UC Not Dangerous

George Fox

When George Fox was 17 years old he had some spiritual experiences. When he was 19, he went through an intense and prolonged spiritual crisis. He started by not joining his friends to drink at bars and then he withdrew from everyone he knew and left home and as he says in his Journal traveled "up an down as a stranger in the earth, which way the Lord inclined my heart." He wandered for years because he was "afraid both of professor and profane, lest, being a tender young man," he might be injured by associating with either.

Fox had traveled over England talking to teachers and preachers trying to find a church. He talked about religion and the Bible. He prayed and fasted. And kept wandering . After three years of separating from society’s ways, he received a revelation that the church was corrupt. He was then filled with joy and love and preached a simple life. Fox called his group "children of Light."

He says he began to get revelations and realized that prestigious colleges like Oxford and Cambridge could not teach him enough for a true ministry. He felt Jesus was teaching him directly: "Christ, who enlightened me, gave me his light to believe in," Fox writes: "he gave me hope, which he himself revealed to me; and he gave me his spirit and grace, which I found sufficient in the deeps and in weakness."

After receiving spiritual experiences "when he was nearly twenty years old" and ...it seemed natural to him to go to the ‘priest,’ the state-appointed pastors of the national church, but they thought Fox was slightly deranged."

Rev. Moon was 16 when he go his revelation from Jesus.

"The early twenties of his life were for Fox times of inner turmoil as well as of intellectual excitement, when he got very little assistance from other men. His greatest help came from an almost constant study of the Bible. [Rev. Moon studied the Bible till the pages fell apart] What we call insights he called ‘openings,’ and he was delighted when these supported one another in a coherent picture or were consistent with what he discovered in the Scriptures. ‘When I had openings, they answered one another and answered the Scriptures, for I had great openings of the Scriptures; and when I was in troubles, one trouble also answered the other.’‘

"By the age of twenty-three, in 1647, Fox had arrived at a faith, grounded not in tradition or on the reports of other men, but in an immediate divine-human encounter, to which he referred by saying, ‘and this I knew experimentally.’"

"After five years of wandering over England, talking with many, thinking much, convincing a few, and being imprisoned twice, Fox came to real maturity in the early summer of 1652. He climbed a hill on the border of Lancastershire and Yorkshire, part of the Pennine range, and there, on a beautifully clear day, arrived at a wholly new conception of his work in the world. [moon met Jesus while praying on a mountain] In his vivid report he said, ‘the Lord let me see a-top of the hill in what places He had a great people to be gathered.’ From that day forward, Fox was both resolute and successful. To the north he found, especially in Westmorland, people who were called Seekers and who were only too glad to know someone who could make them into Finders. The people were as kindling, while Fox was the spark to ignite them. Soon he was speaking at Sedbergh, where there was a fair, and on Firbank Fell, a wild desolate place where Fox addressed more than a thousand people, standing on a rock and speaking for three hours."

"From this time on, Fox was not alone. Many of those who heard him in 1652 became vigorous missionaries overnight." cults are called organizations that follow a charismatic leader and is different than the established churches. This makes Jesus and his disciples a cult. Does this make catholics a cult who follow a man who says only a man can be the Pope and that Pope is infallible?  What do we make of the word "vigorous"? How about zeal or passion or how about slave?

"Some went out two by two, like the Apostles and also like those mentioned in the tenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel. Fox was probably influenced by the Gospel parallel in estimating that there were seventy ministers whom the Lord raised up and sent out of the north country. At first, says Fox, the religious leaders were not seriously disturbed when they observed this powerful missionary effort, since they prophesied that ‘within a month we should be scattered again and come to nothing.’ Far from this prediction coming true, these people inspired by Fox went to many parts of the world, including various sections of the European continent and nearly all of the English colonies in America."

The UC grew and it went to all parts of the world by people inspired by a man.

The wife of a wealthy Judge was converted in one city. They had a huge house and she let the wandering Quaker preachers use it as a base "to which they could return when worn out in the field." "Because of Judge Fell’s great influence, Quakers were relatively safe from severe persecution and imprisonment if they were known to be guests." "For the next few years Fox traveled almost constantly. The Journal of Fox, one of the famous books of the world, is chiefly a record of his missionary journeys. He suffered eight imprisonments."

Rev. Moon has been imprisoned six times.

His most terrible punishment was at Launceton in Cornwall, in 1656, where he was put "into Doomsdale, a nasty stinking place where they used to put witches and murderers before their execution; where the prisoners’ excrement had not been carried out for scores of years as it was said. It was all like mire, and in some places at the top of the shoes.’ Doomsdale had neither toilet facilities nor chimney. Though the prisoners would have been willing to clean the foul place, they were not permitted to do so, and the jailer would not allow them to have beds or straw on which to lie."

Moon laid on cement with his head at the bucket in a death camp.

"The fact that Fox could survive eight imprisonments, as well as many beatings, is some indication of the ruggedness of his physique."

Rev. Moon is famous for his strength. Even approaching 80 years old he gets only 2 or 3 hours of sleep. He will speak to members late at night and pray till 2 or 3 o’clock and then wake up at five and start the day again. No one has ever been able to keep up with him. It is easy to see how the early Christians could make Jesus into God. Christ is a rock and has awesome physical and spiritual strength.

Fox’s lifestyle, like Rev. Moon’s was one of unending hardship. Just physically it was hard to just travel in those days. He married Judge Fell’s widow, Margaret.  But she was not his first priority. She was as dedicated as he was and he was gone a lot traveling and in building his movement. The members came before her.

Isn’t this typical in the history of religions? A founder of a religion has little formal education and young and receives powerful revelations and preaches and is persecuted. The people judge him as a "self-proclaimed minister, prophet, doctor, messiah, or whatever and ask, as they did to Jesus, what school and what credentials do they have. This is fallen man looking at things. Great men are what schools study. They are the founders of seminaries.

The argument against cult leaders or many great men is that they are convicted criminals who have served time in prison. This is an uneducated statement as there have been countless men and women of God and of what is true that have been imprisoned. Jesus is the most famous.

Fox was impatient, as all founders are, and he began a life of bothering people. He constantly interrupted public worship, yell at the preacher in his church for being a blind guide and told the congregation they were all wrapped up in their stupid meaningless rituals and had no living vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. If they had any spirit they would be out proclaiming and carrying the cross and upsetting people like he was with his passion for Jesus and for a strict moral life.

He was absolutely fearless. People were furious with him, and he was often attacked by angry parishioners when he disrupted their church services or as he spoke in the streets chastising them for being unspiritual and selfish. They would sweep him into the churchyard and severely beat him.

Fox was always unfazed. He would write in amazing detail what it was like to having blows to the head. He would study the expressions on the faces of his assailants and the precise inflections of the words they used as they screamed in rage.

In his Journal we get a photographic, living picture of the seventeenth century. Fox would be considered insane today by most people. His followers adored this strange man. William Penn was converted and founded Pennsylvania. He couldn’t say enough about the greatness of his leader, just as followers of Sun Myung Moon admire their leader.

One book on the history of religion said it "is easy to sympathize with his antagonists. Often Fox seems deliberately, even wantonly, provocative." He was offensive and provoked the violence."

"Not all readers find Fox a consistently attractive figure. He was beyond acting holier-than-thou with people. He was combative to everyone.– even the police. He was constantly and harshly criticizing everyone who came near him.

But he had so much charisma and character that some who hated him "were compelled to admire his courage and his integrity. He feared the face of no man. When driven from a town by brutal mobs he often returned at once, ready to face again the worst that they could do. A threatening group hemming him round or a man with a drawn sword caused no dismay. This courage was unquestionably one element in the strange ascendency which he established over others. Violent crowds became quiet, hostile men ‘became loving,’ and Fox could pass on to continue among others this revolutionary work which he was everywhere initiating."

"Related to Fox’s courage was his integrity. People recognized his sincerity and responded to it. After his imprisonment in Scarborough Castle, the soldiers bore generous tribute to his quality. ‘He is all stiff as a tree and as pure as a bell, for we could never stir him.’ It was his sincerity, reinforced by unfailing courage, which compelled others to give heed to his witness."

Although he was a simple and uneducated man, he could witness to and convert the upper class as well as the lower strata of society. He constantly would say "The power of the Lord." He wrote that "the truth of the Lord came over him" and he would become ‘loving."

He was imprisoned many times for being a religious nonconformist. It was hard "in the face of strong prejudice, to secure even the rights which the law guaranteed to a prisoner." He would insist on his right. He argued with Judges and denounced them when they didn’t do what he said. Obviously, they threw him in prison for his contempt of them. He writes vividly of how prisoners were cold in winter and baked in the summer heat. We see the insanitary conditions, brutality of the guards, lack of food and drink in the casually organized prisons of the day. "Fox found himself consigned to a dungeon; in Doomsdale in Laucenson he stood in excrement over his boot tops and was almost always stifled by the stench. Accounts of such hardships are an inseparably part of almost all early Quaker journals. ... The mortality rates were very high for prisoners and Friends worked hard to get their compatriots out of prison."

Would society today, after 300 years, act any differently toward Fox and his followers? What would Betty Underwood think of the founder of her religion today? Would she support his parents and parents of his followers to use the force of the state to get conservatorships and lock them away and get psychiatric counseling to get normal instead of being nonconformist eccentrics or worse a threat to the security of the nation.

Fox was the son of a weaver. "He became a cobbler with little book learning beyond the Bible. When he was 19, a voice told him to ‘forsake all’;so he became a dropout, wandering about England in a solitary quest for religious truth. Gradually he clarified his beliefs, convinced that he derived them from direct experiences of God’s light within him, ‘without the help of any man, book or writing."

Fox began as he says, "declaring truth" in public and became "a dynamic, fanatically sincere speaker."

He married Margaret when his friend Judge Fell died. But his work took priority over this partnership.

We picture the Quakers today as a quiet people sitting around in their church service with an occasional person standing up and explaining how Jesus was talking to him. Fox believed in silent worship but he could also be a vehement preacher and often had forceful and passionate prayers.

He could anger people by refusing to do simply everyday customs of society. In his day men wore hats and there was social customs about their use. His journal is filled with accounts of legal proceedings he was in for flaunting the rules of conduct in society.

He was also seen as dangerous because he held no respect for patriotism. He was a pacifist and got the usual treatment societies have given to this minority. Once in London, when a rough soldier threatened to kill all Quakers for being pacifist, Fox went up to him and offered to submit to his violence. He wrote that "the truth came so over him that he grew loving."

William Penn wrote that he was "an original, being no man’s copy." Penn tells us Fox "was a man that God endued with a clear and wonderful depth, a discerner of other’s spirits, and very much a master of his own." Is this what Quakers would feel about him today?

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