|Derek Lamson on Tom Fox|
Two more points:
First: In partial response to what Bill Samuel wrote in his comments, I want to be more explicit about one of my perennial discontents with Quaker publishing: it is so extremely focused on us.
Aside from academic stuff, the Christian publications I find most useful begin with the audience member's situation, either as an individual or as a part of society--in either case, facing a significant challenge. The author then tries to show how biblical insights, Christian disciplines, the author's own personal experiences, or the lives of fellow Christians, can shed light on the reader's situation. In many cases, such expressions have an emotional appeal as well--ranging from "your eternal destiny might be at stake!" to "God has hope for you in your addictions" to "Stop this injustice before more people are exploited or killed!" Sometimes the author even dares to claim a God-given insight specifically for that situation.
Please let me know whether you've found Quaker books, pamphlets, videos, anything, from recent years, that do this. I'm not saying they don't exist--if they do, I'd like to do my bit to give them more visibility. But too often we are not audience-centered at all; we're too busy describing ourselves and our ideas. Whether our motive is to make Quakers simply glow in the dark, or to one-up somebody else, internal or external, it's all about us.
It can't be just about us any more. Either God wants to reach the world through us, or we are just a boutique option for a spiritually drifting niche market, and our fellow creatures in spiritual or social agony should look somewhere else. If there's some other way to put it, convince me! In any case, I can't believe that the best we have to offer is to describe ourselves yet again, or to theorize on silence, "minding the light," simple living, earth care, from a position of serene safety.
There is a place for self-description; our hard-earned heritage deserves loving stewardship and persuasive advocacy, especially as we continue the important work of spiritual formation within our community and the empowerment of newcomers. I'd like us to build on that strength, going forward with honest attempts to speak God's prophetic words to the condition of people who don't have the safety margin to enjoy our self-descriptions, internal arguments, and theories. And if such people have a word to say to us, let's find ways of making that connection. Is more of this already happening than I realize? (Perhaps beyond the North Atlantic zone of Friendly affluence?)
Second: Forrest's last point in his comment to my previous post bears repeating. Where we go wrong, seeking the mantle of Early Friends, is in our yearning to see a triumphant Kingdom of God. A whole lot of wreckage needs to be cleared away for that, and our oncoming task may be less to save the world than to rescue our fellow refugees! (And for now, to be gentle with ourselves & others!)
I confess that I'm not motivated by a yearning for a triumphant Kingdom of God. Maybe I should be, and I guess that on some theoretical level, maybe I am. I actually take it for granted that, in the end, the persistent and universal "weak force" of God's loving sovereign intentions will totally prevail. But as Forrest says, there's a lot of wreckage to be cleared, a lot of fellow refugees to be rescued. Thomas Kelly spoke movingly about the life of faith, but even more movingly about faith in a specific context: the clouds gathering over Nazi Germany.
So: From day to day, I just want to be used by God. I want to figure out what Jesus is doing in the world and be part of it. Where Friends have helped me most with this is in shaping my discernment. Not that I discern perfectly, but, thanks to Friends, I believe that the clearest marks of Jesus's presence and work will be uncompromised by violence, objectification, social status, or any other demonic distractions. But, since we humans are limited, we'll catch glimpses of his redemptive promises in the most unlikely places--even among people who don't have theories as progressive and savory as ours!
If we can simply speak from where we are at this moment--if we can dare to experience the lack of safety or the spiritual disorientation of even one other human being, and speak God's word with urgent tenderness and in accessible language to that person--that's all I really yearn for. That's what I want Friends to be known for.
(Continued on September 3.)
Speaking of passion, from one Israeli peacemaker to another.
In the "wish I could be there" department: the 2009 London Mennonite Forum. Read and sigh, or sign up!
Nancy Thomas on education, hospitality, and "paying attention."
Scraps of Moscow on Russia vs Georgia, a year later.
"Who Lincoln Was"--Sean Wilentz presents a fascinating survey of recent studies of Abraham Lincoln.
Sweden gets the blues:
Big Joe Louis: vocal & guitar; King David: vocal & guitar; Tim Lothar: drums; Magnus Lanshammar: bass. See Youtube user AlruneRod2811's page for more.