Blogging for the Kingdom

Warn­ing: this is a blog post about blogging.

It’s always fas­ci­nat­ing to watch the ebb and flow of my blog­ging. Quak­er­ran­ter, my “main” blog has been remark­ably qui­et. I’m still up to my eye­balls with blog­ging in gen­er­al: post­ing things to Quak­erQuak­er, giv­ing help­ful com­ments and tips, help­ing oth­ers set up blogs as part of my con­sult­ing busi­ness. My Tum­blr blog and Face­book and Twit­ter feeds all con­tin­ue to be rel­a­tive­ly active. But most of these is me giv­ing voice to oth­ers. For two decades now, I’ve zigzagged between writer and pub­lish­er; late­ly I’ve been focused on the latter.

When I start­ed blog­ging about Quak­er issues sev­en years ago, I was a low-level cler­i­cal employ­ee at an Quak­er orga­ni­za­tion. It was clear I was going nowhere career-wise, which gave me a cer­tain free­dom. More impor­tant­ly, blogs were a near­ly invis­i­ble medi­um, read by a self-selected group that also want­ed to talk open­ly and hon­est­ly about issues. I start­ed writ­ing about issues in among lib­er­al Friends and about missed out­reach oppor­tu­ni­ties. A lot of what I said was spot on and in hind­sight, the archives give me plen­ty of “told you so” cred­i­bil­i­ty. But where’s the joy in being right about what hasn’t worked?

Things have changed over the years. One is that I’ve resigned myself to those missed oppor­tu­ni­ties. Lots of Quak­er mon­ey and human­ly activ­i­ty is going into projects that don’t have God as a cen­ter. No amount of rant­i­ng is going to dis­suade good peo­ple from putting their faith into one more staff reor­ga­ni­za­tion, mis­sion rewrite or clever program.It’s a dis­trac­tion to spend much time wor­ry­ing about them.

But the biggest change is that my heart is square­ly with God. I’m most inter­est­ed in shar­ing Jesus’s good news. I’m not a cheer­leader for any par­tic­u­lar human insti­tu­tion, no mat­ter how noble its inten­tions. When I talk about the good news, it’s in the con­text of 350 years of Friends’ under­stand­ing of it. But I’m well aware that there’s lots of peo­ple in our meet­ing­hous­es that don’t under­stand it this way any­more. And also aware that the seek­er want­i­ng to pur­sue the Quak­er way might find it more close­ly mod­eled in alter­na­tive Chris­t­ian com­mu­ni­ties. There are peo­ple all over lis­ten­ing for God and I see many attempts at rein­vent­ing Quak­erism hap­pen­ing among non-Friends.

I know this obser­va­tion excites some peo­ple to indig­na­tion, but so be it: I’m trust­ing God on this one. I’m not sure why He’sgiven us a world why the com­mu­ni­ties we bring togeth­er to wor­ship Him keep get­ting dis­tract­ed, but that’s what we’ve got (and it’s what we’ve had for a long time). Every per­son of faith of every gen­er­a­tion has to remem­ber, re-experience and revive the mes­sage. That hap­pens in church build­ings, on street cor­ners, in liv­ing rooms, lunch lines and nowa­days on blogs and inter­net forums.We can’t get too hung up on all the ways the mes­sage is get­ting blocked. And we can’t get hung up by insist­ing on only one chan­nel of shar­ing that mes­sage. We must share the good news and trust that God will show us how to man­i­fest this in our world: his king­dom come and will be done on earth.

But what would this look like?

When I first start­ed blog­ging there weren’t a lot of Quak­er blogs and I spent a lot more time read­ing oth­er reli­gious blogs. This was back before the emer­gent church move­ment became a wholly-owned sub­sidiary of Zon­der­van and wasn’t dom­i­nat­ed by hype artists (sor­ry, a lot of big names set off my slime-o-meter these days). There are still great blog­gers out there talk­ing about faith and read­ers want­i­ng to engage in this dis­cus­sion. I’ve been intrigued by the his­tor­i­cal exam­ple of Thomas Clark­son, the Angli­can who wrote about Friends from a non-Quaker per­spec­tive using non-Quaker lan­guage. And some­times I geek out and explain some Quak­er point on a Quak­er blog and get thanked by the author, who often is an expe­ri­enced Friend who had nev­er been pre­sent­ed with a clas­sic Quak­er expla­na­tion on the point in ques­tion. My track­ing log shows seek­ers con­tin­ue to be fas­ci­nat­ed and drawn to us for our tra­di­tion­al tes­ti­monies, espe­cial­ly plainness.

I’ve put togeth­er top­ic lists and plans before but it’s a bit of work, maybe too much to put on top of what I do with Quak­erQuak­er (plus work, plus fam­i­ly). There’s also ques­tions about where to blog and whether to sim­pli­fy my blog­ging life a bit by com­bin­ing some of my blogs but that’s more logis­tics rather than vision.

Inter­est­ing stuff I’m read­ing that’s mak­ing me think about this:

A time of sadness and prayer

Sad news com­ing over the inter­net: after 100 days of cap­tiv­i­ty, Chris­t­ian Peace­mak­er Tom Fox was found dead yes­ter­day in Iraq, the sta­tus of his three com­pan­ions unknown.

The Chris­t­ian Peace­mak­er Teams issued an ele­gant and heart­felt state­ment begin­ning “In grief we trem­ble before God who wraps us with com­pas­sion.” Fox knew the risk he was tak­ing going to Iraq unarmed. But he also knew that this wit­ness  would mean more to the Iraqi peo­ple than a hun­dred tanks. He knew the war we Friends wage is the Lamb’s War, a war won not through strength but through meek­ness, our only weapon our humilty before God and our love of neigh­bor. My prayers are with his fam­i­ly and friends, may Christ’s com­fort con­tin­ue to hold them through these aching times.
More his­to­ry and resources on my “Chris­t­ian Peace­mak­er Team Watch”:

Danny: Looking for a Real Religion

Here’s an email from Dan­ny, a new friend who I met at last week’s FGC-sponsored “Youth Min­istries Con­sul­ta­tion.” I liked his obser­va­tions and asked if I could share this on the blog. I’m glad he said yes, since it’s a good per­spec­tive on where one con­vinced 19 year old Friend is at.
Update: “Here’s Danny’s new blog, Rid­ing the Whale”:

Con­tin­ue read­ing

Yearly Meeting Blues

Went to the open­ing of “Philadel­phia Year­ly Meeting’s”: annu­al ses­sions yes­ter­day. It’s hard to get too excit­ed about it. It was the same peo­ple talk­ing about the same issues. I real­ly like and respect so many in the year­ly meet­ing, but try as I might, I can nev­er imag­ine this group on _fire._ What would it mean for us to scrap our plans and agen­das to fol­low His?

Con­tin­ue read­ing

Sodium Free Friends

Yet anoth­er group of Friends (doesn’t mat­ter which, it could be any) is plan­ning a pro­gram on “com­mu­ni­ty.” They quote a snip­pet of a 1653 epis­tle on George Fox – you know the one about “Mind that which is eter­nal…” Fine enough, but there’s so much more to the epis­tle that we would fear to quote, like:

We are redeemed by the only redeemer Christ Jesus, not with cor­rupt­ible things, nei­ther is our redemp­tion of man, nor by man, nor accord­ing to the will of man, but con­trary to man’s will. And so, our uni­ty and fel­low­ship with vain man are lost, and all his evil ways are now turned into enmi­ty; and all his pro­fes­sion is now found to be deceit, and in all his fairest pre­tences lod­geth cru­el­ty; and the bot­tom and ground of all his knowl­edge of God and Christ is found sandy, and can­not endure the tempest.

Inter­est­ing ideas, but not ones most lib­er­al Friends would like to tack­le. It’s a shame. I wish we would more more active­ly engage with our tra­di­tion and not just selec­tive­ly edit out a few words which makes Fox sound like a sev­en­teen cen­tu­ry Thich Nhat Hanh. I think we can simul­ta­ne­ous­ly wres­tle with and chal­lenge our tra­di­tion with­out hav­ing to either capit­u­late to it or aban­don it.

After writ­ing the above, I went for a neigh­bor­hood walk with baby asleep in the back­pack. And I real­ized I hadn’t explained why it mat­ters to engage. I didn’t quote the sen­tences about human will­full­ness to show that I’m more sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry than thee, or to prove I can use the “C” word.
No, I quote it because it’s a rockin’ quote. George Fox is map­ping out for us twenty-first cen­tu­ry Friends just how we might get out of the predica­ment of super­fi­cial “com­mu­ni­ty” we’ve got­ten our­selves into. Every­one from Wal­mart to Walgreen’s, from Hillary Clin­ton to Oprah, is try­ing to sell us on some dream of com­mu­ni­ty com­plete with a price tag from cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca. Buy our prod­ucts, our polit­i­cal par­ty, our lifestyle and we’ll give you the nar­cot­ic of con­sumer tar­get­ing. Wear the right right sneak­er or dri­ve the right car and you’re part of the in-crowd. 

But these com­mu­ni­ties built on the sand just dis­solve in the tide and leave us more strand­ed than when we started.
We poor humans are look­ing for ways to tran­scend the crap­pi­ness of our war- and consumer-obsessed world. Quak­erism has some­thing to say about that (more than ways to recy­cle plas­tic or stage a protest faux-blockade). We’re toss­ing out the future when we throw away the past, just to live in our TVs. George’s epis­tle men­tions this too:

Let not hard words trou­ble you, nor fair speech­es win you; but dwell in the pow­er of truth, in the mighty God, and have salt in your­selves to savour all words, and to stand against all the wiles of the dev­il, in the mighty pow­er of God.

(Quotes from Epis­tle 24, reprint­ed here.)

FGC on Quaker Religious Ed

One of the pieces I helped put online in my role of FGC web­mas­ter is FGC Reli­gious Edu­ca­tion: Lessons for the 21st Cen­tu­ry, by Beck­ey Phipps. It’s def­i­nite­ly worth a read. It’s com­prised of inter­views of three Friends:

Ernie Busce­mi: “It is the most amaz­ing thing, all the kids that I know that have gone into [Quak­er] lead­er­ship pro­grams – they’ve dis­ap­peared. I see the same thing [hap­pen­ing] as a woman and per­son of col­or, we are doing some­thing wrong.”

Mar­ty Grundy: “Our branch [of Friends] has dis­card­ed the tools by which ear­li­er Friends’ prac­tices were formed. We’ve lost our under­stand­ing of what it is that we are about.”

Arthur Larrabee: “We need to tap into God’s ener­gy and God’s joy. Ear­ly Friends had that ener­gy, they had a vision, they had the con­nec­tion with the inward Christ, a source of infi­nite ener­gy pow­er and joy.”

While I wish this could be extend­ed a bit (e.g., why not ask the ‘kids’ them­selves where they’ve gone), at least these are the right questions.