Six days ago I released this music video, which has been shared widely among Friends.
Some of the lyrics have provoked dialogue, specifically about the relationship between modern Quakerism and Christianity. Here are a few of my own thoughts…
Let’s start with:
“I’m not a Christian
but I’m a Quaker
I’ve got Christ’s Inner Light
But he’s not my savior.”
If you visited my website seeking an anti-Christian Quaker manifesto, you were probably disappointed. After a Guilford College education and a year living in community with all types of spiritual seekers at Pendle Hill, I am decidedly “Christian-curious” and have no illusions about the roots of my religion.
One job of the artist is to tap into the pulse of a community and give voice to the knots that need to be unraveled in order to move toward clarity and healing.
So if you are surprised and slightly offended by the theological statements in the song, you might be amazed by the number of Friends who approach me in solidarity with its handling of the Quakerism/Christianity relationship.
Alternately, if you find yourself in solidarity with the song’s message, you might be surprised by the number of Friends who contact me, confounded and upset by this particular approach.
Or, you might not be surprised at all.
Sometimes these two types of Quakers are living in the same communities and attending the same Meetings, but they have watered down their language so much that they never have to confront their differences.
More often, their Meeting houses are separate but in the same cities, ignoring each other altogether.
Please start talking to each other.
(If it sounds a bit like I’m talking to my parents, estranged from one another and stubborn about an old conflict, it’s because I am. Many folks in my generation – the generation that is inheriting the religion – are dissatisfied with the branches we’ve been given and the older generation’s resignation. See: convergent Friends)
Truth-telling often breaks open a scar – previously painful, static and hidden – now painful and fluid, out in the open. It is up to us to breathe mindfully and speak our hearts, doing our part to see that the breaking open moves toward healing and reconciliation rather than furthering the divides between us.
…and as happy as I am for my artist-character to be receiving attention around a controversial idea, the important thing is that there is peaceful, clarifying and reconciling dialogue in our communities (here’s my plug to book me to come to your Meeting and help foster that dialogue in person).
It can be overwhelming to think about “healing” the splits, and perhaps it is not God’s intention for Quakerism to return to being one big whole. But certainly we are not meant to simply ignore the discrepancies in our spiritual identity without engaging in dialogue…? It is uncomfortable, but for God’s sake, can we just speak our truth, breathe, examine it, love ourselves, each other and the truth as it is in the present moment? Be truthful, be courageously faithful, the next step will be revealed in good time.
We are not Christians and non-Christians. We are humans: beautiful, afraid, in pain. Love your neighbor.