I became a Quaker just a few months ago, though I have been a Christian for many years. I am an affiliate member of Rockingham Monthly Meeting, which is part of Ohio Yearly Meeting. I deliberately chose to become a Conservative Quaker because I was certain that I wanted to belong to a distinctively Christian Quaker community. I did not want to have to avoid words such as Jesus, Christ, God, salvation, and so forth, when speaking to Friends. The choice to walk the Conservative path has its consequences, no doubt, and I am fully aware of the difficulties involved in this decision. As a Spaniard, these difficulties are related to the particularities of my country. Spain is a very complex society, due in part to its ancient, rich and multi-cultural history, as well as its present political and social situation.
There are very few Quakers in Spain. Since being a Christian means, in part at least, to be a witness for Christ, I have decided to share my Christian, and in particular my Quaker, faith with my fellow countrymen and countrywomen. I think that, just as both Christ and the Quakers' way of relating to Him have benefited me and improved my life, they can also benefit and improve the lives of many people.
Most of the Spanish people consider themselves to be Catholic, although they are not always practitioners, as people here put it. Catholicism has a very rich tradition and usually their adherents feel quite happy to belong to its ranks. The Catholic Church has a singular feature that distinguishes it from other Christian Churches, namely, its belief in its uniqueness, in the sense that nobody outside of its fold can attain salvation (of course, many Catholic people have relaxed this rigid belief and have adopted a more open standpoint). I think this rigid belief makes unlikely for many Catholics to leave their Church. Of course, they do not have to abandon their church if they find a relationship with Christ there. However, I do hope to extend the possibility of another Christian way to those who want or need it, as I myself was in need before I encountered the Quaker path. I never felt comfortable inside the Catholic Church for a variety of reasons, and, although I belonged to an Evangelical church for a short time many years ago, I did not feel comfortable there, either.
In Quakerism, I have found my spiritual home, the place I have longed for all my life. And if this has been the case for me, I think it could be also the case for others. In this context, the effort to spread Quakerism in my country makes complete sense.
Besides the deeply rooted sense of being Catholic that most people have in Spain, there are also political and social factors, as I said before. Spain experienced a cruel civil war in the 1930s, and this war has left a mark on our national consciousness that has endured for the last sixty years. The war and its aftereffects have convinced many of my people to embrace a secular worldview; for many others, it has meant a total rejection of religion and, in particular, of Christianity.
Our project to create a Quaker Christian worship group in Seville, Spain, has emerged in this complex context. While I believe that Liberal Quakerism could certainly be successful in Spain, and in Europe in general, I am concerned that Europe presently suffers from an excess of liberalism. I have the strong conviction that Europe, and Spain in particular, needs a new evangelization, a return to its Christian foundations and values. Of course, many people could say that Europe does not need, in this post-modern age, a Christian way of thinking, worldview that revives old concepts such as God, salvation, heaven, and so forth. However, I am convinced that Europe does need Christian values such as compassion, friendship, care of the poor, love, and many others.
Conservative Quakerism has two clearly distinguishable, but inter-related, layers: One is its adherence to the Christian worldview: acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior and an embrace of the biblical narrative. The other layer consists of our testimony of integrity, simplicity, equality, peace, and so forth. It is quite probable that many in my country, and in Europe in general, might feel a strong attraction to these testimonies, but not to the Christian foundation of Quakerism.
To share our Quaker vision in a European country could be a real challenge. Does make sense to create worship groups where people are more interested in pacifism than in Christ, if they have any interest in Christ at all? I think that we Conservative Quakers must be honest: we must make it clear that Christ is the cornerstone and that everything else comes from Him. Is it not Christ who frees? Does not He bring peace and salvation?
In this secular age is more necessary than ever to hear afresh the good news of the gospel. You, North Americans, and we, Europeans, share a common heritage. Liberating Christian principles lie at the base of our western civilization. We have a profound and rich Christian heritage. Do not we have the right and even the duty to preserve it?
You, North Americans, still retain a sound dose of enthusiasm. We, in Europe, have lost a great part of it. We feel a bit tired. Many centuries have gone by and we are already a bit old. We invite you to inspire us and to give us new strength. Together we can offer our devastated world the good news that Christ is really present among us.
Luis Pizarro was born in Mérida, an ancient city founded by the Roman Empire in 25 BC and located in southwestern Spain. He has lived in Seville for many years, where he serves as Professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics at the University of Seville. He has a passion for black and white photography. He is an affiliate member of Rockingham Monthly Meeting, Ohio Yearly Meeting. In his efforts to be a witness for Christ he publishes Cuaquero.org, an outreach site for Quakers in Spain.