From faith as therapy to pinpointing Friends
Is the experience of being bound up in God a therapy? Do we adopt belief in order to help us cope with life’s setbacks, our imperfections, isolation, mortality and uncertainties? Be honest. The timing of our faith activity would suggest that many of us do.
If we can accept this, we reduce the danger of becoming presumptuous, distant, set apart. We make ourselves and our faith more accessible to those who regard us as subject to rationalisation.
As a therapy, faith seems effective and safe. People of faith live longer, happier lives. Our commitment to good causes helps others too. Faith then takes its place among eating habits, exercise habits, hygiene and socialisation as a means of preserving self. It may also preserve species and the environment. That capacity to preserve species and environment is, I believe, a criterion for the enlightenment of faiths.
Does this calculated approach destroy faith? It certainly keeps it grounded and could control our tendency to indulge in fantasy, raptures and notions. We would take scripture, tradition and culture with a pinch of salt. The arts come to be means of sharing the experience of faith rather than divine revelation. The universal, eternal God becomes immanent, a current among us, rather than controlling and transcendent.
Our belief – in other words, that which we hold dear – may then be the universal God immanent, the moral compass, the capacity for empathy, transcendence and inspiration. It enables us to bond with one another, to contract with one another. It is vital.
It’s a privilege
Following Helen Carter-Shaw (19 July) I also feel very differently from Rosemary Wells (28 June), who described feeling sad and bewildered by the focus of privilege in the epistle from this year’s Yearly Meeting. Like Helen, I really rejoice that we are shedding light on the privilege many Friends in the UK enjoy, with the status and opportunity this brings.
For most British Quakers, we exist within a privileged niche, in a wealthy country, in a very unequal world. I believe our Quaker faith urges us to be concerned about this and stirred to take action to remedy this.
Our privilege does provide a cushion from suffering that the poor, marginalised or abused don’t share. When comfortable, it’s easy to do nothing. In striving for greater equality, I feel sure that what we stand to gain in joy and fulfilment is far greater than what we lose in comfort and ease.
I do agree with Rosemary that privilege does not provide ultimate protection from suffering. I believe it can prove a false refuge and act as a barrier to experiencing true empathy and spiritual depth.
I feel excited by our commitment to meaningful change in this area. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could take this forward with the energy it so urgently needs? We are ideally placed to do so with our many resources, our faith and our testimonies to equality, simplicity and sustainability.
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