Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What Would Lucretia Say?

What would Jesus do? Seems like everyone has a perspective.
As a historian and liberal Friend, I wonder, what would Lucretia Mott say about Jesus and about religion in general?

Mott's response to some who wonder what Jesus would do if he were here:

"He is here; he has appeared, from generation to generation and his spirit is now as manifest, in the humble, the meek, the bold reformers, even among some of obscure parentage."
-- Cherry Hill Meeting, 1849

"I am willing to incur ridicule- to become a spectacle to angels and to men- if I thereby awaken any to a sense of what the times demand of them.
--Lucretia Mott sermon, "The Truth of God" Marlboro Chapel, Boston 1841.

This same attitude got me in trouble back in my seminary days...

"We shall not make progress as Christians until we care to read & examine the Jewish Scriptures as we would any other of the ancient records. By what authority do we set so high a value on every text that may be drawn from this volume? Certainly not by any command therein found. On the contrary, again and again is there an appeal to the inner sense. Why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?"
-- Mott, 1841

Her own religious doctrine:

"...is simple, because it appeals to self-evident conviction. It is divested of mystery and mysticism, for it is not necessarily connected with anything miraculous or extraordinary...Christianity has been lamentably marred in its glory and beauty by the gloomy dogmas fo the schools. Many, however, are now enquiring for themselves, are acknowledging the heavenly light within them. They begin to understand the divine mission of Jesus; how it is what his coming was and ever is to bless mankind, by turning everyone from his iniquities; that, in him, in the great truths which he preached, all nations shall be blessed."
--Mott, 1849

And from the same sermon, Lucretia Mott continued:

"...firm in the blessed, the eternal doctrines preached by Jesus, and by every child of God from the creation of the world; especially the great truth that God is the teacher of the people himself; the doctrine which Jesus most emphatically taught, that the kingdom of God is within man- that there is his sacred and divine temple."

In 1850 she protests against the growing number of offenses for which a Friend could be disowned and laments the growing influences of evangelical and popular Protestant perspectives among Friends:

"...while we refuse the pecuniary aid to the Ministry we countenance all the machinery which supports him- Sabbath & Bible worship- belief in human depravity- a distinction of morals for the natural & spiritual man- a superstitious reverence for Jesus crying blessed Lord & Savior instead of doing the works wh. he said- mak'g a kind of righteousness & atonement of him, if not exactly after the Calvinistic pattern; if this is our course, it will satisfy a wily & grasping priesthood, and our invective against the hired minister will amount to very little..."

Well-established as a spokesperson for radical reform and religious liberalism, she later spoke at the Free Religious Association of Boston:

"Therefore, I say preach your truth; let it go forth, and you will find without any notable miracle, as of old, that every man will speak in his own tongue in which he was born. And I will say that if these pure principles have their place in us and are brought forth by faithfulness, by obedience, into practice, the difficulties and doubts that we may have to surmount will be easily conquered. There will be a higher power than these. Let it be called the Great Spirit of the Indian, the Quaker "Inward Light" of George Fox, the "Blessed Mary" Mother of Jesus of the Catholics or Burmah, the Hindoo's God-- they will all be one, and there will come to be such faith and such liberty as shall redeem the world."

**All the above are taken from Otelia Cromwell's 1958 biography and from Lucretia Mott: Her Complete Speeches and Sermons, edited by Dana Greene, The Edwin Mellen Press, 1980


Daniel Wilcox said...

Thanks for the quotes, Hystery. Lucretia speaks deeply to me.

To quote a British Quaker:

Mot, I ask you ah questun?;-)

Even though I recently finished a biography on Lucretia by Margaret Bacon (the one available at the library), do you think Cromwell's would give me more details and a different perspective?

In the Light,

Hystery said...

Cromwell's was just the one that happened to be in my house. It was enjoyable but not earth-shattering. To get a better understanding of Mott, I would read her letters and sermons directly. She was brilliant but also extraordinarily funny. I would also suggest reading her sister's biography: A Very Dangerous Woman by Penney and Livingstone. Lucretia Mott was very close to her youngest sister, Martha Coffin Wright, although the two had different perspectives on Friends' beliefs. They were active in reform together and together helped launch the women's rights movement in Seneca Falls. You get a better feel for Lucretia by learning more about her rich family life.

Lone Star Ma said...

Go, Lucretia! Very appropriate post for this 79 anniversary of the passing of the 19th amendment.

(Remember - I am counting on you to find out how she was related to Levi Coffin.)

Lone Star Ma said...

I meant 89th anniversary - duh.

Mary Ellen said...

I've loved what I've read of Mott and have long considered her a "spiritual Mother" but haven't taken the trouble to dig up more of her words. Now you have whetted my appetite for more - thanks!

Hystery said...

Regarding the connection between Levi Coffin and Lucretia Mott:

this link may be a start. The Martha in Auburn to which she refers is her sister, Martha Coffin Wright and one of the key players in the women's rights movement. "Mari" is Martha's oldest child, Marianna Pelham.

Nate said...

Lucretia was and is impressive for sure. Thank you for digging out these quotes.

On the Coffin relationship, the best I have been able to do quickly is the following citation:
http://www.novelguide.com/a/discover/ahlt_0001_0002_0/ahlt_0001_0002_0_00200.html which basically states that Lucretia and Levi had common ancestry. The Coffin family was well-known and fairly extensive on Nantucket and the exact relationship is fairly likely to be a touch convoluted. Call them "cousins."

Hystery said...

Interesting to me that she refers to him as "our orthodox cousin, Levi Coffin."

Lone Star Ma said...

Cousins, and she even says so. I'm pleased. Thank you.

*Sandra* said...

I continue to learn from you, Hystery. I resolve to learn more about Lucretia Mott. Thanks!

Daniel... "ah questun"? What sort of Brits do you mix with? Sound like lager louts to me ;)