All posts by Chuck Fager

Armed men invade re-opening Downtown Raleigh NC; Twitter strikes back

Laugh or cry?

Not Making This Up Dept. (But hat-tip to “Nina” for her made-up contribution. See below.)

A dozen or so heavily armed white men walked through downtown Raleigh NC on a balmy re-opening Saturday.
to add spice to the incursion, they went into a Subway and ordered up foot-longs, which looked tiny compared to the hardware they were toting.

News photographers and police officers followed them, tho  there were no arrests.  But there were a couple of incidents:

One was that a marcher bearing a heavy lug wrench paused to intimidate a black couple who passed by, “armed” with only a pair of twins in a stroller.

The other came a bit later. The Raleigh News & Observer posted photos of the event, which immediately went viral.

But soon the photos drew the sardonic ire of “Nina” on Twitter, who reposted the photos, having replaced the long guns with equally long, sensual-looking subs . . .

In just a few strokes, her handiwork turned the incursion into something like an out-take from a Cold Opening on Saturday Night Live that didn’t quite work out. (That lug wrench bit has to go.)

“Nina” explained her work as meant to be funny, but added:

“We can’t shoot the virus and make it go away.”

And I cant unsee the images of grown men hugging five feet of Cold cuts & cheese slices, their First & Second Amendments just good enough to eat.

”Nina’s” work here was funny.

The rest of it was something else.

The Church, The Draft-Board & Me – Narrative Theology by George Amoss Jr.

Quaker Theology has published an occasional series of what we call “Narrative Theologies” essays: personal accounts of Friends’ religious pilgrimages, into (and sometimes, out of) the Society of Friends. These reflect, but are not tied to theological currents which regard, for instance, the Bible as a collection of stories rather than any kind of formal structured set of propositions. Their best outcome is more a conversation rather than a system.

However, our goal for them is that they be more than simply autobiography or memoir. The hope is that they also will be vehicles for reflection on the experiences recounted and analyzed– reflection by the author, the reader, and by the wide community of Friends.

For me theology differs from straight storytelling in that it involves, at some level, reflection and analysis of experience. Thinking, in short. (And George Amoss Jr.’s piece in the new issue of Quaker Theology, Issue # 34 is a fine example)

Such work is not exactly the same thing as “intellectual” activity or abstract and systematic reasoning. I don’t think one needs to be “an intellectual” to be a Friend, or even a theologian; but I do think there is an important place for such work in the Quaker community if we are to be a mature religious body.

George Amoss Jr. is well and widely read in theology, in and outside Quakerism, but his story here is as personal as it can get.  The few samples below will, I hope, prompt many Friends to turn to the full story on his website. The fuller story makes for a fine weekend read. And if you’re moved, please join the discussion via the Comments.

Brief excerpts from George Amoss Jr.: Continue reading The Church, The Draft-Board & Me – Narrative Theology by George Amoss Jr.

Politicians Just used to Steal from Us. Now They’re Killing Us Too

Guest Post by Mark D. Schwartz

[NOTE: Submitted as a comment, I thought this piece merited wider discussion. The views expressed here are his own, but I welcome their articulation.]

We’re Used to Politicians Stealing from Us. Now They are Killing Us: So, Where is the Outrage of the 1960s?

Mark Schwartz

​Starting college in the early seventies, I missed out on the campus activism of the 1960’s all in reaction to the indignities foisted on American citizens by their government, whether it be the Vietnam war or racial and economic inequality. I’ve only read about the leaders of the SDS or Weather Underground who populated my alma mater, Swarthmore College, and other colleges. By the time I entered as a freshman, the funders of the school had locked things down

​Five decades later I wonder why, despite all of the inequality, corruption and the outright obliteration of the middle class, and now Covid-19 deaths, such activism has not reignited.

​Motivated by my education and having studied President Franklin Roosevelt’s use of government to combat the Great Depression, I then felt that government, if not the solution to society’s problems, could at least provide a level of opportunity for the disadvantaged. Continue reading Politicians Just used to Steal from Us. Now They’re Killing Us Too

Kent State – May 4, 1970: Part One

May 4 2020 is the 50th anniversary of the Kent State killings of four students by National Guard troops during an anti-Vietnam war protest.

Only two years ago, on a balmy spring Sunday, was I able to visit & pay respects at Kent State, with my good friend Henry Bloom, of Cleveland. The scene was tranquil and idyllic, but like a corner of the fields around Gettysburg, ringed with memorials and monuments. Here are some snapshots.

Henry, at left, is a somewhat retired physician, less retired this spring because of the pandemic.

 

Kent State was a very major event for me, though I was hundreds of miles away in Massachusetts.  I could say a lot about this day and its aftermath, but this tee shirt below does it better.

And the music of the day brings it all back. Read this part of a poem for Allison Krause, one of the victims, and listen to Crosby Stills Nash & Young’s “Four Dead In Ohio:

From a poem Continue reading Kent State – May 4, 1970: Part One

Annie Dillard’s Birthday

Today, April 30, 2020, is Annie Dillard’s birthday.

Among the many authors who interest me, she might be the one I would most like to be email & text message-buddies with, so  I could have a chance to keep up with her laser sharp thoughts and squibs on, whatever.

There’s no hope of that; as she says plainly on her bare bones website: 

I can no longer travel, can’t meet with strangers, can’t sign books but will sign labels with SASE, can’t write by request, and can’t answer letters. I’ve got to read and concentrate. Why? Beats me. . . .
(I’ve posted this web-page in defense; a crook bought the name and printed dirty pictures, then offered to sell it to me. I bit. In the course of that I learned the web is full of misinformation. This is a corrective.)

Continue reading Annie Dillard’s Birthday

Doug Gwyn: Theologian and — Quaker Theological Folksinger ? Yes! (UPDATED)

Doug Gwyn has been a frequent contributor to Quaker Theology. Our readers have known him as a theological historian, who has written in depth about early Friends, as well as recent American Quakers.

Of the books, I’d pick as his masterwork, Personality and Place (our review is here), which he calls a theological history of Pendle hill, the Pennsylvania study center and Quaker cultural crossroads. It’s that and much more: a probing reexamination of the liberal Quakerism for which Pendle Hill was for so long the unofficial headwater and seedbed. You can find it here.

But behind this diligently productive scholar-thinker persona, Doug has long been leading another life, as “The Brothers Doug,” a singer/songwriter, producing and performing, as way opened, dozens of original songs. Many (but not all) have Quaker topics, and many of those have an amusing, satirical, and occasionally trenchant edge. Most, either explicitly or implicitly, reflect Doug’s lifelong theological concerns.

This expansive musical oeuvre has been largely shared with very small audiences; Doug has never excelled at self-promotion. He’s retired now (and of course has a jaunty tune, “Baby, I’m Retired” to show for it).
[UPDATE:  Big Hat Tip to Hank Fay, who passed along the news that Doug’s 2008 double album Chronicles of Babylon, a compilation of 31 songs, including those from his early cassette, Songs of Faith & Frenzy, with its memorably clever cover (below), is in fact available on Google Play. In Chronicles are some of his sharpest Quaker satires, such as “Pendle  Hill Revisited,”  “A Process In the Wind,” and “Making Quakers from Scratch.” He’s also unafraid to aim at his own vanity, in “Hair Envy,” which laments the erosion of his own coiffure (“Why Do I Love Your Hair? Because . . . It’s There.”) Alongside these,  are others which carry serious, if unconventionally expressed Christian religious messages.]

Continue reading Doug Gwyn: Theologian and — Quaker Theological Folksinger ? Yes! (UPDATED)

A Catholic Reckoning? How about an Evangelical Quaker Reckoning?

In a time of all-encompassing catastrophe, bad news comes at us from all directions. But insight can comes form anywhere as well. There’s much of this in an editorial in the April 17-30 issue of the liberal Catholic paper, the National Catholic Reporter, (NCR) entitled “Catholics and Trump, a reckoning.” I believe it calls for Quaker attention.

Not that it’s about or for Quakers. But reading it, though, I kept seeing a different name in place of “Catholic” — Quaker.  More specifically, Evangelical Quaker. A sample of the editorial will show why.

But first, a bit of context. Here in North Carolina, much of the evangelically-oriented Quaker population is found in three counties: Surry, Randolph and Yadkin counties. And these three counties have a distinctive record in national politics: twice, in 2008 and 2012, they voted against Barack Obama by a three to one margin. And in 2016, they voted for the incumbent president by three to one. Continue reading A Catholic Reckoning? How about an Evangelical Quaker Reckoning?

Quaker David & Goliath, Cont.: Now David Makes his Case

In late January, a post here described the struggle between the Evangelical Friends Church Southwest (EFCSW) and the small Friends Community Church of Midway City, in Orange County near Los Angeles. EFCSW’s Board of Elders decided to close the Midway City church, and fire its pastor, Joe Pfeiffer.

The Elders acted after several homeless people (from the LA area’s estimated 59,000 homeless multitude) were briefly taken in there. The Midway City congregation has gone to court to stop the closure and keep Pfeiffer and his wife Cara as co-pastors.

Background and initial details re in the blog post and a followup. Court proceedings have been put into suspended animation by the pandemic, likely til late this year (at least). But the theological debate brought to light by the controversy continues. It should heat up after today, with the publication of Quaker Theology, Issue #34. In it, Joe Pfeiffer lays out the theological and historical case for the challenge he and Midway City have mounted against its putative ecclesiastical overlord.

In Engaging Homelessness Behind the “Orange Curtain” By Joseph Pfeiffer, Joe calls sharply into question both the history and theology of the “church growth” & corporate brand model of church structure and governance that now reigns in EFCSW, and its flagship Yorba Linda Friends Church. It is this theology, and the power grab it enables, which Pfeiffer argues have produced the current conflict. Further, this theology is built on presumptions of white normativity and corporate norms that are both unscriptural and increasingly dysfunctional. Continue reading Quaker David & Goliath, Cont.: Now David Makes his Case

Quaker Colleges & another Corona Crisis

A headline from the Greensboro NC News & Record:

With its campus closed, Guilford College furloughs more than 130 employees

Furloughs were ordered in all campus areas except among professors, who are teaching classes remotely through May.

John Newsom. News & Record April 3, 2020

GREENSBORO — Its campus empty through the rest of the spring semester, Guilford College has furloughed 133 full-time and part-time staff employees for the next two months.

Slightly more than half of the college’s 250 non-faculty employees were notified Thursday (April 2) that they would have to take unpaid time off from work through at least June 1, President Jane Fernandes said in an interview Friday.

Guilford President Fernandes, center, with students.

Furloughs were ordered in all campus areas except among professors, who are teaching classes remotely through May.

The furloughs are intended to help the private Quaker college of about 1,700 students save money at a time when the campus is closed because of COVID-19 and the nation teeters on the brink of a deep recession.

“In a sense,” Fernandes said, “it’s a crisis within a crisis.”

The furloughs came about two weeks after Guilford told all students to move off campus by March 21 as cases of COVID-19 started to surge across the state and nation. Fernandes said most Guilford students are back home. Some who couldn’t return home right away are staying locally with college alumni and trustees.

In the past month, Guilford, like most other N.C. colleges and universities, moved classes to online instruction, told employees to work from home and postponed May’s commencement.

“There’s less and less need to be on campus,” Fernandes said. “The work is not being needed in the same way.”
Furloughed employees are eligible for state unemployment benefits and will keep their health insurance and other Guilford benefits until they’re recalled. Fernandes said she intends to bring back furloughed employees “as quickly as possible.”

Guilford may not be alone in looking to cut costs in an uncertain time.

According to a survey of college presidents conducted in late March, more than half expect to have to lay off some employees, and nearly 60% say they probably will furlough some workers. More than 80% of presidents are predicting they’ll see lower enrollments in the fall — a worrisome development for small private colleges like Guilford whose budgets depend heavily on annual tuition revenues. . ..

Meanwhile at Guilford, the work continues.

Fernandes said the admissions office continues to recruit students for its next freshman class scheduled to arrive on campus in August. The advancement office is raising money for a new emergency fund to help students cover the unexpected costs of daily living expenses, medical bills and technology so they can take classes online. Professors and remaining staff members are planning for summer school . . . .

Though campus buildings are locked, she said, the college is not closed.

“We haven’t closed anything. Guilford College is surviving,” Fernandes said. “The college is going to get through this crisis and prevail.”

[NOTE: this is not the first round of layoffs at Guilford  We reported here on the shedding of fifty-plus staff in 2015; Fernandes responded to that report here.]


Some years back, I took a granddaughter on an admissions tour of Guilford.

The grove of trees on the Guilford campus which served as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

The tour was fun, the guides charming, the talk about “enriching experiences beyond the classroom” nonstop, the “amenities” appealing (except there wasn’t enough hot sauce in the au courant Free-range dining hall; tho I figured that was just me).

Continue reading Quaker Colleges & another Corona Crisis