In reply to our social media promotion of Sallie King’s 2009 QUF pamphlet, A Quaker’s Response to Christian Fundamentalism, Marshall Massey of Iowa Yearly Meeting offered the following Facebook comment. We republish it here with his permission.
How soon we forget, eh?
Historically, Friends emphasized human sinfulness much more than most of their protestant and Roman Catholic contemporaries. Countless Quaker ministers preached that not one thing we do without divine guidance and assistance can even be good, let alone help us get to heaven.
The first step to becoming a Friend (Quaker) was convincement, which did not mean intellectual persuasion; it meant being convinced (in the 17th century sense of the word: convicted, found guilty in one’s own eyes) of sin, by the operation of Christ in one’s heart and conscience.
Cf. John 8:9, John 16:8, and all of the New Testament’s preachings on the need for repentance. The fact that becoming a Friend begins with the admission of one’s own sinfulness is utterly scriptural, and it is a recognition of how things work that Friends share with fundamentalists.
Historically we Friends were Christian fundamentalists in many other ways as well. We didn’t have priests and we didn’t tithe because both things were ended by Christ, as the scriptures demonstrated. We didn’t swear, even if the refusal to swear in court meant imprisonment and loss of all belongings, because swearing was forbidden by Christ in scripture. Our answers to all arguments about times when violence was the best move was that Christ still forbade it, as witness the scriptures. We wouldn’t use terms like sacrament or Trinity because they are not to be found in the scriptures.
Modern liberal Quakers see a sharp distinction between Christian fundamentalists and themselves. But that is not because of they are Quakers; it is because they are liberals. Roughly 85% of Quakers today are not liberals; the great majority of them belong to Evangelical Friends or Friends United Meeting communities; and to the degree that they are historically educated, they understand that the distance between historical Quakerism and fundamentalism is not really very great at all.
There is indeed a key difference between Quaker fundamentalism and the protestant fundamentalism that inspires such horror in the liberal breast. But the difference is not that Quakerism is not biblical fundamentalism. The difference is that Friends “read the scriptures in the spirit [the spirit of love] in which they were given”. We read, not with the eye of intolerance, but with the eye of Christ.