Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Carol, my mom, shared one of two spoken ministries in Meeting for Worship last First Day.
I found out about it second hand, as my job, as her chauffeur, was to obtain new triple-A batteries for her hearing device (she's 87) and pack her lunch, so she could eat a bit during Peace & Social Concerns, leaving early to make a concert downtown. I did this during worship.
Anyway, I gather she shared about the threat of WW3 breaking out, which you'll see all over Youtube as a hot, maybe trending, topic. She said something like: "if there are any of us left to look back, we'll likely date the beginning of WW3 to last November" -- but then she didn't mention what it was that happened last November.
At least one Friend came up to me asking "what happened last November?"
A tentative hypothesis was she meant this November, the month we're moving into next. This was the night of the second US presidential debate. I'd miss most of it as I was still on chauffeur duty, driving mom's 90-year old friend and WILPF lady to her home out in Hillsboro, out by Intel and all that. Given the national political show has turned more towards horror, as a genre, the prospect of something hugely negative occurring seems looming.
Of course I asked her what she meant, relaying I'd gotten questions. It turns out she was referring to when Russia and the US both started using the same airspace to bomb hapless citizens of Syria, referred to as either civilians or terrorists depending on whether "war crimes" are being emphasized. As Quakers, we see all outward war as a crime, period, so the notion of "war crimes" sounds somewhat redundant to the point of intellectually sloppy, but that's just us.
Carol agreed her ministry might have been more effective at that point if she'd added a sentence or two to refresh our memories. Then she said something interesting: "I wonder if many Quakers are following the news any more -- maybe most of them have tuned out in their search for inner peace." I found that to be a telling comment i.e. one that probably has some truth to it.
On the other hand, I spent the time Carol was in her Peace and Social Concerns meeting talking to one of our pastors. We're a Liberal meeting, meaning all our roles rotate among volunteers, however we have no problem including members who may be pastors in other walks of life. She, like me, spends a lot of her time browsing, researching, learning, and we sat there studying world religions together. "How do Shriners related to Freemasons?" "What's Yom Kippur all about?" "What is the significance of the Star of David?"
Google to the rescue, right? We sat together using the Meeting's wifi, exploring world religions together. That was an instructive experience.
World events seem to happen on different time scales, which interleave. We have the short term, and the long term. Without the context of a longer term, the shorter term tends to lose meaning. Many suffer from a loss of short term memory, a symptom of Alzheimer's. However we may also suffer from loss of long term memory, which we call Amnesia. Gore Vidal once said "USA" stands for "United States of Amnesia".
What I take away from all this is that Quakerism faces the ongoing challenge of working on different timelines. We need our longer term history to inform our shorter term responses, in our perpetual quest for right sharing and right action. Any religious tradition needs to rise to this challenge.
Another way of putting it: we need to integrate our personal bubble, the conscious lives we live, with a timeline that starts before birth and extends beyond death. Coming to see one's personal timeline against the background of a much wider and longer one, is what religion enables, and science as well.
In finding an inner peace, a space of non-violence, of calm, of equanimity, we become anchors for others, because our responses stem from expectant waiting and worship. We're not afraid to exalt intuition, our gateway to a higher more compassionate intelligence, above mere reason, above fear. Through God's grace, we become Friends who preserve, who save, what is valuable and critical in Creation. We don't just get carried along, missing either any historical perspective or sense of personhood, or ego.
I know some will say "any sense of ego is sinful (in error)" however that's not my ministry. By "ego" I simply mean that bundle of reflexes and traits we call a "personality" or "character", and given Quakerism is about role playing, sharing responsibility, practicing right action, it helps to have one's persona. The show must go on.