From essential unity to tea-towels
In essentials unity
The letters from David Taylor, Peter Bolwell and David Keating (14 June) are timely.
Peter Bolwell is right to say that atheism’s denial of spirituality ‘strikes at the heart’ of Quakerism. However well-intentioned, inclusivity has its limits. Should Friends of the Earth welcome those who think that pollution is good? What would it do for the functioning of CND to enrol campaigners who were for nuclear weapons? To play golf, who joins a football club and then demands it re-write its rules and change its ball for a much smaller one? There is, after all, such a thing as a golf club. But then there wouldn’t be the same opportunity for challenging authority, provoking conflict and, when this is met with justified resistance, self-identifying as being oppressed. This is indeed entryism, but psychologically driven, and its dynamic supplants that of belief.
The Society of Friends has centuries of being an explicitly religious group. No one had, or has, the right to remake it in the image of their disbelief, temporary or otherwise. The silence of Meeting is where doubts that beset an individual’s spiritual path can be faced. But doubt must not be institutionalised in a community which is avowedly religious.
Quakerism must promote and support faith in a greater life and consciousness than the material. This is true radicalism in a spirit-denying age.
My response to the hire of Friends House to promote Jacob Rees-Mogg’s version of history and sales of his book (31 May), is not to add to the ‘outrage’ of Friends. Nor is it to advocate a value-free, market-driven lettings policy.
I just cannot really understand how such a decision was taken. Friends House is the most prominent ‘shop window’ we have, which surely requires that we take more care over what is enabled and conveyed by association with events that we take money for hosting. The promotional nature of this event was clear from the inclusion of a discounted copy of The Victorians: Twelve titans who forged Britain as part of the price of the tickets (£31.90). Had it been simply a public meeting in which Jacob Rees-Mogg was one participant (such as often happens for hustings during a general election), there could be no pained objection or bafflement from most Friends who, in this case, understandably see our core values as incompatible with those of a very prominent political figure.
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