Category Archives: Quaker Theology

The Party That Went On Too Long

The Party That Went On Too Long

  Seat belts were only for airplanes when I was nine, in 1951. So one day I leaned over the back of the front seat, to ask a question of my mother, who was driving. 

The radio was on, and a news report had just finished. The announcer had said something about the Communist Party. 

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This party had been mentioned before, in other news reports I had begun, just barely, to notice. We had no TV yet, so it was all scattered words without pictures, which gave rise to my question:

“Mommy,” I said, “how can a party go on so long? Continue reading The Party That Went On Too Long

A Review of “Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey”

A Review of “Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey”

From Quaker Theology #29

Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey. Marcelle Martin. San Francisco: Inner Light Books, 238 pages. Paperback, $17.50.

Reviewed by Chuck Fager

    It’s my fate to spend a fair amount of time on the larger Quaker-oriented Facebook groups. That’s often a challenging, and sometimes dispiriting experience, especially when talk turns to “what Friends believe,” and how that is evidenced in actual Quaker history. 

It’s a chore because the level of ignorance and misinformation about Quakerism seems bottomless. Responding to it often feels like bailing out a canoe with a big hole in the bottom, through which a continuing steam of errors, rumor, legends and downwright fiction steadily gushes.

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    For instance, a few days ago, there once again popped up the name of Richard Nixon, the second Quaker U. S. president. But no sooner than he appeared, there followed a number of firm denials that he was, or ever had been, a Friend. Even though Nixon’s lifelong membership in East Whittier, California Friends Church is well-attested in several solid historical sources, both in books and online.

Yet this seemed to make no difference to many: pointing them out evoked such responses as: “He never was”; “Well, perhaps as a child, but not as an adult”; “Maybe as a young man, but when challenged as president over the Vietnam War, he left and never returned”; and other variations. Continue reading A Review of “Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey”

Quakerism As Therapy?? A Good Idea? Good Religion??

Quakerism As Therapy?? A Good Idea? Good Religion??

Is that a good idea? Is it good religion?

The new issue of Quaker Theology (#29) is out, and it contains some challenging, provocative material for Friends and their friends.

butterflies-2a-front-cover-smThe first piece that fits the description is “The Influence of Psychoanalysis and Popular Psychology on Quaker Thought & Practice: An Exploratory Survey,” by Jacob Stone. He is both a longtime Friend and a retired psychologist, who had a long career in human services and human services education in higher education, as well as serving as an ethicist and ethics trainer.

Stone raises the curtain on a well-established phenomenon particularly at the liberal end of this constituency. Yet it’s one that is hardly ever remarked on, except in passing: the pervasive influence of pop psychology and the morphing of “spirituality” (also previously known as “religion”) into a kind of therapy equivalent. 

Continue reading Quakerism As Therapy?? A Good Idea? Good Religion??

Was George Fox A Liar? (Alas, The Answer Is Yes.)

Was George Fox A Liar? (Alas, The Answer Is Yes.)

For enthusiastic new Friends, it’s something of a sobering rite of passage to learn that many of the great names among the founders are not reliable witnesses in their own cause. However, careful historians have long since proven this to be the case.
One of them was H. Larry Ingle.

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H. Larry Ingle, who summer & winter was usually first in line at the local store in Chattanooga where the Sunday New York Times was delivered.

    Larry is now retired from a long career teaching history, mainly at the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga. Sometime before 1994, he went to London, and padded down the stone steps of the large Library at Friends House (an imposing structure sometimes dubbed the Quaker Vatican), into the half-lit depths where the earliest Quaker manuscripts and publications were stored. Then he began looking at many of the pamphlets and broadsides from the first generation of Friends. And soon he had made a remarkable discovery. Continue reading Was George Fox A Liar? (Alas, The Answer Is Yes.)

Transphobia: The Bible Is Better Than That

Transphobia: The Bible Is Better Than That

North Carolina’s odious “Bathroom Bill,” HB2 has been pushed out of the spotlight for the moment, while the crazy 2016 election plays itself out.

I can understand that. But HB2 will be back, and it’s still on my mind. In particular, I’ve been trying to figure out what’s at the root of the support for it. I have some idea of the politics, and the major personalities; but what’s the nub, the “bottom line”?

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It isn’t the “science” cited on behalf of the law — a curdled combination of cant and charlatanry. Or the panic over predators stalking “little girls” in public restrooms, which is trumped up, and such assaults were already illegal. Anyway, we already know the cultural right has big issues over a gender binary (and male dominance), so that riling up its base about sex works to boost voter turnout. But what is its basic justification? Continue reading Transphobia: The Bible Is Better Than That

Dog Days Profile: Jim Corbett, Sanctuary Prophet of Post-Desert Quakerism

Dog Days Profile: Jim Corbett, Sanctuary Prophet of Post-Desert Quakerism

    Friend Jim Corbett, of Pima Meeting in Tucson, died on his Arizona ranch August 2, 2001 after a short illness. He was 67.

    With his passing a quiet Quaker giant departed.

    I for one am grateful to have lived in the same two centuries as he. For those who become familiar with the important strands of Quaker thought and action of our time, I believe Jim’s life and work will loom even larger with time.

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Jim Corbett, speaking at Friends General Conference in 1986, not long after he escaped conviction on charges of illegally aiding refugees fleeing Central American wars.

    Not that we’ll see a lot of monuments to him; he deserves them, but that wasn’t his way, and Quakers aren’t much for it.

    But a tribute is due, and here’s mine. It’s an adaptation of a profile of Jim that was part of my book, Without Apology.  Continue reading Dog Days Profile: Jim Corbett, Sanctuary Prophet of Post-Desert Quakerism

Grace In Your Face: Remembering Bill Kreidler

Grace In Your Face: Remembering Bill Kreidler

First written Summer 2000
Revised 08-21-2016

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One of the finest, most eloquent ministers of this generation of liberal Quakers, William J. “Bill” Kreidler, of Beacon Hill Meeting in Boston, died on June 10, 2000. That was a time to mourn, and also a time to remember, and to pay tribute. And today, more than a decade-plus later, remembrance and tribute are what I want to do here.

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Of Bill’s biography, I know only a few scattered facts: He was from a farm community in western New York, and grew up in the Dutch Reformed Church. He began college in Buffalo and finished in Boston, where he became a public school teacher. He was gay. He wrote books about conflict resolution in schools, and did consulting with school systems on violence prevention. Where and how he came to Friends I don’t know; but he was a founding member of Beacon Hill Meeting.

My first memory of Bill is from St. Lawrence University, at the FGC Gathering of 1984. I was leading a workshop, my first for FGC, on the Basics of Bible Study, and he was in it. Continue reading Grace In Your Face: Remembering Bill Kreidler

Carolina Quakers: One Creed? Two Creeds? Or None?

Carolina Quakers: One Creed? Two Creeds? Or None?

In North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM), the ongoing effort to purge liberal meetings currently takes the form of an effort to “divide” the body into two “new” YMs, (This “plan” is described in detail, with links to the relevant documents, here.)

The NCYM Ministry & Counsel has prepared a draft of the Doctrinal Basis for Two Yearly Meetings,” which is copied in full below.  A “Doctrinal Basis” amounts to a summary creed.

But these summary creeds fail to address the real points at issue in this struggle.

The M&C characterizes the two as centering primarily on “autonomy” vs. “authority”.

Here are a few preliminary notes on this formulation.

Continue reading Carolina Quakers: One Creed? Two Creeds? Or None?

Bait & Switch – The Carolina Quaker Steamroller Cranks Up

Bait & Switch – The Carolina Quaker Steamroller Cranks Up

There’s no hurry, the North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM) Executive Committee (EC) assured the YM’s Representatives on June 4, about their proposal to split NCYM-FUM. Further, there would be no compulsion. When the split came, it would “allow each meeting, if it chooses, to join either of the two new yearly meetings . . . .”

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Their proposal repeated this theme, adding that the EC would “return to Annual Session with recommendations for consideration by the Yearly Meeting that pertain to process only, with substantive discussions to occur in carefully selected committees to follow Annual Session.”

Continue reading Bait & Switch – The Carolina Quaker Steamroller Cranks Up

The Carolina Quaker Split: Two Targets Say, “No Thanks!”

The Carolina Quaker Split: Two Targets Say, “No Thanks!”

Last Month NCYM-FUM’s Representative session agreed to begin discussions on a possible plan to split the YM.

But now two of the Meetings among those slated to be moved out of NCYM into the as yet uncreated new YM have firmly turned “Thumbs Down” on the whole idea.

None-of-the-above-signsJamestown Meeting, near Greensboro, sent a letter to NCYM making plain its firm opposition to the entire scheme. The key section:

Continue reading The Carolina Quaker Split: Two Targets Say, “No Thanks!”