Outreach, Family, Pacifism, and Blog Culture
At year’s end it’s always interesting to look back and see which articles got the most visits. Here are the top-five QuakerRanter.org blog posts of 2013.
This grew out of a interesting little tweet about search engine optimization that got me thinking about how Friends Meetings can retain the curious one-time visitors.
My father-in-law died in January. These are few pictures I put together while Julie was still at the family home with the close relatives. Thanks to our friends for sharing a bit of our life by reading this one. He’s missed.
A look at Friends testimonies and the difficulties of being a fair-trade pacifist in our hyper-connected world today. I think George Fox and the early Friends were faced with similar challenges and that our guide can be the same as theirs.
A number of new services are trying to update the culture of blogging. This post looked at comments; a subsequent one considered how we might reorganize our blogs into more of a structured Wiki.
This year saw a lot of hang wringing by mainstream journalists on the anniversary of the Iraq War. I didn’t have much patience and looked at how dissenting voices were regularly locked out of debate ten years ago–and are still locked out with the talk that “all of us” were wrong then.
I should give the caveat that these are the top-five most-read articles that were written this year. Many of the classics still outperform these. The most read continues to be my post on unpopular baby names (just today I overheard an expectant mother approvingly going through a list of over-trendy names; I wondered if I should send her the link). My post on how to order men’s plain clothing from Gohn’s Brothers continues to be popular, as does a report about a trip to a legendary water hole deep in the South Jersey pines.
Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has a page devoted to issues of faith and next year’s presidential elections.
2012 Presidential Candidates Religious Backgrounds | Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Interested in how religion could affect the 2012 election? Learn about the 2012 presidential candidate’s religious backgrounds in Pew Forum online biographies.
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Not that exciting yet. We’ll see.
Quaker thought and life today
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My life is now such that I don’t have the time to do long-form, thoughtful blogging. When I have time to think about big ideas expressed in well-chosen words, it’s as editor at Friends Journal. I have a rather long commute but it’s broken up with transfers, I often have to stand and I usually don’t have a laptop on me. What I do have is a smart phone, which I use to keep up with Quaker blogs, listen to podcasts and take pictures.
Despite this, I can usually write a few paragraphs at a time. Kept at steadily those could amass into blog posts. But the finishing-up effort is hard. I have a 2/3rds completed post lavishing high praise for +Jon Watts’s new album sitting on my phone but haven’t had the chance to finish, polish and publish. So what if I serialized these? Write a few paragraphs at a time, invite commentary, perhaps even alter things in a bit of crowd-sourcing?
Any feedback I’d get would help keep up my enthusiasm for the topic. This informal post-as-chat was actually the dominant early model for blogs, one that fell away as they became more visible. It’d be nice to get back to that. The medium seems obvious to me: Google+, which allows for extended informal posts. So I’ll try that. These will be beta thoughts-on-electron. If they seem to gell together, I might then polish and publish to QuakerRanter.org, but no promises. This is mostly a way to get some raw ideas out there.
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One of the things that is intriguing me lately is the nature of Quaker debate. There are half a dozen seemingly-perennial political issues around which Friends in my circles have very strong opinions (these include abortion, nuclear power, and the role of Friends in the troubles of Israel/Palestine) . We often justify our positions with appeals to our Quaker faith, but I wonder how often our opinions could be more accurately predicted by our demographic profile?
How many of your political positions and social attitudes could be accurately guessed by a savvy demographer who knew your date of birth, postal code, education and family income? I’d guess each of us are far more predictable than we’d like to think.If true, then what role does our religious life actually play?
Religious beliefs are also a demographic category, granted, but if they only confirm positions that could be just as actually predicted by non-spiritual data, then doesn’t that imply that we’ve simply found (or remained in) a religious community that confirms our pre-existing biases? Have we created a faith in our own image? And if true, is it really fair to justify ourselves based on appeals to Quaker values?
The “political” Quaker writings I’m finding most interesting (because they’re least predictable) are the ones that stop to ask how Quaker discernment fits into the debate. Discernment: one could easily argue that Quaker openings and tools around it are one of our greatest gifts to human spirituality. When we build a worship community based on strict adherence to the immediate prompting of the Holy Spirit, the first question becomes figuring out what is of-God and what is not. Is James Nayler, riding Jesus-like into Bristol, a prophet or a nut?
When we go deep into the questions, we may find that the answers are less important than the care we take to reach them. Waiting for one another, holding one another’s hand in love despite differences of opinion, can be more important than being the right-answer early adopter. How do you step back from easy answers to the thorny questions? How do you poll yourself and that-of-God in yourself to open your eyes and ears for the potential of surprise?