In response to Steve Davison’s statement: “I know that Universalists have abandoned the divine source for Quaker faith and practice and relocated that source in the individual, so your post faithfully represents the Universalist leading on this matter,“ Charley Earp writes:
“I find this a highly offensive gross generalization about an entire group of people. Have you conducted a poll of every Quaker Universalist asking them if they have abandoned the Divine Source? What were your statistical results? Probably not!
“Universalism among Quakers is a diverse movement encompassing believing Christians and Atheists, not mention Buddhist and Pagan Friends. That is its goal, embracing all who will in a communion of peace. Diversity isn’t abandoning anything, it is embracing all beyond words and labels.”
“These correspondences are mostly about process. They connect, on the one hand, to the ways that blogs and online participatory culture work, how they’re structured. On the other hand, they connect to Quaker culture also defined as process, to a Quakerism defined in terms of how we work and behave, and what our values are. This is perhaps the defining characteristic of liberal Quakerism, that we root our identity in our process and our values—essentially, the ‘practice’ side of faith and practice—rather than our content.
“Meanwhile, blogs are ultimately about content. The technology enables a new and exciting process for speech, and that gets all the press, but ultimately the technology still serves speech—it’s about having something to say. In this regard, blogs often are like popcorn meetings: short and fast back and forth without much discernment. Woolman, and also Rachel in her comment, are focused on the deep spiritual potential of content, on how what we do and say affects others and ourselves.
“Meanwhile, on the other side of the comparison, liberal Quakerism is pointedly not about content. Practically the only content we have left is that “there is that of God in everyone.” As Pink Dandelion has so brilliantly described in his work, we explicitly define ourselves over and against creed as a screen for abandoning our content, while adopting and enforcing a creed about process, behavior and values.
“This leaves us flummoxed when someone asks us: “What do Quakers believe?” We usually start with a bunch of disclaimers about the diversity of Quaker belief, the importance of individual experience, and the fact that we have no declared creed. Then we move on to “that of God in everyone” and maybe the testimonies—and then we run aground. We tend to start off negative and then go almost nowhere positive. The dilemma is especially ironic because we have so much great content. We have so much good stuff to say!
“I think we need our content. We need to be able to articulate our faith and our experience with clarity, confidence and integrity. We need to be able to answer Fox’s challenge: ‘What canst we say?’”