Republished from The Empty Path: Nonaligned faith and practice in the present.…
Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Timothy Taylor on radical objectivity: > But near what feels like an especially divisive election day, it seems worth posing his insights as a challenge for all of our partisan beliefs. While I am not a member of the Religious Society of Friends, I attended a college with Quaker roots and married a 22nd-generation Quaker. The Quakers have a term called a “query,” which refers to a question–sometimes a challenging or pointed question– that is meant to be used as a basis for additional reflection. His list isn’t really in the style of classic Quaker queries (surprise). It’s the modern style of leading questions that get called queries. Too often this form ends up being a rather transparent attempt to impose a kind of political orthodoxy but Taylor’s questions feel refreshingly challenging and useful for whatever side or non-side one takes in politics. . Hattip to [Doug Bennet](https://riverviewfriend.wordpress.com) for the link.
Mike Farley, of _Silent Assemblies_, writes of an early Quaker interpretation of anoiting: > I have been struck by the word “anointing”. Elizabeth Bathurst (as quoted by David Johnson) wrote: “But I brought them the scriptures, and told them there was an anointing within man to teach him, and the Lord would teach them himself.” We are not very used, I think, to the term among Friends today. Among charismatic Christians it is much more common, and seems to be used in both the sense of being given spiritual gifts… But I think Elizabeth Bathurst, following the apostle John, as she says, is using the word in a slightly different sense to either of these, and it is a sense we as Quakers should recognise.
Johan Maurer starts with “it’s complicated” and goes on from there. A passage I find particularly interesting is his explanation of why looking at large-scale state-level atrocities like the stealing of native land or the kidnapping of millions of Africans is not just something to be done out of guilt: > Whether you believe in an intelligent Satan (along the lines of Peter Wagner’s ideas) or a more impersonal mechanism of demonic evil (Walter Wink), we shouldn’t pretend that such nodes just go away. Their evil persists. The basis for apology and repentance is not white guilt or shame or any form of self-flagellation. Instead, it is to conduct spiritual warfare against the demons of racism and oppression and false witness, to declare them off-limits in the land that we now share, so that we can conduct our future stewardship—and make our public investments— in freedom and mutual regard. I’m drawn to the old notion of “The Tempter” as a force that leads us to do what’s personally rewarding rather than morally just. I think it explains a lot of internal struggles I’ve faced, even in simple witnesses. As Johan says, these massive injustices can’t just be undone but they need to be recognized for the immensity of their scale. I’ve also seen this weird way in which progressive whites can blithely disregard Native American perspectives on these issues. Listening more and waiting for complicated answers seems essential in my opinion.
From Lucy Duncan at the American Friends Service Commitee: > What if, instead of characterizing folks seeking home as “threats” or “invaders,” we understood them to be our neighbors, that our futures are interlocked and that how they are treated is connected to the well-being of us all? What if we understood love as not constrained by borders or walls, but abundant, and that caring for one another and those most violated by systemic oppression is the pathway toward liberation for us all? What if we, as people of conscience and faith, greeted the migrants at the border as our brothers, sisters, and kin, opened our homes and communities to them, and greeted them as resourceful contributors to figuring out the planetary threats we currently face together?
Over on Medium, consultant Jim Ralley looks to Quakers for the original of the faciliatator’s check-in: > The ‘check-in’ is a fundamental element in the repertoire of a facilitator. There’s no better way to start a session and get everyone present, and there’s no faster way to discover what’s going on under the surface of a group. It’s such a simple an effective process tool that I figured it must have a rich and well-documented history. But it’s proved quite tricky to research, partly because its name is shared with the hotel and airline industries, but partly also, I suspect, because of its simplicity. > Where to start? With such a basic human process, the line through history will surely be tangled and confused. But, for the sake of starting somewhere, I’ll start with the Quakers. I’ve left a comment on the post with missing links. I’ll leave a version of it here. Regular readers will predict that I’ll start with Rachel Davis DuBois, the New Jersey-born Friend who put together racial reconciliation groups in the mid-20th century. She later turned some of the process into “Dialogue Groups” in the mid-1960s and traveled the U.S. teaching them; these evolved into modern [Quaker worship sharing](https://www.friendsjournal.org/60th-anniversary-worship-sharing-comes-to-friends/) and [clearness committees](https://www.quakerranter.org/not-ancient-quaker-clearness-committee/). Those late-60s processes were picked up by the younger Friends, who (no surprise) were also into antiwar activism and communitarian politics. They were codified and secularized by the [Movement for a New Society](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movement_for_a_New_Society), which started in Philadelphia in the early 70s but had communities all over the Western world. Much of their work was focused on training people in their style of group process and a lot of our facilitator tools these days are disseminated MNS tools. Many MNS’ers were involved with Quakers and many more filtered back into the Religious Society of Friends in later years. A lot of this relatively recent history has been forgotten. Many Quakers will tell you these things all date from the very start of the Friends movement. There’s definitely through-lines and echos and inspirations through our history but I’d love to see us appreciate Rachel Davis DuBois and the people who made some very useful adaptations that have helped Quakers continue to evolve and (almost) thrive.
A review of two books on atheism starts with the take of Dan Seeger, who’s landmark Supreme Court case extended the right to conscientious objector status to agnostics and atheists: > Daniel Seeger was twenty-one when he wrote to his local draft board to say, “I have concluded that war, from the practical standpoint, is futile and self-defeating, and from the more important moral standpoint, it is unethical.” Some time later, he received the United States Selective Service System’s Form 150, asking him to detail his objections to military service. It took him a few days to reply, because he had no answer for the form’s first question: “Do you believe in a Supreme Being?” Unsatisfied with the two available options—“Yes” and “No”—Seeger finally decided to draw and check a third box: “See attached pages.” > Seeger’s victory helped mark a turning point for a minority that had once been denied so much as the right to testify in court, even in their own defense. Atheists, long discriminated against by civil authorities and derided by their fellow-citizens, were suddenly eligible for some of the exemptions and protections that had previously been restricted to believers. Daniel Seeger has written for and been featured in the pages of _Friends Journal_ many times over the ensuing decades but last year he wrote a great feature for us about the court case, [An AFSC Defense of the Rights of Conscience](https://www.friendsjournal.org/conscientious-objection-seeger/). A tip of the hat to Carol Holmes Alpern for sending this _New Yorker_ article way!
FGC’s Central Committee is meeting this weekend and wrote a letter of condolences to Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, site of the recent shooting > We are deeply saddened by the brutal slaying and injuries to members of your community and the law enforcement officers who intervened in the attack on your congregation on Saturday. That this violation occurred during your worship together is especially distressing to us. We stand united with all people of faith in praying for everyone affected.
A sweet interview this week over on QuakerSpeak, an interview with Carter Nash: > I believe that people will respond to love, because I believe people respond to God. And if God is love, that is what people will respond to, is love. I think that’s the key to a lot of things and to a lot of problems in the world, because if we truly believe in God and we truly believe that God is love as we were taught, and we act on that–and I believe that we are God’s hands here–then everything we do needs to be rooted in love.
On the QuakerQuaker forums, Kirby Urner sets out a vision for a future Quaker community: > My speculations, therefore, center around around what a Quaker Village might look like, understanding “village” to mean “small community” (hundreds or thousands, but not millions). How do these people live? How do they put their Christian values into practice? > Let’s say it’s a hundred years from now, when all of us are safely dead. Or maybe we’d like to accelerate the timeline? > For me, a hallmark of Quakerism is its egalitarianism and commitment to rotating roles. That’s not a feature of every branch I realize, and those who decry “outward forms” may consider Oversight, Property Management, Children’s Program etc., to be the opposite of “primitive” by definition. Perhaps such infrastructure seems too complicated, too much like everyday life. I realize we use our words differently. I like the qualification to imagine this 100 years from now. It gives us a bit of time to sort out all of the inconvenient roadblocks of current apathy and resistance to change. One of the techniques Amazon is said to use is to [start any new project ideas with a press release](https://www.forbes.com/sites/brittainladd/2018/08/27/these-two-things-are-what-make-amazon-amazon/#57252a995fd5) as a way to make sure the final product is focused on actual customer needs. Kirby’s piece reminds me of this. What would it look like to have a strong vision of the Quaker communities we’d like to live in someday?
From Jnana Hodson, a listing of three types of offices in traditional Quaker meetings: > Traditionally, Quaker meetings recognized and nurtured individuals who had spiritual gifts as ministers, elders, or overseers. These roles could be filled by men or women, and their service extended over the entire congregation. Many Friends have dropped the term “overseers” in recent years, out of concern for how the word is so associated with slavery. As I understand it, early Friends’ use of the word came from its use as an English translation for [Episkopos](https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/kjv/episkopos.html) in the New Testament. They considered themselves to be re-establishing early Christian models. For example, Acts 20:28: > Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. Bible translations that were geared toward a Catholic audience tended to stick to Latinized words and went with “bishop” over “overseer.” Quakers worried about the connotation of the word could propose that we just start naming bishops. It’s not as nutty as it might seem, as there are anabaptist churches who use the term to talk about roles within individual churches. Of course, sometimes name changes also mask changes in theology and I noticed that some of the more liberal Quaker meetings dropped “overseer” with a speed which they are not otherwise known for. Friends today are a lot more individualistic than Friends were when our institutions were set up — there are many good reasons for this in our histories. But I do hope we’re continuing to find adequate ways to notice and care for our members.
Wow Dr. E. Michael Jones, been watching interviews of the guy on U2b (Youtube).Maybe no one has heard of the guy or is interested in discussion. No Karen Armstrong.…Continue
I gather from studying the thinking of others at this website, that we're encouraged to share our vision of Quakerism going forward, and in particular to address the topic of a Quaker revival. What might that look like?In my view, the practice of…Continue