Christian Love and Language

I'm always struck how easily other Quakers on the 'Net explicate their faith; I feel tongue-tied and strangely inarticulate in comparison. When I wrote a little about my discomfort with Christianity expressed a couple of posts ago, it was really a crude rendering of a subject that for me is exceedingly complex --- very apparent to me when I reread my posting.

Some of this, I think has to do with the process of internalizing everything I'm reading and learning about Quakerism and trying to formulate some means of expressing it fully and ably. I'm a bit abashed, too, by the breath and knowledge many people seem to have on other blogs, and I some times think my own poor contributions are either naive or simple-minded. I'm also becoming aware of some of the cross currents and divisions within Quakerism; again, I sometimes think I don't have the competence to comment on them, though in fact I do have formed some opinions.

One of things I have become aware of is the tension existing between Christ-centred Quakers and those that are more universalistic in their faith. I was a bit shocked, in fact, that this division is become acute in some meetings in the Canadian Yearly Meeting, though (fortunately) not in mine, as far as I can tell. Some Friends, in fact feel quite intimidated and unable to express their ministry in Christ-centred terms for fear of criticism or worse.

This actually distresses me a great deal. Though I'm probably would place myself somewhere on the universalist side of the equation (if in fact there are "sides" at all) for me, at least, Friends is a Christian faith tradition and its core practices and testimonies derive from Christian scripture. Christian expression, accordingly, should be honoured and respected. It seems to me without this witness, our collective testimony and witness would be all the poorer.

This seems to be part of a larger debate occurring within Quakerism, framed around notions of authenticity and defining the Quaker "core", a conversation of which I am just perceiving the edges. To me, as a new attender (but maybe not to a weighty Friend of twenty-five year's or a lifetime's standing) it seems rather obvious: a belief in listening for the Inner Light and seeing that Light in all; corporate mysticism and corporate discernment, the movement of the Divine in our lives so that our lives become the outward witness of the inner reality of God's will; the Testimonies: all grounded fundamentally in George Fox's insight that God is accessible to all, and all drawing from the rich language of Christian witness and scripture.

For I think in essence this debate is about language, or rather how language signifies the interior reality. I do recognize this Christian language has inflicted some grievous wounds on some --- myself included. My "inner cringe" usually arrives at that point where language begins to adopt the norms and rhetoric of the fundamentalist. Mostly I fear it: having found a home with the Friends, and a spirituality which I am starting to see as transformative,I am afraid of this language which I associate with hate and exclusion. Yet oddly, I am comfortable with the old language of Fox and Barclay, and the plain ministry of Christ-centred Friends in meeting. Language as signifier: does it include or exclude me? Does it speak to my condition? Does it speak of love? If this language is Christian and Christ-centred, so be it: my interior reality may be different from someone who views Jesus as Saviour, but I can recognize the Christ-language points to larger, inexpressible truths --- and at the end of the day, why reinvent the wheel? In the event, Christian expression within Friends is and authentic expression of faith, and should be treasured and nurtured, for we all should be united in what I think the early Quakers saw as perfect Christian love, which is God's love, in inward communion with each other and with the Light --- whether we see ourselves as Christian or not.