From Martin Luther to multiple meanings
Friends and Martin Luther
The article by Stuart Masters in the Friend of 27 October 2017 warrants re-reading. Martin Luther lived in the first half of the sixteenth century in Germany, in very different times, location and circumstances from that of Friends, who formed themselves in civil war-torn England in the latter half of the seventeenth century.
Martin Luther broke the ‘log-jam’ of the ‘Christendom Church’ and enabled the Friends to sail forth. Shouldn’t we honour him rather than ‘picking disagreement’ with him?
After the many centuries of Rome’s dominance, Friends inevitably inherited a great deal of ‘baggage’ from the ‘Christendom Church’ and from the Puritans. This evidently included the notion of ‘salvation’, which derived from the obsession (that Friends rejected) with ‘sin’! A concern with salvation seems to imply acceptance of the archaic pre-Copernican concepts of Heaven (up) and Hell (down).
So, were early Friends declared ‘flat-Earthers’? Possibly so, since they seem initially to have had contempt for education, which points up the sheer absurdity of twenty-first century Friends aspiring to recapture the seventeenth century mindset of original Friends. (‘The first, fine, careless rapture’?)
The establishment of our Society of Friends probably owed as much to Margaret Fell as to George Fox; so it is hardly surprising that, for us, women have always been absolute equals.
Clearly, from the outset, Friends have adopted an ethical position of extreme individualism. That New Testament data is virtually all hearsay seems to me to make both individualism and agnosticism the most rational options.
In any case, belief is not to be commanded. Nor is faith (a much-abused word), which would seem to lie deeper in the mind.
Dressing gown at Woodbrooke
Having read the letters (2 March and 9 March) regarding a visitor wearing her dressing gown to breakfast at Woodbrooke I had the following thoughts.
I appreciate the Friend’s decision to post the original letter, as being questioned about our practices and values is often a good trigger for self-examination.
My own feelings are that it has been my experience, with the group of Friends I have come to know and love, that they are kind, laid back and non-judgemental people, and on the whole would not be greatly perturbed by a dressing gown-clad dining companion.
However, they are also studious, reflective and serious about the principles by which they live their lives and the care and respect they show to others.
This, I feel, is perfectly reflected in the atmosphere at Woodbrooke, which is a place of learning and spiritual retreat.
It is a religious centre, rather than any old hotel or B&B, and thus I understand the feeling of care that visiting Friends and Friends in Residence would take in their appearance and conduct whilst there.
Therefore, I feel it is equally important for us ‘non-Friends’, whatever the reason for our visit, to mirror their approach and values whilst in a place which holds great spiritual, historical and educational significance for them.
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