Sunday, November 30, 2008

Friends Testimonies SPICE?

With regard to the acronym SPICE for Friends testimonies, I find it much too limiting and to a degree misleading. This implies a discrete list, like the 10 commandments. However, again like the "original" 10 commandments, much is left out. There is much disagreement as to just what should be included in the "Faith and Practice" of Friends, just as there is disagreement on just what are the 10 commandments. The Hebrew tradition doesn't necessarily have 10 commandments but rather the LAW. The Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants each seem to have slightly different versions of the 10 commandments drawn from a list of at least 13 separate statements in Exodus with a whole different version in other parts of the Torah.

I agree with those that say there was A Friends Testimony which has since been described in more explicit terms in varying forms in various "Disciplines" and "Faith and Practices." The Friends Council on Education has utilized SPICE as a short hand form to summarize these for students, parents, and teachers, the great majority of whom are not Friends. I have utilized the acronym and an added S for Stewardship that has been added by some in the more environmentally aware past few decades.

I am of an analytical mind that does tend to organize concepts into structures that seem coherent, convenient, and compact. Thus I have played with SPICE a little bit and am temporarily playing with the following:

Simplicity             ...     Stewardship 
Peace-making      ...     Prophetic
Integrity               ...      Individual
Community         ....      Compassion
Equality               ...       Excellence

( ... implies some prepositions that may fit    as/in/for/through/by/with )

Simplicity is not just for the sake of being plain but rather to allow others to share in all the resources and to indicate that material things are not to be sought for ones self)

Peace-making is a prophetic task in living for God's will rather than human occasions for war

Integrity of I AM in Truth as an individual

Community with compassion for each other 

Equality of all as children of God but each with gifts/talents to be used as much as possible

Some of these sound "trite" and are definitely NOT my "full" intent, but without writing a "book" it seems impossible to express adequately or accurately my faith and belief.



Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Positive Faith and Practice

The last couple of weeks I have spent with my daughter, Emily, her husband, Bill, and our two GRAND children, Mary 5 and Tommy 2. There is no energy shortage in that household. I am reminded again that positive energy can be exhilirating but also exhausting. Too often I see and experience negative energy as depressing and exhausting. Although I was brought up in a "strict" household, [Do not play cards other than Rook (Boy, did I just date myself), No alcohol, No tobacco and that also meant "do not chew and don't go with girls that do,"] there always seemed to be a positive attitude toward what we should be doing and how we treat others. It was much less judgemental and much more expressing love. I have started this somewhat light-heartedly both because my current family (as well as memories of my childhood) lifts my spirits, but also to introduce some positive "spin" on the topic of "Church Discipline" or "Faith and Practice."

I saw other PKs (Preacher's Kids, I grew up in the home of a Friends Minister and Missionary) whose parent(s) usually SAID - DON'T do sin or the consequences will be severe, but who often did not express love very well and seemed to feel that they could impose on others due to their "status," and their PK became the "typical bad boy." (Obviously I don't buy the stereotype since I am one, but stereotypes usually have at least some basis in reality if not truth.)

As an adult student of religious thought and beliefs, especially those of Friends, I began to choose the Chrisitan commandments of = Love God, Love your neighbor. The "Golden Rule" of Chrisianity - Do unto others as you would have them do to you - seemed much more effective, as well as demanding, than what I understand from some of the more traditional "Eastern" (What is the best word or description?) command of - Do NOT do to others what you do NOT want done to you. This seems a subtle but powerful difference in approach to life. [I have an "Active Buddhist" friend who informed me that the positive approach is true of her Buddhist experience and she is one of the most FRIENDly people I know.]

{The "Quaker" [I am really beginning to believe we need to find a better/more descriptive "nickname" or just consistently use Friends, as confusing as that word might be for others] Testimonies recently have been referred to as not being clear enough as to their prohibitions in modern terminology as opposed to the earlier "Discipline." (M. Kelly "") I appreciate much of what Martin says but on this point I have some disagreement.}

From my perspective the positive DO is more what early Friends were about rather than the DON'T. However, others at the time saw mainly the Don'ts, but the rapid rise of the number of Friends, in my belief, was largely due to the DOs. Examples:
PEACE (Although longer, I prefer Peacemaking)- I understand this testimony to be about Love your Neighbor, Do good to others, rather than Anti-war. "Take away the occasions of war," is needed at least as much if not more than "We will not fight." Friends need to be much more about relieving poverty, hunger, greed, etc. as the cuses of war rather than being against war.
SIMPLICITY - Keep the distractions to a necessary minimum so that the trappings of this world do not interfer with our doing the will of God and being able to focus on true "Wealth" in the old manner of Well Being . Woolman's "Plea for the Poor" was much more about using our material goods to help others rather than just not having material goods.
INTEGRITY - This was much more about telling the Truth and, excuse the modern phrase, talk the Talk AND walk the Walk rather than. I don't see the testimony as much against taking oaths (although the Biblical commandment is very valid but in reality seems to be more about "what" we swear on rather than just taking an oath.) as in telling the truth and living in the Truth.
EQUALITY - My take is not so much that for "political correctness" we need to avoid discriminatory language or behavior, but that we actually recognize that of God in everyone and work toward understanding others and "bringing them to Christ and leaving them there." "Refusing Hat honor" (not tipping your hat to others) was not so much against showing respect but rather to honor all humans and to recognize the only True Authority as that of the Spirit of Christ. It is not so much reaching the Lowest Common Denominator to equalize everyone but actually believing and acting so that everyone is capable of loving and being loved.

{I have intentionally scrambled the order of these testimonies from SPICE and left out one.}

I intend to expand on my view of the testimonies in the near future. I still am very new at blogging and am not sure how much is: flow of consciousness; expressing deeply held beliefs; espousing one's point of view; dialoguing; well reasoned arguments (obviously not from this blog); or a combination of these and others.

My "aversion" to writing has been that of being able to control my own thoought process. This is evident in the various forms of parentheses that I try to use to allow others to see into that process. I tend to use { }, and I am not sure how well different these symbols are duplicated in others computers, for insider comments usually meant for those who are familiar with similar language but that others may not identify with at all. [ ] is usually taken to mean, There goes my mind again bringing in a possibly tangential idea that I see the connection but others may see as a non-sequiter. ( ) is in the form of explaining to some who may not be familiar with a phrase, concept, etc. However, I am nothing if not inconsistent. [ In teaching I always told my students that I knew they actually were getting my sense of "humor" when they groaned rather than laughed.] I have very seldom been able to make myself edit my work without adding or subtracting thoughts. {I take too literally continuing revelation in that "nothing" I say or write is ever complete or finished.}

In Peace and Friendship