A Friend After 50 Years

A record of one journey into a peculiar type of Quaker Christianity, and a bit of silliness to boot.

Location: Arkansas

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Why I Ask

In my previous post, "An Online Worship Sharing Opportunity" I invite Friends to share what it means to them to say that Jesus was/is alive prior to and after his human existence on earth. AJ responded and also queried: "Might I ask what is prodding your interest?" I replied that what had I initially intended as a quick answer turned into a "main-entry" length post -- and here it is:

What prompts my interest? I posted a lengthy post answering that the other day but took it down as I was dissatisfied with what I had written. I'll try again here:

First, I have no experience with membership or close associations in a Christian context. Becoming Quaker has exposed me to a tradition that, whatever else one might think about it, undeniably has Christian underpinnings. (I'll leave aside the question for the moment of whether being a Christian is necessary to being Quaker today.) Reading 21st Century Penn (see review elsewhere on this blog) provided a sort of "opening" in which the Bible became for the first time comprehensible to me as a source of spiritual understanding.

In addition, I encounter Friends online and occasionally in person for whom Christianity is central. I want to (1) at least be able to communicate respectfully with them and (2) to put it crudely, find out what may be "in it for me."

And beyond the Quaker world, I live in the Bible belt and indeed a nation in which the majority of people probably identify as Christian in one of the many ways in which that might be understood. I've always felt somewhat at sea in the good old USA, and perhaps am searching for clues to my identity and place in the Judeo-Christian heritage from which we all sprang (and have undoubtedly strayed in important respects).

Comprehensibility can be a barrier when one seeks to understand Christianity "cold," i.e., without having been raised in it. Of the various religions I've studied, this one seems -- to me -- the hardest to understand. I say that intending no disrespect, and hope no one is offended by it. From the rather copious amount of reading I've done, it would seem to me that Christians themselves often find this to be true as well.

Another factor might be one of reconciliation or at least anxiety reduction. I've long viewed Christianity as something vaguely threatening (I have Jewish forbears from Germany which might play a part in that - I grew up hearing that 10 family members perished during WWII) and life-alienating. I'd rather not go through life being fearful of a large part of the population on the one hand -- nor would I like to harbor prejudices based on my own ignorance.

My inquiry in yesterday's entry had its germination in an exchange I had with Rich in Brooklyn on his blog on what it means that Christ "exists" (his answer: the same thing as it means to say that Dave Carl exists, and I think he threw in something about the Clinton Clause) and another post recently by Cherice of Quaker Oats Live (or so I thought, can't find it at the moment...) discussing a closely related question. (I apologize for the lack of links -- my blogging time is rather limited).

Now, the "being," "aliveness" or "reality" of Jesus seems rather foundational to the faith of many if not most or all Christians. I suppose it may seem like bad form to question this too closely. To "question" often may be taken as the equivalent of "disagree with" or "look askance upon." However, my question here is sincere, and as I've already claimed, non-argumentative. I am aware from my own experience that spiritual experience is hard (if not impossible) to put into concrete terms. So I am not trying to put anyone's faith under a microscope. I guess, at bottom, I am simply seeking light on an what to me is an intriguing but often obscure topic.

Much more could be said, and what I have said is probably indaquately expressed. Its the closest I can get at the moment and will hopefully serve.

In Friendship,



Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

Rich in Brooklyn said...
Hi Dave,

Unless I'm mistaken, the dialogue you describe having with Paul L was actually a dialogue with me (unless you had the same conversation with each of us at different times). It was back on April 17th or thereabouts. The curious can read our comments then at this link.

By the way, thanks for your queries concerning the non-membership in Brooklyn Meeting of a certain flighty Friend

12:30 PM  
Blogger Dave Carl said...

Right you are Rich; my apologies to you and Paul L. I've amended my post.

And thanks for providing the link to our "flighty friends" conversation. That will save me from having to parrot what I already said there.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Charles Rathmann said...

As I read your post, I think of the distinction between Jesus and Christ. While Quakers should avoid "theology," early Friends saw Christ in all of his stations -- teacher, prophet, shepherd, and the Christ. Christ is and always ways the same -- God's salvation for man. For instance, the water that flowed from the smitten rock in the desert in Exodus 17 and Numbers 20 -- that was Christ. I am particularly drawn to the imagery of water, springs and flowing water as a descriptor for Christ. The water refreshes and sustains us, and provides for us. Powerful stuff.

Christ continues to live today in the church, which is the body of believers. The Friends of Jesus also had a deep relationship with Jesus Christ, whose ministry needs to speak through us on a daily basis. As Quakers, we are to continue Jesus' ministry and do the work of God -- so when anyone asks if Christ is alive today, we can point to each other in testimony.

There are Friends better prepared than I to discuss theology, and I suspect some on this forum will take issue for my belief that modern liberal Quakerism has largely drifted away from Truth and has become a secularized body united by liberal politics as opposed to the Gospel Order. The pendulum will swing back the other way, my Friend, as it can not swing any further away from the Everlasting Gospel. But in my own meditations, this is my understanding of the eternal role of Christ.

In the Light of Christ,
~ Charles Rathmann

12:59 PM  

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