Quaker Folkways and Being Patterns on the Interwebs

Last Sun­day I have a pre­sen­ta­tion to Had­don­field (N.J.) Meeting’s adult First-day school class about “Shar­ing the Good News with Social Media.” As I pre­pared I found I was less and less inter­est­ed in the tech­niques of Face­book, etc., than I was in how out­reach has his­tor­i­cal­ly worked for Friends.

For an ear­ly, short, peri­od Quak­ers were so in-your-face and noto­ri­ous that they could draw a crowd just by walk­ing a few miles up the road to the next town. More recent­ly, we’ve attract­ed new­com­ers as much by the exam­ple of our lives than by any out­reach cam­paign. When I talk to adult new­com­ers, they often cite some Quak­er exam­ple in their lives – a favorite teacher or delight­ful­ly eccen­tric aunt.

Peo­ple can sense when there’s some­thing of greater life in the way we approach our work, friend­ships, and fam­i­lies. Let me be the first in line to say I’m hor­ri­bly imper­fect. But there are Quak­er tech­niques and val­ues and folk­ways that are guides to gen­uine­ly good ways to live in the world. There’s noth­ing exclu­sive­ly Quak­er about them (indeed, most come from care­ful read­ing of the Gospels and Paul’s let­ters), but they are tools our reli­gious com­mu­ni­ty has empha­sized and into which we’ve helped each oth­er live more ful­ly.

In the last fif­teen years, the ways Friends are known has under­gone a rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion. The Inter­net has made us incred­i­bly easy to find and research. This is a mixed bless­ing as it means oth­ers are defin­ing who we are. Care­ful cor­po­rate dis­cern­ment con­duct­ed through long-developed tech­niques of Quak­er process are no match for the “edit” but­ton in Wikipedia or some com­mer­cial site with good page rank.

That said, I think peo­ple still are dis­cov­er­ing Friends through per­son­al exam­ples. George Fox told us to be pat­terns and exam­ples in the world and to answer that of God in every­one. A lot of our exam­pling and answer­ing today is going to be on the thread­ed com­ments of Face­book and Twit­ter. What will they find? Do we use Face­book like every­one else, trolling, spam­ming, engag­ing in flame wars, focus­ing on our­selves? Or do Quak­er folk­ways still apply. Here are some ques­tions that I reg­u­lar­ly wres­tle with:

  • When I use social media, am I being open, pub­lic, and trans­par­ent?
  • Am I care­ful to share that which is good and eter­nal rather than tit­il­lat­ing for its own sake?
  • Do I remem­ber that the Good News is sim­ply some­thing we bor­row to share and that the Inward Christ needs to do the final deliv­ery into hearts?
  • Do I pray for those I dis­agree with? Do I prac­tice hold­ing my tongue when my moti­va­tion is anger or jeal­ousy?

What strug­gles do oth­ers face? What might be our online folk­ways?

Philadelphia Metropolis

Metropolis - Philadelphia News and Journalism

Metrop­o­lis is a “news, analy­sis and com­men­tary” site from vet­er­an Philadel­phia reporter Tom Fer­rick (Wikipedia). An alum of The Philadel­phia Inquir­er, Tom’s spent the last half-dozen years talk­ing to every­one who will lis­ten about the future of print and Philly news. He’s done talk­ing and is show­ing what can be done on a bud­get bud­get. From “This is Metrop­o­lis,” the lead arti­cle:

Local news­pa­pers, TV and radio sta­tions are retreat­ing from in-depth cov­er­age of region­al news either due to eco­nom­ic or audi­ence con­sid­er­a­tions.

The retreat has been grad­ual, but no one expects it to stop. The com­pa­ny that owns the region’s largest news­pa­pers — the Inquir­er and Dai­ly News — is in bank­rupt­cy. The size of the edi­to­r­i­al staffs at the papers con­tin­ues to shrink. The prog­no­sis for metro dailies here and else­where is not good. The jour­nal­ism prac­ticed by these papers is still robust, but the eco­nom­ic mod­el that has sus­tained it is erod­ing. If these tra­di­tion­al sources of news fal­ter or fail what will take their place?

The site was built in Mov­able Type. The most promi­nent fea­ture is the slideshow dis­play of fea­tured arti­cles. Tom has seen a sim­i­lar effect on anoth­er jour­nal­ism site and a search found the “Slid­ing Hor­i­zon­tal Ban­ner Rota­tor” at Active Den, a great site to pur­chase pre-built Flash files. Mov­able Type entries are out­fit­ted with cus­tom fields to enter images and links. Mov­able Type then cre­ates a cus­tom XML file for the “Main Sto­ries” feed, which is then picked up and dis­played by the Flash ban­ner. In addi­tion, the site uses Google Adsense to pro­vide income.

Vis­it: Philadel­phia Metrop­o­lis

Con­tin­ue read­ing

Learning the discernment of self-sacrifice, loss and pride

Ear­li­er today I post­ed an excerpt of an inter­est­ing arti­cle on Anabap­tism on my Tum­blr blog and it’s engen­dered quite a con­ver­sa­tion on Face­book about tes­ti­monies and emp­ty forms, etc. It’s true that any form of spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­pline can get twist­ed into look-at-me hero­ism or lets-talk-anything-but-God group con­for­mi­ty.

The answer isn’t to give up tes­ti­monies or to hold onto them even tighter, but instead to con­stant­ly remind our­selves about their pur­pose: to learn how to live as an atten­tive peo­ple of God. Here’s what I wrote on Face­book:

I’ve been a most­ly bicycle-riding veg­an for decades, an out­spo­ken
paci­fist and a fre­quent plain dress­er. All of these prac­tices have
aid­ed my spir­i­tu­al growth but also have unearthed new sources of pride
for me to wres­tle with. The self-examination has been prac­tice in
dis­cern­ment.

I often think back to the sto­ry of the Good Samar­i­tan. What mat­tered
wasn’t how he was dressed or whether he was rid­ing a bicy­cle. No, what
mat­tered is that he knew enough to know he was being called to
sac­ri­fice some­thing: to get cov­ered in a strangers blood, to aid
some­one who might resent him for it, to lose mon­ey he had earned to put
some­one up for the night. Maybe he had prac­ticed this dis­cern­ment of
self-sacrifice by liv­ing a tes­ti­mo­ny that had chal­lenged him to
nav­i­gate between loss and pride, and maybe he had been brought up in a
com­mu­ni­ty where the val­ue of love was prized above all. The impor­tant
thing is he knew to stop and be a true neigh­bor.