Admittedly, it’s hard to generalize. And not everyone agrees we’re even Christian, though our historic roots certainly are. In addition, for some of these, it’s more a matter of degree in comparison to some other faith traditions.
With that, let me suggest that those of us in the Society of Friends (Quakers) are distinguished by our:
- Open worship conducive to reflection or even meditation, at least for some part of the service. This is best seen in the traditional hour of silent Meeting.
- Personal direct experience of the Divine, rather than what I’ll call speculative theology.
- Queries to guide personal daily practice and awareness rather than recitation of dogma or creed.
- Emphasis on what we do in all facets of our lives rather than on what we believe or are supposed to believe.
- Metaphor rather than law as the language of our faith.
- Corporate decision-making. No vote. (This could lead to a whole other Tendrils entry!)
- No outward sacraments. Baptism is of the Holy Spirit, not water.
- Shared discipleship. We learn to listen to each other openly, sometimes even as “listening in tongues.”
- Pacifism and non-violence as essential tenants of faithfulness. Here, we unite with Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren as historic peace denominations, though Quakers are more likely to take public action.
- We find our name appropriated by whole lines of products we don’t make, starting with Quaker Oats. What other denomination is so, uh, honored, apart from some later applications of Amish in recent years? Seriously!