Quaker Roots

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by Ben Huot


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It might surprise some people, since I served in the military, but I am actually a special kind of Quaker (they call themselves Friends, as Jesus calls us in the Gospels, because we know more of His plans than in the Old Testament). I still have a copy of my dog tags, which are labelled “Protestant - Other” as there are few Quakers in the military.

Ironically, I won a national peace essay contest for my state, in high school, not long before I signed up for the military. There are actually a large minority of Quakers who are not pacifists. Personally, I think the well being of animals is more important than that of people. After all, God created them too and they behave much better than we do.

Some of the ideas of Quakers would be very refreshing to many non-believers today but frustrating to many believers. Quakers are very minimalistic and they avoid rituals to the point that they often do not put crosses on their churches. They have a silent time instead of communion and do not do physical baptism.

Anyone can be a registered minister. People are encouraged to stand up during the quiet time and say something they believe God communicated to them. They also believe strongly in getting involved in social causes.

Part of the tradition, that is not spelled out exactly, is that Quakers value humility. I don’t remember anyone saying that directly, but I know I was obsessed with it for many years. This church was where I think I got the idea.

This particular brand of Quakers were what many people call evangelical. This meant to them that they believed in the fundamentals of the faith. These include the Bible being literally true, including the supernatural elements.

So there were people there form many different backgrounds and many different ideas about what it means to be a Christian. Our family started there originally because they had a very good youth program.

This is also where I first understood the concept of paradox and this was reinforced by what I experienced in the military, as well. I was not happy with the attitude of what I saw much of the American church, especially politically. I sought a different way to be Christian.

There is a long tradition in Christianity to emulate the early Church. There has been a long held belief that we lost our understanding of the Bible along the way and we became morally corrupt. There is also a strong emphasis on studying the culture of the Middle East during ancient times. This helps us understand the context of what was said and what was assumed people understood.

One of the big differences is like most traditional cultures, the ancient Middle East valued community and continuity of values more than we now do. We, on the other hand, keep trying to adopt the latest gadgets and try to all start our own trends. There are advantages and disadvantages to both individuality and communally focused cultures. It is just that Americans tend to take things to extremes.

One extreme on the individuality spectrum in Protestant Christianity is the Quaker faith. Ultimately they give the believer a huge amount of freedom in how they want to interpret Scripture. This is the exact opposite approach of the traditional regional churches in Asia, Africa, and Europe, one of which is the Roman Catholic Church.

There were a lot of cultural and political issues that brought about the success of what we commonly refer to as the Protestant Reformation in Continental Europe and Britain. Some of these ideas include more regional government, having elected officials both in the Church and government, radical changes in worship like using the local languages, and having every believer be their own theologian. As a side effect, some of these changes helped build the foundations of America, the British and Dutch Empires, and modern Germany.

This all pushed us into the modern world, the ideas of which go back to the European Reformation and Enlightenment. This happened long before most the technologies of the modern world were developed. A lot of this has to do with technologies of ocean navigation technologies, small changes in weather patterns and the climate, the speed at which all this happened, and the ease at which Europe and America could get people to work very hard and buy more things.

Basically, the Europeans managed to leverage their navies and the Americas to disrupt the trade routes dominated by the wealthy and powerful Muslim (Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal) dynasties across South Asia and Eastern Europe.

The turning point was the second siege of Vienna, at about 1700 AD, when guns became reliable enough to be useful in combat. What we call discipline in the military was invented and then perfected by the Prussia (later became modern Germany). This discipline was what made European armies more effective with gun based combat than the Muslim empires.

If you haven’t noticed, I am not a fan of unrestricted capitalism. This is also known as the modern world system, which I consider to be Mystery Babylon (the evil end times empire run by the devil). I believe we should take a cue from the Amish and revert to an earlier level of technology.

This decision will save us from descending into another stone age. We would also need to restrict the usage or development of technology. This is a concept called Agrarianism which was adopted by the variation of Confucianism that Chinese government officially adopted later in Imperial Chinese history.