Sunday, January 13, 2008

Jesus and Quakers: Trying to reconcile faith

I have not been quite so good at meditation the meeting lately. Sometimes I think it has to do with being less anxious about things. In other words, when I am less stressed and anxious I am less able to focus on seeking peace. That sounds like the opposite of natural to me, but it is definitely something I have noticed. I guess it is kind of like the fact that when I am in trouble, worried, or anxious I pray. When things are going okay, I don't ask for as much help. It's seems pretty natural to me.

In an attempt to get some good thought in this morning at meeting I decided to spend my time reading a book a friend gave me when I went home. The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne. The book starts off with author talking about his experience as a youth in the church. He talked about the countless youth rallies an the fact that he was born again year after year. He organized the See You at the Poles gatherings where prayer was brought into public school by students. He referred to all of his efforts in high school in terms of masturbation. Feels good, but unlike sex there is no born child afterwards. (No comments on masturbation intended) It felt really familiar. Made me cry a little actually. All those memories from high school and the high intensity Christianity tend to be really painful for me, and to identify with someone so closely reminds me how real it was.

So Mr. Clairborne is talking about the shift that the church has taken away from the moral majority and how there is a seeming revolution within the church. He goes away to Christian college after his fervent high school days, and there he seeks a true Christian- which is someone is willing to act in Christ like manner by serving people. He repeats things like the fact that Jesus was homeless and he was a revolutionary and other such things that I cannot recall right now. He talks about how a group of his students at his college ban together to support this homeless community that lives in a tent city and is being evicted from a church. The students stay with this community for months in order to protect them for the police and eventually the city and other local organizations provide assistance so that the population can disburse to houses and leave the tent city. In this abandoned church among dedicated students and homeless he is able to see the church that believes in- a community of people supporting and loving each other- something that is so foreign to the complacent church services he felt forced to attend by his own conscious, but not really his heart.

He goes on to talk about his experience volunteering in Calcutta and working in a leper community where he forms close relationships with people from many different walks of life. He explains that it is in these relationships and bonds between people that he is able to see true Christianity and really see Jesus.

I have a lot more of the book to go, but what I gathered this morning in meeting is that fact that Claiborne is stating that we can be very fed up with Christianity and the Church, but perhaps we are not seeing the real church and the real existence of God within people that can truly bring the tenants of Christianity into a very illuminated and REAL light.

It made me think about my grudge with Christianity and all my Jesus Camp experiences. It made me think about how I have felt so wounded by certain aspects of my faith that I have wanted to through the whole thing out at points. But what he was saying really resonated with me in current state of Quakerism. The Quakers belief something of God in everyone. They believe that we should look for this undefined (G)god in everyone, and as Clairborne said he saw Jesus in all these people is sounded like a very similar idea to me.

After meeting, at lunch with D I talked about the fact that I need to start a healing process with Christianity. I need to accept the hurt in the past and try to move forward and to accept certain positive aspects. I need to decide or at least meditate more on the tenants that were and still are very important to me. It's hard to describe that process in one blog post, and to really give a good glimpse at this book without truncating thing a lot. But it was refreshing and good and it made me feel like-sometime in the future- I will be able to combine my Quaker experience with the old aspects of my faith that are really important to me. It's a lot to reconcile, and I honestly have no desire to wrap up all my beliefs and ideas into a very tightly packaged and pretty little box. The desire is more to feel whole in my present- not by casting off the past, but by using as a stepping stone to faith that I am confident in. Confidence in terms of feeling free to question and be open- rather than having bitterness towards painful things from my past.

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