Joan Baez cites Quaker upbringing in presidential endorsement

From the musician’s Face­book page:

My choice, from an ear­ly age, has been to engage in social change from the ground up, using the pow­er of orga­nized non­vi­o­lence. A dis­trust of the polit­i­cal process was firm­ly in place by the time I was 15. As a daugh­ter of Quak­ers I pledged my alle­giance not to a flag or a nation state but to humankind, the two often hav­ing lit­tle to do with each oth­er.

Georges And Trayvons

Over on Mobtown­blues, Kev­in Griffin Moreno cops to being George Zim­mer­man. Thank­ful­ly, he’s not: when feel­ing threat­ened in a recent sit­u­a­tion with racial over­tones, he chose to walk away, but it is worth ask­ing how dif­fer­ent we are from the char­ac­ters of this tragedy.

I nev­er had much expec­ta­tion that the tri­al of Trayvon Martin’s killer would find him guilty. A good team of lawyers can con­jure up rea­son­able doubt over most any­thing. As as Alafair Burke writes on Huff­in­g­ton, much of what Zim­mer­man did was pro­tect­ed by Florida’s insanely-crazy “stand your ground” laws. 

But even with­out that, high-profile court cas­es get so politi­cized so quick­ly that they rarely provide any kind of cathar­sis, let alone jus­tice, when stacked again­st hun­dreds of years of racial injus­tices. And just as Zimmerman’s judge­ment was col­ored by his racial his­to­ry and bias­es, so too are ours: our opin­ions about what hap­pened that evening in San­ford, Flori­da, are much more a reac­tion to where we fall in the con­tin­u­ums of priv­i­leges than we might care to admit. 

Martin and Zimmerman, swapped races, via Whileseated.org

Priv­i­lege is unearned oppor­tu­ni­ties con­ferred by how close­ly we fit a par­tic­u­lar stereo­type. When I was in my ear­ly 20s, I was once pulled over by a police­man when I was dri­ving aim­less­ly through a sleepy town at 3 am (no good sto­ry I’m afraid: I was sim­ply bored, with insom­nia). He vis­i­bly eased up when he saw I was white, and he got almost avun­cu­lar a min­ute lat­er when he saw the Irish name on my dri­vers license. I know that almost-forgettable instant could have played out quite dif­fer­ent­ly if I had been black, with a Mus­lim name, per­haps, and a chip on my shoul­der because this was the fifth time that mon­th I had got­ten detained for no good rea­son.

No mat­ter what I do to edu­cate myself, I will always be George Zim­mer­man to (many) strangers on the street, just as Trayvon Mar­t­in will always be a sus­pi­cious house bur­gler for being a black stranger in a hood­ie.

The work that needs to be done – or con­tin­ued, for we need to remem­ber the many times peo­ple have done the right thing – couldn’t be answered by a crim­i­nal tri­al any­way. What’s need­ed is the edu­ca­tion of soci­ety at large. 

One step is all of the con­ver­sa­tions tak­ing place on Face­book and around water cool­ers this week. Let’s talk about the fears that sub­con­scious­ly dri­ve us. For Zimmerman’s gun was only one of the trig­gers that killed Mar­t­in. It was fear that gave us Sanford’s gat­ed com­mu­ni­ty and its town watch, along with our nation’s per­mis­sive gun laws and dra­co­ni­an legal con­cepts like “stand­ing one’s ground.” It was that potent mix of sus­pi­cion that set in motion a sit­u­a­tion that left a sev­en­teen year old kid with a pock­et­ful of Skit­tles lying dead face down in the grass. 

Can we learn to under­stand the ways we live in fear? Can we get to know one anoth­er more deeply in that place that breaks down the gates in our hearts?

When Isaac Penington, Margaret Fell and Elizabeth Bathurst join the reading group

Not some­thing I’ll do every day, but over on Quak­erQuak­er I cross-referenced today’s One Year Bible read­ings with Esther Green­leaf Murer’s Quak­er Bible Index. Here’s the link to my post about today: First Mon­th 20: Joseph ris­es to pow­er in Egypt; Jesus’ para­ble of wheat & tares and pearls. It’s a par­tic­u­lar­ly rich read­ing today. Jesus talks about the wheat and the weeds aka the corn and the tares, an inter­est­ing para­ble about let­ting the faith­ful and the unfaith­ful grow togeth­er.

As if know­ing today is Inau­gu­ra­tion Day, Isaac Pen­ing­ton turned it into a polit­i­cal ref­er­ence: “But oh, how the laws and gov­ern­ments of this world are to be lament­ed over! And oh, what need there is of their ref­or­ma­tion, whose com­mon work it is to pluck up the ears of corn, and leave the tares stand­ing!”

Mar­garet Fell sees the wheat and tares as an exam­ple of jeal­ousy and false min­istry: “Oh how hath this envi­ous man got­ten in among you. Sure­ly he hath come in the night, when men was asleep: & hath sown tares among the wheat, which when the reapers come must be bound in bundles and cast into the fire, for I know that there was good seed sown among you at the first, which when it found good ground, would have brought forth good fruit; but since there are mixed seeds­men come among you & some hath preached Christ of envy & some of good will, … & so it was easy to stir up jeal­ousy in you, you hav­ing the ground of jeal­ousy in your­selves which is as strong as death.”

We get poet­ry from the sev­en­teen cen­tu­ry Eliz­a­beth Bathurst (ahem) when she writes that “the Seed (or grace) of God, is small in its first appear­ance (even as the morn­ing –light), but as it is given heed to, and obeyed, it will increase in bright­ness, till it shine in the soul, like the sun in the fir­ma­ment at noon-day height.”

The para­ble of the tares became a call for tol­er­ance in George Fox’s under­stand­ing: “For Christ com­mands chris­tian men to “love one anoth­er [John 13:34, etc], and love their ene­mies [Mat 5:44];” and so not to per­se­cute them. And those ene­mies may be changed by repen­tance and con­ver­sion, from tares to wheat. But if men impris­on them, and spoil and destroy them, they do not give them time to repent. So it is clear it is the angels’ work to burn the tares, and not men’s.”

A cen­tu­ry lat­er, Sarah Tuke Grubb read and wor­ried about reli­gious edu­ca­tion and Quak­er drift: “But for want of keep­ing an eye open to this pre­serv­ing Pow­er, a spir­it of indif­fer­ence hath crept in, and, whilst many have slept, tares have been sown [Mat 13:25]; which as they spring up, have a ten­den­cy to choke the good seed; those ten­der impres­sions and reproofs of instruc­tion, which would have pre­pared our spir­its, and have bound them to the holy law and tes­ti­monies of truth.”

I hope all this helps us remem­ber that the Bible is our book too and an essen­tial resource for Friends. It’s easy to for­get this and kind of slip one way or anoth­er. One extreme is get­ting our Bible fix from main­stream Evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian sources whose view­points might be in pret­ty direct oppo­si­tion from Quak­er under­stand­ings of Jesus and the Gospel (see Jean­ne B’s post on The New Calvin­ism or Tom Smith’s very rea­son­able con­cerns about the lit­er­al­ism at the One Year Bible Blog I read and rec­om­mend). On the oth­er hand, it’s not uncom­mon in my neck of the Quak­er woods to describe our reli­gion as “Quak­er,” down­grade Chris­tian­i­ty by mak­ing it option­al, unmen­tion­able or non-contextual and turn­ing to the Bible only for the oblig­a­tory epistle ref­er­ence.

This was first made clear to me a few years ago by the mar­gins in the mod­ern edi­tion of Samuel Bow­nas’ “A Descrip­tion of the Qual­i­fi­ca­tions Nec­es­sary to a Gospel Min­istry,” which were pep­pered with the Bib­li­cal ref­er­ences Bow­nas was casu­al­ly cit­ing through­out. On my sec­ond read­ing (yes it’s that good!) I start­ed look­ing up the ref­er­ences and real­ized that: 1) Bow­nas wasn’t just mak­ing this stuff up or quot­ing willy-nilly; and 2) read­ing them helped me under­stand Bow­nas and by exten­sion the whole con­cept of Quak­er min­istry. You’re not read­ing my blog enough if you’re not get­ting the idea that this is one of the kind of prac­tices that Robin, Wess and I are going to be talk­ing about at the Con­ver­gent work­shop next mon­th. If you can fig­ure out the trans­port then get your­self to Cali pron­to and join us.

More ways to QuakeQuake in the socialscape

ff.gifFor any bleed­ing edge Web 2.0 Quak­ers out there, there’s now a Quak­erQuak­er Friend­Feed account to go along with its Twit­ter account. Both accounts sim­ply spit out the Quak­erQuak­er RSS feed but there might be some prac­ti­cal uses. I actu­al­ly fol­low QQ pri­ma­ry by Twit­ter the­se days and those who don’t mind annoy­ing IM pop-ups could get instant alerts. 

Web 2.0 every­where man Robert Scoble recent­ly post­ed that many of his con­ver­sa­tions and com­ments have moved away from his blog and over to Friend­Feed. I don’t see that occur­ring any­time soon with QQ but I’ll set the accounts up and see what hap­pens. I’ve hooked my own Twit­ter and Friend­Feed accounts up with Quak­erQuak­er, so that’s one way I’m cross-linking with this pos­si­ble over­lay of QQ. 

For what it’s worth I’ve always assumed that QQ is rel­a­tive­ly tem­po­rary, an ini­tial meet­ing ground for a net­work of online Friends that will con­tin­ue to expand into dif­fer­ent forms. I’m hop­ing we can pick the best media to use and not just jump on the lat­est trends. As far as the Reli­gious Soci­ety of Friends is con­cerned, I’d say the two most impor­tant tests of a new media is it’s abil­i­ty to out­reach to new peo­ple and its util­i­ty in help­ing to con­struct a shared vision of spir­i­tu­al renewal. 

On the­se test, Face­book has been a com­plete fail­ure. So many promis­ing blog­gers have dis­ap­peared and seem to spend their online time swap­ping sug­ges­tive mes­sages on Face­book (find a hotel room folks) or share ani­mat­ed gifs with 257 of their closed “friends.” Quak­er Friends tend to be a clan­nish bunch and Face­book has real­ly fed into that (unfor­tu­nate) part of our per­sona. Blog­ging seemed to be resus­ci­tat­ing the idea of the “Pub­lic Friend,” some­one who was will­ing to share their Quak­er iden­ti­ty with the gen­er­al pub­lic. That’s still hap­pen­ing but it seems to have slowed down quite a bit. I’m not ready to close my own Face­book account but I would like to see Friends real­ly think about which social media we spend our time on. Friends have always been adapt­ing – rail­roads, news­pa­pers, fre­quent­ly flier miles have all affect­ed how we com­mu­ni­cate with each oth­er and the out­side world. Com­put­er net­work­ing is just the lat­est wrin­kle.

As a per­son­al aside, the worst thing to hap­pen to my Quak­er blog­ging has been the lack of a com­mute (except for a short hop to do some Had­don­field web design a few times a week). I’m no longer strand­ed on a train for hours a week with noth­ing to do but read the jour­nal of Samuel Bow­nas or throw open my lap­top to write about the lat­est idea that flits through my head. Ah the tra­vails of telecom­mut­ing!