Here is a third contribution to our “Judaism and Quakerism” conversation from Clem Gerdelmann of Chester (PA) Monthly Meeting.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, Who is the fairest religion of all?”
You, my Friends, would think that Quakerism, as Judaism, would have the market cornered on this question. Quite the fairytale to point out these religions as surviving their first 40 years wandering and seeking in hostile, life-threatening circumstances. With no previous culture/condition to self-identify, Jews and Quakers were on their own in the field of primitive religiosity.
Easy, though small, targets for bold bullies and stingy guardians of gods, both groups learned to live and worship quietly; though never secretly since they were called to be a reflection of God’s glorious redemption of humankind. Neither persecution nor prison, inquisition or infiltration, concentration camp or military inscription tarnished or tore at the sacrosanct unity of Jews and Quakers respectively. Under constant scrutiny of conventional ways, as a means of our pure resistance to the ways of the world, God’s reflection was clear and sharply defined.
So what happened to these stalwart religions to have Judaism and Quakerism splinter into factions of themselves? As a Judeo-Christian Quaker prophet, I convict my religious heritage of valuing a godly image in the world more than being a reflection of God for the world.
As long as the world was the reason for a defiant faithfulness to God, there was unity with and obedience to our Higher Power. Once Judaism and Quakerism became modern, however, in order to relate to the world a new song was sung. It went something like the end of the 43rd sonnet of “Modern Love,” by George Meredith:
If I the death of Love had deeply planned,
I never could have made it half so sure,
As by the unblessed kisses which upbraid
The full-waked senses; or failing that, degrade!
‘Tis morning; but no morning can restore
What we have forfeited. I see no sin;
The wrong is mixed. In tragic life, God wot,
No villain need be! Passions spin the plot;
We are betrayed by what is false within.
O, the silent seduction of stoning and disowning one’s own reflection of God.