I agree with Zach but knowing why can help us offer support and challenge where this becomes a deadening influence. Quakers have their roots in a tradition that rebelled against medieval church art and looked for simplicity and plainness. This tended to elevate the importance of the word over visual art. Equally, it meant a rejection of church music and like wise popular music and dance as being distractions of the body. George Fox in his Journal for the year 1649 says, ‘I was moved to cry out against all sorts of music’ This did begin to change over time as the booklet Beyond Uneasy Tolerance: The Saga Of Quakers And The Arts In 100 Quotations shows. The link below shows how this became a "hot" 19th century issue and an expression of the modernization of British friends.
I would strongly support that Arts in all their forms as a powerful way of expressing life in its whole that God and theistic talk is often a metaphor or short hand expression. My wife is an actor and ex dancer and draws on both in her own journey as a devotee of the Hindu spiritual leader Mata Amritanandamayi, lovingly called 'Amma', and known globally as India's "hugging saint mother ". I do story-telling performance and draw on this when moved to give Ministry.
Anti-intellectualism is more problematic. One of its roots in Quakerism is the influence of Pietism which preached the saving power of the gospel instead of dogmatic principles. This lead to a more personal faith and away from intellectualism. The positive effects of Pietism lead to Bible reading, prayer, outwardly speaking about one's faith, and a turn from worldly activities.
The roots of this, as argued in "Quaker Theology" was that Early Friends were often loudly sceptical about theology, which George Fox referred to scornfully as “windy notions.” Their critique had at least five major points:
- Intellectualizing about religion takes people away from experiencing God and the Spirit, and letting these change their lives, which is what they really need to do;
- The official theologies of various churches were the products of corrupt, faction-ridden, politically influenced church councils.
- Theological formulas were/are regularly used as instruments of oppression.
- Academic theology wraps its work in technical, in-group jargon, and thus hides God’s truth from ordinary people.
- Theological speculation is more likely to promote pride and lead to skepticism than to promote humility and faith.
Much of this is valid today, But as Pietism can weaken into a withdrawal from the world and narrowing of the mind as the Bible is increasingly defended as the inerrant word of God rather then a creation of humans seeking a meaning and understanding of the world. For a thoughtful reflection on the complexities of literalism and the Bible see:
Another reason is that many of us live in a pluralistic and open religious world and so need to prepare ourselves to take a fuller and more constructive part in the many opportunities for ecumenical and interfaith dialogue which are now available. Or put in a more negative way we have to show that Fundamentalism is not the only valid expression of any of the key monotheistic traditions.
To stop questioning what Quakerism means is to reject the growth that of self- examination and definition requires of any living faith community. After all, in Matthew 22:37, Jesus includes in the first Great Commandment the imperative to love the Lord “with all your mind” William Blake argues for what this means by celebrating the power of the imagination and how it must be used if we are to make difference.
Auguries of Innocence by William Blake
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour…
Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born.
Every Morn & every Night
Some are Born to sweet Delight.
Some ar Born to sweet Delight,
Some are born to Endless Night.
We are led to Believe a Lie
When we see not Thro' the Eye
Which was Born in a Night to Perish in a Night
When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light.
God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in the Night,
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day.