The Most Heroic Hero of the Decade, Maybe the Century

If you are Quaker (as I am) the biggest thing to shake up Meetinghouses and make young friends’ hearts throb all over the country is Jon Watts. I first heard about him when his video “Friend Speaks My Mind” made the rounds around Ithaca Monthly Meeting. Besides being very funny, with lots of Quaker in-jokes, this video had a further resonance for me. It single-handedly brought into the open an issue that has been festering unspoken: are all Quakers Christian? I’ve longed to affirm in some way that I am a Quaker but not a Christian for a long time. But I was always afraid that others in the Meeting might be offended. Jon finally puts into words what so many of us have been feeling:

I’m not a Christian but I’m a Quaker
I’ve got Christ’s inner light but he’s not my savior

So that’s number one why Jon’s my hero. Number two I discovered reading the Xtracycle forum Roots Radicals. Someone mentioned a young man riding an Xtracyle Radish from Richmond to Boston on a music tour. Sure enough: Jon Watts! Furthermore, he’ll be going through this area. You can read about his tour on his blog. I am looking forward to seeing him at the Farmington-Scipio Spring Gathering. Why is he biking? He writes:

Why not just drive a car like any other rational American would?

It would be easy for me to spout off a guilt-based justification about how quickly our society is killing the Earth, and how each of us is individually contributing a great deal to that destruction by owning and over-using personal vehicles. And it would be true. I do feel guilty and hypocritical about simultaneously mourning the destruction of the natural world and contributing to it.

But the deeper reason why I am riding my bike the 600 miles to Boston: I find driving, for all of it’s convenience, to be spiritually deadening. So let’s turn the question on it’s head… why, when I could be actively using my body, engaging with the land and the environment around me, viscerally feeling the miles go by underneath me, and genuinely living would I isolate myself in a sound-proof, wind-proof, experience-proof chamber?

Why in the world would anyone do that?

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  • Kind of an overstatement to say the least, and the last time I checked the official website, it stated that some Quakers do not identify as Christian, but other congregations do.
    The Society of Friends was founded on the belief in Jesus Christ, and although many have let go of their traditions, there would be no Quakers, if not for the original Quakers who endured great persecution all in the name of Jesus Christ.
    People have the right to their beliefs, and I personally have liked all of the Quakers I have met. But the article is a bit deceptive in characterizing all Quakers as having the same belief, since they are one of the prime examples of “Congregationalism” and diversity of belief.

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    The post is about my beliefs. I amended the post to be more clear by adding the word “all” to the question “are Quakers Christian?” to make it “are all Quakers Christian?” The post affirms that at least two Quakers are not Christian. Thanks David for catching that.