I recently read Living the Quaker Way by Philip Gulley, and really liked the book. It’s a light, easy read which anecdotally describes common Quaker beliefs or practices (“Testimonies”). The book focuses on five primary attributes:
Before reading this book, I only had limited historical and theological familiarity the Society of Friends, primarily from encountering Quakerism in my own search for a religious home.
Like Anabaptists (the tradition of which I am a member), Quakers are one of the “historic peace churches.” In fact, all of the five attributes that Philip discusses are all strongly emphasized by Anabaptists, as well. There are, however, some differences in approach in these areas (and in other ways).
Anabaptists are more likely to approach these five areas from a theological or Biblical standpoint, whereas Philip shows that the Quaker way more often makes use of psychology, sociology, and philosophy to explain these concepts
While Anabaptists also put a strong emphasis on discernment, contemplation, and community, they have not as often tried quiet worship or a full-community consensus process for community decision-making
Despite a shared tradition of nonviolence and noncoercion, Quakers traditionally seem more willing to make use of the apparatus of the State to meet a goal
Quakerism, being a diverse community, includes non-Christians and atheists, while Anabaptists still primarily believe God is revealed most clearly in Jesus & the Holy Spirit
Things that I didn’t like about the book:
Philip (understandingly) has some misunderstandings or over-generalizations of the Amish.
As briefly touched on above, Philip makes an excellent case against coercion and violence and against “situational integrity,” and still supports government action to solve problems (and not just the ones that governments created in the first place)
Some things I particularly liked about the book:
Learning more about community consensus
Learning more about the Queries
This book is recommended to: Anybody interested in peace and justice issues. Anybody looking to learn about the Society of Friends or Quakers.
“Thus, the commitment to nonviolence begins with a commitment to noncoercion.”
“Our government compels its citizens to pay taxes, not by appealing to our sense of charity and mutual responsibility, but by threatening fines and even imprisonment if we fail to cooperate.”
“If coercion is the root of violence, we must refrain from coercing or manipulating others to get our way, for that too is a form of violence meant to violate another’s will or conscience.”
“But integrity, because it arises from one’s inner morality and spirit, isn’t situational, requiring honesty in one situation and forsaking it in another. There is a seamless nature to integrity that transcends situations and relationships. Integrity does not present one face in public and another in private. It delights in transparency, having nothing to hide.”