Quakerism as a reaction to the British tradition
In my American life I live in the City of Brotherly Love; Philadelphia. Philadelphia is the holy experiment of Englishman William Penn. William Penn got a Charter from the king of England to found a colony where all protestant and Judeo-Christian religions could practice freely. William Penn’s notion of brotherly love stemmed from his religious beliefs.
William Penn was a Quaker. Quakerism or officially the religious society of Friends is a passive meditation based form of Protestantism. Quakerism was founded on Penndel Hill in England in the 17th century by an English dissenter George Fox. The Quakers believed that interpreting the bible was not as important as actually experiencing benevolence of God in your own life. Quakers also believed that Dogma and church traditions were customs that the church used to oppress people and interfere with the experience of divinity. And so the Quakers made a very special type of Religion that is uniquely British.
Quakers do not have a priests, nor is any member of the meeting a leader of congregation. All the members of the Society of friends are in and of themselves as spiritually intone as the others. Second, Quakers do not talk, sing, or pray during worship. They only sit silently and think about their lives. The only hold one part of the bible as true which is, “The light of god is within Or the Kingdom of heaven is within you”. And so to a Quaker all are holy, life is a gift, and hatred is wrong.
Also Quakers have no symbols of Christ in there meeting houses. They have no bibles, and no ornate decorations. They sit in an undecorated simple wooden room and without a single word meditate on the light of god with them and all the people of the world.
I have been an unofficial Quaker for almost eight years. Since coming to London I have attended two Quaker meetings. I find a good deal of peace in the Quaker tradition. For the sake of comparison I will tell you how American and English Quakerism differs.
As can be assumed, American Quakers are more devoted to their beliefs. They slightly more passionately reject having Bibles in the meeting house. For six years I have gone to Quaker service in America and not once seen a bible. However, the English Quaker meeting had a table in the center of the room with a stack of bibles for fellow Quakers to READ during meeting. Not only are bibles present during the meeting, but English Quakers are allowed to abandon meditation and read during meeting. They are only allowed to read the bible, however this would be looked down on in America where Quakers are not supposed to do anything but meditate.
I can’t exactly put my finger on why English Quakerism allows these things but I can safely assume that Americans, who have more religious fervor than the English, would be more likely to stick to a more radical approach, where it seems the English are willing to bend their customs to suit different tastes.