Born a Friend, raised a Friend, left Friends and then returned convinced anew. I travel under a minute of travel with a concern for Advancement of the the experience of the Spirit of Christ within Friends and in the wider world. The focus is on our traditional testimonies and a particular focus on the testimony of peace. Wife Tracy for 25+ years. 2 daughters, Marissa and Alanna, magnificent and a blessing.
After your keynote address, I wanted to write you and say what I like about the Society of Friends. Note that I’m an idealist and an inventor. I see the Religious Society of Friends through this lens.
First, Quakerism is perfectly comfortable with a continuum between science and places unknown. This allows us to be somewhat comfortable with the Healing Center in Sproul Pavilion even though the M.D.s among us have no scientific idea how it would work.
This theological acceptance can also extend beyond the normal bounds of Christianity. For example, Friends are perfectly willing to consider individual Friends’ stories of UFOs. I have heard two such accounts from Friends. We simply take the pragmatic approach that enough Friends of integrity (and others) have seen UFOs that we can't discount them offhand, but we have a shortage of solid evidence for them. It helps that individual Friends are asked to bring their strong integrity to such issues.
Quakerism is also comfortable with deconstructing both itself and other religious denominations. We can acknowledge the good that other denominations do. For example, if an AA meeting helps pull someone with alcoholism out of their spiral, we can respect that work. If people pray and apparently a miracle happens, we respect that also. At times we might join in this work. However, we also can see some of the issues that certain high-rent denominations raise. We sometimes see certain megachurches make plenty of money for the preacher's family, but we also see some megachurches go bankrupt. We see something of the worship of money, as opposed to worshipping God, in the prosperity gospel. We see what we consider to be modern churches drifting away from the pacifist message of Jesus and the entire early Christian church. We like our own faith to not be entangled with the power politics of a king or a money man.
I like how Friends' method of unprogrammed worship is contagious. We see other Friends deep in worship and we want to try to go there too. Soon enough, we want to be the Friends setting the example. It’s not preaching with words.
Friends develop a deep coherence of thought that is incomprehensible to almost all other denominations. If you ask 100 Friends their opinions on the Iraq war you will generally get zero Friends in favor of the war and zero Friends undecided. A mixture of cold anger and sorrow will predominate, with an occasional creative setup line. (Yes, Friends experiment with jokes) If you mix light from a yellow light bulb with sunlight you'll get a few light rays of every wavelength with predominantly yellow light, but laser light from a ruby laser is 100% of the ruby red wavelength.
Friends are good at supporting their own members and their own kids into high-powered, meaningful, rare professions. An entire Quaker folksinging Mafia purportedly exists, and part of it can be traced to Café nights acting like our minor leagues. Quaker kids such as Joan Baez and Bonnie Raitt set themselves high standards and went for them. This same setting of high standards goes all over the professional spectrum.
Friends are responsible for spreading consensus to the Clamshell Alliance. The Clam wrote up the rules of consensus and disseminated them. When practiced well, consensus seems to be a basis for making wise political decisions. We need that. Forty years later we still saw the same consensus process at Occupy encampments. The 1970s anti-nuclear movement shut off 1 trillion dollars in new U.S. nuclear construction in the late 1970s.
Modern Friends were responsible for taking a young Mohandas K. Gandhi in (London Friends). Bayard Rustin, chief organ