During our recent trip to England, Nancy and I noticed how much religion has played a huge role in that country, but also how many people identify themselves as being non-religious.
There are beautiful cathedrals throughout the country that are great tourist attractions. Most of them do have an active congregation, but the percentage of church attenders in the country is very low.
There are quite a number of Quaker meetinghouses in the country too, but most of them have a very small group and the average person on the street has little to no knowledge of the impact George Fox and the Quakers in 17th century English history.
In that country, as in many others, religion symbolizes conflict, war and political ploys by untrustworthy rulers.
One person had the idea that the reason Protestantism came about is because a king wanted a divorce. Thats not totally false, as King Henry VIII couldnt get the Pope to agree to his divorce, so he developed the Church of England.
Nevertheless, Christ has often gotten a bad reputation due to the actions of those who claim to be his followers.
The early Quakers were often thrown in jail because they werent afraid to challenge the ungodly actions of church and government.
It comes down to Christ.
Like George Fox said, There is one, even Christ Jesus, who can speak to thy condition.
The apostle Paul says in Colossians 2:2,3: My purpose is they may be encouraged in heart and unified in love, so that they may the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Religion is at its best when it is about personal relationships with God and about being inwardly transformed and outwardly active in service in the world.
As Christians from all denominations unite to serve those around us in love, we can cover a multitude of the sins of the past and forge a brighter future of spiritual awakening and authentic faith.
Paul Almquist is the pastor of West Chehalem Friends Church