Light of the World, speaks to all people including those who have never heard of his earthly incarnation as Jesus.

But does this really mean that there is no difference between the vision I outlined and liberal Quakerism as most widely interpreted today? If it's true as Mark suggests that "a body united under the headship of Christ" could describe liberal Quakerism, then why do so many liberal Quakers get indignant when other Quakers describe it that way? Is it just a diffefence of "vocabulary"? Or is there another difference that needs to be acknowledged and understood?

I'm going to attempt an analogy. It may not be completely appropriate since I am going to compare Jesus Christ with a war-time president of the United States, but bear with me.

During the Great Depression and World War II, I have been told that Franklin Roosevelt rallied the spirits of the American people with his "fireside chats". These radio broadcasts communicated information, projected hope, and called for specific responses from his listeners; including some acts of self-sacrifice and unselfishness.(If I am wrong about the details of this picture, I hope the following analogy still holds).
Often people would gather in small groups around their radios to hear these broadcasts, they would talk about what Roosevelt had said, and to some extent they were guided in their daily lives by some of what they had heard.

Now suppose that in one such living room gathering there were two groups of listeners:
One group understood that they were listening to a real human being who actually lived in Washington, D.C. and was President of the Untied States.

The other group thought that the voice they were listening to originated within the radio receiver itself and was somehow generated by the electronics inside it.

Would it have been possible for both groups to have followed Roosevelt's advice? Yes, surely. Would it have been possible for both to draw the same inspiration and courage from his words? Well, maybe. But here one wonders whether part of the emotional message doesn't depend on understanding its source. But let's say it is possible. And let's admit that since it is possible then it's also appropriate that these listeners continue to meet together, listen to these broadcasts, and guide their lives accordingly.

Under these conditions, wouldn't the "it's just a voice on the radio" theory still make the "it's-good-old-FDR" group rightly uneasy? Would it be fair to describe the difference between the two groups as purely one of "vocabulary"? I think the "it's-good-old-FDR" group really would have a duty to do their best to explain their point of view. Somewhere somehow it just might have made a real difference what the real source of that voice was. If someone were to spin the dial, for example, and pick up a voice from Radio Berlin how would the "its-just-a-voice-on-the-radio" distinguish its authority from that of the fireside chats?

I suppose the analogy is fairly obvious. The gathering in the living room is a Quaker Meeting. The "good-old-FDR" group are the explicitly Christo-centric Friends. The "voice-on-the-radio" group are the light-centered Friends for whom the Light is not Jesus Christ or even God.

Dave Carl asks me Can you say precisely what you mean by "he exists?" And what it is that convinces you that he does?. Well, I don't think I can really say what "he exists" means other than to mention that it is analogous to saying "Dave Carl exists" or "Rich Accetta-Evans exists". Or I could go for a synonym and say "He exists" means "He is". Then, as another President famously said, it all depends on what the meaning of "is" is. But the question of what convinces me that he exists cannot be brushed off so lightly. Unfortunately, the answer is very personal. I don't claim that what convinces me should convince anyone else. In fact, it may only convince people that I am unbalanced. Not to beat around the bush any longer: I believe that Jesus exists because in an hour of great need more than 30 years ago I heard him speak to me and saw him spread his arms to me and I recognized Him as One who had suffered, who was good, and who offered me peace. I may write more about that sometime, or I may not. As I say, it was a very personal experience.

I realize I haven't responded to all comments or questions. I will make a further attempt as soon as I can.

- - Rich

11:42 AM, April 19, 2006  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Dear Rich,

Thank you for all of this. I have to say that your admission that you had this direct experience of Jesus helps me feel less unbalanced in considering my own experience. I can understand that it feels very personal to you, but to me, this feels like another step in your ministering to me personally.

Thank you again. I will write more soon, I think.

4:10 PM, April 19, 2006  
Blogger Mark Wutka said...

Rich,
In your mind, is there a difference between someone who understands that inner voice as God and someone who understands it as Christ? What about someone who understands it as another divine aspect of God, Krishna, for example?
With Love,
Mark

5:09 PM, April 19, 2006  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

Rich, Pam, and everyone else, but especially Rich who started this whole thing -

I'm not in a place to add to this very rich conversation (no pun intended). But I did want to acknowledge the sense of faithfulness I am picking up through these written words.

Thanks for being willing to engage in the labor and wrestling with one another in a deep and meaningful way.

Blessings,
Liz, The Good Raised Up

5:16 PM, April 19, 2006  
Blogger Stephen said...

In the FDR illustration: it is not easy to "love" the disembodied voice if you think the electronics and circuitry of the radio generate it. Far easier to love a person and far easier to love that person if you believe that person loves you so much that he would die for you....if your tiny life is important enough for every hair on your head to be numbered.

Shalom - Stephen

9:16 PM, April 19, 2006  
Blogger Dave Carl said...

Rich,

Thanks for your response to my question. I'm guessing that it might have felt a little risky to answer publicly in the way you did. Your reply was helpful in ways that are difficult to explain at the moment, and moving as well. Its something I might like to explore further with you, although Mark's followup may be helpful to me as well. I guess I'm still interested in your thoughts on where this experience lies on the subjective-objective continuum. Subjective doesn't mean unreal, but it does allow for a lot of interpretation -- or ways of describing what happened -- that might vary a lot given our personal histories, culture, genetic disposition, or what-have-you. I think this lies at the heart of a lot of the tussle over Quaker identity. A true religious experience is very hard, perhaps impossible, to reduce to so many words. Yet since words are how we communicate to one another and ourselves about "how things are," and a religious experience is undeniably "real" (at least "really experienced), its tempting to try to use words to describe religious openings in the same way that we use them for describing the existence of things like tables, chairs, and tall buildings.

As far as what the meaning of "is" is, hey, you're not picking on me just because I'm from Arkansas now?

In Friendship,

David

11:53 AM, April 20, 2006  
Blogger earthfreak said...

Rich-

Yes, thank you for answering that question, which may well have felt like a vulnerable thing to do!

Also, thanks for reminding us that this post is about why you are a quaker christian, rather than another sort of christian. I do appreciate your thoughtful answer to my question.

I'm not sure if I've managed to make clear that I didn't ask it so much as a challenge, but more out of really wanting to understand your christianity (and come to trust it) and also perhaps in hopes of inspiring understanding of what it feels like to have someone say something that can be interpretd as "I'm not sure you're a real quaker" (it may not have been the best way to do that)

You said: "no Christian denominations even trying to be the "church" as I understand that term, whereas the Quaker movement at least started out with that aim."

That resonates with me. It's pretty much why christianity never 'grabbed' me in the first place. I guess what I wonder is how much it matters whether others use the same language to discuss building the church (of course, in a real building project, it's easier if everyone agrees on what's a brick as opposed to a nail, but then, you could call a board a plank and probably still get it done) I personally feel called to build "the chruch" - but not to worship Jesus (which I believe that he himself wouldn't want) My question is whether we can still work together, and my hope is that we can.



The analagy that has been running around in my head for a while is one of a neighborhood stray that everyone feeds, and even thinks of as "their dog" - and the amusement that arises when people finally connect and talk about "their dog" and you get, "blah, blah, fluffy", "oh, no, his name is Fred", "nah, that's good old Carbunkle" - the dog is who he is, and many people can love him and call him by different names, and it doesn't seem the most important thing.



But anyway, the FDR thing is interesting to me, and as one of the "mechanical voice" people, it makes absolutely no sense to me. In fact, for me the image of a group of people who think there's some sort of magic going on, and are attentive due to THAT, rather than the truth or non-truth of the message, woudl seem to represent "religious folk" to my nontheist mindset.


But, what's more imporant to me is your actual analagy, of how we know, and why we respect, those words. I would compare it more to a group of people that hear FDR and think of him as:

*The President

*FDR

*Good old Frankie (I don't know what his friends called him, but I am striving for an image of one with more intimacy, and perhaps less up/down "respect")

*That guy on the radio who says smart things.

*A guy on the radio who just said a smart thing.


I am afraid of those christians who seem to respect the "office" more than either true knowing, or the seeming validity of any given message. (I don't think that you are one)

I feel like I am in one of the last 2 categories, not so confused that I don't know that the voice isn't mechanically generated, but not all that interested in identifying it with a particular person and giving it undue authority. Discerning the truth of each message is very important to me. If someone managed to get on the radio and impersonate FDR, and tell us something that undermines us as a country, I would want to be in a position to recognize the difference (or perhaps not even think, "that's not valid, cause that's not FDR", but "that's not valid cause it's mean, or evil, or destructive" - So that if FDR had gone crazy and changed course, I wouldn't blindly follow.)


So, if Jesus says "love your neighbor" and you are inspired to do it because he's Jesus, and I'm inspired to do it because it sounds like a damn good idea, I'm not doing it as well? I suppose I can understand that, because I think just the reverse. I think Jesus said a really lot of good stuff, but if he came back and retracted it, I wouldn't give it up just cause he said so (unless some new revelation made it clear to me, I guess.)

I hope that wasn't all too convoluted.

:)

peace

Pam

11:23 AM, April 21, 2006  
Blogger Martin Kelley said...

Well, let me try spinning the FDR analogy a bit further. Let's start with a listener who's figured out that the speaker's a real person and not just electronic fuzz.

Our listener would hear FDR without knowing who he is. The information would be there but there would be no particular weight attached to it. They might listen to it or they might just flip the channel to listen the Bob Hope special.

A bully sitting nearby in the room might rebuke the listener by yelling "Sit up straight! Listen to what he's saying! This is the PRESIDENT!" But our listener, knowing nothing about our political system, will just hear a call to unearned authority. It will have the weight of fear--what might the bully do if I don't listen?!?--but it focuses the listener's attention on the bully, away from FDR.

Let's say that instead, there's a gentle soul in the room who gives testimony. They share with our listener how valuable they've found FDR's advice to be in the past.

As the listener starts appreciating FDR's counsel, our nearby friend might start teaching about the role of the Presidency in American history. They could introduce concepts like checks-and-balances, they could tell stories of past Constitutional crises, they would talk about other types of political systems. Our listener would gain a specific vocabularly that wouldn't change the message but which would provide a way of talking about it. This is the social history of generations of Americans figuring out how to organize themselves, it's our collective wisdom. By understanding it our listener won't have to reinvent wheels and will be in a better position to more effectively act on FDR's advice (perhaps they'd realize they need to lobby their senators to get FDR's next budget passed).

***

The beauty of Quakerism is that we're okay giving the quiet testimony that shares with others how that unnamed voice has guided us and mentored us. I'm thinking of the Brian Drayton quote I posted on Quaker Ranter the other day: "We are also called, I feel to invite others to share Christ directly, not primarily in order to introduce them to Quakerism and bring them into our meetings, but to encourage them to turn to the light and follow it."

A deconstructionist might argue that "The United States of America" is a social construct, but that doesn't mean the Declaration of Independence isn't an amazing, inspiring document that says something profoundly truthful about human existance.

Taking the analogy full circle, it's almost as if liberal Friends today are afraid of teaching the Declaration of Independence because it might offend the Russian, Italian and Korean immigrants. We still believe in it and most of the immigrants are figuring out pieces of it hit-and-miss, but we're just incredibly awkward talking about it since we've lost our language. If we just started speaking plainly again, that would give the immigrants a chance to say "hey that's interesting but you know we did it this way back in the old country." I wonder if we'd open up the conversation to a richer level of sharing?

Martin
Quaker Ranter

3:52 PM, April 21, 2006  
Blogger James Riemermann said...

Here's the thing. In this rather ingenious extended metaphor, we are the radios, and we are also the ones concluding that we are either the voice of FDR in Washington or, as it intuitively seems to me, the voices of ourselves. We radios talk to each other in hundreds of different languages, conversations made necessary by the fact that no two of us have quite the same experience, the same understanding of all the impulses that move us through our lives.

And when you extend the metaphor like that (or mangle it, perhaps), those who presume the origins of the voice to be in the workings of the radio don't sound nearly so deluded as they do in Rich's version.

We radios have much in common, to be sure. Our experience of life is fundamentally about relationship: with each other, with the world out of which we somehow developed. But one could hardly construct a metaphor as untrue to what it feels like to be human, as one that describes us as hardware relays for messages from Universal HQ, rather than living organic beings of depth, distinctiveness and mystery, in relationship with each other and the world.

Sometimes, as in our meeting for worship when we are faithful and fortunate in our practice, this room full of radios is possessed of an amazing resonance; we are pierced with an awareness of the depth of our interconnections. Speaking only for myself, at such times I become far more deeply aware of how our distinctiveness and our interconnectedness are not opposing qualities, but mutually supportive ones. To be purely individual, a mind in a box, can hardly be called existence. Likewise to be purely merged into the whole. It's a yin-yang thing.

None of this really precludes the possibility that the spirit of a creator flows through all of this, or even the person of Jesus, nor the fact that many Friends sense a clear presence of those transcendencies. But it's the actual radios in the room I've come to know and love.

9:10 AM, April 26, 2006  
Blogger Lorcan said...

"Rather, it is a body of people who are so united to Christ Jesus (the "true head" that Fox referred to) and to each other that they have become one body, able as a body to serve Him and witness for Him, and to do the kind of prophetic and reconciling work (not to mention humble service) that He did in the flesh before his crucifixion and resurrection."

Hey Richard!!! ( You knew this was coming... ) :D I am thinking that I might wish to reply in small bites, so that things don't get lost. I don't think it will surprise thee that I agree with the above statement, as far as the message of actively living the sermon on the mount. We might not be in unity on the meaning of resurrection, I feel that, for example Dr. King and Gandhi were resurrected in the same way. But, the idea of a living church which the institution is only a light framework - the church is the living spirit of striving towards unity together, atonement, forgiveness and love. Being present to the God in each other.

10:16 AM, April 27, 2006  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

Friends,

I have been reading all the comments on this post, finding all of them valuable and some deeply moving.

I am a bit overwhelmed this week with events in my actual (i.e. outside-of-blogging) life and not able to post adequate responses, but I thought I'd just let you all know that so that no one would be wondering why I didn't acknowledge or answer particular posts.

Thanks all,
Richard

12:01 PM, April 27, 2006  
Blogger Mark Wutka said...

I hope things calm down for you soon, Rich. When you get back to blogging, I am much more interested in how you respond to Pam and James than I am about my own question. Martin's comment about Michael Sheerhan's observation did kinda answer my question once it sank in. I should say that it made me realize that my question isn't as significant as some of the others.
With love,
Mark

2:13 PM, April 27, 2006  
Anonymous Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

There are a couple of points that I kept expecting to see made here, but never did get made. Perhaps they were waiting for me to make them?

One of them has to do with distinguishing between the voice of Christ and other voices. The conscience, after all, is just a chamber where one can hear various things within one. (It comes from Latin roots meaning "knowing with"; its the place in us where we know things that are knowns shared with others.) In that place one can hear Christ and the ideas and values he taught; one can also hear one's parents and the ideas and values they taught; one can also hear the U.S. political system and the ideas and values it has taught through people like FDR.

One of the mistakes that I think some liberal Quaker universalists make (and notice that I'm not saying all liberal Quaker universalists make it, but only that some do) is to forget the difficulties caused by the fact that the conscience hears so many different voices. For instance, if one has been exposed to Hinduism as well as Christianity, one can hear both the voice of Christ and the voice of Krishna. One can confuse the two, because they both talk a lot about God and love. One may then start saying, "Oh, it's ultimately the same voice, whether we identify it with Christ or with Krishna." One may forget that the fact that they both talk about God and love does not mean that they actually say the same things.

But in fact the two voices are different. Christ's talk of God and love is talk of servanthood to God incarnate in "the least of these my brethren" (Matthew 25:31-46), and it winds up with him saying, as he said at the Last Supper, "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Krishna's talk of God and love is far more otherworldly, and winds up with him saying, as he said in the Gita, "Remember my name and fight."

In liberal meetings, people who forget such distinctions, and are not really closely focused on Christ, can wind up disagreeing about what the inward Voice asks of us, because in fact they are listening to different voices. One liberal worshiper will hear an inward voice calling the meeting to the path of vulnerability and self-sacrifice, while the next hears an inward voice calling the meeting to be financially prudent. Which is the true Voice to be listened to? In this context, the weakness of Rich's "fireside chat" analogy is that it assumes we're all tuning our radios to FDR. We're not. This is, I think, the real problem Fox was referring to with his disparaging reference to "mixed multitudes".

The other, closely related point I kept expecting to see brought up here, but that never was brought up here, is that the authentic Voice summons us to the path of the cross. It thus takes a turn that is fully explicit only in Christianity, telling us that we must take prophetic stands on behalf of truth and suffering fellow-creatures that will cause the world to attack us, and that we must respond to the attacks with meekness and servanthood and nonresistance and allowing ourselves to be destroyed if it comes to that, just as Christ did.

I seldom hear the path of the cross spoken for by people who say, "It doesn't matter what you call the voice; whether you think of it as Christ or as fundamental human rights, it's the same thing." In my experience, when people who say "It doesn't matter what you call the voice," start talking about the peace testimony, it generally turns out that they embrace pacifism because it's rational and maximizes our chances of survival, rather than because we must bear that cross that is likely to get us killed in harsh times.

8:11 AM, April 28, 2006  
Blogger Mark Wutka said...

Marshall,
My problem, well one of them, is that I do understand that people hear different voices, and yet I see people like Gandhi who seem to be doing the kind of things that Jesus tells us to do. I conclude from these observations that God is able to communicate his will to us in different ways. This conclusion does not necessarily imply that Quakerism must encompass different traditions, but it does suggest to me that Christianity is not the only path.

I believe it is important to have a tradition that you can be immersed in - have a common vocabulary, a common understanding of concepts and ideas. One who has read the Gita once or twice may have a different understanding from someone who has grown up in the Hindu tradition. Your statement about "Remember my name and fight." is a perfect example. Many people consider the fighting that Krishna talks about to be a spiritual battle against the senses, but perhaps someone approaching from outside Hinduism might not be familiar with that possible interpretation. My first reaction to that quote was that I thought it was an unfair characterization, although I doubt you meant it as such.

I would also propose a rough analogy: that the way of the cross is reflected in the Gita's emphasis on "dying to self", and also in the Buddhist teachings on non-attachment. Although they have different ideas behind them, they do seem to result in similar actions (maybe not prophecy, but in service to the point of dying). In fact, Galatians 2:20 sounds to me a lot like the idea of dying to self - "I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me ..." (NET).

I really wasn't going to jump in on the discussion again, because I feel like I am a distraction from issues raised by James and Pam. It's just that it seems to me that there is a distinction between how we determine which voice we listen to, and what we actually believe that voice is. That is, if I hear a voice say "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends," is it necessary that I believe that it is Jesus himself speaking to me, or do I say "Jesus said the same thing, that's probably right."
With love,
Mark

3:55 PM, April 28, 2006  
Blogger Lorcan said...

Well... Marshall... I don't think that most non-Christocentric Friends believe in pacifism as a tactic rather than a call from that still small voice within. I think that once one truly is present to that of God in another, it is impossible to kill, to destroy the complete value of another. I also think, that the objectification of another is a nullification. I think that the myth of Jesus is a taking of the real humanity of the personess of the rabbi Yeshua. Now, that is just me, I don't doubt that it is the intent of Friends who see Yeshua as being other than the a fully human, who struggled with sin, as we all do, who sinned and atoned, and forgave, I don't think it is their intent to sin against the tribe or person of Yeshua, it is just for me to do that, is to put an idol between myself and God. For me, I am more Christian, in accepting the personess, the Jewishness, and the teaching of Yeshua without myth, and that does not, for me make pacifism a tactic. It makes it the outcome of my presence to God in all, thee, me, and the most distant from my sense of creation. I think this is why I am called to hope we all have a retreat with Friends of all points of view, so that we put aside assumptions about each other, and become more present to God in each other.

6:47 PM, April 28, 2006  
Blogger earthfreak said...

Lor! I think that that's a great idea! I wonder if there will be a chance for such a thing at gathering (though, now that I say it, gathering isn't much of a "reatreat" - and that sort of quieter setting sounds more appealing.

I'm not really sure what to say to all of this. I think I have a post brewing in my head, but I'll be offline all weekend, maybe it'll be done by then.

I did want to say a few random things.

- it didn't occur to me to say, with james, that we are the radios, and we are where the voice is coming from. I am not sure I quite agree with this, but I'm embarassed that I initially accepted the analagy, and the premise that the "voice" is not supernatural (which, I now think, was really the analagy) is somehow as amusingly clueless as thinking a radio is "talking"


- I had a similar reaction to Mark's in reading one quote of jesus and one of krisna juxtaposed like that. I gather that they're both "last words" (well, not quite?) but certainly we can find things in the bible that espouse fighting, and things in the gita that espouse service and love.

- I have a concern with what Marshall says about pacifism being, as Lor puts it, a "tactic" for those of us who aren't christian or theist, whereas for christians it is a testimony in a truer sense (as i would put it) I heard Marshall say, that people who would say"whether you think of it as Christ or as fundamental human rights, it's the same thing." would also subscribe to the idea that peace is a good thing because it's more likely, in the long run, to save their own hides. This hasn't been my experience at all, and certainly non-christians, and non-theists have given their lives for the truth, or for humanity, based on a strong commitment to "fundammetnal human rights" - which for me is very different from a fundamental concern for your own survival as an individual.

- this concerns me, because it sounds to me much like a sort of hysterical propganda that I hear from rightwing christians (not that I think this is hysterical propaganda, it only shares some particulars) who seem to proffer the view that the only reason not to cheat on your mate, kill your neighbor, and eat babies for breakfast is that you are saved by Jesus christ. I was directed to an essay once called 'why I am not an atheist' on some website - which essentially said something like, "I used to be an atheist, and drunk all the time, and sexually permiscuous, and a liar, and abusive. And then I found God and stopped" Well, bully for him and all, but I'm an atheist who doesn't drink or sleep around anyway. So apparently I don't need to find God.

Sorry, it's a sensitive spot for me, though I'm sure glad that those folks who would eat babies if they didnt' have Jesus have Jesus!!!

Similarly, I'm sorry that you haven't met the many people who have a very deep connection to the light, but dont' call it Jesus.


Peace
Pam

7:23 PM, April 28, 2006  
Blogger James Riemermann said...

Yes, Lor, even as an atheist I find "that of God in everyone" has a powerful resonance for me, and makes it crystal clear that violence is simply not the path, regardless of consequences. Even if I knew that an act of violence could transform the world into paradise for the next generation, it would still be the wrong path.

Obviously, the word God is a potent metaphor for me in this phrase, as in the phrase "child of God." Basically, it is a strong intuitive sense of something tender and beautiful in each of us, and violating that tenderness is the greatest horror there is. Maybe God put that in me, or maybe it developed naturally out our nature as social beings, as it seems to me. Either way, it is real, and any human being can learn it if they pay close enough attention. It does not present itself to me as a voice from outside, but as an integral part of my being. It is far more important to pay attentiion to it, than to call it Christ, or call it anything in particular.

The idea of a retreat appeals to me as well, Lor, but it also makes me a bit nervous. I'm not sure which would be harder to take: a retreat where the universalists and the not-quite-universalists intentionally avoid speaking about our differences; or one where we speak about those differences and find the gap too wide to bridge. What I'd love to hear from all is: "Yes! Quakerism is stronger and richer because of every one of us!" But I'm not sure that's where we are.

8:45 PM, April 28, 2006  
Anonymous Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

Goodness, what a lot of comments to respond to!

-- Mark Wutka wrote, "My problem, well one of them, is that I do understand that people hear different voices, and yet I see people like Gandhi who seem to be doing the kind of things that Jesus tells us to do. ... This ... does not necessarily imply that Quakerism must encompass different traditions, but it does suggest to me that Christianity is not the only path."

Mark, Gandhi was profoundly influenced by a number of pacifistic, prophetic-witness-oriented Christians, including the Quakers he worshiped with as a student in London, a number of peace-church Christians he knew and worked with in South Africa, and above all Leo Tolstoy, who had absorbed Quaker ideas about the power of nonviolent witness (there was a well-thumbed copy of Woolman's Journal in Tolstoy's library). Gandhi maintained an active correspondence with Tolstoy in his youth, and this had a significant impact on his thinking.

To say, then, that Gandhi came to his understanding of what to do, without any influence from the teachings of the Christian tradition, would be very much an error. Rather, Gandhi took up the Judaeo-Christian tradition of prophetic witness, which had begun with Nathan's confrontation of King David in the Old Testament (or maybe even earlier, with Moses), and altered it to make it more compatible both with the Hindu idea of om tat sat and with his own political agenda. These alterations, which transformed the practice of witness into the practice of satyagraha (literally, "truth-force"), were not necessarily improvements. I doubt that Christ would have approved of the fact that satyagraha aims at triumphs in this world, since Christ said his kingdom is not of this world.

-- Mark continued, "One who has read the Gita once or twice may have a different understanding from someone who has grown up in the Hindu tradition. Your statement about "Remember my name and fight." is a perfect example. Many people consider the fighting that Krishna talks about to be a spiritual battle against the senses, but perhaps someone approaching from outside Hinduism might not be familiar with that possible interpretation. My first reaction to that quote was that I thought it was an unfair characterization, although I doubt you meant it as such."

Mark, friend, I may not have grown up in Hinduism, but I studied under a Hindu guru from the time I was 22 to the time I was 25, living full time in his community, and I remained very much under his influence for more than ten years afterwards. In the course of my relationship with him, I have read the Gita more than just a time or two, and indeed have struggled to read it in the original. And while many people may consider the fighting referred to to be spiritual, that is not how the Gita itself presents it -- it talks about a physical war between two clans of human beings -- and that is not how my guru, or the many other Hindu teachers I met and spoke with in my twenties, understood it.

-- Mark wrote, "I would also propose a rough analogy: that the way of the cross is reflected in the Gita's emphasis on "dying to self", and also in the Buddhist teachings on non-attachment. Although they have different ideas behind them, they do seem to result in similar actions (maybe not prophecy, but in service to the point of dying)."

Mark, I myself would not equate the two. Nothing in the Gita's emphasis on dying to self, or in Buddhist teachings on non-attachment, requires one to personally confront the worldly powers and nonresistingly let them physically kill oneself in agony if that's what they choose to do. But that is what Christ did, and what he said his true disciples would have to experience as well. ("I chose you and appointed you to bear fruit; and if the world persecutes me, it will persecute you", John 15:16,20.) And his martyred followers did bear the fruit of prophetic witness to the powers, and did experience persecution for it, clear down to and including a high percentage of the first generation of Quakerism's leaders -- and perhaps Tom Fox should be counted here as well.

-- Mark wrote, "In fact, Galatians 2:20 sounds to me a lot like the idea of dying to self - "I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me ..." (NET)."

Yes, Mark, it does so to me as well.

However, the summons of the cross is not satisfied when we sit in yoga or dhyana or stillness and prayer and thereby die to self. It is not even satisfied by bringing charitable baskets of food and clothing to the poor. It requires us to go out into the world in emulation of Christ, bearing the message that the Kingdom of the Father is within our grasp, if only we will reach out and take it; and this in turn plunges us into the Lamb's War against the sinful powers of the world that resist the good order of the Kingdom. (That's why there were all those murdered prophets and all those Christian martyrs.)

And so I would not say that wherever I find the doctrine of dying to self, I have found the path of the cross. I would say, I have not found the path of the cross unless I have found the whole of the path of the cross.

-- Mark concluded, "...it seems to me that there is a distinction between how we determine which voice we listen to, and what we actually believe that voice is."

There, Mark, I do agree with you. But I think it significant that the path of the cross has not historically expressed itself with the same strength in India as in Christian lands, and that Gandhi popularized something rather close to the path of the cross in India only after years of exposure to, and wrestling with, the peace church traditions of the Christian world. I would say that this is a testimony to the fact that exposure to the doctrines of Christ, and choosing to take those doctrines seriously, are helpful things.

Note that Gandhi, unlike various "non-theist" Quakers, never rejected the authority and divinity of Christ; he merely said that he lived as a Hindu in a Hindu land and therefore had to find a Hindu way of conveying the truths that were important for him and for India.

-- Lorcan wrote, "Well... Marshall... I don't think that most non-Christocentric Friends believe in pacifism as a tactic rather than a call from that still small voice within."

But Lorcan, that's not what I said. I said that in my experience, people who do not specifically distinguish the inward voice of Christ as being the particular and exact voice they must follow, do not typically mean, by pacifism, the path of the cross. They may very well mean by pacifism, something they were called to by "that still small voice", whatever still small voice they may be talking about there. And they may very well regard pacifism, not just as a tactic, but as a full commitment. But that is still not the same thing as the path of the cross. There is one still small Voice that actually summons us to the path of the cross. And there are other still small voices, easier to follow, that require pacifism of us, but do not require any active willingness to offer ourselves up for possible slaughter in the cause of the Lamb's War.

-- "earthfreak" wrote, "I heard Marshall say, that people who would say"whether you think of it as Christ or as fundamental human rights, it's the same thing." would also subscribe to the idea that peace is a good thing because it's more likely, in the long run, to save their own hides. This hasn't been my experience at all"

"earthfreak", I have to respect your experience. All I can say is, my own experience has apparently been somewhat different from yours.

-- "earthfreak" continued, "...certainly non-christians, and non-theists have given their lives for the truth, or for humanity, based on a strong commitment to "fundammetnal human rights""

Certainly non-Christians and non-theists have made such a sacrifice. The early Christians were quite impressed by the example of Socrates, who was a non-Christian though perhaps not a non-theist, and whom they felt suffered a very Christian martyrdom for the cause of truth in the face of worldly power. And other examples could be given, for instance some of Buddhist non-theists.

I would ask you, though, to review my original posting, and see that I used the words "seldom" and "generally", rather than speaking in terms of absolutes. Socrates and the Buddhists to whom I refer were among the seldoms. And the Buddhist tradition in particular is very explicit in treating self-sacrifice for Truth's sake as "expedient means", i.e. as tactical rather than essential.

-- "earthfreak" concluded "... I'm sorry that you haven't met the many people who have a very deep connection to the light, but dont' call it Jesus."

"earthfreak", it depends what you mean by "the light" and what you mean by "a very deep connection". The Hindu guru I studied under for three years, shone with a light that I saw with my own eyes, and that sometimes even showed up in photographs. Strangers sometimes burst into tears when they merely saw him in an airport or out on the street. I firmly believe that that light was a manifestation of God. But it was not the manifestation of God that appears in the place of conscience, instructing us in the difference between what is right and what is wrong, and ultimately (when we have grown sufficiently in love and trust and strength) inviting us to take up the burden of the cross.

That guru showed a remarkable indifference to the sufferings of people around him, which is why I did not stay with him. And that to me is why I am a little more careful than to say, merely, "the light is the light is the light" and "a connection is a connection is a connection". I think there are lights and then there are lights, and I think that even among the lights that are genuinely from God, some are much better ways of connecting with God than others.

11:05 AM, April 30, 2006  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

Hey Friends,

I still hope to get back to this discussion once the events of my personal life slow down a bit. Once I do, though, it's likely that whatever I say will be a bit of an anti-climax, coming after the very deep dialogue that is already going on. Many thanks to all for their comments.
- - Rich Accetta-Evans

8:19 AM, May 01, 2006  
Blogger Lorcan said...

I suppose, Marshall and I diverge in the aspect of confusion over listening to many voices within. There is only one voice within, and many names... Once any religion decides that the voice of their God, is unique and the only voice of God... then that faith denies the validity of the voice of God to all other faiths, and that seems to me to be the sin of pride.

Unity is not about I am right and thee is wrong. It is not saying I hold the truth and thee puts forward lies. Rather, it is about seeking an understanding of truth in the world of the other with whom thee speaks.

We do not have to say Quakerism, or Christianity holds special truths over other faiths in order to follow the cross... following the cross, if it makes the experience of one rabbi so unique that it divides the world in out appreciation, fails to understand the life and ministry of Yeshua, which was not about the rightness of one set of understandings. That moment that he sets out on a new path from John the Baptist, is that moment at the well, when he takes water from someone of a different faith.

Would there be a Christianity if Yeshua was not born? Absolutely. Humans come to truth by so many different paths. For a bit of proof of this, read this month's National Geographic's article about The Gospel of Judas... the description of Gnostism, "... While Christians like Irenaenus stressed that only Jesus, the son of God, was simultaneously human and divine, the Gnostics proposed that ordinary people could be connected to God. Salvation lay in awakening that divine spark within the human spirit and reconnecting with he divine mind. Doing so required the guidance of a teacher, and that, according to the Gnostics was Christ's role. Those who grasped his message could become divine as Christ himself. Hence Irenaeus's hostility. 'These people were mystics,,' says Meyer, ' Mystics have always drawn the ire of institutionalized religion. Mystics, after all hear the voice of God from within and don't need a priest to intercede for them.'" The article goes on to say that Irenaeus was also upset by the preaching of women Gnostics... a pretty good description of pre-Fox Quakerism... one also finds much about Catharism has commonality with our faith. Humans keep coming to the same translations of that still voice within, and each time believing that their translation is the only truth and is unique. The same is true with those who concentrate of the unique aspect of Jesus as God, there are uncomfortable similarities to the Greco Roman habit of deification of their political leaders... the reoccurrence of notions like the trinity, virgin birth... all these things crop up in the faith of distant peoples, not because they are a single truth, but because folks tend to have similar experiences in nature, and translate the knowing inside, by the images of that external experience, and I stop short of saying that the two become confused, rather, I would say the inward voice and outward experience blend as we seek to express that knowing inside.
However, I am not convinced that any faith fully translates that still small voice into perfect words, or a perfect image, even the image of a perfect man. To do that takes so much away from both the message and the man, Yeshua for me. The voice might be perfect, but our understanding is always only reaching towards that perfection, and that reaching, is the way of the cross for me. The way of the cross is also the path through not knowing, "why have you forsaken me...?" and still being faithful, that perfect walking towards... that was seen when the rabbi's in Auschwitz found God guilty of forsaking them ... and then worshiped. How many of us can say we are following the teaching of Yeshua as faithfully as his landsmen who worshiped in Auschwitz... ? They worshiped during their crucifixion, as he did.

8:24 AM, May 01, 2006  
Blogger Mark Wutka said...

Marshall,
I appreciate your very thoughtful and informative reply. I was aware of the Gandhi-Tolstoy connection, but my assumption was that he didn't consider his inner voice to be that of Jesus Christ, and that was the context in which I brought it up, although I understand your point that even if Gandhi was following a different path, he was influenced by Christ, so one can't say it is a completely separate path.

Also, you wrote:
Note that Gandhi, unlike various "non-theist" Quakers, never rejected the authority and divinity of Christ; he merely said that he lived as a Hindu in a Hindu land and therefore had to find a Hindu way of conveying the truths that were important for him and for India.

That particular point has two edges to it. Yes, he did not reject the divinity of Christ, but neither did he reject the authority and divinity of Krishna or Rama (I don't remember reading that he did so, I am open to correction, of course). I wonder if Gandhi considered himself to hear several voices, or if he thought that Christ, Krishna and others also spoke the voice of the One that he heard inside himself. Any thoughts on that?

With love,
Mark

12:48 PM, May 01, 2006  
Blogger Lorcan said...

"I wonder if Gandhi considered himself to hear several voices, or if he thought that Christ, Krishna and others also spoke the voice of the One that he heard inside himself. Any thoughts on that?"


That is it entirely, the Friend speaks my mind. There is one God, and as such, it is not separate voices... just we frail flesh listening together... all twins, as Yeshua said.
Thine
lor

8:41 PM, May 01, 2006  
Anonymous Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

Lorcan wrote, "There is only one voice within, and many names..."

I must beg to differ. There is the voice of lust, and it is within, not without. There is the voice of greed. The voice of pride. The voice of violence, that says (when one is angry), "Go ahead, hit her. She deserves it." They are all within us, and the voice of Christ is distinguishable from them all.

There is the voice of patriotism, which is heard within, as a pressure to "do something for your country, since she has done so much for you." Distinguishing between that voice and the voice of Christ is much harder for most folks than distinguishing between, say, the voice of lust and the voice of Christ; because, like Christ, the voice of patriotism calls us to sacrifice. I have read that, in World War I, two-thirds of all draft-eligible young Quaker men served in the army, thus confusing the voice of patriotism with the voice of Christ.

I could go on, but I am not sure what it would accomplish. All I can say, friend Lorcan, is that if you have not yet discovered that these voices are different, and that distinguishing between them can be hard, and that not making mistakes in such matters can be very important, that worries me.

The voice of Krishna is as different from the voice of Christ as the voice of patriotism is -- and as easy to confuse, if one is not watchful. But Christ does not say, "Remember my name and fight." He does not justify violence by saying that it's all a passing show anyway, as Krishna does. (Gita xi.32-33) Nor does he say, Kill your human enemies, because I your God am on your side in this war and have already ordained that they are to be slain. (Gita xi.34) No, he uses the fact that it's all a passing show to impose nonviolence on his disciples (John 18:36).

Nor does Christ tell us that "...if a very wicked man worships Me with total devotion, even he is to be regarded as righteous, for he has the right resolution. Swiftly his soul becomes righteous, and he goes to eternal peace." (Gita ix.30-31). Unlike Krishna, Christ tells us that the righteousness and salvation of a person who single-mindedly worships him is not by any means guaranteed, and must be worked at, and moreover, worked at in the right way (Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21-23).

Again I could go on, but I am not sure what it would accomplish. The fact that trinities and virgin births crop up in other religions is true, but irrelevant to the question of, "What voice do we listen to within ourselves?"

-- Lorcan continues, "The way of the cross is also the path through not knowing, "why have you forsaken me...?"

Lorcan, Christ's "Why have you forsaken me?" was not a doubting of God, but a recitation of the opening verse of Psalm 22. And that psalm continues by describing Christ's hapless position in the world, and concludes with a prophecy of the coming triumph of the Kingdom of God. The original audience of Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 (the verses where we are told that Christ spoke these words) would have had no trouble figuring out that these words were an invocation of that psalm, and that they were thus a prophecy that Christ's seeming powerlessness was a precursor to the triumph of the Kingdom. So this verse appears in those two Gospels, not as praise of not-knowing, but as a reminder that the cross leads to the Kingdom.

-- Mark Wutka writes, "Yes, he [Gandhi] did not reject the divinity of Christ, but neither did he reject the authority and divinity of Krishna or Rama...."

That is true. Gandhi did not reject any of India's native religions. (Christianity is one of India's native religions, although followed by only a small minority there.) Gandhi was a politician, playing to his audience. That is also why he recast what he took from Christianity in Hindu terms.

-- Mark continues, "I wonder if Gandhi considered himself to hear several voices, or if he thought that Christ, Krishna and others also spoke the voice of the One that he heard inside himself. Any thoughts on that?"

Gandhi did not portray himself as led by an inner voice. He recast what he took from Christianity in terms of the Hindu principle, om tat sat ("Thou art That", i.e., ultimately you are yourself the Divine Principle.) So he did not teach satyagraha as a matter of obeying what the Voice of God tells us to do, but as a matter of doing something for yourself -- be it making your own cloth, or gathering your own salt, or governing your own actions as an independent people. And this in turn enabled him to sidestep the question of whether the overthrow of the British Raj was actually what God desired the people of India to do. Gandhi could instead focus on the question of whether the overthrow of the British Raj was what the people of India themselves desired. Oh, it was all very politic!

8:24 AM, May 02, 2006  
Blogger Lorcan said...

Oh Marshall! What a shame thee does not hang out in Irish pubs, we'd have a blast! :)
I could hear the musicians at the table, cocking a thumb over at us... "Och the Quakers are at it again!"
But I think a retreat and a big vat of tea will do just fine...
Thee writes...
"I must beg to differ. There is the voice of lust, and it is within, not without. There is the voice of greed. The voice of pride. The voice of violence, that says (when one is angry), "Go ahead, hit her. She deserves it." They are all within us, and the voice of Christ is distinguishable from them all."

Well, perhaps there are two voices, or perhaps Augustine was correct that there is no force of evil, that evil is a void, and in that void we fail to hear that still small voice, we are led to greed and violence, because we don't empathize, to see God in the other, not that there is another voice leading us astray... the Augustinian model seems to me to be more in conformity with presence to God in others...

As to Yeshua thirsting on the cross, after teaching that those with faith will not thirst, or asking why his Lord, not his Father, did forsake him, if this is an echo of the psalms or not, is not for me the question. For me, it is a reminder that even the best of us must atone for sin and seek to be forgiven and forgive. It is why my Christianity is closer to the philosophy of Jews than Romans and Greeks... is there a right or wrong in this? I don't think so. I think we all bend towards God, and he is rather forgiving. If he were not, I think he would have been a little more literal, and in my estimation, the literalism does not come from God, or even the original form of texts which presented gospel about various times, the literalism comes from the wielding of political power by men and dangerous institutions. But again, though history bears out my point of view... I don't think it makes one side right and the other wrong. It makes for a difference of approach and language, which is natural as the division and subdivision of human belief constantly illustrates.

Dearly thine
lor

2:47 PM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous Bill Samuel said...

1. On the point about Hinduism: I on on an email list where there was a dialogue between those of us who hold to the consistent life ethic and those who do not. One person posting was a Hindu. He greatly admires CLE people, but he said he can't be CLE because the Bhagavad Gita was written in war and assumes war is a natural part of life.

2. On the voices we hear, I think Marshall has got it right. Even among voices which share a lot in common, there are different voices. Marshall is right to indicate that we need to note the differences as well as the similarities. There are other voices which say some of the same things as Christ, but which are not Christ's voice and can be distinguished if we are perceptive.

Acts 4:12 (MSG)
Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one.

Now this isn't intended to mean that "Jesus Christ" is a mantra which we simply repeat in order to get our salvation ticket. The "name" traditionally involved the whole essence of a person, not just a label. The label is secondary, and as early Friends understood, one could accept Christ without even knowing the label.

And salvation is not only, or even primarily, about the bye-and-bye. The Gospels speak of it in the here and now. If we truly listen to the voice of Christ, we will be "saved" now, and will find ourselves joyfully living the life of the Cross.

Of course, many who reject Christianity are rejecting some idea or approach posited as Christian which may not be what Jesus was about at all. Because so much of the church seems to have gotten it wrong, some refer to the Gospel as the The Secret Message of Jesus.

8:04 PM, May 06, 2006  
Blogger Lorcan said...

I am, personally wary that I should have no other God but God. To put any human voice ( especially my landsman, Yeshua ) above that, As that voice, ... no matter the reasoning in faith, is to deny God's voice in my sister and brother, and therefore to be less than present to God in all. One may say thee believes that thy human idol of God is the voice thee is present to in another, but to do that is to say, there is that of God in thee, brother, but that God in thee is my God, not thy God, and saying that, thee denies the one God... just me Friends.
Thine lor

10:05 PM, May 08, 2006  
Blogger earthfreak said...

Marshall, my name is Pam, I sign it as such at the end of my comments, please feel free to use it in stead of my screen name.

Lor - I think that you and I are very much in step about theology. "No other God but God" sums it up for me, even though my belief in God is fluid and amorphous and by many folks' standards simply nonexistant.

To me God is simply beyond comprehension, that doesn't mean it's not there, it just means that any idea about God that we can fully grasp (a word, a story, a ritual) necessarily fails to fully grasp God - it is a bit of the truth, not the truth itself.

I have been following this thread, but find that there's too much to respond to, so I don't respond.

But, now that I've started, a few things I can say.

- It concerns me that there is an element that I experience in Christianity that is about exclusivism, even among the christians here. I have given up on the Christians who think I'm going to hell because I don't believe their stories, but I'm just not sure what to do with the passionate, justice oriented Christians, who I feel such affinity with in so many ways, but who think that I am misled, or missing something, becaue I dont' share their faith.

- I disagree with Marshall about voice(s). Well, mostly. I studied Indian religion in college, and was very enthralled by it, without being very interested in Krsna at all. My perception was the Krsna was like Noah or someone (except that he was explicitly God) - a character for stories, from which we can take what is useful, or seems true in the face of continuing revelation, and ignore what does not. It's a very different culture - with a very different take on things based on culture and history, but I think you can find the voice of God in it as you can in the Gospels - they are both cultural interpretations of the voice of God (for lack of a better word)

- Following on that, I know hindus (and certainly buddhists) who have a deeply rooted commitment to nonviolence that is founded in their spirituality. I'm sure we could all name 10 "christians" without thinking too hard who base their support of violence and injustice in the Bible. Do you, Marshall (and others) really claim that there is something unique about Christianity's depth, or commitment to God or (well, I would say) ahimsa???

- Just random. I am disturbed by much of what is in the Bible, and I dont' remember verses. The old testament has stories about God telling Israel to kill whole tribes, except for the virgin girls (and I have always assumed, to rape them) - let alone that Lot's virtue is demonstrated by his offer of his children to rapists.

- but the Gospels I have found mostly very inspiring, very moving. (though not in a way that I have never found in any other writing, I must say) - I read them so that I would "know what I was pissed off about" and ended up realizing that this Jesus guy was someone I could get behind. EXCEPT, for the story where he curses a fig tree for having no fruit out of season. I am completely baffled by this. I assume that it is in the story as a "ooh, look what he can do" sort of story, but to me it is simply a demonstration that Jesus was a violent spoiled brat. Does this story fit into your vision of christianity? Do you have to do any manipulations to justify it? and are they like the justifications one might use for the parts of the Gita that seem experientially spiritually untrue? Are you not horrified by that? What is your response to it?? If it's simply not true, added later or something, couldn't the same be true of the parts of the Gita that seem wrong somehow? I havne't done any study of the validity of passages of either book (or any book, for that matter) but I do wonder.

(for the record, the Bible has a greater influence on my life than the Gita does, mostly because of the culture I live in, but I don't think that means that it is inherently more valuable, to, say, God)


Lastly, I don't know if I've seen an answer yet, from any christian, about "building the kingdom" (uck, patriarchy! - ok, maybe bringing about "gospel order") by working with people who identify their spirtiual path differently. Maybe it's not a question that is of interest to christians, I'm not sure.

From my reading of the Gospels, I can't imagine that Jesus would spend a lot of time identifying and labelling his disciples and comrades. He reached out to everyone, and he did not ask any of them to believe that he was the son of God, but to help him do his work. I am a little confused when his modern day disciples seem to stray so far from his message and values in this way.


peace
Pam

1:01 PM, May 09, 2006  
Anonymous Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

Pam, you write, " It concerns me that there is an element that I experience in Christianity that is about exclusivism, even among the christians here."

That such an element exists in Christianity is true. It goes all the way back to Christ. Christ said, "Whoever is not with us is against us." He also said, "Whoever is not against us is with us." The presence of both these statements in the Gospels suggests to me that, from Christ's point of view anyway, matters are neither so hard and fast as many Christian fundamentalists think, nor so soft and fuzzy as many Unitarian-style universalists think.

You write, "I disagree with Marshall about voice(s). Well, mostly." I don't know what to make of that statement, since the second sentence renders it ambiguous. Do you disagree that lust and pride and patriotism are voices discernably different from that of Christ? If not, then you at least agree with me that there are a plethora of voices inside us, and that we have to learn to sort them out. That is what meeting for business is supposedly about.

You write, "... I think you can find the voice of God in it [Hinduism] as you can in the Gospels...." Yes indeed. I believe I've already spoken to that one. If you've forgotten what I said, please go back and re-read what I said in this very thread (above) about the guru I studied under. You are not contradicting me here, you see, though I believe that you are misunderstanding my point.

You write, "...I know hindus (and certainly buddhists) who have a deeply rooted commitment to nonviolence that is founded in their spirituality." Yes indeed. I've already spoken to that one, too. The path Christ taught was not the ahimsa of India, but something different -- a path of witness combined with nonresistance to evil, culminating in the cross. If you think that nonresistance to evil is the same thing as ahimsa, then I submit that you have misunderstood nonresistance and ahimsa both.

You write, " I am disturbed by much of what is in the Bible...." Yes indeed. The Bible is mostly history book; the history parts should not be confused with the teaching of Christ, and the history portion depicts a fairly brutal era.

You bring up the story of the cursing of the fig tree, and say you are completely baffled by this. I will assume that, since you have read the Gospels, you might recall other places where Christ spoke of the absolute necessity of bearing fruits. In John 15 Christ says that without him, we cannot bear fruit, but are withered, and tossed in the fire to be destroyed. And in the story of the fig tree Christ demonstrates that he, as God, treats all creatures with that same expectation, and handles them all the same way. This to me is a very interesting lesson, because it contradicts the general Western assumption that only humans have a capacity for doing right or for failing to do right and sinning. The God of Christ is a moral God who loves and gives as Christ describes, sending rain to fall alike on the fields of the just and the fields of the unjust -- and He expects us all to become equally loving and giving -- and those of us, be we human or fig tree, who do not become as He is and bear good fruit, he casts on the fire to be burnt.

I take it that what you have trouble with in this picture is not the idea that animals and even plants are moral agents like ourselves, but rather the implication that those who do not bear the fruits of righteousness -- either because they choose to do evil, or because they sit around on their butts and do nothing -- will be destroyed. I presume you have less trouble with the Hindu/Buddhist idea that those who choose to do evil will be reincarnated in the realm of demons or the realm of animals or the realm of hungry ghosts or whatever for ages beyond counting --? Such countless ages of punishment make the most vicious right-wing ideas of punishment in this world look like wishy-washy liberalism.

But okay, so let us imagine that the universe is not as Christ describes; let us imagine that those who do not bring themselves into conformity with goodness are simply allowed to get away with evil with impunity. That is the world you prefer? Good heavens -- why?

You ask whether I am horrified by Christ's cosmology. No. I am not really interested in it, frankly. If I were interested in cosmologies, I think I'd be much more horrified by the cosmology of modern science, which not only teaches that the wicked can get away with it with impunity, but also teaches that everyone will perish utterly when they die, and that everything will perish in the heat death of the universe. Now that to me is an utterly depressing, downright creepy teaching.

What interests me, though, is not cosmology, but the practice of righteousness; and on that count I find Christ to be a far better moment-by-moment instructor than Krishna. Krishna's value system is consistent with behaviors like that of the guru I studied under. Christ's is not. You cannot behave like Torquemada while remaining consistent with the teachings of Christ; but you can behave like Torquemada while remaining consistent with the teachings of Krishna.

You write, "Lastly, I don't know if I've seen an answer yet, from any christian, about 'building the kingdom'..." Well, how about an answer from this Christian? I will say that "building the kingdom" is not Christian at all, but rather, an example of what early Friends called "will-worship" -- meaning, doing what you want and making yourself believe that it's what God wants. God doesn't want or need us building the kingdom, because His kingdom is in fact already built. As Christ puts it in the non-canonical, but apparently authentic, Gospel of Thomas, "The Father's kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people do not see it." The challenge to this Christian Quaker is not to "build the kingdom", but to learn to be a good citizen of that kingdom which is already spread out here.

Is there room for working with people of other faiths in my world-view? Certainly there is. I've been working with people of other faiths all my life. I just don't look at it in terms of "building the kingdom". I look at it in terms of hearing Christ's voice, which teaches me to be more loving and kind and fair and just than I've been so far in my life.

Pam, I'm sorry, but I have to drop out of this conversation at this point. I will leave this Saturday morning on a walk across the country from here in my home town of Omaha, Nebraska, to Harrisonburg, Virginia, and I need the little time I have left before I start out, to prepare. Please forgive me. I will try my best to read your response to this missive before I go, but I don't think I will have time to write any further postings here.

10:52 PM, May 09, 2006  
Blogger earthfreak said...

Marshall - thank you for your reply, I completely understand about it being the last one. You and your journey are in my thoughts.

As I think I've said, this conversation is getting a little bigger than I feel I can get my brain around, so I fear I leave something unsaid, or incompletely said, quite often. I regret this, but don't seem to be able to really change it.

About voices: I guess I meant that I agree that we face promptings from things like lust and greed in addition to promptings of the spirit, but am uncomfortable with equating them. perhaps I see them less as promptings and more as obstacles? I'm not sure. I was worried about calling them all "voices" as if spirit, or christ, is just one of many salesmen trying to get our attention, I think there's a fundamental difference that I find essential to hold to.
I think I also reacted to what I saw as lumping the voice of Krsna (for example) with the voice of lust. Firstly, I think it's insulting to people who believe in Krsna,

more importantly perhaps, if you're not belittling or dismissing others with it, you're basically agreeing to polytheism, and simply holding Jesus as your favorite of the Gods (well, I can't say what you're doing, but that's how it comes across to me)

I am a monotheist, to the extent I am a theist. In my opinion, Krsna is a myth that reveals some divine truths. Buddha and Jesus are historical personages, unfortunately (?) heavily mythologized, who revealed some divine truths. This is what I mean by "one voice" - there is (maybe) one (incredibly complex) "Truth" and all of religion - Krsna, Jesus, Buddha, Gaia, etc, are tools that reveal it - like writing, speech, song, music, art, language,....... are tools that reveal it. Art is true, but not in a way that makes music not true.

I did "hear" you about the guru you studied with. I think perhaps I didn't fully understand. Do you think that other religious paths offer access to the light, but Christianity is simply right for you? Or do you think that they are missing something that is more true, in Christianity?? (I know you can't answer this, I just wanted to pu the question out there, for anyone...)


Apparently we simply differ greatly in terms of cosmology. I don't believe that God punishes the wicked, mostly because I don't believe there exists that sort of "wickedness" - the concept of sin as "missing the mark" made so much sense of it to me. I feel that even those who murder, or commit genocide, are "missing the mark" by a HUGE margin, due to various inputs, but not that their souls are lost. The God I believe in witll gather ALL of them to his breast, and heal, and comfort.

Similarly, if Jesus is divine, and not simply an impatient, bratty human I wouldn't expect him to curse someone who failed to bear truth, but to call them AGAIN to bear fruit. He has all eternity to wait, no?

This, in particular:

let us imagine that those who do not bring themselves into conformity with goodness are simply allowed to get away with evil with impunity. That is the world you prefer? Good heavens -- why?

because I do not see it as "getting away with" - I believe that evil is, to some extent, it's own "punity" - and if God is something better than petty, fallable human beings, I expect him to forgive and forgive and forgive, and call us, again, to "bring ourselves into conformity with goodness" (though the word conformity gives me the heebie jeebies, perhaps to bring ourselves into the light, or into the flow of goodness)


As for the difference between ahimsa and Jesus' teachings, I know that it's there, but I know that what resonates in me about both is one thing.

Perhaps another confusion is that I don't hear a message of nonresistance to evil (which surprises me, as you're the one who doesn't want to see people "get away with it") but of nonVIOLENT (active) resistance to evil - not that you sit there in the middle of Nazi Germany and think about the goodies to come in the afterlife, but that you resist with all your soul, without committing violence, even against the violent.

(are you saying the Jesus thinks we shouldn't have had the civil rights movement? that Gandhi was wrong??)

I am also very interested in some points about Gandhi - who you say was acting on Christian principles, while still self identifying as a hindu. The line between embracing ideals and worshipping a character is very important to me - Does Gandhi count as a christian because he embraced Christian ideals? If so, am I????

Rich, are you ever going to weigh back in here? I still think that there are a lot of interesting questions unaddressed, but then I think perhaps we find different questions interesting.


Lastly - I am more interested in the practice of righteousness than in cosmology as well, and would think that that would lend itself to universalism (righteousness is important, where cosmology is not) I hear that you find Jesus to be a better teacher than Krsna, and since you have tried both, I defer to your experience. I havne't found a single-minded focus on Christ to be the best path. And I wonder if (or why) finding the right path, as opposed to finding your path, isn't more important?


I really like what you said about learning to be a citizen of the kingdom, rather than building it. I don't know if I fully agree (that it's here, fully realized, without our work) but it's a good new way to think about it.

peace
Pam

1:24 PM, May 11, 2006  
Blogger earthfreak said...

Rich -

I have been regretting feeling so far (or maybe not so terribly far, but anyway) afield from your original post, which I think has a richness that deserves more attention.

I found myself particularly moved by your vision of the "church" that you are looking for in quakerism.

and

I understand and yet wish to delve deeper into this:

but it's obviously a little difficult for any group to wholeheartedly serve Christ if many members aren't even sure he exists.

I think my question here is, "what matters?" and I feel like I've tried to ask it so many times that perhaps I should get the hint that I should give up ang go home, but I'm not ready.

I guess I experience Christ (and/or what I'm minded of when you speak of your Christ) is bigger than words, or the Bible.

I believe that it IS possible to fully give your heart to and to serve what's important (Christ Spirit?) without accepting any certain facts to be true, perhaps even without having read the Bible (let alone having read it and holding it as more significant than other books) This is what it means to me to speak of the inner light. It is what it means to me to say that the kingdom of God is at hand.

I am currently reading Borg's "The Heart of Chrisitianity" - and he does repeatedly describe the word "Christian" so as to exclude me, and yet I find myself there.

He speaks (or quotes) at one point about faith being like floating in the ocean - about trusting enough to stay afloat rather than sinking.

For me the metaphor brought up so many (unintentional?) perhaps secondary metaphors - The ocean is so vast, it may be hard to trust because we can't see the bottom, or the shore, we may not understand why we stay afloat (the equation for buoyancy, or the salt content of the water)

And I experienced those worries as what religion seeks to address - there IS a bottom, there IS a shore, there IS an equation that says that you will float, but whether you know these things, whether you believe these things without proof, whether you disbelieve or doubt these things, whether the thought of these things has never occurred to you is MUCH less important to whether you float than trust, experience, response, trust, response.

I think that's how I experience God, (or whatever)

peace
Pam

6:17 PM, May 11, 2006  
Blogger earthfreak said...

oops, a few clarifications,

two posts ago I said something like the wicked aren't wicked because their souls are lost, which is perhaps totally contrary to what I meant. Their souls ARE lost - but doesn't God seek them, like a lost sheep, rather than casting them in a fire??

As to "what matters?" in terms of building or finding the true church, and belief in christ being central, my point is, more simply, that there are many many many people in this country who believe that Christ exists who in my opinion are doing their best to destroy the true church (a futile effort, sure, but still) and there are some, who don't necessarily believe in Christ, at least by various definitions, but DO believe in much of what he taught (whether they even heard it from him, or know they did, or not) Are neither of them invited to be the church with you? It's hard for me to believe, I'll say again, that What Jerry Falwell brings to the effort is more helpful than what I would bring. (and it hurts)

peace
Pam

6:27 PM, May 11, 2006  
Blogger Lorcan said...

Marshall, my loving prayers are with thee each step of thy journey... and... I expect this tread will be going strong when thee returns home and thy feet are soaking in the epsom salts!
I have not even begun to parse out my thoughts on Richards insightful piece, all this was just the firs blush! Richie, I think thee has set us out on a journey of words to rival the epic walk our dear Friend Marshall is setting out on...
Marshall, may God grace thy every step with strenth and joy.
lor

8:41 PM, May 11, 2006  
Blogger Dave Carl said...

Marshall wrote:

That guru showed a remarkable indifference to the sufferings of people around him, which is why I did not stay with him. And that to me is why I am a little more careful than to say, merely, "the light is the light is the light" and "a connection is a connection is a connection".

As Pam has already pointed out, one can find examples of religious leaders in Christianity that might not reflect the highest and best. If one were looking for Hindu teachers or doctrine that emphasizes care for the sufferings of others, one wouldn't have to look far. There is in Hinduism for example the concept of "Karma Yoga," or Action taken to alleviate the suffering of others. One can also look to Thich Nhat Han's "engaged Buddhism."

Its easy, and too common, to find something derogatory in one religion and to compare it with the best in another. Where there is a desire to do this, the arguments will be endless, and the seeds of violence are sown. When the desire to prove one's own rightness by identifying with a "superior" path subsides, we will be on our way to Peace.

5:15 PM, May 22, 2006  

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