(This is a part of my “Top Ten things that drive me crazy about Quakers” list.)
7. Individualistic, self-defined faith
George Fox famously described the power of a real encounter with God in his journal:
â€œWhen all my hopesâ€¦in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help meâ€¦then, oh then, I heard a voice which said, â€˜There is one, even Christ Jesus, who can speak to thy conditionâ€™.â€
When we translate that into â€œDonâ€™t try to tell ME how the Spirit speaksâ€, a dangerous line has been crossed.
Individual Quaker practices like silence, solitude, centering, and listening cannot be separated from community Quaker practices like meetings for clearness, eldering, submitting, consensus, and gathered worship. When the life-giving truth that each one of us can hear from God isnâ€™t grounded with the healthy realism that we often hear incorrectly and need others to help us, â€œGodâ€ devolves into â€œmeâ€. We donâ€™t get to define God, nor can we escape the fact that to be Quaker means to be submissive to a community. We must correct, admonish, challenge, and submit to each other in love.