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 coor­di­nat­ed 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, 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.

Lots of Blame-Shifting on the Niger/Iraq Forgery

The CIA asked Britain to drop it’s Iraq claim while Pres­i­dent Bush said that the CIA “I gave a speech to the nation that was cleared by the intel­li­gence ser­vices.
    Remem­ber that Bush’s State of the Union address didn’t claim that the US believed that Iraq was buy­ing nuclear mate­r­i­al from Niger or oth­er African coun­tries. It said that British intel­li­gence thought Iraq was. Shift­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty for the claim gave the Bush team the wig­gle room to include an alle­ga­tion they knew was prob­a­bly not true. It’s the tri­umph of pol­i­tics over truth.
    As I’ve writ­ten before, there is a polit­i­cal bril­lance to the Bush Pres­i­den­cy. The Admin­is­tra­tion knows that it can sway large por­tions of the Amer­i­can pub­lic just by mak­ing claims. It doesn’t mat­ter if the claims are wrong –even obvi­ous­ly wrong– as long as they feed into some deep psy­chic nar­ra­tive. It’s been awhile since we saw a Pres­i­dent that could bul­ly through real­i­ty as long as the sto­ry sound­ed good. Ronald Rea­gan, the ex-actor, was good at it but I’m sus­pect­ing our cur­rent Pres­i­dent is even bet­ter. The ques­tion is whether enough peo­ple will start insist­ing on the truth and demand inves­ti­ga­tions into the lies. There were no weapons of mass destruc­tion in Iraq and Pres­i­dent Bush knew it. The Amer­i­can peo­ple would not have gone to war if we had known that Iraq wasn’t a threat and this too Pres­i­dent Bush knew.

American Spies and Blood for Oil

Sad­dam Hus­sein was right: the U.N. teams inspect­ing Iraq did con­tain U.S. spies. His expul­sion of the teams was legit­i­mate, and the U.S. bomb­ing that fol­lowed was farce.

Karl Marx once wrote: “Hegel remarks some­where that all facts and per­son­ages of great impor­tance in world his­to­ry occur, as it were, twice. He for­got to add: the first time as tragedy, the sec­ond as farce.” We’re see­ing that today, with each suc­ces­sive mil­i­tary action by the U.S. against Iraq becom­ing ever more trans­par­ent and ridicu­lous.

Per­haps you haven’t heard the news. It was con­ve­nient­ly released the day before Pres­i­dent Clinton’s Sen­ate impeach­ment tri­al was to begin and the major Amer­i­can news net­works didn’t give it much atten­tion. They were too busy with seg­ments on how the U.S. Supreme Court Chief Jus­tice designed his own robes. With hooks like fash­ion and sex attend­ing the impeach­ment tri­al, how could they be blamed for under-reporting more Iraq news.

But on Jan­u­ary 7th, the New York Times con­firmed rumors that Unit­ed States plant­ed spies on the Unit­ed Nations: “Unit­ed States offi­cials said on Wednes­day that Amer­i­can spies had worked under­cov­er on teams of Unit­ed Nations arms inspec­tors fer­ret­ing out secret Iraqi weapons pro­grams.” The Wash­ing­ton Post and Boston Globe fur­ther report­ed that the oper­a­tion was aimed at Sad­dam Hus­sein him­self. NBC News report­ed that U.N. com­mu­ni­ca­tion equip­ment was used by U.S. intel­li­gence to pass along inter­cept­ed Iraqi mes­sages.

This is exact­ly what Sad­dam Hus­sein has been charg­ing the U.N. teams with. He has long claimed that the teams, run by the Unit­ed Nations Spe­cial Com­mis­sion or UNSCOM, were full of “Amer­i­can spies and agents.” It was for this rea­son that he denied the inspec­tors access to sen­si­tive sites. And it was this refusal that prompt­ed Pres­i­dent Clin­ton to attack Iraq last month.

So what’s going on here? Senior U.S. offi­cials told NBC News that the main tar­gets of last month’s attack weren’t mil­i­tary but eco­nom­ic. The cruise mis­siles weren’t aimed at any alleged nuclear or bio­log­i­cal weapons fac­to­ries but instead at the oil fields. Specif­i­cal­ly, one of the main tar­gets was the Bas­ra oil refin­ing facil­i­ties in south­ern Iraq.

In a sep­a­rate arti­cle, NBC quot­ed Fad­hil Cha­l­abi, an oil indus­try ana­lyst at the Cen­ter for Glob­al Ener­gy Stud­ies in Lon­don, as say­ing Iraq’s oil pro­duc­ing neight­bors are “hop­ing that Iraq’s oil instal­la­tions will be destroyed as a result of Amer­i­can air strikes. Then the [U.N.-mandated] oil-for food pro­gram would be par­a­lyzed and the mar­ket would improve by the dis­ap­pear­ance of Iraqi oil alto­geth­er.”

Since the start of the Gulf War, Iraq has pro­duced relatively-little oil because of a com­bi­na­tion of the U.N. sanc­tions and an infra­struc­ture destroyed by years of war. A report by the Unit­ed States Ener­gy Infor­ma­tion Admin­is­tra­tion back in the sum­mer of 1997 stat­ed Iraq’s per cap­i­tal Gross Nation­al Prod­uct was at lev­els not seen since the 1940s.

Sau­di Ara­bia and Kuwait have picked up this slack in pro­duc­tion and made out like ban­dits. Before the Gulf War, Sau­di Ara­bia was only allowed to pump 5.4 mil­lions bar­rels a day under it’s OPEC quo­ta. Today it pro­duces 8 mil­lion bar­rels a day, a fifty per­cent increase that trans­lates into bil­lions of dol­lars a year in prof­it. If the sanc­tions against Iraq were lift­ed, Sau­di pro­duc­tion would once more have to be lim­it­ed and the Anglo-American oil com­pa­nies run­ning the fields would lose ten bil­lion dol­lars a year in rev­enue.

t’s time to stop kid­ding our­selves. This is a war over mon­ey. The U.S. and Britain are get­ting rich off of Sau­di Arabia’s increased oil pro­duc­tion and don’t want any­one muscling in on their oil prof­its. It is in the eco­nom­ic inter­est of the U.S. and Britain to main­tain Iraqi sanc­tions indef­i­nite­ly and their for­eign pol­i­cy seems to be to set off peri­od­ic crises with Iraq. France and Rus­sia mean­while both stand to get lucra­tive oil con­tracts with a post-sanctions Iraq so they rou­tine­ly denounce any bomb­ing raids and just as rou­tine­ly call for a lift­ing of sanc­tions.

Sad­dam Hus­sein is also mak­ing out in the cur­rent state of affairs. A economically-healthy Iraqi pop­u­la­tion wouldn’t put up with his tyran­ny. He cur­rent­ly rules Iraq like a mob boss, siphon­ing off what oil prof­its there are to pay for fan­cy cars and pres­i­den­tial palaces. He gets to look tough in front of the TV cam­eras and then retreats to safe under­ground bunkers when the bombs start falling on the Iraqi peo­ple.

It is time to stop all of the hypocrisy. It is esti­mat­ed that over a mil­lion Iraqis have died as a results of the post-Gulf War sanc­tions. These oil prof­its are blood mon­ey and it is long past time that they end.