1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul, and your neighbor as yourself.
2. Do what you say, say what you think, think what is true.
3. Subtract superfluities from your life, speech, desires and thoughts.
4. Don't initiate aggression against the persons or property of others, nor support people who do, including the people who "constitute" the government.
5. Respect life and natural law.
6. All people are endowed by their Creator with equal and inalienable rights to the earth and to the fruits of their own labor, and a "Citizen's Dividend" funded by a "Single Tax" on the unimproved value of land and other natural resources would be the fairest way to protect these rights.

For supporting materials, see the Archive and the Recommended Reading and Videos section at the bottom of this page.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Convergent Friends

I'd heard offhand of convergent Friends sometime in the past but didn't know until researching it yesterday what it's all about. (Roughly, convergent is conservative Quakerism coupled with Emerging Church thought.) From what I've learned it appears that I am indeed a convergent Friend and have been since I first began studying Quakerism and attending Quaker meeting several years ago. I recall at some point in my reading about the factions that have historically arisen among Friends coming across a discussion of Conservative Friends and thinking "That really sounds like what I believe; too bad it appears that Conservative Friends appear to be a small minority of Friends and none are around here." (That was before I became attached to my own local unprogrammed FGC-affiliated Friends meeting, which I am quite happy with.) I'm less clear at present about the "Emergent Church" part of "Convergent," despite having read the lengthy Wikipedia article on the subject. One thing that did catch my eye and intrigued me, though, is the postmodern epistemology of the Emergent Church which according to the Wikipedia article rejects claims of certainty. In my post "Why be a Quaker?" I explained that one factor in my turning towards Quakerism was that while I think we can know that God exists by an immediate apperception of the intellect (independently of evidence or argument), I have to admit to myself that I will likely never in this life attain the same kind of certainty with regard to the propositions of Christian faith. I am strongly persuaded of and "believe" the central propositions of Christianity (by a preponderance of the historical evidence and the apparent beauty and truth of Jesus' life and teachings), but because I am not certain of those propositions I resist the notion that salvation depends upon believing those propositions or the truth of those propositions. Rather, I believe that salvation consists in loving God with all our heart, mind and soul and our neighbor as ourself, a commandment which was taught to us by Jesus as the Greatest Commandment but which I think we can also know the truth of in the same way we can know that God exists. (I wonder what Conservative Friends would say about that way of looking at Christian faith?)

From this perspective, my earlier post today suggesting that all Friends and all groups of Friends should respect more fully (if not in deed then in word, and if not in word then in refraining from words) the moral ideals (including those concerning sexual behavior, disagreement about which appears as a significant obstacle to unity among Friends) which Jesus enjoins in the Gospels strikes me as very much a "convergent" attitude, in that it suggests "moving closer together towards some common point on the horizon," and that this common point is to be found in the general direction of Conservative Quakerism with its measured reverence for the Gospels as the foundational standard for Quaker faith and practice. It's difficult to see in what other direction a common point that could provide a basis for Quaker identity and unity might be found. Such a movement towards unity would not seek to shut out the Light or liberty of individual Friends. A liberal meeting with a concern for greater unity among Friends might not be inclined to interfere with or elder a member actively working through secular channels to further pro-choice causes (indeed many of its members might be thus engaged), but why should the meeting itself take the affirmative step of putting the collective stamp of Friends on a public statement supporting the right to choose abortion (as my own Yearly Meeting does), which even pro-choice Friends should recognize is fraught with grave moral ambiguity? What need is there to implicate Friends (and therefore the name of Jesus Christ) in such a business, when many secular organizations are already working for the pro-choice cause? Conversely, of course, moving towards unity does not imply that such a meeting must make public statements supporting laws against abortion, either. And certainly a meeting will want to make available clearness committees or more private forms of counseling for individual members who might be struggling with difficult decisions relating to pregancy, and what I've suggested above would not preclude such a committee or such a counselor from supporting a woman in a decision to have an abortion (though the Light itself might).

The issue of same-sex marriages under the care of the meeting is less clear to me, and I appreciate the weight of the arguments that have been made to the effect that Scripture (and particularly the Gospel) does not clearly and unequivocally proscribe committed monogamous same-sex unions. It seems relevant to me that in Quaker marriages it's understood that it's the parties themselves, rather than the meeting, who effect their marriage to each other, though the marriage is "under the care of" the meeting. I know that for my own part I would not hesitate to attend and witness and share in the joy of a same-sex union approved and celebrated under the care of my own monthly meeting. That said, it seems unnecessary and very un-convergent to criticize other meetings or Quaker organizations which find in Scripture a prohibition of homosexual activity and decline to give sanction to same-sex unions, or to call for the recognition and sanction of same-same marriages by the State (though the latter clause must be qualified by the kinds of considerations discussed, e.g., in the article I've linked to below in the Recommended Reading section titled "'The' Libertarian View on Gay Marriage").