Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Forget your principles?

I clipped this from a Dionne editorial in the Washington Post this morning:

"Sometimes you have to forget your principles to do what's right."

What do you think of this statement?

1 comment:

Bill Samuel said...

In context, I think what it means is that you need to avoid being blinded by your ideological framework so that you can't respond as needed. In the op-ed, this is within a political-economic context.

The same principle applies in the religious context. What humans tend to do is develop systems of doctrines and practices, which they wind up effectively worshipping instead of worshipping God. The early Quakers referred to this as "manmade religion." Of course, Quakers too fall into this trap.

Many years ago, I visited a couple of old rural meetings in Baltimore Yearly Meeting, and one old small-town meeting in New York Yearly Meeting which all followed similar patterns. Everyone arrived for a programmed time with Bible study and perhaps some hymns, and then after a brief intermission, entered into open worship. In spirit these were semi-programmed meetings, but by making a stop between activities they avoided violating a Quaker taboo and remained technically unprogrammed meetings.

My own old Monthly Meeting moved into such a pattern. They began years ago to have a time of hymn singing "before" each meeting for worship. In reality, they were adopting the common evangelical Christian pattern of beginning a service with worship through music and then moving to other elements. In Adelphi's case, they don't even have an intermission but move directly from one to another. But the time of the transition is when meeting for worship is said to begin, so again they have technically not violated the taboo. Now they have started having someone give a message one Sunday a month in that "before" meeting period. It is really a semi-programmed meeting, but members will maintain they are unprogrammed due to the device of claiming the programming occurs outside the time of meeting for worship. Many unprogrammed meetings have done something similar in recent decades.

In an earlier period, we saw a large part of the Society of Friends moving away from the unprogrammed model to a pastoral model. In our lifetimes, we are seeing the transition, at least in the USA, of much of what was and still calls itself unprogrammed Quakerism to a semi-programmed model that does not include having a pastor. Open worship remains a very important part of the mix (and is actually getting renewed emphasis in much of pastoral Quakerism in this country, which encourages me), but we are seeing the fading out of exclusive reliance on one form of worship and almost universal rejection of what were once effectively Quaker rules such as no pre-planned singing or any use of musical instruments.

What I try to keep reminding myself is that Jesus said He is the way, the truth and the life. That means that no doctrinal formulation, no set pattern of worship, no tradition is the way or the truth.