So, there's lots of discussion of this "that of God" concept out there - mostly on Rich's "Brooklyn Quaker" (I am so not into doing links right now, but they're in my sidebar) and extensions on "Embracing Complexity" and "Plain in the City" (and probably elsewhere)
I'd like to say that I find it an interesting topic, but I have to say I mostly find it a depressing and despair-provoking topic. I feel as if I've just seen this little flurry of quakers getting moved to a sort of exstasy at the beauty and power of the idea that there is NOT that of God in everyone.
If quakers don't believe that there's that of God in everyone (and not just that "from God" to help them find - as I think I've seen suggested) then I'm not a quaker. Whoa, identity crisis.
I'd mentioned a bit ago that I'd probably be a "digger" if that had survived and become some tangible, living spiritual and social movement. Or maybe I am a digger in my heart, but quaker meeting is the best organized place I've found to be one. Not sure, not sure.
But I know lots of quakers who do believe there is that of god in everyone, not as a visitor, but as core to their being. So I'm not giving up yet.
And, in a highly anti-convergent (I guess) move, I have always found that the concept of "that of God" in everyone (and I do include nonhumans in that - another less than common perspective) speaks to my experience of the divine. That it is nearly inseperable from life, and from love, actually that it is inseperable, as it is one body, or being, or element, or any number of words for a thing there are no words for.
Apparently, the topic came up in the context of not torturing and killing people - do we as quakers oppose such things because there is that of God in those people? or for some other reason? I do for a number of reasons, I suppose. One being that there is that of God in me - and it says, no! don't hurt another reflection of the divine, yourself, life, potential goodness. It also says simply don't hurt - don't take that evil upon your own soul. It also doesnt' want to cause pain - regardless of whether it is to a "bit of god" or simply to someone who can feel it (but for me, those things are not so different)
Someone expressed concern, I think, with having so little faith in God that you think you would be killing it if you killed a person. It's not that - though you'd certianly be maiming it, at best (?) It's that when I am most in touch with God - when my breath falls into place with the universal - I stand in awe and love of every living thing,, perhaps of every being thing, and killing or intentional cruelty simply becomes not and option.
Does this mean I think reform is always possible? I have no idea. I don't have a lot of faith that anyone could have broken Hitler's heart (the easy example, forgive me!) and opened it to divine love of life and compassion. what's more important is that I certainly wouldn't want to risk more lives by simply professing a pollyannaish faith in such an outcome. Certainly we need to find a way to heal wounds, to fight infection and disease in our souls, rather than ignoring them in the name of quakerly love. i don't know the answer to this one, and as far as I know no one else does either, but we keep struggling, loving, trying and learning.
Secondly, it has come up a lot that that's not what George Fox meant. He wasn't saying anything about the inherent worth of humans, but was talking about evangelism (answer that of God in each person - perhaps God is like a beneficial parasite??)
I'm not all that sure that I care what George Fox meant. From the little I know (and I never have tried to wade through his journal, or really any of his writings) George Fox was very earnest, a visionary, a passionate spiritual seeker, and a bit of a loon. Clearly there was that of God in him, but there was that of lots of other stuff too, we don't have to bronze all of it and place it on our altars (oops! we don't have altars, we're quakers!) However it came into our quaker vernacular, I am most interested in "what canst thou say?" - and I don't exclude those who think Fox was right-on about this - but don't quote Fox like he's my authority, tell me why the words of Fox resonate for thee, and speak to thy truth today