Tuesday, October 28, 2008

To know as we are known

I trust that Parker Palmer will not mind my using his title for this post. I have a great deal of difficulty in determining a good title for each posting. Finding the "right" words remains a real challenge for me. My sentiments were once expressed in a couple of "Haiku" that I wrote. Haiku is in quotes because I know these are not true Haiku. However, for my more analytically inclined mind:
Simplicity is
A thought of five, seven and
Five syllable lines.

Expressions on paper
are still portraits of a mind
that is yet growing

Writing is etching
My innermost thoughts in a
Solid frozen trap.

Often I do feel trapped by my inadequacy/inability to put my beliefs, experiences, and thoughts into words.
Thus the title for my last blog "First Unknown Guide" may have given a different interpretation than the one meant. In response to a comment: Yes, I do believe in "God." However, I do not "know" who or what God is. Over the years there have been times that I have tended to avoid the use of the words God or Christ because I knew I did NOT mean what others were describing. I will give a few examples of my experiences and then try to give some expression to what I believe "God is."

I do NOT believe in God the Creator in the way that those who believe in Creationism or Intelligent Design do. I do not believe that the Genesis storIES describe historical FACTS in the way that many do. Genesis 1 and 2 give two different sequences of Creation which are mutually exclusive. One places Adam BEFORE plants and animals and THEN Eve is made from Adam. My view is that this was a cultural description of the way the world/society IS (at the time of the writing). Man was the "master" of gathering plants and hunting animals while Woman was to keep the "home fires burning" for him and to provide future generations. The other Creation story tries to describe the natural world as observed in relationship to people. The primary and largest factors were the earth, the sky, water, movements of the "heavens," and then the living things in an order that seemed to make sense from the human point of view with humans being the highest and some how different having the "breath of God." I strongly believe these to be true descriptions of the "human condition" as seen by the writers of Genesis.

I do NOT believe in a God that has been depicted by several "ministers of the gospel" I have known or read about who have made the following "statements:"
At the funeral of a six year old child the mother was told by the "minister" that it was a shame that the child was in hell because she had not been "saved."
My father, a minister, being told by his "fundamentalist" uncle, also a "minister," that he, my father, was going to hell because he did not have written in his Bible the DATE of his "salvation."
"God answers prayers so explicitly that if I am in a hurry I pray that God will turn the stoplights to green for me and I believe he will." (Not an exact quote, but as close as I can remember.)
God is He and sits on His throne in Heaven.
God is a She.
God is in 3 separate parts: God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The hurricane was God's punishment for the sins of ...
AIDS is God's punishment for homosexuality.

I DO believe that "God" is a "presence" that allows humans to make mistakes.
When I was asked "Where was God during the holocaust?" I did resort to anthropomorphism in saying: "God was there crying."
When I experienced, in a VERY few instances, a truly GATHERED meeting, God was "in the midst."
God provides strength and "power" to allow LOVE to overcome individual and group weaknesses to achieve "super"human accomplishments.
God's strength and presence was evident in Jesus' life.
The same strength and presence was and is evident in other individuals' lives. These individuals were and are not perfect but the kingdom of God became apparent as the will and intent of "God" was being done on earth in a physical way that demonstrated spiritual TRUTH and REALITY.

Some of these individuals are those who, at various times in my own search and journey, I have selected as "guides" to the path or way which I would like to follow but so often stray from. It is when I stray that I tend to look "back" to the way in which I have come and look for the "markers" left by other guides so that I may more closely follow the WAY. On only a VERY FEW occasions have I experienced the presence that shows me the way forward or leads me to a "clearing" where I can rest in the strength and power that lets me continue my search.


  1. Tom, you say you want interaction, but it is very frustrating to try to interact with you.  I asked one question (Do you believe in God?), and you couldn't answer it Yes except by putting the word God between quotation marks (you use way too many quotation marks, not just here, incidentally. If you're writing plain English you don't need to litter your text with quotation marks).  Then you went on to write at great length about what you don't believe, even though I hadn't asked you about those things, don't believe most of them myself, and it's unlikely that anyone reading this blog ever thought for a moment that you believed them.  (For crying out loud, even the most hellfire oriented preacher I know doesn't think little children go to hell; whoever said that about a six-year-old must have been very unusual.)  For my part, I don't even believe in hell.

    I don't think the book of Genesis is history, but why did you have to launch into a discussion of what you think it is about?  I didn't ask about that book; neither did anyone else.

    I do believe that God created the universe.  (The phrases you use, "Creationism" and "Intelligent Design," belong to particular contemporary debates which you and I are not engaged in; we can do without them here.)

    I try to trust God and let Him run my life (yes, I think He is of the masculine gender; that's the only one of your points I disagree with).  I do call Him Christ, without thereby implying that I agree with all the professing Christians who ever lived (for pete's sake they don't all agree with one another!).  I do think He lived, died, and rose again as Jesus.

    But I don't know how far we can get with finding out what we agree on, because it may be that anything I say will set off a hundred alarm bells in your head, and you will be much more interested in disowning ideas that neither of us hold than you are in talking with a real person, about the real God.

    Licia Kuenning
    Farmington/Quaker Heritage Press


  2. I am very sorry if I did not answer your question. I thought by answering what I did NOT believe in I was expressing myself in definitions that I thought were in common usage among many Christians (I almost put quotes around that word, but I guess we all understand what a Christian is. However, i don't think that ALL does include the Fundamentalist ministers that are Quakers who judge whether you believe in God or not by judging whether you believe in the inerrancy of the Bible.) However, I must be VERY FAR out of the LOOP since many of my interactions with Quakers are EXACTLY the kind described in my NOT section. Each of the instances was taken from Quaker ministers.

    Not having been involved in the Quaker blogosphere very long I wanted to try to assist in others understanding my background, experiences and relationships with Quakers. However, if I am that far out of the loop then I need to remove myself from the blogosphere so that those who want to explore each others ideas in a proper manner may do so. (I am not sure what you do believe in so I don't have alarm bells going off in my head. However, I have been in many, many discussions with Friends, Quakers and Christians in which they assumed that I believed in the things I ruled out since I called myself a Christian and a Friend and said I believed in God.)

    My "Haiku" (sorry for the quotation marks but I was taught when your usage does not fit the dictionary definition you need to indicate that you are using it in a different way than common usage.) sought to explain my sincere reluctance to try to express my very deeply held beliefs in language that did not offend, set off many alarm bells, or closed conversation.

    Again please accept my apologies and help me learn to be a contributor or advise me to try other directions for my expressions.

    I also regret not being able to figure out blogspot. I tried to post this comment and was told that "Your request could not be processed." I will try a different tactic.

  3. Hi Tom,

    It may be that you are "out of the loop" as you suggest where Internet dialogues among Quakers are concerned.  You mention having a background in the Evangelical branch of Quakerism, so you probably know more Evangelical Friends than I do.  I have come in contact with some, but my impression is that they do not make much use of the Internet, at least for dialoguing with other Quakers.  The ones who do get involved in Quaker forums don't take such extreme positions as the positions you felt you had to disavow.  So I was inclined to think that you were exaggerating.  My impression of you was that you were obviously a liberal, but one with a defensive attitude and a need to caricature Christians (there are lots of liberals like that).

    I don't know whether you should remove yourself from the blogosphere.  I do not have a lot of experience with the blogosphere myself; most of my Internet dialoguing has been on e-mail lists.  But e-mail lists seem to be dying out, and wanting some interaction I started making comments on Rich Accetta-Evans' blog.  I thought we had an interesting discussion going on his blogspot, but I noticed that for some reason I couldn't figure out, you were dissatisfied with it.  You invited us to look at your blog, so I did.  What I would like to see more of, if you are going to continue, is clearer and more positive expressions of your ideas (and/or open-ended questions), and less defensiveness, negativity, and what comes across to me as compulsive political correctness.

    Your haiku didn't offend me, I just didn't have anything to say about it.

    You wrote, "I also regret not being able to figure out blogspot.  I tried to post this comment and was told that 'Your request could not be processed.'" That one puzzled me the first time I saw it, but they say "Try again," and I have found that when I try a second time, it works. :-)  Eventually you may figure out how to have your comments begin "Tom Smith said" instead of "Anonymous said."

    As for the definition of the word "God," it is a common English word, and nobody (so far as I know) thinks that "I believe in God" means "I believe in the entire doctrinal system of such-and-such church."  I think I could mention God to any of my neighbors and be understood, no matter what religious group they belong to or even if they have no religion.  It means, roughly, the big guy upstairs who runs this whole show.

    As for what I believe, I've expressed some of my beliefs on Rich's blog, and you can learn more about me (and about two novels I wrote that God comes into) at the first of the two website links below.

    Licia Kuenning
    Farmington/Quaker Heritage Press


    "All my cats are in one basket."


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