Mixing Quakers and Politics?

Update: I’ll be adding #qqtalk to tonight’s live Twit­ter blog of the Pres­i­den­tial debate. If you have a Twit­ter account you can just fol­low me at “martin_kelley” and non-Twitter users can see all the qqtalk posts by going to this “qqtalk” page. And def­i­nite­ly check out the fas­ci­nat­ing dis­cus­sions hap­pen­ing in the com­ments of this post!

Wess of Gath­eringin­Light just emailed me if we might des­ig­nate a “qqtalk” tag for those
of us Quak­erQuak­er reg­u­lars who are live-blogging tonight’s
pres­i­den­tial debate on Twit​ter​.com. Inter­est­ing idea but I’m worried
that it will be too par­ti­san. I, for one, have not been live blogging
the debates as a Friend.

I’ve tak­en a lot of care to keep Quak­erQuak­er culturally-neutral
so that we keep the focus on the faith. I want it to be a place where
peo­ple from dif­fer­ent back­grounds and val­ues will find com­mon ground in
their inter­est in the role of Quak­er tra­di­tion in their lives. I’m a left­ie East Coast Chris­t­ian anarco-pacifist – veg­an, bike rid­er, you get the pic­ture, right? – and while I can argue that my val­ues jibe with my
under­stand­ing of Quak­er faith, I would nev­er want to pre­sume that you
have to adopt them to be a good Quaker. 

Part of the problem
with Quak­erism in all of its forms is that we’ve mixed up the faith
with the cul­ture and some­times don’t know where one ends and the other
begins. That’s kind of nat­ur­al but it’s led to a sit­u­a­tion where we’re
some­times divid­ed against one anoth­er over the wrong issues. We also use the words “Quak­er” or “Friends” as a short­cut for a range of val­ues and don’t do the work explain­ing how the faith leads to the values.

So
in the few hours we have till the debate, any ideas about whether to
adopt a qqtalk tag? Drop them in the com­ments. Also, if you’re a Quaker
who’s going to be live-twittering tonight, leave your twit­ter name
below so peo­ple can see what we’re doing on an indi­vid­ual lev­el if they
want. 

I’ll start off: 

I’m at http://​twit​ter​.com/​m​a​r​t​i​n​_​k​e​l​ley and have been using #debate08 for my debate coverage.

  • Don’t you believe though that faith should inform your cul­tur­al world-view? I’m sure there’s a lot of gray areas that you an agree to dis­agree with oth­er Quak­ers, but it would be a shame to try to dis­miss your faith when you talk about your culture.

    • Def­i­nite­ly right. Yes, of course faith should be involved in shap­ing one’s cul­ture. I blog about it a lot. It’s just that when I’m shar­ing with Friends, I try to be extra care­ful about not mak­ing assump­tions. I take the time to explain where I’m com­ing from, and try to weigh the con­clu­sions I draw by how essen­tial they are. This arti­cle on Inessen­tial Weird­ness­es is real­ly good about talk­ing about how our mes­sage can some­times be drowned out by the insid­er signs and norms of our sub-cultures. 

      The trou­ble is that when I’ve been live twit­ter­ing the debates I’m not care­ful. I’m snarky. I’m some­times rude. The biggest Twit­ter laugh line at the VP debate was some­thing about Palin not believ­ing in ear­ly with­drawl either in Iraq or her chil­dren (bada boom!), which is fun­ny but just an awful sen­ti­ment real­ly. I know there are Quak­ers who sup­port McCain and while I dis­agree as a strong Oba­ma sup­port­er, as a broth­er in faith I want to under­stand where they’re com­ing from. Some of their points are valid, after all.

  • If you’re con­cerned about tying it to QQ specif­i­cal­ly we could use anoth­er des­ig­na­tion. I would think of it more as a com­mu­ni­ty in dis­cus­sion than us speak­ing for all Quak­ers — I’d hope there would be a diver­si­ty of thought with­in the group so that it isn’t all one view. Maybe this is a way to help breakup some of those assump­tions, short­cuts, etc. I think there’s a place for the church to be dis­cussing this stuff, and maybe what is miss­ing is a robust faith-informed politc instead of a politic that informs our faith.

    Anoth­er idea would be to open a new twit­ter user­name for you to blog from as a Quak­er, or to invite any Quak­er to blog from with this spe­cif­ic goal in mind.

  • dav­e­carl

    “Jibe,” Mar­tin, not “jive.” Sor­ry, this is a lead­ing of mine. Or a neu­rot­ic dis­or­der. Along with “ten­ants” and “tenets.”

    Cheers,

    David Carl

    • See, I can’t even talk about my jiv­ing ways with­out start­ing a Quak­er war 🙂 Sor­ry David, duly not­ed and duly changed, I’m now “jib­ing” in the post.

  • Mar­tin — Anoth­er way to approach this could be a more wide open Chris­t­ian dia­logue. We could have a tag and invite all our Friends of faith to post to it.

  • I’m with Gand­hi: remov­ing faith from pol­i­tics is fatal– social change is where faith is most needed.

    On the oth­er hand, I find the grotesque par­ti­san dra­ma tak­ing place in and around pres­i­den­tial pol­i­tics dis­taste­ful, diver­sion­ary, and unedifying.

    My pol­i­tics are focused on the con­crete as fol­lows: Mind the Light, exer­cise aus­ter­i­ty, serve oth­ers, and cel­e­brate life. How to tread the path between the impor­tant his­toric Quak­er wit­ness to make suf­frage and self-determination more wide­ly avail­able, and the Master’s mod­el of “my King­dom is not of this world” is very much an open ques­tion to me.

    For Quak­er peace wit­ness and ser­vice, I’m afraid the dif­fer­ence between the can­di­dates seems minute to me– both of them are vying for a posi­tion of pow­er based on politico-military dom­i­nance that I feel called to utter­ly reject.

    I under­stand that dif­fer­ent Quak­ers have dif­fer­ent ideas about this, and I don’t have a prob­lem with peo­ple get­ting into the par­ti­san dra­ma on Twit­ter. Twit­ter, after all, isn’t meet­ing for worship. 😉

    • John — I agree and what you said above would be total­ly worth “twit­ter­ing” about dur­ing the elec­tions. I don’t think using twit­ter neces­si­tates any kind of “grotesque par­ti­san dra­ma” it can be far more crit­i­cal than that. 

      • Not at all– I like Twit­ter a lot. It’s a great com­mu­ni­ca­tion plat­form for the rapid exchange of mean­ing­ful con­tent. Relat­ed: you’re followed.

        • Thanks — are you on twitter?

          • @johnstephens

    • @John: I agree, great points. I’ve got­ten sucked into par­ti­san­ship w/o really
      think­ing about how it fits into the larg­er issues of being in or out of the
      world. That I’m vot­ing at all is a big change from my past positions!

      • Mar­tin — that’s why I think this could be poten­tial­ly good — force our­selves to approach it more from our faith. But if we don’t do it tonight inten­tion­al­ly, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. 

        • Yes, well let’s try it: just put *#qqtalk* into the Tweets. I’ll omit the
          tag if I’m post­ing some­thing par­tic­u­lar­ly snarky/non-christian (lit­tle ‘c’).
          For those want­i­ng to play along, your tweets should look some­thing like
          this:

          #debate08 #qqtalk McCain just said some­thing par­tic­u­lar­ly witty!

  • OK I’ll bite. Fol­low me on Twit­ter if you would like @davidinindy . I’m hes­i­tant, but Wess won me over with very good points. I’ll also leave the “#qqtalk” tag off if I get too snarky.

  • What is the point in twit­ter­ing the debate if you’re not going to be snarky? Do you think God doesn’t know if you don’t tag it with @qqtalk? Either your snark is part of you or it’s not. 

    • The prob­lem of the Inner Snark? Well, I’m less wor­ried about God, who of
      course know me in all sorts of imper­fec­tions, than I am with oth­ers who
      might extrap­o­late that my behav­ior is Quak­er behavior.

      One of the argu­ments ancient and cur­rent for plain dress is that it holds us
      respon­si­ble for our behav­ior out­side our imme­di­ate reli­gious com­mu­ni­ty. I
      can say from expe­ri­ence that it’s a lit­tle embar­rass­ing to real­ize you’ve
      just giv­en some­one the fin­ger when dressed in broad­falls, espe­cial­ly when
      you imag­ine the lat­er reportage (“Hon­ey you’ll nev­er believe this, some
      Amish guy flipped me the bird today when I almost ran him down on his
      bike!”). The dress­ing becomes a reminder of what we aspire to. I think
      adding #qqtalk made me less like­ly to Tweet gross­ly unfair things last
      night.

      • My favorite parts were indeed the quotes from the Dis­ci­pline. Didn’t see the debate, so can’t imag­ine the tie-in.

      • So is it a good thing or not to be less unfair in public? 

        I think there’s got to be a mid­dle ground that can include a dry sense of humor but not the inflam­ma­to­ry finger…

      • “I can say from expe­ri­ence that it’s a lit­tle embar­rass­ing to real­ize you’ve
        just giv­en some­one the fin­ger when dressed in broadfalls…”

        Now, see, I might still be a Quak­er you had did this to me at FGC, let’s say…

        • So what, we need a new branch, the “F.U. Quak­ers” if we want to retain the Joe G’s? Might be worth it. I have thought we might do well by more freely using the word bull­shit when the stench of self-deception ris­es to the olfac­to­ry lev­el. Appar­ent­ly this use of bull was well estab­lished by Fox’s time:

          “Sais christ to ypocrites … yee ar … all ful with wickednes, tre­sun and bull.” [“Cur­sor Mun­di,” c.1300]

  • If this post had been some­thing I’d have read two or three days before the debate – as opposed to one day after it! – I may have checked the whole Twit­ter thing out. Twit­ter was VERY use­ful to me when the RNC was in town, giv­en all the activ­i­ty in my neck of the woods. 

    I hope it was a worth­while exper­i­ment, either way.

    Bless­ings,
    Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

  • I’m glad it hap­pened, I hope we can do it again with more peo­ple involved.