(This is also Barclay Press #8)
I’ve said many times that I’ve found my spiritual home as a Quaker. I identify myself as a Christ-Centered Quaker. I’m going to take a stab at trying to write some of the reasons why.
I’ll start with things that are important and meaningful, but aren’t necessarily the most fundamental reasons: I married into a family with deep Quaker roots. I’m put off by hierarchy and energized by community. Silence as a worship form has become an open door for me to encounter the Divine Other. Out of, say, the top 50 most influential people in my life, a good 85% are Quakers. Friends’ serious commitment to living moment by moment in the light and joy and direction of the Holy Spirit is so incredibly rich.
But I suppose the fundamental reason I’m a Quaker is this radical way of life where an intimate, alive relationship with God is married to a holistic, all-encompassing, action-oriented embrace of social justice. It’s the beautiful bonding of the vertical and horizontal relationships in our lives, the bewildering balance of mysticism and activism.
George Fox’s spiritual searching led him to a field where he could hear these famous words: “There is one who can speak to thy condition, Christ Jesus.” It’s easy to see how that opening would lead to an intense, mystical, spiritual encounter with God. What’s absolutely mind-blowing to me is how that opening broadened. From Fox to the present, Friends have believed that any person can hear from God, and that God is alive and active in every single person on the planet. That potential for each person to be a recipient of Divine Grace becomes the basis upon which social justice is built. If God can speak to anyone, without exception, then each and every person has worth and value in God’s sight. It becomes our responsibility to fight the social structures which devalue persons into “things” or “animals” or “them” or “enemies”.
Each Quaker distinctive–plain speech, plain dress, pacifism, everyone a minister, etc.– and each Quaker social movement–education reform, prison reform, abolition, women’s sufferage, etc.– has its foundation in the belief that all are equal before God. What makes us equal is our origin (as children of God) and our opportunity (to hear the still small voice, to be illuminated by the Light of Christ). The reason for social action and the empowerment for social action is the individual’s encounter with the living God. I love that combination, and find Quakers to be in the minority of Christians who try to bring them together.
That’s part of why I’m a Quaker.