In those years, I worked for Right Sharing of World Resources, which supported a medicinal plant project under the care of Salvadoran Lutheran Aid. The office address of the project was the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in San Salvador. I loved getting letters from that address; my eyes were always drawn to the word "resurrection."
Much of Central America has gone de la locura a la esperanza since then, but the trail of the red horse continues to slash the globe. Although safety is never guaranteed to any of us, most of us in North American Quaker blogdom do not live with daily risk. But risk, voluntarily accepted, has always been a part of discipleship. Resurrection, too. (See Frances Grandy Taylor's article in the Hartford Courant: "When living your faith means risking death.")
By our understanding, Tom Fox did not live to see this Easter. Neither did Marla Ruzicka, whom we lost a year ago. (Find video glimpses of her here.) I prefer to think they got there first.
Maxine writes that she and the Baghdad CPT team are leaving Baghdad for a time. This arrived yesterday:
Well, I'm finally making my way home for a bit. I'm in Amman, Jordan right now and will be leaving for the United States tomorrow. I have some work to do when I get back, as there is a meeting or two I have to attend, and then hopefully I'll be able to take some time off with family and friends.
The CPT Iraq team has decided to have all of the team come out for a while based on the advice of friends and working partners in Iraq. Nearly all of the people we consulted suggested some time out, partly because we are very visible in Iraq right now and partly because the situation is deteriorating. They suggest waiting until the new government gets up and running, hopefully in about two months but perhaps longer.
They don't mention the alternative if the government is not able to form itself, which is civil war. So, we are in a "wait and see" mode for now.
It was incredibly difficult to literally close the door behind me as I left Baghdad, to leave people who have become family over the years. I have the option to leave when things get tough; most of them do not have the same option. I felt like a coward. However, most of them said the same thing to us--"You are too precious to us to have anything happen to you. We can't have another death among you."
It's simply amazing to me that they feel this way. It is real love they feel for us, a deep and tender love.
Although we feel strange about it, we are taking their counsel. After all, we are guests in their country. It's not our right, but rather our privilege, to be there.
I'm struck by the difference in the way we as CPT have been advised and how we have chosen to take advice, and in the way the US government and its military has heard the voice of Iraqis saying "leave" yet refuse to go. It seems to me that the bottom line is whether we are serving our own interests, or those of the people we say we say we have come to serve.
Due to the fact that I need a good, long rest I haven't made myself available for any speaking just yet. With the future uncertain I'm leaving it open for now, and waiting to see what way God leads in this.
Blessings to you all, and the next time I will hopefully be back with you in the U.S.
Peace to you-
I appreciated the gracious exchange that Brooklyn Quaker recorded in the post "April Fool satire not intended as sarcasm" and the comments that followed.
In fact, his graciousness came as a just rebuke to my sometimes cranky attitude toward inter-Quaker dialogue—particularly his generous reply to Pam's question, "I guess I just feel like there are so very many religions where you can cleave to christian doctrine, why are you a quaker??" I highly recommend his thoughtful response, which he promised to amplify later.
It is not Pam's fault at all that the question reminded me of two questions I heard years ago in other contexts. At an All-Kentucky Gathering of Friends, someone said to me that he could understand why his secretary was a Christian; she didn't know better. But surely I had the brainpower to know better!? I was so taken aback by the question at several levels that I cannot remember what I said.
The second question was asked on the floor of Friends Church Southwest's yearly sessions, during a discussion on the yearly meeting leadership's proposal to allow symbolic baptism and communion if local churches wanted it. "There are so many other churches where people can enjoy these ceremonies," began the questioner (based on my memory). "Why would you take away our unique understanding of spiritual reality?"
Billy Lewis, long-time Christian educator in the yearly meeting, openly grieved. He asked, in substance, how they could have failed so completely in educating their people in the essentials of Quaker doctrine.
If his yearly meeting failed in a secondary matter, the spiritual understanding of baptism and communion, I find it much more serious that other Friends bodies have failed in a central matter, the definition of Friends as a community who experience and organize themselves around Jesus Christ coming to teach his people himself.
Friends began, not as a relativization of Christianity, but as an intensification of Christianity. We did not throw away the Baby with the bathwater, but (sorry if you've heard this rant before!), the new scented bathwater in use among some seems to be so fine that the Baby can be left in the cold, and this is somehow called Quakerism! The majority of Friends in the world were never consulted about our name being used as a cover for marginalizing our Savior. If you can sense how sad and bizarre this seems to some of us, then you will understand why we sometimes despair of meaningful dialogue among Friends. Thank goodness there are still bridgebuilders like Rich Accetta-Evans, who has the patience to accompany us through our despair, wherever we find ourselves in these dilemmas.
Nevertheless, I would find it dishonest if I didn't ask the question that haunts me: Why would those who can't unite with Christianity insist on staying among Friends? There are so many ways of being non-Christian or loosely Christian, whereas Quakers have held up a unique and powerful understanding of Christian discipleship. But perhaps the spirit of Billy Lewis's question needs to be heard: What kind of educational vacuum have the "experienced" Quakers left that would cause anyone to contemplate a relativized quakerism without the living Christ?
It is possible that Pam's question is more directly aimed at liberal Friends, and not the larger worldwide Quaker movement, among whom liberals (however defined) are a minority. Is it possible that liberal Friends and "orthodox" Friends are simply two completely different religions with common historical roots, as the advocates of "realignment" asserted fifteen years ago to the near ruination of Friends United Meeting?
Perhaps, on an organizational chart, the answer might appear to be "yes." But I resist that simplistic characterization—it implies neat divisions between faith and practice, and between language and reality, that simply don't hold up. The most exciting Christian Quakers to work with, in my experience at FUM, were often those coming from the "liberal" communities. They were not burdened by churchy culture, outmoded models, and prefab rhetoric. Their experience of Christ was still at the thin line between expected and totally unexpected; they often had an amazing intellectual ability to synthesize Christian insight with politics, economics, and personal disciplines. Was I about to shut the door on the collaborations between (to risk stereotypes) Midwestern salt-of-the-earth, tested disciples, and these Eastern on-fire Quakers? Better to disrupt categories than get in the way of the Spirit.
So, even though I continue to gasp at the gulfs which occasionally open up between us, I know the bridges are still needed.