Bono’s Christianity

U2’s singer talks about God:

Reli­gion can be the ene­my of God. It’s often what hap­pens when God, like Elvis, has left the build­ing. [laughs] A list of instruc­tions where there was once con­vic­tion; dog­ma where once peo­ple just did it; a con­gre­ga­tion led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spir­it. Dis­ci­pline replac­ing dis­ci­ple­ship. Why are you chuck­ling?

More on Frank Viola’s blog

Religion in the mainstream press

They default to the same bor­ing tropes, says Amy Levin at TheRe­veal­er:

Reli­gious wars, reli­gious dress, reli­gious mon­ey – these are the real and yet superbly com­plex ele­ments of our cul­tur­al exis­tence. Scout any crack or cran­ny of pop­u­lar cul­ture and you find reli­gion cre­at­ing a glo­ri­ous maze of top­ics for writ­ers to dis­cov­er and sift and sing to the mass­es.

But late­ly, I find that a repul­sive plague of rep­e­ti­tion and banal­i­ty has swept over the dis­en­chant­ed cyber­sphere. Each day I begin my reli­gion news search with hope­ful eager­ness, sift­ing close­ly through main­stream and fringe out­lets, hun­gry for signs of a new trend, move­ment, argu­ment, study – any­thing oth­er than what I con­sumed the day before. But I search in vain, and my dol­drums have led me to take action.

(H/T to David Watt on Face­book)

Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has a page devoted to issues of faith and next…

Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has a page devoted to issues of faith and next year's presidential elections.

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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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“The drafters of the statement included Quaker Symon Hill who has written of…

"The drafters of the statement included Quaker Symon Hill who has written of the statement: “As one of the drafters of the statement, I want to make clear that we want to act in solidarity with people of other religions and of none, not impose our religion on them or claim to be a more important part of the movement than they are. This point is made in the opening line of the statement."

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A Quaker presence at Occupy London
Almost 100 Quakers attended a Meeting for Worship on the steps of saint Paul’s cathedral in London on Sunday afternoon. The Meeting for Worship took place in support of the Occupy London movement that...

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Check out KD’s defense of organized (Quaker) religion

It’s up on the side­bar and fea­tured on Quak­erQuak­er, but I want to give an added boost to my friend Kevin-Douglas’ post “Why I both­er with reli­gion.” I’ve writ­ten about the Emer­gent Church / Quak­er exper­i­ment that Kevin-Douglass is help­ing to orga­nize down in Bal­ti­more. Check out their new’ish web­site, http://​www​.seton​hill​friends​.org/
Here’s a snip­pet of today’s post:

Orga­nized reli­gion is based in com­mu­ni­ty. Being in a com­mu­ni­ty chal­lenges me. Sim­ply hang­ing out with my friends and engag­ing my fam­i­ly isn’t enough. The risks of such an inten­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty and the sup­port avail­able there­in offer so much more than if I just do what comes eas­i­ly or go along with what exists around me. I’m chal­lenged in com­mu­ni­ty. I’m held account­able. And while it could be said that I could get this out of a gay rights group, or being part of an eth­i­cal soci­ety, the truth is that in a reli­gious com­mu­ni­ty, we all seek to go much deep­er than the psy­cho­log­i­cal or emo­tion­al lev­els. We seek to under­stand that Mys­tery — God. We seek to under­stand that trans­for­ma­tive and heal­ing pow­er that comes from that Mys­tery.

Kevin-Douglas orig­i­nal­ly post­ed it to Face­book ear­li­er today and I asked if he would sign up to Quak­erQuak­er and post it there. There’s a lot of great stuff that goes up on Face­book and it’s a use­ful tool for keep­ing in touch with friends, but most posts are not vis­i­ble beyond your own Face­book friends list (it depends on your pri­va­cy set­tings). If you post some­thing real­ly good about Friends or belief on Face­book, seri­ous­ly con­sid­er whether you might repost it some­where more pub­lic. If you don’t have a blog handy, you can do what KD did and post it on Quak­erQuak­er, where every reg­is­tered user has blog­ging capa­bil­i­ties (it cre­ates a bit of a meta­phys­i­cal con­nun­drum for the Quak­erQuak­er edi­tors, as it means we’ll be link­ing QQ posts to the QQ site, but that’s fine).

Pew survey on dogma and spirituality

Sur­vey: More have dropped dog­ma for spir­i­tu­al­i­ty in U.S. — USATO​DAY​.com

“Every reli­gious group has a major chal­lenge on its hands from all direc­tions,” says [Pew Forum direc­tor Luis] Lugo. When he fac­tors in Pew’s Feb­ru­ary find­ings that 44% of adults say they’ve switched to anoth­er reli­gion or none at all, Lugo says, “You have to won­der: How do you guar­an­tee the integri­ty of a reli­gious tra­di­tion when so many peo­ple are com­ing or going or fol­low­ing ideas that don’t match up?”

Lugo’s ques­tions is par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant for Friends, as many of us are con­verts. But the gen­er­al turn toward a more expe­ri­en­tial reli­gios­i­ty points to pos­si­bil­i­ties for fur­ther out­reach. Don’t have the time to check the sur­vey itself but USATo­day looks to have some good graphs about it.

Friends and theology and geek pick-up hotspots

Wess Daniels posts about Quak­er the­ol­o­gy on his blog. I respond­ed there but got to think­ing of Swarth­more pro­fes­sor Jer­ry Frost’s 2000 Gath­er­ing talk about FGC Quak­erism. Aca­d­e­m­ic, theologically-minded Friends helped forge lib­er­al Quak­erism but their influ­enced wained after that first gen­er­a­tion. Here’s a snip­pet:

“[T]he first gen­er­a­tions of Eng­lish and Amer­i­ca Quak­er lib­er­als like Jones and Cad­bury were all birthright and they wrote books as well as pam­phlets. Before uni­fi­ca­tion, PYM Ortho­dox and the oth­er Ortho­dox meet­ings pro­duced philoso­phers, the­olo­gians, and Bible schol­ars, but now the com­bined year­ly meet­ings in FGC pro­duce weighty Friends, social activists, and earnest seek­ers.”

“The lib­er­als who cre­at­ed the FGC had a thirst for knowl­edge, for link­ing the best in reli­gion with the best in sci­ence, for draw­ing upon both to make eth­i­cal judg­ments. Today by becom­ing anti-intellectual in reli­gion when we are well-educated we have jet­ti­soned the impulse that cre­at­ed FGC, reunit­ed year­ly meet­ings, rede­fined our role in wider soci­ety, and cre­at­ed the mod­ern peace tes­ti­mo­ny. The kinds of ener­gy we now devote to med­i­ta­tion tech­niques and inner spir­i­tu­al­i­ty needs to be spent on phi­los­o­phy, sci­ence, and Chris­t­ian reli­gion.”

This talk was huge­ly influ­en­tial to my wife Julie and myself. We had just met two days before and while I had devel­oped an instant crush, Frost’s talk was the first time we sat next to one anoth­er. I real­ized that this might become some­thing seri­ous when we both laughed out loud at Jerry’s wry asides and the­ol­o­gy jokes. We end­ed up walk­ing around the cam­pus late into the ear­ly hours talk­ing talk­ing talk­ing.

But the talk wasn’t just the reli­gion geek equiv­a­lent of a pick-up bar. We both respond­ed to Frost’s call for a new gen­er­a­tion of seri­ous Quak­er thinkers. Julie enrolled in a Reli­gion PhD pro­gram, study­ing Quak­er the­ol­o­gy under Frost him­self for a semes­ter. I dove into his­to­ri­ans like Thomas Hamm and mod­ern thinkers like Lloyd Lee Wil­son as a way to under­stand and artic­u­late the implic­it the­ol­o­gy of “FGC Friends” and took inde­pen­dent ini­tia­tives to fill the gaps in FGC ser­vices, tak­ing lead­er­ship in young adult pro­gram and co-leading work­shops and inter­est groups.

Things didn’t turn out as we expect­ed. I hes­i­tate speak­ing for Julie but I think it’s fair enough to say that she came to the con­clu­sion that Friends ideals and prac­tices were unbridgable and she left Friends. I’ve doc­u­ment­ed my own set­backs and right now I’m pret­ty detached from for­mal Quak­er bod­ies.

Maybe enough time hasn’t gone by yet. I’ve heard that the per­son sit­ting on Julie’s oth­er side for that talk is now study­ing the­ol­o­gy up in New Eng­land; anoth­er Friend who I sus­pect was near­by just start­ed at Earl­ham School of Reli­gion. I’ve called this the Lost Quak­er Gen­er­a­tion but at least some of its mem­bers have just been lying low. It’s hard to know whether any of these historically-informed Friends will ever help shape FGC pop­u­lar cul­ture in the way that Quak­er acad­e­mia influ­enced lib­er­al Friends did before the 1970s.

Reread­ing Frost’s speech this after­noon it’s clear to see it as an impor­tant inspi­ra­tion for Quak­erQuak­er. Parts of it act well as a good lib­er­al Quak­er vision for what the blo­gos­phere has since tak­en to call­ing con­ver­gent Friends. I hope more peo­ple will stum­ble on Frost’s speech and be inspired, though I hope they will be care­ful not to tie this vision too close­ly with any exist­ing insti­tu­tion and to remem­ber the true source of that dai­ly bread. Here’s a few more inspi­ra­tional lines from Jer­ry:

We should remem­ber that the­ol­o­gy can pro­vide a foun­da­tion for uni­ty. We ought to be smart enough to real­ize that any for­mu­la­tion of what we believe or link­ing faith to mod­ern thought is a sec­ondary activ­i­ty; to para­phrase Robert Bar­clay, words are descrip­tion of the foun­tain and not the stream of liv­ing water. Those who cre­at­ed the FGC and reunit­ed meet­ings knew the pos­si­bil­i­ties and dan­gers of the­ol­o­gy, but they had a con­fi­dence that truth increased pos­si­bil­i­ties.