I'm trying to pin down exactly why I'm so uneasy with the tendency among some of us Quaker communicators to be so fascinated by ourselves. Here's what I worry might be going on: We get some kind of unspoken pleasure from being peculiar. And I worry that this gratification will render us permanently irrelevant to all but a tiny minority of those who could benefit from Friends faith and practice.
By "peculiarities" I don't mean our teachings about discipleship, except in their corrupt form. I don't mean the prophetic message for the world represented by those teachings. When we say that God requires us to reject violence and weapons, to find our own place in the church--and our leaders--through spiritual gifts rather than social status, to exercise simplicity and economic discipleship, and to make church decisions based on corporate prayer and discernment, we are simply reporting what we have learned as a community from God. And God forbid that we substitute scripts and furniture borrowed from other Christian communities, no matter how worthy, to cover up our disbelief that God has spoken to us directly.
Nor do I want to criticize the different cultures that Friends have developed worldwide as they try to live out these Godly imperatives from generation to generation. We are humans, after all; we generally prefer the familiar. Example: Many of us in the English-speaking Friends world do not use titles such as Mr. and Mrs. among ourselves and find it awkward to do so in the larger public, especially if (as a result) the woman's first name disappears. So in these ways our refusal to glorify the world's social distinctions takes concrete form, and that's natural.
But corruption occurs when we begin to forget the "why" of our folkways and let them become filters that totally contradict the extraordinary wave of God's power that originally formed us as a community, and ought to be continuing to form us--from the full range of human variety! Our distinctive teachings are only "peculiar" because we've not gone far enough in making them available to all.
And there's my worry: maybe it's kind of nice to be a tiny society of reflective people holding advanced views, united by subtle signals. Once again, the signals themselves are not the problem--nobody will reject Friends simply because they happen to hear us say "I approve" or "I hope so" in business meetings instead of "Let's go for it!" The decisive factor is where we put our trust and energy. Do we look outwardly at the world, expectantly, hospitably, eager to find ever new ways of challenging the powers of oppression and objectification with the urgent message of Jesus, and throwing open the doors for those who want to be nurtured together with us by the same springs that nurtured this message? Or do we only look inwardly, guarding the peculiar boundaries around our shrinking society, and welcoming only those who are ready to admire us and imitate us as we think we deserve?
OK, enough on this topic. Why should I criticize Friendly self-absorption while practicing it myself?
Open Source Theology: "Postmodern agency and doing the Christian life": ... "Christian is not a onetime choice that defines what you are for all time; Christian is how you live and do in the present. Christian is not a noun, but a verb. So, in effect, one does not pick up their cross once, but everyday they pick up their cross and more or less live as a Christian in world of flux."
What happens when Christian artists play roles?--"Alice Cooper banned from gig for anti-Christian values." (Thanks to mondaymorninginsight.com for the reference.)
"Should people of color go to Russia?" Marker on Buster's new site. Original post on Moscow Through Brown Eyes, with comments. Repost and comments.
Daily prayer: "What helps you?"
A hundred years of special effects technology in the movies.
Junior Wells and Buddy Guy together in 1986. A wonderful sample of one of the most fruitful partnerships in blues history.