You may wonder why of all the quakers in history I would choose James Naylor as my pen name. Is it becuase I suffer from gender confusion? Or am I a bit "touched" as the southerners say... Why would you pick him when quakers from early on were "egalitarian" letting women preach...there must be just as rousing early female quakers to pick..?
These are all logical questions, however, I picked Naylor because there is just something about him. Perhaps it has something to do with my first introduction to Naylor in a class on Quakerism at a certain small liberal arts college in North Carolina, I was convinced after reading about the infamous ride into Bristol that not only his adoring followers but that he himself was naked while riding the donkey. The professor never attempted to correct this notion and in fact, sorta lead us on in this delusion. It was not uncommon for early quakers to go naked as a symbol of their nakedness/innocence before god (the next time you consider plain dress remember nudity is an option). So it was not out of the question for him to have been naked, however, mislead I was. At any rate my interest in Naylor goes beyond the nakedness.
I believe that Naylor was a threat to Fox and his vision of Quakerism. Naylor's popularity and charisma where threatening. Really all Fox had was his bible and the visions from Pendle hill (were they induced out of fasting or from wild mushrooms we will never know). Fox did not have the pentchant for street theatre and gorilla art like Naylor did. Despite the "Woe unto the bloody city of Litchfield" incident, but the truth be told Naylor out did Fox when it came to spirit-led street theatre and generally make a public scene. Thus all Fox could do was chastise Naylor in the hopes of keeping a tight reign on early Friends. However, Naylor was just following the Spirit. We have all felt the call, which makes us wonder what kind of trickster god must be. However, there is a need and place for humor in our spirituality.
We must remember that sometimes we will be asked to do something that is threatening to the status quo. Something that could earn us the chastisement and criticism of our elders, but sometimes things just need to be challenged. And if a little humor can be added into this questioning of authority all the better.
The lower God doth bring me, and the nearer to himself, the more doth this Love and Tenderness spring and spread towards the poor, simple and despised ones, who are poor in spirit, meek and lowly Suffering Lambs, and with those I choose to suffer, and do suffer, wherever they are found. James Naylor (the original)