Category Archives: Et Cetera

250,000 Hits Later: Taking Stock of a Quaker Blog

Yesterday I spent a few hours hunched over my laptop screen, waiting for a number to arrive: the 250,000th hit on this  blog.

250,000: A quarter of a million. Imagine.

The hit counter said that number was near, and it felt like a major milestone for me. Sure, I realize that big time blogs can get close to that many hits in a day or two; but a Quaker blog speaks to what they call a “niche market.” And the blogging here, active and archived goes back to 1998,  but has been significantly active since 2009.

I started out in February 1998, with one of the shortest posts, one which noted some, um, uncertainty. Here’s the whole thing:

  I need a blog like I need a hole in the head.

But it’s clear that these days, it’s an increasingly important way of getting one’s views and convictions into the broader public discussion and debate.  And before it is too late, there are some things I’d like to get into circulation.

My overriding concern now is the mad course down which my country’s rulers are headed, and what faith groups can do about it.   My perspective is “sectarian,” rooted in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers.)  As the saying goes, I’m proud to be a humble Quaker.

But my sense is that people from other faith groups, or none, can learn things from our experience and discussions — and we can learn from others.

So let’s do it.

This hesitant opening was soon followed by what is beyond challenge  the longest post ever: 45800 words, with several thousand more added in followups. It was a nearly-book-length investigative report called “Fleecing The Faithful.”

In the late ’90s, two major church frauds stole tens of millions from Evangelical Friends. It could happen again. (It has, to others.) This shocking report, which took four months of intensive research & writing, showed how.

Not long after that, blogging lagged behind outward events, particularly September 11, 2001, which jolted  me out of my routine in central Pennsylvania, and saw me shipped off to be Director at Quaker House, the peace project next door to FortBragg in North Carolina.

With two big wars getting underway, I was  pretty  busy for several years. But the net kept developing, and by late 2009, the pace picked up.

Since then, along with the hits I’ve accumulated 626 “items” on the blog.

In this outpouring, topics varied, though religion was often nearby. In fact, it was the focus of what is undoubtedly the very shortest post of all 626, from May 21, 2011, Here it is, in full:

Since the world seemed likely to persist for awhile, I went ahead and retired from Quaker House in late 2012. Meantime, the blog had had its share of scoops;  it unearthed two official letters from Kenyan Quaker officials endorsing brutal treatment for LGBTs in its country and region; internal budget documents from Philadelphia YM detailing its budget struggles; breaking the news of appointments to various major Quaker positions; etc.

Soon I began foraging for new blogging subject matter. By late summer, 2014, a dominant new subject dropped into my lap:

The Quaker trouble in North Carolina lasted three full years, and I ended up covering it in three ways: in print and online in the journal Quaker Theology, and through the blog as both a reporter and an engaged member of one of the monthly meetings targeted to be purged. There are too many of these posts to list here, and I won’t try to summarize their many twists and turns.  (A summary/review is here.) It ended in August 2017 with the body involved, North Carolina YM-FUM, committing corporate suicide and going out of business after 320 years. At the same time, purge fever spread to two other yearly meetings, with new splits beginning to boil over.

Some readers who were intrepid enough to keep up with this reporting might think I’m something of Quaker conflict junkie, and I can understand how that impression develops. But just this morning after worship at my meeting, I was prompted to mention to one of our stalwart members that in only a few weeks it will be a full year since all that agony in North Carolina YM-FUM finally went up (literally) in smoke. She and I were both overcome with relief.

Besides, in this struggle’s last year, the catastrophe of Eleventh Month 2016 pushed most of our intramural Quaker squabbling to the margins. (Not entirely; because Quaker divisions here in NC mirror many of those in the larger culture; we still have our discernment and work to do among Friends in this new and very gloomy context.

The evolution of technology also made it possible to be “active” in struggles physically located elsewhere. Say, for example, Standing Rock. I cheered on the pipeline protesters there, but had no leading to join them.

Then, just a few weeks after the 2016 election, I read that the paramilitary contractor TigerSwan, based near Fort Bragg and run by veterans of secret military units, was doing “security services” for the pipeline backers and possibly various police agencies. Beyond the name, few in the outside media knew anything about it.

I knew of it from my time at Quaker House, and dug up a batch of background on the company from public sources, then put up a substantial post on November 26. In 24 hours it drew more than a thousand hits, which is a lot for me — but such independent remote exposure could also be vulnerable to electronic pushback: suddenly, the post and my whole blog disappeared.It took a week of insistent appeals to the host to get the blog back up — and when it reappeared, the TigerSwan post was still gone, completely scrubbed from its files.

Fortunately, with the help of readers who had saved copies, we reconstructed the suppressed post, and uploaded it again; it is still there.  

Yesterday, the “All time” counter, which updated fitfully, abruptly jumped ahead a dozen or so, and flipped right past the number I was waiting to see. Whatever.

I’m still busy, as way opens, keeping up with more recent stories I broke in the “blogosphere,” about the two teachers at Friends Central School in Philadelphia who were fired for inviting a Palestinian pacifist Quaker speaker. That, plus the resistance, the resurgence of racism, and other topics, yield a continuing stream of blogging subject matter, some not so controversial. I’m hoping the blog can still build its readership and that I’ll last until the next big milestone (500,000) is reached.

 

If this post is of interest, pleased pass it on.

 

 

“Disinvited” a Poem for Friends of A Certain Age

Disinvited — composed on learning a Friend was “disinvited” to the  Philadelphia YAF Weekend Retreat

There was a recent FB notice here in Carolina for a YAF gathering (only for dinner-plus, not a weekend),
And it specified the age range as “18-40-ish.”
Couldn’t help it: I snickered.

Pop Quiz: Who’s the youngest in this photo?

Continue reading “Disinvited” a Poem for Friends of A Certain Age

Four for the Fourth: Holiday Ruminations

For thirty years or so, I was shielded from most July 4th festivities by attending a big Quaker Gathering which is always held the week of the holiday.

Going about our multifarious business there (as the saying goes, “We liberal Quakers don’t believe in hell — we have committees instead.”), we didn’t take much notice. Once in awhile we’d see some local fireworks, but there was no patriotic speechifying, flag-draped parades, or wreaths laid on war monuments. (Thank goodness.) Continue reading Four for the Fourth: Holiday Ruminations

Tell the FCC: NO To Robocall Voicemails!

Sheesh. Enough is freaking enough.

Hey, FCC: Tell Robocallers to Leave My Voicemail The Heck Alone!
(If you agree, you can tell the FCC Here)

Anybody else who gets repeated cellphone robocalls and hates ’em, raise your hand . . .

I thought so. But some politicians (along with corporate telemarketer buddies) think differently. Now they want to be able to fill up the voicemail box on my cellphone (yours too) with automated robocall junk messages: Continue reading Tell the FCC: NO To Robocall Voicemails!

Quit Piling On about the “Bowling Green Massacre”!

That’s very good advice. After all, everybody makes mistakes, and this time, mirabile dictu, it was even admitted, eventually.

So shouldn’t we forgive and forget, show compassion, and move on?? I mean, it’s become an indelible part of our history now.

Yes, this is all excellent advice, which I fully intend to follow.

Starting tomorrow.

But today, I can resist anything but temptation. Even this tender admonition failed to  move me:

I mean, after all: if they had a candlelight memorial right there at the site Thursday night, can we do any less, in our own feeble way?

And offer tribute to the way the heart-stopping live coverage brought out the very best in our finest media veterans . . .

Including the incredible coverage of the work of the first responders . . .

How could we not join with the others in their tributes?

And the selfless rush to bring aid to survivors and families:

Let’s join the chorus that demands swift and determined justice for those responsible:

And cheer on the local historians who have important tragic details to add:

So, sure. Tomorrow all this goes down the Memory Hole. But fear not — another week also starts tomorrow. And I’m sure they’re ready for us.

 

 

 

 

The Rainbow Toilet vs. HB2: Wiped from The Headlines in NC

The Rainbow Toilet vs. HB2: Wiped from The Headlines in NC

Law & Order’s Special Victims Unit had nothing on Genevieve “Gigi” Burkhalter of Durham NC; but that wasn’t going to stop the North Carolina state troopers who do security at the governor’s mansion in Raleigh. The mansion is currently occupied by governor Pat McCrory, known worldwide as the face of HB2, Carolina’s trans-hostile Bathroom Law.

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Governor’s mansion, Raleigh North Carolina.

The troopers were sure they saw a crime being committed there under cover of darkness on April 15,  2016, and when they followed up what they saw on a security videocam, there it was, on the green lawn near the mansion.

A bomb? A corpse? A cache of erased State Department emails? No, wait — it was a toilet. Continue reading The Rainbow Toilet vs. HB2: Wiped from The Headlines in NC

Madea on Halloween–Boo!

Madea on Halloween–Boo!

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Went to see this movie at the Tuesday bargain matinee. The film was the surprise box office winner for films that opened last weekend.

My goal for it was twofold:

1. Pig out on popcorn (no added “butter,” free refill); and

2. Be distracted from the fearful foolishness outside.

I’m aware that there are some black sophisticates who sneer at producer/writer/actor Tyler Perry & his famed drag character Madea as retrograde & politically incorrect.

Personally, I’m in awe of both: Perry is no puppet of white moviemakers: he built an empire by creating a strong, original character who combines many of the paradoxes of the culture and makes them tolerable through broad comedy. And he gathered his following from the ground up with black audiences. Many of Perry’s films seem clumsily assembled, yet Madea outshines them and survives.

“Boo!” involves the standard Perry ingredients: sassy but vulnerable youth; elders who are hilariously obnoxious, often off-color, pot-smoking (mostly legal this time) & foul-mouthed. The plot is far-fetched & mainly irrelevant, with a dollop of throwback piety to reassure the nervous churchgoers tittering in the back.

Never mind the story; it rolls along. The point is, I came out two hours later, still chuckling. And not til the car radio went on did I realize I hadn’t thought about the damn election & all that, not even for a second, for more than two hours:

That’s worth five stars & a bushel of rotten tomatoes. Money’s worth, totally.

Here’s the trailer.

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Tyler Perry. While some scoff, he & his characters (above) are laughing all the way to the bank.