Sightings: Elevator Pitches, the Economics of Jesus and the Gospel in Spain

Post­ed from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

The Not-Quite-So Young Quakers

It was five years ago this week that I sat down and wrote about a cool new move­ment I had been read­ing about. It would have been Jor­dan Coop­er‘s blog that turned me onto Robert E Web­ber‘s The Younger Evan­gel­i­cals, a look at gen­er­a­tional shifts among Amer­i­can Evan­gel­i­cals. I found it simul­ta­ne­ous­ly dis­ori­ent­ing and shock­ing that I actu­al­ly iden­ti­fied with most of the trends Web­ber out­lined. Here I was, still a young’ish Friend attend­ing one of the most lib­er­al Friends meet­ings in the coun­try (Cen­tral Philadel­phia) and work­ing for the very orga­ni­za­tion whose ini­tials (FGC) are inter­na­tion­al short­hand for hippy-dippy lib­er­al Quak­erism, yet I was nod­ding my head and laugh­ing out loud at just about every­thing Web­ber said. Although he most like­ly nev­er walked into a meet­ing­house, he clear­ly explained the gen­er­a­tional dynam­ics run­ning through Quak­er cul­ture and I fin­ished the book with a bet­ter under­stand­ing of why so much of our youth orga­niz­ing and out­reach was floun­der­ing on issues of tokenism and feel-good-ism.

My post, orig­i­nal­ly titled  “The Younger Evan­gel­i­cals and the Younger Quak­ers,”  (here it is in its orig­i­nal con­text) start­ed off as a book review but quick­ly became a Quak­er vision man­i­festo. The sec­tion heads alone ticked off the work to be done:

  • A re-examination of our roots, as Chris­tians and as Friends
  • A desire to grow
  • A more personally-involved, time-consuming com­mit­ment
  • A renewal of dis­ci­pline and over­sight
  • A con­fronta­tion of our eth­nic and cul­tur­al big­otries

When I wrote this, there wasn’t much you could call Quak­er blog­ging (Lynn Gazis-Sachs was an excep­tion), and when I googled vari­a­tions on “quak­ers” and “emerg­ing church” noth­ing much came up. It’s not sur­pris­ing that there wasn’t much of an ini­tial respon­se.

It took about two years for the post to find its audi­ence and respons­es start­ed com­ing from both lib­er­al and evan­gel­i­cal Quak­er cir­cles. In ret­ro­spect, it’s fair to say that the Quak­erQuak­er com­mu­ni­ty gath­ered around this essay (here’s Robin M’s account of first read­ing it) and it’s follow-up We’re All Ranters Now (Wess talk­ing about it). Five years after I postd it, we have a cadre of blog­gers and read­ers who reg­u­lar­ly gath­er around the Quak­erQuak­er water cool­er to talk about Quak­er vision. We’re get­ting pieces pub­lished in all the major Quak­er pub­li­ca­tions, we’re asked to lead wor­ships and we’ve got a catchy name in “Con­ver­gent Friends.”

And yet?

All of this is still a small demo­graph­ic scat­tered all around. If I want­ed to have a good two-hour caffeine-fueled bull ses­sion about the future of Friends at some local cof­feeshop this after­noon, I can’t think of any­one even vague­ly local who I could call up. A few years ago I start­ed com­mut­ing pret­ty reg­u­lar­ly to a meet­ing that did a good job at the Christian/Friends-awareness/roots stuff but not the discipline/oversight or desire-to-grow end of things. I’ve drift­ed away the last few months because I real­ized I didn’t have any per­son­al friends there and it was most­ly an hour-drive, hour-worship, hour-drive back home kind of expe­ri­ence.

My main cadre five years ago were fel­low staffers at FGC. A few years ago FGC com­mis­sioned sur­veys indi­cat­ed that poten­tial donors would respond favor­ably to talk about youth, out­reach and race stereo­typ­ing and even though the­se were some of the con­cerns I had been awk­ward­ly rais­ing for years, it was very clear I wasn’t wel­come in quickly-changing staff struc­ture and I found myself out of a job. The most excit­ing out­reach pro­grams I had worked on was a data­base that would col­lect the names and address­es of iso­lat­ed Friends, but It was qui­et­ly dropped a few months after I left. The new muchly-hyped $100,000 pro­gram for out­reach has this for its seek­ers page and fol­lows the typ­i­cal FGC pat­tern, which is to sprin­kle a few rotat­ing tokens in with a retreat cen­ter full of poten­tial donors to talk about Impor­tant Top­ics. (For those who care, I would have con­tin­ued build­ing the iso­lat­ed Friends data­base, mapped it for hot spots and coör­di­nat­ed with the youth min­istry com­mit­tee to send teams for extend­ed stays to help plant wor­ship groups. How cool would that be? Anoth­er oppor­tu­ni­ty lost.)

So where do we go?

I’m real­ly sad to say we’re still large­ly on our own. Accord­ing to actu­ar­i­al tables, I’ve recent­ly crossed my life’s halfway point and here I am still ref­er­enc­ing gen­er­a­tional change.

How I wish I could hon­est­ly say that I could get involved with any com­mit­tee in my year­ly meet­ing and get to work on the issues raised in “Younger Evan­gel­i­cals and Younger Quak­ers.” Some­one recent­ly sent me an email thread between mem­bers of an out­reach com­mit­tee for anoth­er large East Coast year­ly meet­ing and they were debat­ing whether the inter­net was an appro­pri­ate place to do out­reach work – in 2008?!? Britain Year­ly Meet­ing has a beau­ti­ful­ly pro­duced new out­reach web­site but I don’t see one con­vinced young Friend pro­filed and it’s post-faith empha­sis is down­right depress­ing (an involved youngish Amer­i­can Friend looked at it and remind­ed me that despite occa­sion­al atten­tion, smart young seek­ers seri­ous about Quak­erism aren’t anyone’s tar­get audi­ence, here in the US or appar­ent­ly in Britain).

A num­ber of inter­est­ing “Cov­er­gent” mind­ed Friends have an insider/outsider rela­tion­ship with insti­tu­tion­al Quak­erism. Inde­pen­dent wor­ship groups pop­ping up and more are being talked about (I won’t blow your cov­er guys!). I’ve seen Friends try to be more offi­cial­ly involved and it’s not always good: a bunch of younger Quak­er blog­gers have dis­ap­peared after get­ting named onto Impor­tant Com­mit­tees, their online pres­ence reduced to inside jokes on Face­book with their oth­er newly-insider pals.

What do we need to do:

  • We need to be pub­lic fig­ures;
  • We need to reach real peo­ple and con­nect our­selves;
  • We need to stress the whole pack­age: Quak­er roots, out­reach, per­son­al involve­ment and not let our­selves get too dis­tract­ed by hyped projects that only promise one piece of the puz­zle.

Here’s my to-do list:

  • CONVERGENT OCTOBER: Wess Daniels has talked about every­one doing some out­reach and net­work­ing around the “con­ver­gent” the­me next mon­th. I’ll try to arrange some Philly area meet-up and talk about some prac­ti­cal orga­niz­ing issues on my blog.
  • LOCAL MEETUPS: I still think that FGC’s iso­lat­ed Friends reg­istry was one of its bet­ter ideas. Screw them, we’ll start one our­selves. I com­mit to mak­ing one. Email me if you’re inter­est­ed;
  • LOCAL FRIENDS: I com­mit to find­ing half a dozen seri­ous Quak­er bud­dies in the dri­vable area to ground myself enough to be able to tip my toe back into the insti­tu­tion­al mias­ma when led (thanks to Mic­ah B who stressed some of this in a recent vis­it).
  • PUBLIC FIGURES: I’ve let my blog dete­ri­o­rate into too much of a “life stream,” all the pic­tures and twit­ter mes­sages all clog­ging up the more Quak­er mate­ri­al. You’ll notice it’s been redesigned. The right bar has the “life stream” stuff, which can be bet­tered viewed and com­ment­ed on on my Tum­bler page, Tum­bld Rants. I’ll try to keep the main blog (and its RSS feed) more seri­ous­ly mind­ed.

I want to stress that I don’t want any­one to quit their meet­ing or any­thing. I’m just find­ing myself that I need a lot more than business-as-usual. I need peo­ple I can call lower-case friends, I need per­son­al account­abil­i­ty, I need peo­ple will­ing to real­ly look at what we need to do to be respon­sive to God’s call. Some day may­be there will be an estab­lished local meet­ing some­where where I can find all of that. Until then we need to build up our net­works.

Like a lot of my big idea vision essays, I see this one doesn’t talk much about God. Let me stress that com­ing under His direc­tion is what this is all about. Meet­ings don’t exist for us. They facil­i­ate our work in becom­ing a peo­ple of God. Most of the inward-focused work that make up most of Quak­er work is self-defeating. Jesus didn’t do much work in the tem­ple and didn’t spend much time at the rab­bi con­ven­tions. He was out on the street, hang­ing out with the “bad” ele­ments, shar­ing the good news one per­son at a time. We have to find ways to sup­port one anoth­er in a new wave of ground­ed evan­ge­lism. Let’s see where we can all get in the next five years!

Another Quaker bookstore bites the dust

Not real­ly news, but Friends Unit­ed Meet­ing recent­ly ded­i­cat­ed their new Wel­come Cen­ter in what was once the FUM book­store:

On Sep­tem­ber 15, 2007, FUM ded­i­cat­ed the space once used as the Quak­er Hill Book­store as the new FUM Wel­come Cen­ter. The Wel­come Cen­ter con­tains Quak­er books and resources for F/friends to stop by and make use of dur­ing busi­ness hours. Tables and chairs to com­fort­ably accom­mo­date 50 peo­ple make this a great space to rent for reunions, church groups, meet­ings, anniversary/birthday par­ties, etc. Reduced prices are avail­able for church­es.

Most Quak­er pub­lish­ers and book­sellers have closed or been great­ly reduced over the last ten years. Great changes have occurred in the Philadelphia-area Pendle Hill book­store and pub­lish­ing oper­a­tion, the AFSC Book­store in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, Bar­clay Press in Ore­gon. The ver­i­ta­ble Friends Book­shop in Lon­don farmed out its mail order busi­ness a few years ago and has seen part of its space tak­en over by a cof­fee­bar: pop­u­lar and cool I’m sure, but does Lon­don real­ly needs anoth­er place to buy cof­fee? Rumor has it that Britain’s pub­li­ca­tions com­mit­tee has been laid down. The offi­cial spin is usu­al­ly that the work con­tin­ues in a dif­fer­ent form but only Bar­clay Press has been reborn as some­thing real­ly cool. One of the few remain­ing book­sellers is my old pals at FGC’s Quaker­Books: still sell­ing good books but I’m wor­ried that so much of Quak­er pub­lish­ing is now in one bas­ket and I’d be more con­fi­dent if their web­site showed more signs of activ­i­ty.

The boards mak­ing the­se deci­sions to scale back or close are prob­a­bly unaware that they’re part
of a larg­er trend. They prob­a­bly think they’re respond­ing to unique sit­u­a­tions (the peer group Quak­ers Unit­ing in Pub­li­ca­tions sends inter­nal emails around but hasn’t done much to pub­li­cize this sto­ry out­side of its mem­ber­ship). It’s sad to see that so many Quak­er decision-making bod­ies have inde­pen­dent­ly decid­ed that pub­lish­ing is not an essen­tial part of their mis­sion.

peace movement humanitarian among iraq abductees

The UK “News Telegraph is confirming”: what many of us in the peace move­ment have been wor­ry­ing about all day: that at least some of the four west­ern­ers abduct­ed in iraq over the week­end were mem­bers of the “Chris­tian peace­mak­ers Teams”:
bq. A British anti-war activist abduct­ed in iraq was inves­ti­gat­ing human rights abus­es with a group called the Chris­tian peace­mak­ers Team when he was held.
Nor­man Kem­ber, 74, the only publicly-named abductee, is a for­mer sec­re­tary of the Bap­tist peace Fel­low­ship in Eng­land and a board mem­ber of the Eng­lish Fel­low­ship of Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. He’s been an out­spo­ken oppo­nent of the war in iraq. In the “April/May 2005 edi­tion of FOR’s newsletter”: (pdf) he talked about chal­leng­ing him­self to do more:
bq. Now per­son­al­ly it has always wor­ried me that I am a ‘cheap’ peace­mak­er (by anal­o­gy with Bonhoeffer’s
con­cept of ‘cheap’ grace). Being a CO in Britain,talking, writ­ing, demon­strat­ing about peace is in no
way tak­ing risks like young ser­vice men in iraq. I look for excus­es why I should not become involved with
CPT or EAPPI. Per­haps the read­ers will sup­ply mewith­with some?
Here at Non​vi​o​lence​.org, I’m occas­sion­al­ly cha­tised for being more con­cerned about west­ern vic­tims of vio­lence (indeed, how many iraqis were abduct­ed or killed this week­end alone?). It’s a fair charge and an impor­tant reminder. But per­haps it is only human nature to wor­ry about those you know. I’ve prob­a­bly met Nor­man in pass­ing at one or anoth­er inter­na­tion­al peace gath­er­ing; I might well know the three uniden­ti­fied abductees. I sus­pect a peace move­ment vet­er­an like Kem­ber would be the first to tell me that paci­fists shouldn’t sit con­tent­ed­ly in middle-class com­fy arm­chairs sim­ply sout­ing slo­gans or dash­ing off emails (Quak­er Johan Mau­r­er, wrote an “impas­sioned blog post about this just last week”: Part of the rea­son folks put them­selves on the lines for orga­ni­za­tions like Chris­tian peace­mak­ers Teams is that they want to do their peace wit­ness among those fac­ing the vio­lence. When the vic­tims aren’t just “them, over there” but to “us, and our friends, over there” it becomes more real. This is what the fam­i­lies of the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary casu­alties have been telling us. Now, with Kem­ber and the three oth­ers miss­ing, our wor­ry is made more real. For bet­ter or worse, the peace move­ment is scan­ning the head­li­nes from iraq with even more wor­ry tonight.
Our prayers are with Kem­ber, as they are with all the miss­ing and all the vic­tims of this hor­ri­ble war.

FBI Cracking Down on Indymedia?

The “Indy­media” move­ment of inde­pen­dent media cen­ters has been one of the most hope­ful ini­tia­tives for democ­ra­cy over the past few years. The Indy­media sites post sto­ries from ama­teur reporters, in print, video and audio for­mats. The region­al Inde­pen­dent Media Cen­ters have been par­tic­u­lar­ly active dur­ing large scale protests, cov­er­ing them with a range and detail seen nowhere else.
Now there’s dis­turbing news that the U.S. Fed­er­al Bureau of Inves­ti­ga­tion has “seized Indymedia’s com­put­ers in Britain”: Details are lack­ing, but it cer­tain­ly looks like yet anoth­er chill­ing vio­la­tion of free speech in the name of “home­land secu­ri­ty.” Here’s anoth­er arti­cle, from a “local Indy­media Center”: More as this fright­en­ing sto­ry devel­ops. As we get infor­ma­tion we will par­tic­i­pate in any and all protests of this seizure. You can also check out thread on the “Non​vi​o​lence​.org Board”: (though much of it lame name-calling, sigh…)

“Have you ever felt like the fall guy?”

In strange and sad news, the man who was prob­a­bly the unnamed “senior offi­cial” who first told the BBC that Britain “sexed up” its Iraq weapons dossier has turned up dead in the woods near his home. Dr. David Kel­ly gave evi­dence to the UK for­eign affairs com­mit­tee just days ago, where he asked the com­mit­tee “Have you ever felt like the fall guy?” One mem­ber of the com­mit­tee told the Guardian that “We thought he’d been put up quite delib­er­ate­ly to dis­tract us from the case of the government’s case for war.

David Kel­ly has been described as a “soft spo­ken” man not used to the pub­lic glare he’s been under. Reports haven’t even given the cause of death, so con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries will have to be put on hold. It’s quite pos­si­ble that this faith­ful civil ser­vant and sci­en­tist final­ly cracked under the pres­sure of the media onslaught and took his life. It is a tragedy for his fam­i­ly.