Friday, June 19, 2015

Speaking the Truth regarding racism.

After the shooting in Charleston, a former student of mine shared these words.

"I hope that soon we will realize that the real issue is the concept of race, that people are inherently different one from another. We are not different. We are essentially the same on the inside. The lie that has been told to us that we are fundamentally and ontologically different needs to be exposed for what it is, a lie that is wholly detrimental to all of us. We can keep playing games and changing a few laws here and there, or we can finally admit that the real problem is the unequal valuation of human worth. Whether it is because of the color of our skin, our gender, our orientation, the language we speak, the name that we call God, this unequal valuation continues to harm us all. As Dr. King said every human being is a child of God created in God's image and therefore deserves to be respected as such. Until we all recognize this we will continue with police shootings of unarmed black men, with gross disparities between peoples of different colors, and with atrocities like that which took place at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Until we finally do something serious to undo race's power over us, these horrible acts will remain commonplace. Let's stop ignoring the problem, excusing the problem, overlooking the problem, and being the problem, and let's finally once and for all end the use of the social construct called race and it's power over us!"

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Space-Time continuum as irrelevant in Quaker Theology

The fancy title started out as "Up, Down, Forward and Backward" in a Message that came to me one First Day in Meeting. Part of the prompting for this was a posting on the Huffington Post Religion web site. The topic was on Ascension Sunday and the meaningless  nature of the ascending "up" into the clouds. The further meaningless of down was discussed in light of the physical world view 2000 year's ago. It had reminded me of the story of an elder telling the story of the "world" as resting on the back of a turtle. When asked what the turtle was standing on, the response was another turtle; then another turtle when asked again. Finally the response was "It's turtles ALL the way down."

The past is helpful for "instruction" but the "true teacher" is present in both tense and reality. The future "is not ours to know; whatever will be, will be." The words of that old song are not completely true, but I believe that a "second coming" or a future "after-life" are not ours to know nor to base our current behavior on. "The Lord is come, let heaven and nature sing" is not just a Christmas song but is to be kept throughout the year. Going "up to heaven" or "down to hell" is not a world view that makes much sense to me. "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done" is not a call for some future kingdom but is a call for listening to the Teacher and acting accordingly.   

Early Friends in context

 This was written in response to the first week's assignment in an online course from Beacon House Friends in their Quaker Studies Program. The course is titled "Early Friends and Ministry" and is led by Marty Grundy.

       The early Friends lived in a time that was very revolutionary on several levels. In my understanding of the mid to late 1600s not only was there a revolution in power and authority at the governmental level, there was also a true revolution in the world view.  Descartes and Galileo were not English but there ideas were available and probably known to some of the early Friends. Francis Bacon’s “methods” also would have been known and Isaac Newton was a contemporary in time and space with the early Friends. For me the ideas that the earth was not the center of the universe and was revolving were in some way influential in the Cromwellian revolution and In the religious turmoil of that time. The church’s claim to be the center and holder of the “keys” to the universe were shaken and almost any authority in religion and politics was under question.
     This is reflected in three expressions; two are quotes from George Fox. “Christ has come to teach his people himself,” and “This I knew experimentally.” The third is that Christ has come in all his offices. (Note that I use the male pronoun as they did, but I believe that the early Friends went beyond gender and would welcome a non-gender concept of “Christ”) I believe that Fox used “experimentally” knowing the term as different from “experientially.” I also think that Fox was aware of the mystic view and was aware of some of the European mystics and their writings but chose his words intentionally. Thus the Light/Christ is not so much for an individual to experience and independently determine what or who has authority and what their responsibility is, but is a teacher whose lessons are to be tested and validated by others who are listening as well.  This did not negate the powerful experiences that early Friends had but rather gave even more strength to individual efforts. The paradox of having individual experience from a teacher as the authority and sharing this with others to test and try for themselves was evident in early Friends. The “silent waiting” in Meeting to listen to the authority was balanced with the responsibility to question the authority imposed on others.
This was further developed by the insistence that Christ was Prophet, Priest, King, etc. not just in historical or future terms but in the here and now. As Priest there was no need for intermediaries such as individuals, rituals, or forms, or even a book. As King there was no need to look for a future kingdom nor for any earthly authority to supersede that of Christ.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Moving Forward?

The phrase "moving forward" has come up in two different circumstances.

The first was in talking with a representative from Ministry and Worship at Twin Cities Friends Meeting who had volunteered to talk with Judy and myself after our names came up in two committee meetings late last fall regarding the possibility that the Meeting might "lose" us. After several informal meetings with this representative, he asked us how did we see ourselves "moving forward." We then talked about some of the "obstacles." It is evident that several individuals in the Meeting have individual agendas that are fairly specific and they are "always bringing them up at the "expense" of other people's and the "Meeting's" agenda. I indicated that I understood this and that in several previous experiences, the Meeting would recognize the individual, but then proceed to deal with other agenda that was important to the Meeting. However, I also mentioned that the approach at TCFM and some other meetings I am now aware of that the response is that "We can't be perceived as upsetting any individual and therefore we can not move on anything that might upset anybody." The friend indicated that he had experienced the same thing with the last two meetings of his committee were taken up with "discerning" the specifics regarding a letter to an outside group regarding a concern that the Clerk of the committee had with a statement made by that group which had no real bearing on TCFM as a Meeting. I indicated that I felt with my fiscal, physical, and emotional limitations at this point I did not see a "way forward" within that "community" when there seemed no way to avoid confrontation with individuals who by default prevented the community from moving forward.

The second instance was yesterday in talking with my neurologist about my physical condition. He believes that I have "inflamed nerve roots near my spinal cord" which causes the numbness and lack of positional feedback from my hands and feet. This has been determined by elimination of "all" other causes for my condition. He asked me what I felt about "moving forward" in terms of how I experience my life (in physical terms). His question was with regard to possible treatments that posed some risks with only some possibility of any improvement and a significant possibility of no improvement. One treatment is VERY expensive (Tens of thousands of dollars over several months) and probably would mainly be covered by Medicare, but he was not sure since the diagnosis/treatment is rare. The second treatment is with steroids that might provide some improvement but at some "cardio-" risk with my history. I am consulting my cardiologist in a few weeks after a "Stress Test" and will decide at that time whether to proceed with the steroids or not.

I regret the very personal nature of this post, but when I ask myself the 3 BIG questions that were asked of Adam and Eve, Cain, and Elijah, I "have" to respond.

"Where are YOU?" Struggling very much with a "way forward."
"Where is YOUR brother?" Struggling with how to relate to others in the community.
"What are YOU doing HERE?" I. like Elijah, pull back into my "cave," but unlike Elijah, am not sure where God is sending me even though I do hear the "still small voice."