Category Archives: Weird & Peculiar

The Big Eclipse?? Wake me When It’s Over

File this in the “Be Careful What You Wish For” folder.

Road signs that are flashing on highways all over North Carolina.

Once upon a time, in the summer of 1972, there was to be a total eclipse. It was, the media told us, going to be amazing, terrific & spooky. I was living in Boston then, and the path of totality was going to pass near me.

July 1972: The dark blue lines like a railroad track are the course of the total solar eclipse. The green arrows show where it was to cross Nova Scotia.

I got excited about this. And as the publicity buildup continued, I became steadily more excited. In fact, I was soon talking to my best friend David Eppers about a road trip: Continue reading The Big Eclipse?? Wake me When It’s Over

The Handmaid’s Tale 1990: When Frightening Fiction Including Quakers Crashed into a Frightening Quaker Reality (And After)

The Long Read:

The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel. The story below is not. It is true, and it happened in 1990, but its reverberations are still being felt, and are maybe stronger and deeper now than when they burst into view. Margaret Atwood’s fictional vision was directly relevant to it — as well as that of another novel which became its mirror image. Read on to understand why.

It begins with a showdown at Silver Bay, involving witches versus demons.

I. Gilead Meets the Goddess


New York Yearly Meeting gathers at Silver Bay, a resort complex on Lake George, north of Albany. Silver Bay is a lovely and peaceful setting, to which many New York Quakers return as pilgrims each summer seeking rest and renewal among Friends.

When the yearly meeting gathered in July of 1990, rest and renewal seemed in short supply. The 1980s had not been easy for New York Yearly Meeting (NYYM).

While many other unprogrammed yearly meetings were growing, New York’s membership declined by about ten per cent; the body struggled to meet its budget; and worst of all, its annual sessions were wracked by chronic wrangling, over doctrine and morals. An effort to rewrite its Faith and Practice, pending since 1977, dragged on abrasively throughout the decade; by 1990, this process had become so acrimonious that the Yearly Meeting put it on hold for a year.

In its travail, New York had become a kind of field laboratory for an ongoing experiment in institutional Quaker ecumenism. Unfortunately, in the latter years of the 1980s, many of the results of this test had not been promising, and never more so than at its 1990 session.

Continue reading The Handmaid’s Tale 1990: When Frightening Fiction Including Quakers Crashed into a Frightening Quaker Reality (And After)

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??

Twisting Again at Baltimore YM

Twisting Again at Baltimore YM

“Coffeehouse” is an annual Saturday Night tradition at Baltimore Yearly Meeting, where I’m still a member. It features silly skits and other such let-down-thy-hair amateur amusements.

This year I joined in one dreamed up by my co-star & co-conspirator Michael Newheart.

imageTo get a sense of our public foolishness, check out this 9-minute video, and twist again like we did last summer (or maybe 50 summers ago)!

or try this link:

Quaker Exorcisms II: No Magic Wands

Quaker Exorcisms II: No Magic Wands

One: Taking One (Or Two) For The (Quaker) Team

Usually it was great going to Meeting in San Francisco in 1976.
The meetinghouse was then on Lake Street, directly overlooking the bay. Through a big window, we sat and followed sinuous gray bands of fog streaming up from the ocean and making the Golden Gate Bridge towers vanish and reappear like some gigantic friendly ghosts waving vast outspread cable arms.

golden-gate-bridge-fog Continue reading Quaker Exorcisms II: No Magic Wands

The “Savvy” “Apolitical” Pope & Dingbat “Experts”

The “Savvy” “Apolitical” Pope & Dingbat “Experts”

In today’s NYTimes (09-28-2015, the front-page article on the pope’s visit quotes a so-called expert in “Catholic Studies”:

<< “I was frankly taken aback at how savvy [pope Francis] was,” said Stephen Schneck, the director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America. “He was clearly aware of all the very divisive issues for Catholics in American public life but talked about them in a way that didn’t give ammunition to either conservatives or progressives in the United States to use in their political wars.” >>

Clue-does-not-have-one

Continue reading The “Savvy” “Apolitical” Pope & Dingbat “Experts”