A response to a post by Jess Easter on QuakerQuaker, “My Quaker Relationship with Jesus”:
It’s not anti-Christian to say you have doubts about your relationship with Jesus. It’s perfectly human. Most of us would get bogged down in the intellectualism if we tried to map out a precise God/Christ relationship. One thing I’ve always liked about Friends is our radical honesty in this regards. A priest in a strictly orthodox liturgical tradition is expected to preach on topics on which they have no direct divine experience and to base their words on church teachings. When a Friend rises in ministry they are expected to be speak from a moment of direct revelation.
We also have church teachings of course. Robert Barclay is our go-to guy on many theological matters, and certain journals have become all-but-canonized on the way we understand ourselves and our tradition. It’s just that this second-hand knowledge needs to be presented as such and kept out of the actual worship time. As my Quaker journey has progressed, I’ve directly experienced more and more openings that confirm the tenets of traditional Quaker Christianity. That’s built my trust.
I’m now willing to give the benefit of the doubt to beliefs that I haven’t myself experienced. If someone like William Penn says he’s had a direct revelation about a particular issue, I’ll trust his account. I know that in those cases where we had similar openings, our spiritual experiences have matched. I won’t minister about what he’s said. I won’t get defensive about a point of doctrine. I’ll just let myself open to the possibility that even the more intellectually outlandish parts of orthodox Christian doctrine just might be true.
It’s tempting to go to “holy” sites to expect some special revelation. In her post, Jess reports feeling a sense of feeling “bored and indifferent” when visiting the Western Wall and the Garden of Gethsemane. I think this is perfectly normal. There’s the story of the Quaker minister traveling through the American colonies with a local Friend as guide. They come to a crossroads and the local Friend points to tree stump and proudly proclaims that George Fox himself tied his horse to that tree when it was alive. The traveling minister dismounts his horse and walks to the stump. He stands there silently for awhile and walks back to his traveling companion with a sober look. The local is excited and asks him what he saw. The traveling minister replied: I looked into the face of idolatry.
The Holy Spirit is not confined or enshrined in any place – be it the Western Wall, the gilded steepled church or the tree George Fox sat under. Jesus’ death tore the Temple shroud in two and His spirit is with us always, even when it’s hard to feel or see. I think the boredom we experience in “holy” sites or with “holy” people is often a teaching gift – a guidance to look elsewhere for Spiritual truth.