Are Quakers Capable of Planting Churches?

Are Quak­ers Capa­ble of Plant­ing Churches?. Micah Bales starts a fas­ci­nat­ing dis­cus­sion about new Quaker meetings:

Per­haps the Reli­gious Soci­ety of Friends, broadly speak­ing, sim­ply doesn’t have the body mass to lend its strength to new efforts like ours. Could it be that the only way for Friends of Jesus to come to life is through inte­gra­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion with other, more robust and mission-oriented com­mu­ni­ties, beyond the Quaker fold?

Lady Grantham would not be amused

Pentatomidae01At work today we had those lovely inter­nal head-scratching ques­tions on whether the com­mon name of the insects of the pen­tato­mi­dae fam­ily is one word (stinkbugs) or two (stink bugs). Yes, yes, some­times even Quaker thought and life today includes these horrors.

Our house dic­tio­nary (the Amer­i­can Her­itage Col­lege Dic­tio­nary, 4th edi­tion) unam­bigu­ously declares it a sin­gle word, which would nor­mally end the con­ver­sa­tion, but pretty much every other source says two. The proscriptively-correct response is to clutch for dear life to that book and delete the space. But when Wikipedia and state ag col­lege exten­sion offices alike seem to pre­fer the two words, insist­ing on the dic­tio­nary seems unnec­es­sar­ily pendantic.

I half-wondered if this might in ret­ro­spect be seen as another step on the road to offi­cially endors­ing Wikipedia as our house dic­tio­nary. If I were the Dowa­ger Count­ess of Grantham, I’d come up with a quippy line about this being how civ­i­liza­tions crumble.

NYTimes video remembers the 1965 Selma James Reeb attack

One of the white min­is­ters with James Reeb in the 1965 attack that helped pro­pel the Vot­ing Rights Act remem­bers the night.

He also reflects on the value of white lives vs. black lives for national atten­tion in the Civil Rights Move­ment. While the actual Selma march was protest­ing the killing of black civil rights activist Jim­mie Lee Jack­son by a state trooper, national out­rage focused on the vis­it­ing white minister.

In 1967, Dr. King noted, “The fail­ure to men­tion Jimmy [sic] Jack­son only rein­forced the impres­sion that to white Amer­i­cans the life of a Negro is insignif­i­cant and meaningless.”

Don’t miss Gail Whif­fen Coyle’s overview of con­tem­po­rary Friends Jour­nal cov­er­age of Selma on our website.

Bayard Rustin’s letter to the Draft Board

Bayard Rustin’s let­ter to the Draft Board:

> I admit my share of guilt for hav­ing par­tic­i­pated in the insti­tu­tions and ways of life which helped bring fas­cism and war. Nonethe­less, guilty as I am, I now see as did the Prodi­gal Son that it is never too late to refuse longer to remain in a non-creative sit­u­a­tion. It is always timely and vir­tu­ous to change—to take in all humil­ity a new path.

Normcore and the new-old Quaker plain

In the last few weeks, the fash­ion seg­ment of the Inter­net has gone all a-buzz over new term “Norm­core.” Nor­mal, every­day, cloth­ing is appar­ently show­ing up in down­town Manhattan—gasp! Like many trendy terms, it’s not really so new: back in the nineties and early oughts, Gap ruled the retail world with posters show­ing celebri­ties and artists wear­ing t-shirts and jeans avail­able at the local mall store. “Norm­core” is just the lead­ing edge of the utterly-predicable 20-year fash­ion indus­try pen­du­lum swing.

It also per­haps sig­nals a cul­tural shift away from snob­bery and into embrac­ing roots. One of the most pop­u­lar posts on the New York Times’s web­site last year cel­e­brated regional accents (appar­ently Philadel­phi­ans are allowed to talk like Philadel­phi­ans again).

An ana­logue to this fash­ion trend has been occur­ing among Friends for a lit­tle while now. The “New Plain” dis­cus­sion have revolved around reclaim­ing an atti­tude, not a uniform.

If you read the old Quaker guide books (called “Books of Dis­ci­pline” then, now more often called “Faith and Prac­tice”), you’ll see that unlike other plain-dressing Amer­i­can groups like the Amish, Quak­ers didn’t intend their clothes to be a uni­form show­ing group con­for­mity. Instead, plain­ness is framed in terms of inte­rior moti­va­tions. Avoid­ing fash­ion trends helped Friends remem­ber that they were all equal before God. It also spoke to our con­tin­u­ing tes­ti­mony of integrity, in that Friends were to dress the same way in dif­fer­ent con­texts and so vouch­safe for a sin­gle identity.

When I began feel­ing the tug of a lead­ing toward plain­ness it was for what I began call­ing “Sears Plain,” indi­cat­ing that I wore clothes that I could find in any box store or mall. I devel­oped a low-maintenance approach to fash­ion that freed up my time from shop­ping and the morn­ing dress­ing rit­ual. Mod­ern plain­ness can les­son the temp­ta­tion to show off in in clothes and it can reduce the over­all wardrobe size and thus reduce our impact on the envi­ron­ment and with exploited labor. But all this is noth­ing new and it never really dis­ap­peared. If you looked around a room of mod­ern Quak­ers you’ll often see a trend of sar­to­r­ial bor­ing­ness; I was sim­ply nam­ing this and putting it in the con­text of our tradition.


Over time I found that these moti­va­tions were more preva­lent in the wider cul­ture, espe­cially in the min­i­mal­ist techie scene. Steve Jobs famously sported a uni­form of black turtle­neck, jeans, and New Bal­ance sneak­ers (explained in 2011). In a 2012 pro­file, Barack Obama talked about lim­it­ing his clothes to two col­ors of suits so that he could free up his decision-making ener­gies on more impor­tant issues (I wrote about his fash­ion in “Plain like Barack”).

Non-celebrities also seem inter­ested in work­ing out their rela­tion­ship with fash­ion. My arti­cles on mod­ern plain­ness have always been a big draw on my blog. While my fel­low Quak­ers are some­times mildly embar­rassed by our his­toric pecu­liar­i­ties, out­siders often eat this stuff up. They’re look­ing for what the techies would call “life hacks” that can help them pri­or­i­tize life essen­tials. If we can com­mu­ni­cate our val­ues in a real way that isn’t propped by appeals to the author­ity of tra­di­tion, then we can reach these seekers.

So now that “Norm­core” is appear­ing in places like Huff­in­g­ton Post , the New York Times and fash­ion mag­a­zines, will Friends be able to talk more about it? Do we still have a col­lec­tive wit­ness in regards to the mate­ri­al­ism and ego-centricity of fash­ion marketing?

The QuakerRanter Top-Five

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 Quak​er​Ran​ter​.org blog posts of 2013.

1. Out­reach gets peo­ple to your meet­ing­house / Hos­pi­tal­ity keeps peo­ple returning

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.

2. Tom Hei­land

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.

3. Expand­ing Con­cepts of Pacifism

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.

4. Rethink­ing Blogs

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.

5. Iraq Ten Years Later: Some of Us Weren’t Wrong

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.