Quaker Universalist Conversations

Dan Seeger – I Have Called You Friends: A Quaker Universalist’s Understanding of Jesus

In March we published QUF Interview: Daniel A. Seeger. More recently we have been reminded of a QUF pamphlet which Friend Dan published in 1997: I Have Called You Friends: A Quaker Universalist’s Understanding of Jesus.

In his introduction, Dan writes:

Christ if the Desert, Br. Robert Lentz, OFMThe theme for this reflection is “I Have Called You Friends,” Jesus’ statement which is recounted in the fifteenth verse of the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of John. Some people believe that the name of our Religious Society is derived from this verse. What does it mean to be a friend of Jesus today? What will it mean to be a friend of Jesus in the 21st Century? In discussing this theme I plan to focus on four subtopics:

  1. What is the problem? Why does this subject present an issue or difficulty for us today? What is the nature of the controversy surrounding it?
  2. What aspects of Christian history illuminate the difficulty in which we find ourselves? This will be a very brief historical reflection; much more material could be brought into view than it will be possible to do in one essay.
  3. What general characteristics of humankind’s spiritual search, of the religious quest itself, bear on our attitudes about Jesus?
  4. In the light of the problem, the history, and the common spiritual experience, how can we embrace the life and ministry of Jesus with enthusiasm as an essential source of meaning for our individual lives and for our Friends spiritual community now and in the third millennium?

We invite readers to read the entire essay.

Image source:

Christ of the Desert, by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM. An excerpt from the artist’s narrative:

Out of the deserts of the Middle East comes an ancient Christian tradition…. It is a Semetic tradition, belonging to those churches that use Syriac as their liturgical language. Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic, the language spoken by Christ himself.

This icon celebrates the richness of Syriac Christianity. The inscriptions in the upper corners read “Jesus Christ,” and at the bottom, “Christ of the Desert.” The Syriac language has ties to the earth that are deep and rich. It is more inclusive than most European languages. The theological experience of Syriac Christians is different because they have encountered the Gospel in such a language. Theirs is an unhellenized expression — one that is neither Europeanized nor Westernized.

Semitic as it is, the Syriac tradition knows no dichotomy between the mind and heart. The heart is the center of the human person — center of intellect as well as feelings. The body and all of creation longs to be reunited with God.


In Dan’s pamphlet, this passage in particular speaks to me: "In talking about Jesus, the New Testament authors use the language not of analytic philosophers but of enthusiastic believers, not of scientists but of lovers … in describing Jesus as 'the only,'Christians were not trying to elaborate a metaphysical principle but a personal relationship.... "The languages of the heart and the head are not necessarily contradictory, but they are different. And their differences must be respected." For decades I have struggled to learn how to help people hear heart language instead of head language when I speak about my religious faith and practice. I long to find that voice.
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