Quaker Universalist Conversations

Is the legacy of Quakerism our universalism?

By Rachel Stacy

It’s been over a week since I’ve last posted. My Lenten project had to be put on hold while I finished out my travels through Jordan. For those of you who have not been following my posts on Friends Journal’s website, I was traveling for the past ten days with the United Church press tour which was sponsored by the Jordanian Tourism Board. The experiences of the past week have been challenging and time consuming, but I hope that with grace I can resume my project here with QUF.

 Two of the members of my traveling group were televangelists and three others were a film crew for an evangelical TV show. Of the two American leaders of the tour, one grew up in a culturally Muslim household and the other was Catholic. At one point on the trip one of the televangelists referred to Christians, Muslims and Jews as “God’s people.” Our leader who has grown up Muslim jumped on the comment saying “It bothers me when you say that, I believe that we are all God’s children.” And thus ensued an elaborate discussion about where we draw lines, whose in and whose out, and if we allow everyone into heaven then what’s the point in being Christian.

 At some point during the discussion, I and another more liberal woman in the group concocted a plan to get our leader out of what was looking like a heated debate. When our leader joined us, she thanked us for helping her escape and then said “I just can’t stand it when people are so narrow minded towards other religions.” Then she looked at me and said “well you’re Quaker, you understand.”

 Is the legacy of Quakerism our universalism? I know that question makes many of us uncomfortable, particularly with the current discussions among the Quaker blogs about Christian universalism, universal grace, and inter-religious cooperation.  This week I’ll be touching on some of these issues with regard to my experiences in the Middle East. Feel free to comment and wrestle with these questions with me!


I'm not sure. I don't think that's how Fox and early Friends would see it. But maybe it's progressed into that, though I feel less capable of commenting on that. For me, I would hope our legacy would be love. Universalism is still an ideology. And ideologies sooner or later, sometimes subtly, sometimes abruptly, try to come between people. I heard Vincent Harding say recently "Love trumps doctrine" and I'm with him on that.
I say "Amen" to Love. That's the religion I endorse and try to practice. The religion of Love is universal and beyond ideology, and even beyond religion. Inclusive religion can be more loving than exclusive religion, since as soon as we say "My God is better than your God" or "You won't be saved unless you believe as I believe," we move away from Love and Unity into ego and separation. Love was one of the testimonies of early Friends that is often overlooked because of our emphasis on SPICE, but I think Love is central to Quakerism. As you know, our name (Society of Friends) comes from the Gospel of John where Jesus said, "If you practice my commandment, i.e. love one another selflessly, then you are my Friends."
I smiled a bit when I read, "Then she looked at me and said 'well you’re Quaker, you understand.'" I don't know whether she was talking about Quaker Universalism, or just about how we as Quakers would understand about religious arguments. We seem to have had plenty among ourselves. ;-)
At one point on the trip one of the televangelists referred to Christians, Muslims and Jews as “God’s people.” I would have to disagree with this statement, I don't believe that the Muslim god "Allah" is the same as my personal God. We have to be careful when we take a false religion and incorporate them into who we are. Sure we want to embrace all people, we all have been created by God, however, I speak caution to embracing all religions.
Thanks so much for your comment. I appreciate what you shared. Kathy
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