Almost all Quaker practices relate back somehow to one main belief: that there is “that of God in everyone.” This straightforward, elegant idea basically means that everyone has the capacity to do good and the facility to be great. You just have to listen to that of God within you and recognize it in others.
You have to pay attention to those around you. And then you have to take what you learn and actually live it. For example, we believe that individual rights must be balanced with the needs of the community; one does not trump the other. And so everything—from embracing recycling to avoiding materialism—has to reflect not simply our own momentary desires but the fair sharing of the world’s resources. And we believe it is impossible to make truly valid decisions without being inclusive, so we settle things through consensus building, not through majority rule. We believe in equality and diversity. So we reject stereotypes and question biases that justify deprivation.
But while all these external actions and interactions are important, we think that life is empty without inner reflection. At George School, we believe that all people can communicate directly with God. So our religious meetings are mostly silent, without ministers or prayer books. It all goes back to that one “simple” idea: that we all have something of the divine inside us. Add to that idea that we think this personal revelation is continuous and you’ve got something quite challenging.
So perhaps Quakerism isn’t an easy religion. No one hands you the answers or even tells you what to think. But just as we believe that the light of God inside us all is unlimited and inextinguishable, so is our hope for a better world. We live by the ideals of truth, fairness, and commonality, not because we have to, but because we want to.