Entries in Quakerism & Other Religions (6)
The problem that FGC is saddled with here is that the debate is between two groups whose respective hopes for Quakerism are half-way irreconcilable.
Each of these groups has the sneaking suspicion that, if it loses the struggle over the Quaker Sweat Lodge, this will be the first step toward losing more and more — until, ultimately, it will lose its chance for its kind of Quakerism altogether.
Every community needs to employ the services of its members, under the direction of some leader or at least some group of coördinators, in order to convert its human energy into the utilities that keep it alive. A Chinese community in Confucius’s day needed community work gangs for road building, ditch digging, and the like. A modern community needs police, firefighting, medical services, schoolteaching, electrical power, sewers, and much more.
And for these things, the community needs more from its leaders than courtesy and charity; it needs true spiritual direction, foresight, and a corporate discipline. And if the leaders or coördinators fail in their duty to provide these things, and instead allow the community’s energy and resources to be dissipated or squandered, the community is endangered.
When we think of evangelical outreach, we normally think of a message that needs to be spoken. But what Confucius was saying … raises the interesting question of whether actions might not be a better way to express the Good News than words.
If even one person manifests the body of Christ … that will be a bit of the Good News made flesh: people will be drawn to it, and will want to be in community with that person and with Christ. As with Paul and Silas’s jailer, their conversions will not be far off.
Jên is the spirit that causes a person to be welcomed into a community and kept in its embrace. It’s the bonding celebrated by Garrison Keillor and Philip Gulley.
What is by-the-numbers Quakerism worth, anyway, if human kindness is not in the picture? What is rightly-ordered meeting for business, what is plain dress be it ever so striking to the eye? What is principled behavior worth, indeed, if kindness is not a controlling part of it?
Confucius saw human beings as embedded in communities, and as beings in need of productive and satisfying rôles within communities. For most of Quaker history, Friends have seen human beings the same way.