NOTE: This post is an expansion on a comment I left on Nat's blog, mapHead. The expanded remarks begin about halfway down.
Thanks for the heads up about your post. I particularly like this part:
[There] is an explicit statement like "we're all on the same team here, and we don't believe in Hell, and the afterlife is an open question, and we love and support each other." But somehow following this up with a question like "What's our team song?" sets off some weird stuff.Like you, I have had many opportunities to reflect on and talk with other Friends about theological diversity in our meeting and in our larger faith tradition as Quakers.
I find I am continually being exercised at a deep level to "listen to where the words come from." But on a closer reading, apparently the phrase isn't about the discipline or the practice of the worshiper to listen to where the words came from, but that he merely loved to feel where the words came from.
It's a challenge to describe the difference, and often I find I can only point to experiences that I and others have gone through. For example, I found this post by Brent Bill, writing about how his worship sharing group stays in unity in the Spirit because of their own depth of religious belief, not because of striving to be inclusive.
If we all allowed ourselves to be and feel included in our theologically diverse meetings, and trusted that we were in fact welcome and included, I think we'd feel a similar sort of unity that Brent Bill describes.
But as you allude to, Nat, trust is a different sort of inner and personal work that takes time and tending.
In my own journey among Friends, it's been easier for me to get defensive out of my fear of being tossed out because I, in my own imperfect mind, had decided that I don't "fit"--and I can easily project that conclusion onto my fellow worshipers instead of owning it myself.
(Of course, in Perfect Love, we all fit, we all belong.)
I've written of similar things elsewhere, and the deeper I've gone into Quakerism and into my belief in a Divine Loving Principle (aka God), the more I can stretch and even be opened by the Christ-centered language used by my friends who are both Liberal and Conservative Quakers.
I had an opportunity recently to speak with someone--I can't remember who--about the more subtle differences I am finding between many Liberal Friends and the Conservative Friends with whom I have fallen into fellowship.
It's the only way I can explain how touched I was when a Conservative Friend, whom I love dearly, introduced me to a Quaker friend of hers and included a remark like, "The Light of Christ is very sweet within this Friend..."
There was a time, 5 or 6 years ago, where I would have been offended by that remark, since I don't believe in Christ Jesus and I wasn't raised in the Christian tradition.
But what mattered in that split second was that to my friend, she cared about the language she used to express her love of me in a way that was meaningful to both her and her friend. And she gave me a great compliment by using language that was natural and in a sense native to her, rather than changing it to "make me comfortable."
For what it's worth, I'm glad you are continuing to look at your reaction to the topic of theological diversity, as uncomfortable as that may be. I think the danger occurs when we make ourselves to be "right" and others "wrong."
I know I have sinned mightily in that regard, and I still have work to do, remembering that we are of one Family, in a sense.