Throughout my life, I’ve researched major religions and spiritual practices. Somehow, I overlooked the Quakers. They commonly call themselves “Friends.” Their formal name is “Religious Society of Friends”. They are Christians and follow the same Bible as others do.
I recently learned of Arthur Larrabee, a Quaker, who wrote about his personal view of that faith’s nine core beliefs. I found it so interesting that I spent some time looking further online. I was surprised when I found some of my own beliefs were not so different from his.
His first statement was that there is a living, dynamic, spiritual presence at work in the world, both within and outside us. This is similar to my view that the universe and all within it is in constant creation by, for lack of a better word, “God.”
His next point was there is “that of God” in everyone. Other religions may call it the “spark of the divine”, “spiritual essence,” or other terms. I believe he states it very well. Quakers, like most religions, have different sects, but all have that one point in common.
Third was that each person is capable of the direct and unmediated experience of God. I agree, and you may notice how the words end with “of God” but are not expressed in a way to show possession or exclusivity to one faith. In other words, “God” could refer to the Christian God, Muslim God, Hindi God, or any other faith. No via, no ritual, nor intermediary needed, though other Christian sects may avidly disagree. The other points of his Quaker faith are available via Google search for “Arthur Larrabee Quaker” if you are interested.
You’ve probably heard Quakers are pacifists and won’t fight in wars. Most of them will not kill, but are willing to serve in non-combatant roles. Plenty of functions don’t require an active role in attacking an enemy. Most notable are medics, doctors, and ambulance drivers. There are many tales of Quakers distinguishing themselves beyond the call of duty, alongside soldiers in combat in every war, from our fight for independence from England to WW II. One of the most famous was Desmond Doss, who saved 75 men in the Battle of Okinawa and was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Quakers allow for self-defense, including defending family or others in harm’s way. Many Quakers will take part in combat roles when fighting against an enemy whose purpose is to kill or enslave his family, friends, or countrymen.
Like the genesis of many Christian sects, Quakerism was born in a split from the Church of England. In the mid-1600s, George Fox, whose ministry was at odds with the tenets of the state religion, was imprisoned several times. Not surprisingly, since then, many different splits of the Quaker faith have occurred over theological differences. Of all religions globally, Christians hold the diversity record by having an estimated 60 thousand separate denominations whose theology differs in interpreting a single book, the Christian Bible.
It is not surprising that most of us know very little about Quakers. They were always a small group. Even today, they number less than four hundred thousand.
As an aside, Quakers have nothing to do with the man pictured on a cardboard bin of Quaker Oats. However, it was that very image that prompted my recent journey. You can never predict what may start a raging fire in my mind!
To quote a far less noble publication, Inquiring minds want to know!