Friday, December 5, 2008
Friends testimony has been applied to specific areas of life, many of which address the artificial barriers between humans and also between humans and the divine. Friends practice on simplicity has been, at least partially, to keep the human barriers at a minimum. Scrupulous avoidance of dishonesty in language and business dealings, of titles as a distinction of persons, and of excess in dress or life style are all expressions of a desire to avoid barriers to truth and directness in relationships. One of the emphases on equality and love for all has been a denial of all war since war tends to destroy individuals and place others on a much lower level "ourselves." We must love our enemies if we are to truly remove them as enemies and allow love and "that of God" to be recognized in everyone.
However, possibly of greater impact on the society than these denials of barriers have been the positive attempts to make the means of our lives in practice to match the ends for which we strive in faith. Friends have been among the first in several areas: treating prisoners with dignity and respect, possibly because so many of the early Friends had been prisoners themselves; dealing with the Native Americans on an equal basis; treating those of African descent as equals and worthy of freedom and dignity; establishing schools for everyone, male and female; allowing women to participate on an equal basis in activities of the Society; working towards treating natural resources and our world as precious gifts to be respected; and working for for economic and political justice so that all persons can pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Friends have tried to interpret equality and peace into more than the absence of war but an active cooperation among individuals, groups, and nations. It has been said that to NOT make peace may be as wrong as waging war.
This list is not meant to be exhaustive of all testimonies or concerns of Friends which have been and, of necessity, will be adapted to the needs of persons and the commands of the Spirit as we listen to, hear, and obey these as individuals and as a group.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
My own perspective:
For the Friend all daily experiences are lived in the presence of the Spirit of God and all matters are to be examined by the individual and community in the Light that is "that of God in everyone." The emphasis in every aspect of life, emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical, is on a simple straightforward communication with God as experienced. This includes worship and thus no symbolic acts toward God are sufficient or necessary to fulfill God's requirements but our commitment must be listening to that "still, small voice" which speaks to all who would listen. No water is used as a symbol of a transformed life, but our unity with God's will and with our neighbor must be seen in our daily lives and in our public gatherings. No bread or wine is used as a symbol of the presence of Christ but this presence is to be experienced as it provides power to to live all of our lives in union with the Spirit of God. No clergy or choir is used to express what we each may experience as the Word which gives direction through our lives.
This expression of God's will is in all of human human experience: family, career, life style, government, society, et. al. Since everyone is given direct access to the Divine Presence in their own life and we are commanded to love everyone, there can be no distinction on the basis, of gender, race, age, ability, wealth, religion, or other worldly measure. There are no natural or fundamental barriers which stand between God and individuals nor between individuals. However, there are artificial barriers which individuals and groups do construct.
It is with these barriers that many of the Friends "testimonies" deal.
To be continued