Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Max Carter, and Quaker parallels with Anne Rice and Christianity?

Today I read Max Carter's recent article in the Washington Post about Anne Rice's decision to leave Christianity in order to remain committed to her relationship with Jesus. 

I was struck by something Max wrote:

Unfortunately, too many Christians - among them many Friends - are caught up in "notionalism," equating faithful Christianity with particular notions about proper dogmas, doctrines, creeds, formulas, rituals, and social norms.

And I couldn't help wondering, How might this be true of Quakerism itself today?  

Are there ways we, as Friends, equate faithful Quakerism with particular notions about proper norms -- proper behavior and thoughts?  

Are there ways we look more at how someone -- ourselves or someone else -- fits the external notion of Quakerism, rather than how they are faithful to the Light within, to Quaker worship, or to Quaker process?

How do we tell if they're faithful to the Light within, Quaker worship, and Quaker process, anyway? 

How do we tell, when we know someone, if they're a "good Quaker" or not?  What do we look for to tell us that? 

I was reminded of something Merry Stanford once said in an article in Friends Journal:

...I yearned so strongly to belong that I strove to be a "good" Quaker, rather than an authentic one.

How do we ask each other to be "good" Friends, rather than authentic Friends?


Catharine said...

Argh. Just lost my comment.

What I was trying to say is this:

I have gone through periods -- notably when I was with a congregation of Roman Catholic religious sisters (amazing women!) -- when trying to be "good" overwhelmed being "authentic." Eventually, though, I am happy to say, authenticity has won out.

I'm going to a mainline Protestant seminary in the fall, and I worry about this same dynamic. I pray every day to be open to my leadings and callings, more than to my perceptions of what is expected of a "good" seminarian.

staśa said...


I hate it when that lost comment thing happens.

Thanks for stopping by, and for commenting!

My seminary colleagues are very, very different from me. But then, one of the things I love about CHS is that we're all quite different from each other, and there's very little pressure to conform in that way. (Even the one other Quaker who's been in any of my classes is not much like me!) One of the other things I love is my colleagues' patience and their commitment to helping me be faithful, and I hope that you also find that.

Friends Journal recently had a special issue on Earlham School of Religion's 50th anniversary. I read it with anticipation and dread. I didn't go to ESR because I'm not Christian, and I still feel that was a right decision. Yet in the stories I read of life at ESR, I still found a lot that was very close to my experience at Cherry Hill -- and that very much surprised me.

I will hold you in the Light that you be open and faithful, rather than notional and "good." And please let me know if there's any other way I can be supportive.

staśa said...

p.s. And may your seminary experience be growthful, wonderful, Spirit-filled, grace-filled, and blessed; and may you learn a lot.