Micah Bales and that “extreme” “interventionist” “crazy talk.”

Micah Bales and that “extreme” “interventionist” “crazy talk.”

In a recent piece entitled “God” is no Substitute for Strategy” Micah Bales breaks down the founding Quaker testimony of and witness to the sufficiency of the immediate and direct inward presence of the Spirit of God as “crazy talk.” He then doubles down by labeling or characterizing those who trust  completely and solely in the intuitive “intervention” of the inward Spirit of Christ as “extreme.” He calls us in derision “interventionist.” He also suggests later in the article that those who do not have faith in outward forms manifested through the human facilities (reason) do a “disservice” to God. That is, they are not serving God!

Reading his article is like reading the talking points (tactics) of a political strategist. The article has negative labels tagging crazy interventionists as having a “tendency against advance planning and rational thought.” Watch the strategy in his words. Actually, he is moving between strategy and tactic. The strategy is to bring people into the embracement of a conscious anchored in and a conscience informed by outward teachings, ideas, or plans. The tactic is showing sympathy on one hand by acknowledging Fox’s statement “Don’t think, but submit” [to God].  While on the other hand, questioning the very thing he just agreed with by saying all that trusting completely in the sufficiency of the inward Spirit itself to guide and inform is excessive.  See, this ideological sleight of hand is a time honored political tactic. You have to show some sympathy or they just won’t follow you. Set up an artifice based on sympathy; then slowly add other foyers, rooms, and carports so that the original artifice is unrecognizable. You look around and wonder: “Wow, this isn’t what I moved into.”

But how does Micah label his own outward artifice? Unlike those crazy, extreme, excessive, interventionists who wish to “replace” human facilities (Watch! You first have to agree with or buy into his construct that those crazy people who have faith completely in the inward Light to guide them, “wish to replace the human facilities”), Micah says it is God’s intention to “restore the whole creation - body, mind, and spirit - to its “intended maturity and vitality in Christ.” Watch! By implication, those excessive and crazy people want to “replace” creation and upset God’s intended purpose. Micah is saying if you are a person whose life, meaning, purpose, and identity are anchored in a conscious illuminated by and a conscience informed by “immediate” (in Micah’s own words) Presence itself, that experience is not intended by God. In fact, being that is fulfilled by faith in the grace of Presence itself, works against God’s restorative work and does not serve God. Micah sets himself up as one who is on the side of restoring the whole creation to its intended maturity and vitality in Christ. He is on God’s side and serving him in the fulfillment of God’s intention purpose. By implication, Micah is moderate and reasonable … not excessive. He is a “co-creator” with God … not an excessive destroyer like those crazy people.  

Now what is it about this experience of the sufficient immediate inward Presence itself as the sufficient source of meaning, purpose, consciousness, in the conscious and conscience that is so troubling to Micah? Watch!  Living actively in immediate intuitive Presence itself that is anchoring the conscious and informing the conscience Micah finds cripples “our general inability to do long-range planning.” He doesn’t set out any examples of long-range plans he thinks should be implemented. He merely wants the reader to warm up to the outward idea that abstract outwardly expired long-range planning that comes through the human faculties is how we begin to go about helping God realize his intended purpose. Micah wants the reader to follow his outward reasoning to the place where they are open to a conscious anchored in and a conscience informed by outward long-range plans. That is, wherein their identity, purpose, meaning, and actions, are anchored in and informed by outward ideas and plans. For those who have faith in outward forms, it is a must that people are open to and willing to identify with and adhere to the process of the formation outward plans and practices. This initial posture is fundamental … it is essential because once those with political and religious agendas gain inroads to the conscious and conscience, anchoring the conscious and informing the conscience with outward plans, ideas, conceptual forms, etc. those outside plans and ideas capture the minds and become sources, of meaning, purpose, and direction from which leaders direct people to realize their outward civil and religious agendas. Those of us whose conscious is anchored in and conscience are informed by experiencing inward Presence itself are a problem for those with outward political and religious agendas they wish to see fulfilled in the outward society. We just are not of the right mindset. Our very life and meaning is mis-directed in Presence itself. We cannot be captured or agitated into compliance with the outward forms and plans of the civil and religious state because we live a Life in a completely different State. Those of us who adhered solely to the guidance of inward Presence and are ever touched by the Light itself in our conscious and conscience are just crazy people who cannot be controlled and directed by the outward agendas of people who would rule and oversee and guide through the outward structures of the civil and religious state.

It is never once even considered in the article that perhaps human being sustained and nurtured in Presence itself is long-range planning. Imagine a witness to the living in the activity of the Spirit of Christ fulfilling our conscious and informing our conscience as long-range planning … viz. eternal life. For many of us that is bold living and acting ... presently and fearlessly … in the eternal Kingdom. For many of us the Kingdom is here … there is no-thing to create. There are no objectives to attain. In the inspired Light of Presence itself there are no outward institutions to build, no outward political or religious agendas to fulfill.  They are fulfilled in the immediate experience of Presence itself. It is the actual living of the Life that fulfills and sustains.

These arguments and labels against those whose conscious is anchored in and whose conscience is informed by inspired Immediacy itself are not new in Quaker history. The outward words and sentiments used to capture the conscious and inform the conscience of people may change slightly but the meaning, intent, agenda, and derision are the same.

There are those of us who know a life wherein our very consciousness, meaning, purpose, and direction, is guided in and through adherence to the long-range (eternal) perspective of the directly experienced inward Light itself. We have a long-range perspective … the eternal life we are living in this world and at this moment. Ours is to share that Life through testimony and witness. We do not look for or trust in the outward plans, ideologies, and institutions, of the civil and religious state. Ours is to live the long-range inward Plan manifested through personally experienced inward Presence itself. There is our hope. There is our peace. There is our joy. There is our heritage.

I know our way is not the way of those whose conscious is anchored in and conscience is informed by outward forms. We have been lead out of that way and into a different way. That way is sufficient for us in all things and in all circumstances in our daily lives and all we do is share the Way and trust the inward working of the Light itself will convince and guide. We acknowledge that our way is crippling to other ways. However, we will continue to share our way.

Historically, since the very beginning of Quaker history, when we came into contact with others who derided and mis-represented our resting solely in the guidance and meaning of inward Presence itself we reciprocated in kind and derided those who derided us. Today, by power of increased measured of Light filling our conscious and guiding our conscience, we are so deeping into the LIfe itself that the outward feelings and thoughts of anger and retaliation have lost their power and are but on the distant horizon of our soul and managed and overcome in the candling Light itself. By the power of the Candling itself; we do not respond in kind with weapons of outward ideological warfare.

To some, our message of the sufficiency of Presence itself comes across as demeaning. It is true the experience of the sufficiency of inward Light demeans a faith in outward forms in the sense that it cripples the outward designs of the civil and religious state by freeing people from dependency upon outward forms, traditions, and practices for meaning, purpose, and direction, in this life. Again, While we acknowledge this, it is ours to share the different Way.

 

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Comment by Keith Saylor on 10th mo. 27, 2015 at 10:53pm

Mackenzie. Thank you for sharing that information with me. The subject fascinates me. 

Comment by Howard Brod on 10th mo. 28, 2015 at 6:30pm

Dear Bill,

I love you my Friend; but I think you are over-stating the occultism thing.  I have been to many liberal meetings for many events and very few Friends are 'into' occultism.  It is true that liberal Friends are certainly free to explore it if they want.  But, I know no one who is an occultist.

I do agree that the context of Christ-centerness experienced by Hicks is not prevalent among liberal Quakers in modern times.  I think that is because Hicks inadvertently encouraged a seeking that of God wherever it might be - not just in a Christian context.  So, the experience of liberal Quakers over the years has been that it is indeed manifested in many places.  Different labels, but the same "Light" that manifested through Jesus.

Comment by Diane Benton on 10th mo. 28, 2015 at 7:13pm

Presence brings righteousness (being in right relationship with one's creator),  peace and joy.  To experience those is to experience Presence.  I have found a measure of Presence wherever those are desired. 

Comment by William F Rushby on 10th mo. 28, 2015 at 7:41pm

Hello, Howard!  I am not interested in provoking you, but would like to point out that Wiccan and other occult interest groups are a regular feature of the FCG annual gathering.  Until not long ago, "sweat lodges" were also a regular event.  My point is that, when traditional Quaker "venues" for accessing the supernatural are discouraged (overtly or covertly), the hunger for a relationship with the supernatural doesn't disappear; it gets "channeled" into "alternative" spirituality.  This happened back in the 19th Century, and it happens yet today!

The hunger for God just will not go away!  Stalin and Mao found that out. 

Comment by Howard Brod on 10th mo. 28, 2015 at 7:44pm

My understanding of history is that spiritualism was more a phenomena of the Progressive Quakers, who later were basically absorbed by the Hicksites.  The Hicksites brought to the relationship the primacy of the Inner Light (the 'Christ Within') over biblical teaching and a large organizational structure, and the Progressive Quakers brought an openness to the world that is outside of Quakerism (things such as social activism, modern dress and speech, and freedom of spiritual thought) and some dynamic Friends.  Together, this morphed Quaker group evolved into liberal Quakerism.  Elias Hicks is probably inaccurately identified by many as the originator of liberal Quaker theology because the Hicksites were the larger group in this "marriage".  With the combination of these two Quaker groups it was only a matter of time before eighteenth and nineteenth century Quaker traditions and norms would die away.

And I'm sure many Evangelical and Orthodox (FUM) Friends probably regard liberal Quakers as the "black hole" of the Quaker universe - because whatever Quaker branch/group mingles with them soon becomes absorbed by them.  This has happened over and over again throughout the nearly two hundred year history of liberal Quakerism.

Comment by Howard Brod on 10th mo. 28, 2015 at 8:03pm

Bill,

You certainly never provoke me.  I love the dialogue, Friend!  I do think your wording is a bit dramatic. 

Yes, openness to any venue of spirituality that has aspects of 'Light' are welcomed among liberal Friends.  Wiccan spirituality has much Light to teach about our natural world and viewing nature holistically.  But an interest group at yearly meeting does not equal a movement among liberal Quakers to become a Wiccan religion.  Generally, yearly meeting interest groups in fact occur just because there is not much interest in, for example, Wiccan in local meetings - so the only chance to share such a scarce interest is at yearly meeting where masses of Friends are present and a few can get together for this topic.  And it would be odd indeed for any liberal yearly meeting to bar an interest group that is emphasizing the Light within that tradition or interest.

I think you are mistaking liberal Quakerism's lack of controlling the 'manifestation of Light' in others as a heathen movement.  However, I view it as seeking that of God (or "the Light") wherever it may be found and allowing the Spirit of Christ to do its work outside of our expectations.  This is exactly what our entire world needs no matter what religious tradition people adhere to. It is the only way our world will be transformed.

Comment by William F Rushby on 10th mo. 28, 2015 at 9:26pm

Hwoard:  I do not regard the FGC as a "heathen" organization, but I do believe that it tolerates some religious expressions that I and many others would regard as bizarrely unorthodox!  I don't use the word "heathen" to describe anyone or anything; too provocative and uncharitable!

I note with appreciation that the planning committee for the FGC Gathering turned down a proposed occultist workshop a few years ago--whose theme was to be "black magic" or something like that--it targeted adolescents.  That showed some good sense!

I am really not qualified to draw any conclusions about how extensive occult religi0sity is among FGC Friends.  I have not attended an FGC meeting in decades.  My observations are based mostly on internet information.

Comment by Howard Brod on 10th mo. 28, 2015 at 10:07pm

I will agree with you, Bill, that liberal Friends are a free-spirited group - not everyone's cup of tea.

I am always reminded by Jesus words, "By their fruits you will know them".  I spent half my life in a religion that placed lots of importance on knowledge (beliefs and doctrines), controlling its adherents' behavior (pointing out everyone's sin to them), and judging everyone else as not 'chosen'.  And since leaving all of that behind 30 years ago because I just couldn't stand it any more (I was not kicked out), I have been so grateful for a spiritual environment that seems to grasp that the fruits of the Spirit are what really identifies the Presence of the Spirit in anyone, any place, any culture, any religion, and any time.  And I really think if Jesus visited us in person in our day, that's what would resonate with him.

Comment by William F Rushby on 10th mo. 29, 2015 at 11:38am

Howard:  I think that interest in Spiritualism was widespread among liberal Friends, at least in the East.  I have not personally found evidence of it in the writing of Indiana Hicksite Friends, but my range of reading is limited.  Elizabeth Newport mentions it favorably in her journal; she was an eastern Hicksite minister of the 19th Century.

There is a Quaker homestead that we drove by frequently when I was young, at North Ferrisburg VT.  It was the home of Roland Robinson.  He was a Hicksite, but then joined the Spiritualists.  I don't think he had any close connection with the Progressive Friends.  See Rokeby: http://rokeby.org/exhibits/seasonal-exhibit/

There was some tension between Elias Hicks and his cousins Edward Hicks (the painter) and Rachel Hicks (Hicksite minister).  As I recall, they felt that Elias had gone too far in departing from orthodox Christian doctrine.  Remember that many sided with the Hicksites for reasons that had little to do with doctrine: particularly kin relations and matters of church discipline.  Most of these, including some of Elias' relatives, were theologically closer to the Orthodox Friends.

Later in the 19th Century, a new mindset gained ground among the Hicksites, under the leadership of Lucretia Mott.  Her followers rejected the more conservative Hicksite style in evidence in rural Hicksite communities.  By the time the FGC was established, Lucretia's followers were dominant, and they excluded the older leadership of acknowledged ministers such as John J. Cornell, Sunderland Gardner and others from the program of the first official FGC event.  In their place, Jesse Holmes and other academics were featured.  The Elias Hicks era was over!!

Comment by Jim Wilson on 10th mo. 29, 2015 at 12:07pm

William:

Your post touches on a question I have been exploring, when I have had the time, which is not frequent.  It has to do with the rise of academic Quakers.  The early Quakers were very suspicious of academia and critiqued the 'Professors of Religion'; they used other derogatory terms to describe those who had academic theological training.  Some of the early Quakers, like Barclay, were learned and academically trained, but they consciously put that training aside to join the Quakers.  In a way Barclay's 'Apology' is a diatribe against the academic establishment.  He has very harsh things to say about them here and there.

What I find interesting is that Quakers seem to have not continued with this critique of the academy and not taken it to heart.  In America, the colonies, they established institutions of higher learning.  In contrast, the Anabaptists retained a lasting critique of higher education and the academy which is operative down to the present day.

In both liberal and evangelical Quaker traditions they seem to have, at the present time, a strong adherence to various academic views.  Evangelicals have institutions of higher learning such as George Fox University and Earlham.  Liberals seem to rely on the standard liberal, modernist, views on religion that are found, for example, at Yale or Harvard.  But neither tradition has retained the sense of suspicion towards the academy that the early Quakers had.  

The more I read about Lucretia Mott the more I find her to be a difficult personality; opinionated, relentless, uncompromising, and schismatic.  That is just from what I have read; I'm not an expert.

The result of this general focus on the academy has resulted in the creation of a Quaker academic elite and a kind of certification process that involves academic credentials.  My overall feeling is that this has not served the Quaker community well, though there may be individual exceptions.  This kind of credentialing marginalizes people like Lewis Benson and others who have something to offer but are not academically credentialed.  

Academics are primarily focused on the academy.  The standards for advancement in the academy are often at odds with the standards of a religious calling.  In addition, the academy is saturated with modes of analysis, such as the hermeneutic of suspicion, that is corrosive to a heart based understanding. 

Just a few thoughts stimulated by your thoughtful post.

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