A Friend After 50 Years

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

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Location: Arkansas

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Back in the Bloggle

Its been awhile since I've posted here. Even shut it down for awhile. I was a bit chagrined when I read another Friend's blog in which she announced she was shutting it down, because someone thanked her for having the courtesy to explain what was going on. I really didn't intend to go away for so long. But I wondered about the "accountability" of just shutting it down with no explanation. I'm not conceited enough to think this was of concern to anyone at all, although a few Friends in my meeting mentioned it.

My thinking about this blog and its purpose has undergone some significant change. Initially the idea was to share, well, whatever I felt led, in a serious Quaker sense of "leading," to share. It turned out though that this became a place to explore some of my "issues" with Christianity, and to struggle with what it meant to be a "Friend" -- looking at some of my aversion and fear of the Christian label, while at the same time feeling drawn to the roots of Quakerism in the Bible, or at least the light that they found evidenced there. I half-expected myself to reach some sort of watershed some day in which I would here proclaim that I had "found Jesus" and was now "a Christian."

The truth is a little different and perhaps much stranger. But suffice to say for now that that struggle subsided. I do feel "engaged with" the Judaeo-Christian tradition. I'm currently reading "The Great Omission" by Dallas Willard, a book about the need in evangelical Christianity for discipleship to Christ, which he asserts comes through "the disciplines" such as silence, solitude, fasting, journaling, and others. The goal, he says, is to become ever more like Christ. While these disciplines do not "earn" us anything, they open us to God's grace. "Grace is not opposed to effort, only earning," he says. This speaks to me because, while I still really don't grok what the Nicene creed, for example, says about Jesus, he is a figure I can't really ignore. I have no personal conviction that he is actually "present" in the sense that, say, Rich in Brooklyn, is present (hey Rich!) (never met him personally but reading his blog makes his present existence fairly convincing). But, if Christianity can have any meaning for me, than it has to be more centered on what Jesus was "about" than upon Jesus himself. While Willard probably wouldn't go that far, he does emphasize that doing what Jesus taught and learning to be more like him is an essential piece of what a Christian must do. So while my dubiousness about worshiping Jesus as a Lord would probably exclude me from membership in most Christian circles, the "praxis" of opening myself to the possiblity of living his teachings might place me somewhere in the Christian stratosphere.

7 Comments:

Blogger MartinK said...

Hi Dave Carl,
Funny to see how long it actually was since your last post. For some reason you never felt so very far away. Blogging is a very public sharing, even when semi-pseudonym'ed and it makes perfect sense that it might cycle just as our convictions and openings might cycle. Glad to see you back and glad you're coming to a synthesis of sorts about your spiritual understandings.
Your Friend, Martin @ Quaker Ranter

9:58 PM  
Blogger David Carl said...

Martin,

Well I've been making a nuisance of myself on other people's blogs, so perhaps it was hard to miss when I wouldn't really go away! Thanks for the welcome back though. And hey, I made it on QQ right off the bat!

David

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post. I think I feel similar to you in a few ways. First I would call myself a christian, but I know a great deal of christians would not agree. Second I just don't resonate with the whole "believing in Jesus" thing. I respect many people who would say this, but it seems like a distraction to me from taking discipleship seriously.

It seems to me there is some really important territory to mark off here. I think I great argument can be made that what "christ" and "messiah" mean in Mark, the earliest gospel is very different than John, the latest. Then it just gets even more different as you get to the Nicene Creed. I think that a great many more people would be open to wrestling with Jesus' message if the teachings and life of Jesus were separated more from the later theology of "belief".

Take care, Andrew

1:03 PM  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

Hi Dave,
I'm glad you're back. You've been on my mind because of some good comments on my blog, during the discussion of Chuck Fager's book on liberal Quakerism, that I never fully responded to. Maybe now I will.

I guess I never thought you'd disappeared. I write on my blog "when I can", and I assume that other bloggers do the same.

As for whether you're in the Christian circle: Who honors the Teacher more? One who ostentatiously calls him teacher or one who takes to heart his teaching?
- - Rich A-E (Brooklyn Quaker)

5:57 AM  
Blogger forrest said...

Hi, thanks for being an occasional "nuisance" over on http://kwakerskripturestudy.blogspot.com/!

I think being "Christian" means striving to have Jesus's "flesh & bones" as the Zen teachers would have it, not so much "to become ever more like Christ" but to "see out from under the same eyebrows." Your Willard's way of putting it sounds like I'd be trying to become "holier than me" and the other says that if I can see what Jesus saw, that will imply acting accordingly.

If Christianity merely means "being good" or "accepting Jesus," then there's no obvious need to struggle with the Bible, which keeps bringing up all those inconvenient questions, inconvenient at least if we think we've got It All covered. If we think we're going to find "the Answers in the Back of the Book," that's another unprofitable approach. If we look at it, (like the world) as an occasion and means for God to teach us what we don't know...

Yes, I too have had this same obsession with learning "what Jesus was about." Not an easy question, though I think I've come to a closer confusion than I started with. But how else to follow _him_ rather than some pious picture?

Well. I hope I remember to check this site more often, and that you keep finding new groks to outgrib!

6:00 PM  
Blogger Tania said...

Like you, I'm also dubious about worshipping Jesus as Lord, but focus mainly on trying to follow his teachings. For me personally, I've found giving up my identity as a Christian has allowed me the freedom to truly grow in my faith without feeling the burden of trying to fit into a pre-defined mold. (Oddly, I don't feel that same burden when I define myself as a Quaker... maybe it's just a better fit?) I don't know if that exercise might be worthwhile for you or not, but I have found it beneficial for me.

8:11 PM  
Blogger David Carl said...

Andrew,

I've long held a position similar to yours about "belief." I think, however, that perhaps our notion of "belief" as maintaining the truth of a particular assertion may be narrower than the original meaning in scripture. My Strongs dictionary (which I don't have in front of me at the moment) defines the Greek word as encompassing reliance and trust as well as intellectual agreement. So there's a sense in which "belief" for Jesus may have been very different than the assent to a particular idea. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it had more to do with "letting go" of our notions, as Fox urged, than with insisting on their truth. Lilies of the field, and all that.

Rich,

Agreed! Thanks for stopping by, and I'll be looking for that response!

Forrest,

I think I'd take some sort of middle road between those two poles, not a compromise, but perhaps a "both/and." I have no objection to becoming "holier than me," although paradoxically I believe that being more authentically me-as-I-am-right-now is a critical part of that. I think we can do ourselves great damage by trying to "play God" with ourselves and rejecting or suppressing that which we judge unfit. On the other hand, there comes time when the agony of the "unfit" presses upon our attention enough so that we are impelled to find a better way. Not just one that is better on some sort of objective moral scale, but one that actually "feels" better, although that's certainly not an exclusive test. I'd add to that the "outer" check of Jesus' teachings, reasonableness, the concurrence of Friends, and the like.

Tania,

Thanks for joining in the discussion. "Identity as a Christian" is for me something that sort of hazily fades in and out. I was not raised in any particular religious tradition, so on the one hand, I don't have much baggage to jettison. On the other hand, my interest in Quaker spirituality and its roots has led to explore our Judaeo-Christian heritage. Whether I truly are one or not, well, I guess God only knows!

12:52 PM  

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