Love: The Heart of the Quaking TestimonyMany modern, liberal Quakers espouse what are called the "SPICE" testimonies: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community and Equality. Its visual representation sits before me, printed on a coffee mug.
These are modern adaptations of ancient Quaker testimonies.
In the "Quaker Studies" class at the local liberal meeting, the instructors lecture about "empty forms" and they suggest picturing a "form" as a pitcher. It can be empty or full. They offer that the founding Quakers were intent upon not allowing an empty form into their midst, to sit in the silence and wait for those things that are pure and from God and not worship edifices built upon the sands of humankind's worldly efforts. I suggest picturing the SPICE testimonies as printed on the mug as being primarily an empty form among the members of these liberal meetings.
Not because liberal Quakers aren't good people. I dare say all of us are essentially good people, certainly as far as I know.
Not because they don't know what these testimonies "mean" as they are all, universally, intelligent and educated people.
It is because they are almost universally ignorant or dismissive of the fount from which these testimonies sprang, and, without the fount, they are empty forms that become meaningless and impossible to live in this life.
I speak of the Truth of Jesus Christ. Liberal Quakers do not know what all Quakers knew before us: Christ is a fact and not a belief. He is the Source, the Seed, the Light Within, the Inward Guide, the Truth, the Way, the Word of God. He is the midwife of the birth of Truth in our hearts. Without him, our efforts to create Truth are stillborn and lifeless.
These testimonies were born from the Truth and the Way that is a life lived in obedience to the Christ Within. This Christ teaches us first and foremost Love.
Love is rarely mentioned when these testimonies come up.
And yet it is the only power from which they can be observed with True Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community and Equality.
What creates Simplicity in a life is that Christ will show us what we are to do in this life, and what we may freely avoid. Very simplifying. We can bring our large brains to the "problem" of simplicity, or we can open our hearts to what Christ would simply have us do. These are not the same thing.
What brings Peace and the ability to act with True Peace in the heart is the Guiding Principle that is the Word of God made manifest: Christ Jesus. False Peace is that which is built around silence. Silence that hides what people are really thinking, hides what people are really feeling, silence that dismisses real pain as discord and accepts false harmony as peace. There is no Love there, and there is no Christ. Christ has not come to teach his people false peace and easy harmony. He has come to teach us the Truth, in all its pain, its challenges, its joys.
The only source of Integrity is the Inward Guide who will show us our duty and our witness in this life. If we refuse to acknowledge the power Christ has, we are unable to be obedient to his call. Our integrity becomes an integrity of the head and not the heart. The head is not where the testimonies came from, the head does not have the power to make the testimonies live today, and it will not open the way for fresh Truth to be brought to individuals or our Religious Society. The heart is the only clear path between the Truth and this Life.
Community is nothing without Love, and yet it is easy to approach the "problem" of community not with our hearts, but with our heads. Liberal Quaker meetings cannot fathom what they are missing, when it is clear they are missing Love. The easy love is there. The love of attachment. The love of the familiar, the similar. The love of harmony. The love of self and seeing the self in everyone thee sees. What is not there is the Love of Christ, the Love that sees the self truly, its strengths and weaknesses, and the Love that can see in others their strengths and weaknesses outside of familiarity, similarity, easy harmony. The Love Christ shows us can hold a great many things close that our small love cannot. Community must be built in the heart and lived in the heart. That is Christ's domain, and when we have not let Christ have dominion over our hearts, we will fail to live in true community with anyone.
The last of the SPICE testimonies is Equality. Real equality is not possible, and yet I do not know of any of us who really understand that in a living way. Who really can stay open to the Truth that we bring prejudice to every situation? That we bring judgment, and sometimes dismissive and unkind and unfair judgment, to every view of every person we meet. Rather than face the reality of inequality, and our own versions of prejudice, our heads tells us we are true believers in the testimony of equality and see no more challenge beyond. The Light of the Christ Within is not allowed to shine on this falsehood. It is not allowed to show us where our love fails and where we need to access Love to bring Truth to our desire for Equality in our dealings. We will not be judged by the Light Within. We are too busy judging others, a weakness that every human must bear, a weakness that will submit only to the Truth that Christ shows us each moment as he knocks at the door of our heart. Let him in, and he will show thee the True Meaning of Equality and how to live that testimony in the heart.
Many call themselves Quakers who yet Quake at nothing. I tell thee what induces Quaking: the Power of the Love of Jesus Christ as it fills us and moves us into living his Truth in the world. The Quaking Testimony is the True Quaker's witness to the world that there is a power larger than our small selves, that can fill our small selves, and bring us to act largely, to bring about large change in the world because it is God's will that we do so, and when empowered through Christ to act, we accomplish more than we would ever dare in our smallness and our finite, death-bound, worldly power. We mean well, but meaning well can easily be a long-way off from doing well. Only God can show us what of his Good we are to do in this world, through the agency of his son Jesus Christ, as we are moved by the Holy Spirit.
I ask thee, picture this mug before thee. And picture it filled with the only thing that can truly fill it and truly bring the testimonies it portrays to life: the Love that is shown to us by the Seed of Truth Within. This Love will show us where we succeed and where we fail. It will tell us when to turn left when we had thought to turn right. It will show us how to live the Truth in this Life with Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community and Equality . . .
I ask thee to hear me when I say that I bring all of the Love I am capable of to my relationship with my meeting, with my wayward slow-motion-train-wreck of a relationship with this liberal meeting. We are uniformly lively, intelligent, delightfully caring people who *almost* uniformly live in our heads and not our hearts and do not know what it means to be obedient to the motions of the Spirit, to wait for the Truth to be revealed, to submit what our intelligence finds for us to that harsh Truthful judgment of the Light Within. Our confidence in our own abilities, our brains, our judgment means we will not be led away from falseness, blindness, and hopelessness. For it is a hopeless thing to believe that the only power in thy life is thy small self and thy brain, for no matter how large the brain is, it is not enough for the challenges of this world. Only the Guidance of Christ can free the mind from its shackles and open it to the Love that will Set Each Person Free. Being released from Death into Life induces Quaking in the soul that does not cease.
Open thy heart to the Truth. Feel that power within, and Quake with it. Fear a life led outside of this Guidance. Love the Truth more than thy self, more than thy comfort, more than thy life. Love the Truth and thee will know how to Love the world in Truth.
AND now Friends, so many Monthly Men's Meetings as you have in your County, you may have so many Monthly Women's Meetings; and if once a year, at least, you had a General Women's Meeting; it would be well (for in some Counties they have as many Quarterly Women's Meetings as Mens) and in others they have only two in the Summer-time, because the Ways are foul and Days short in Winter. . . .
. . . And that all Friends, who are not already provided, nay speedily procure convenient ...
I am not Amish or Mennonite, but some people who come to my website are interested in knowing more about these groups. I can recommend these books as authoritative and relatively inexpensive sources of further information.