A few days ago, a post on a Quaker Facebook group asked what the Quaker position was on dealing with insurrection.
An excellent and, er, disturbingly timely question. To which, of course, there is not a single Quaker answer.
To my mind, the best way to approach it is to look at live examples in our history. And here is one:
In the decade before the U.S. Civil War, many of the strong abolitionist Quakers (who were, we must note for the sake of truth, were then the radical fringe, loudly despised and marginalized by the Quaker Establishment) formed groups under the banner of Progressive Friends.
The largest of these groups gathered in Longwood in Chester County, southwest of Philadelphia, in an area now known as the “Mushroom Capital.” There they soon built a meetinghouse which still stands.
Once underway, the Longwood Progressives quickly got down to business, launching a many-pronged assault on the recalcitrant status quo: on one side, they sent out volunteer “missionaries” to spread the Progressive gospel by organizing meetings wherever way opened.
On another, they adopted stirring resolutions, called “Testimonies,” denouncing a catalog of evils and calling for government and other action to end slavery at once; grant equal rights to women; challenge the disparities of wealth; abolish the sale of alcoholic drinks; reform the prison system.
And not least, they called for an end to war & war preparations. Twice they urgently petitioned to the federal government about this, noting that:
“. . . impressed with the awful sinfulness of War, and its demoralizing tendencies upon the human race, we are impelled, by the spirit of our religion, to propose to you, the legislators of our beloved country, that in accordance with the progress of the spirit of the age, an arrangement be entered into to settle all disputations with Foreign Powers, by reference to an Arbitration of Nations. We also earnestly desire the abandonment of all fortifications and preparations for war, the abolition of the army and navy, and of all military schools, over which the Government of the United States has jurisdiction.” (1853; 1855)
A mere six years later, on April 12, 1861, the newly-formed Confederate artillery opened fire on the federal Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.
That bombardment in South Carolina did more than breach the outpost’s defenses. Its fallout also landed hundreds of miles away: In particular, the war it started blasted holes in the “walled garden” of a then-Quietist and separatist American Quakerism.
Author and novelist Jessamyn West (1902-1984), best remembered for her classic The Friendly Persuasion (book and movie) was raised and shaped by a long line of Quakers. Rooted in Indiana, they wound up evangelical and Holiness-centered, as well as cousins to Richard Nixon, in southern California.
Her family left their southern Indiana Quaker homeland when Jessamyn was six. West left its Quakerism as a young woman; as her church moved in ever-more conservative directions, she wound up, not an activist, more a loyal ACLU liberal. But her Quakerism never really left her.
Matt Hisrich, who was in his second year as Dean of Earlham School of Religion in Richmond Indiana, was abruptly banned from campus on Wednesday December 16 2020.
His Earlham email was revoked that morning, and he was directed to vacate the campus by 3 PM. Co-workers hurriedly gathered that afternoon to bid him a shocked, impromptu farewell.
Hisrich said in an interview with this blog that he was able to leave campus without the customary perp-walk escort by campus security, but only because, due to recent staff cuts, the college only has one remaining campus police officer, who was busy elsewhere.
A 2008 ESR graduate, Matt became Director of Recruitment and Admissions in June 2012. Appointed Acting Dean in July 2018, he was appointed Dean, in addition to becoming an Earlham College Vice President, in March 2019.
Early this month, Hisrich announced his intention to resign at the end of 2020.
However, his bums rush exit was early, evidently provoked by a letter he sent to the ESR Board of advisers.
In the letter, Hisrich criticized recent changes in the school’s status, called for them to be reversed, and denounced what he called a “toxic culture of fear of speaking out,” under the administration of new president Anne Houtman, which he said “debilitated the creativity, energy, and community so absolutely necessary to pull off a re-imagination of what the College could be in a radically new context.”
This “re-imagination” is underway, as Earlham struggles with major budget deficits and faltering enrollment. Major staff cuts have recently been imposed. (For our earlier posts on Earlham’s financial/academic travail, go here, and here, and here.)
To say I am saddened and disappointed would be an understatement. Matt never once expressed to me the concerns he shared with you, even when I gave him ample opportunity to do so. His “reflections” are filled with misinformation and misinterpretation, and reflect more than anything a deep misunderstanding of ESR’s fiscal situation, its relationship to Earlham, and more broadly the state of higher education in the United States at this time. This is not the first time Matt has behaved unprofessionally in our work together, but I have previously attributed this to his inexperience. It is an unfortunate way to choose to end a working relationship.
For his part, Hisrich firmly denied to me any “unprofessional” behavior, adding that no such charges had previously been made.
He also said that he and the ESR faculty had made numerous appeals to Houtman and other administration officials about ESR’s fiscal situation, and noted that the track record of Earlham’s administrations in recent years did not exactly evince any deep understanding of how to remedy the plight of colleges like Earlham.
About Houtman’s allusion to Hisrich’s alleged “misinformation and misinterpretation,” Hisrich pointed out that the key data his letter mentions are undisputed, namely, that last May ESR was abruptly “incorporated” into Earlham college. The school and its Dean, were now put under the direct authority of college officials. Further, and likely more important, the College “de-designated” (i.e., took away) half of ESR’s endowment (about $25 million dollars), which threw ESR’s financial and program plans into complete disarray.
Since then the faculty has been told their programs are subject to revision from above to make ESR a profit center for the College at large, as it struggles to overcome serious and often called “unsustainable” continuing deficits.
Previously, ESR had its own strategic plan, which was unfolding with reported considerable initial success. Enrollment had doubled between 2019 and 2020, and prospects have been very promising for 2021.
(Meanwhile, overall college admission trends are a mix of a few increases, with the elite schools out ahead as usual, and many others facing pandemic-driven declines or deep uncertainty.) Much of ESR’s endowment income has been going for financial aid for students from non-affluent backgrounds, and headed for non-affluent service professional careers.
Hisrich’s letter argued that
Going forward, tying ESR’s ability to survive to its ability to serve as a financial feeder to the College essentially pre-ordains a negative outcome for the seminary. As the only seminary of its kind, this would be an incalculable loss to the Religious Society of Friends – and many others who have and will find a welcome here.
“Negative outcome” is a euphemism for demise. ESR’s strangulation in an effort to save the College would be a double blow as it has shared facilities and cooperative programs with Bethany Theological Seminary, a school for the Church of the Brethren, for twenty-six years. An informed source told me that Bethany is currently financially sound, but losing its connection to ESR could be fatal.
Hisrich said he had been told that ESR had about eighteen months to reshape its program away from its current offerings to others which would attract a student body affluent enough to pay tuition that was high enough to make the school a profit center (aka “financial feeder) for Earlham’s overall budget.
The reshaping will likely be done from above, based on the conviction Houtman expressed that Hisrich (backed by his faculty) are mired in a “deep misunderstanding” not only of their own plight, but that of Earlham, “and more broadly the state of higher education in the United States at this time.”
An informed source recounted that in a November meeting with the ESR faculty, Houtman stated that her administration “had a vision” for ESR. Asked what that vision was, she gave no specifics beyond the expectation of it being an income producer. And frankly, it is quite possible to imagine a vision not unlike that of asset stripping by predatory corporate raiders, with ESR being sucked dry to prop up the larger, legally stronger “host,” and the husk then discarded. (Remember Mitt Romney and the depredations of Bain & Co?)
What might such new, profitable programs be? Law enforcement was one that’s been mentioned, Hisrich recalled. As well as preparatory courses for pastors in line to run megachurches, with their mega-budgets. Otherwise, the focus will be, as it is in most flailing schools, on attracting students who were shrewd enough to pick wealthy parents.
Well, good luck with that. Speaking from outside the ivy-covered halls, the mess that so many colleges are in makes a hash of claims that administrators have it all figured out.
“Before the pandemic, ” about 100 of the nation’s 1,000 private, liberal-arts colleges were likely to close over the next five years, predicted Robert Zemsky, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate school of education, in “The College Stress Test,” a book published in February. He now says 200 of those schools could close in the next year.”
It’s nine months later and there has not yet been a rash of actual college closures. But our peek into the machinations involved in keeping Earlham College afloat suggest just how desperate some schools continue to be, and the lengths to which they’ll go to stay afloat.
As for Matt Hisrich, he’s already put ESR behind him. He explained that his family was packing up, and by this weekend they expected to be back in his home town of Canton Ohio. There he’ll join with other family members working to help navigate the rapids and shoals of the current economic slump to save a family owned store there.
What kind of store? Wait for it — a hippie store.
That’s right: last week, Matt Hisrich was an eminently straitlaced theological dean. Next week, he’ll likely be in bell bottoms, and helping resurrect flower power, man, in a head shop, an authentic survivor, dating from the classic period in 1969.
Wait. In Canton, Ohio — home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
That’s right, man.
Matt & his people will be at The Quonset Hut, a lively emporium featuring, of course, crystals, all the paisley you’ll ever need, cool staff who know what an LP is, a smoke & vape shop, and even — wait for it — an eye-opening sex toys department (but strictly for 18 and up).
Well far freaking out, all you need is love, and who the heck knew?
Meantime, back at Earlham, Anne Houtman will be looking forward to, as she wrote to the Advisory Board,
the opportunity to conduct a national search for a Quaker theologian with administrative experience and expertise, who can lead ESR into a more engaged relationship with Earlham’s wider community while addressing its enrollment and financial challenges.
After taking all this in, I called an ESR alum who has observed the school for several decades. “Be straight with me,” I said, “you know the Quaker scene. Is there anybody out there you dislike so much that you’d suggest they apply for this job?
Readers likely already know much of what I consider Wednesday’s good news:
Covid vaccine treatments have started; “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg was tapped to be Transportation Secretary in Joe Biden’s cabinet; there are no more throw-out-the-[Democrats’]-voting-results lawsuits bouncing off the big doors at the Supreme Court; and only five more weeks til Inauguration Day.
Now the other news. It seems the not-so-fringe elements of the GOP are keeping up the fight to overthrow either the election or the government (whichever still stands in their way). For instance, here’s part of a Washington Post report you might have missed:
An ex-cop held an A/C repairman at gunpoint over a false claim he had 750,000 fake ballots, police said
By Andrea Salcedo
December 16 2020 An air-conditioning repairman was driving his truck through Houston in late October when a black SUV suddenly slammed into his tail.
When he got out, the SUV’s driver leaped out and pointed a gun at his head, police said. When police arrived, the gunman offered an incredible tale: The driver, he said, was the face of a vast election-fraud scheme and had about 750,000 fake ballots stuffed inside his truck.
That story was totally bogus, police now say. The man’s truck was full of nothing but A/C parts, and the gunman — Mark Anthony Aguirre, a former Houston Police Department captain — had been paid more than $250,000 by a right-wing organization to pursue far-fetched voter-fraud conspiracy theories.
On Tuesday [December 15 2020] Aguirre was arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon as part of a “bogus voter-fraud conspiracy,” the Harris County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release. “He crossed the line from dirty politics to commission of a violent crime and we are lucky no one was killed,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg (D) said in a statement.
An attorney for Aguirre, 63, disputed the charges, calling the case “political.” “I think it’s a political prosecution. I really do,” Terry Yates told KTRK. “He was working and investigating voter fraud, and there was an accident. A member of the car got out and rushed at him and that’s where the confrontation took place. It’s very different from what you’re citing in the affidavit.”
The bizarre tale of Aguirre’s alleged assault comes as President Trump and his allies continue to spread baseless claims of mass election fraud, and features a direct tie to a group of Texas Republicans who unsuccessfully sued to toss out nearly 127,000 Harris County ballots. . . .
Police said that Aguirre had received $266,400 from the Liberty Center for God and Country, a Houston-based organization funded by Republican megadonors. The group’s chief executive is Steven Hotze, a prominent Texas right-wing activist who joined other GOP activists in the ballot lawsuit filed in late October. “ . . .
Aguirre told an officer that he and his “friends,” were “investigating a voter fraud conspiracy” operated by the man at his home and inside a backyard shed.
Aguirre added that his group had been surveilling the man’s home for four days, and said that he “knew” the man had hundreds of thousands of “fraudulent ballots in his truck and his home,” according to the affidavit. He claimed he was “using Hispanic children to sign the ballots because the children’s fingerprints would not appear in any databases.”
“I just hope you’re a patriot,” Aguirre told the officer interviewing him, the affidavit said.
Aguirre later took police to the air-conditioning repairman’s home and showed an officer where he had parked to surveil him, according to the affidavit.
But police said that Aguirre’s allegations didn’t check out. Police found “no evidence of voter fraud or ballot harvesting” after the technician allowed them to check his property. “There were no ballots in the truck. It was filled with air conditioning parts and tools,” Ogg’s office said in the release. . . .
NC senator OK with suspending civil liberties in wake of Trump’s defeat
Raleigh, N.C. — A North Carolina senator suggested Tuesday that the president might suspend basic liberties to overturn an election that he believes, without evidence, was stolen.
Sen. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, paraphrased on his Facebook page comments that retired Gen. Thomas McInerney made earlier this month on a conservative talk show. Among other things, McInerney suggested President Donald Trump declare a national emergency, invoke the Insurrection Act and suspend habeas corpus.
Steinburg told WRAL News on Tuesday evening that he wasn’t endorsing the idea, just “putting out there options that others say still remain on the table,” though he later said he’d be on board with it.
In an extended harangue, Steinburg also made it clear he believes the recent presidential election was stolen and that Trump is the victim of a conspiracy to which multiple countries, the media, U.S. government agencies, officials and judges are either a part or turning a blind eye.
“There’s something going on here bigger than what anybody is willing to talk about,” he said. “I’m not nuts. … I’m not a conspiracy theory person. I don’t like them. I don’t like conspiracy theories at all. But something is going on here that’s bigger than meets the eye.”
Steinburg then offered, unprompted, to take a psychiatric evaluation. He said the CIA and FBI both know there’s a coup d’etat going on in the country but won’t do anything about it.
“They think we’re just bunch of boobs out here in the hinterland,” he said. “Well, these boobs are waking up.”
Steinburg offered no evidence for his claims, which are a rehash of conspiracy theories racing around the internet and conservative media in the wake of Trump’s re-election loss.
Asked why so many courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, rejected lawsuits intended to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the November election, Steinburg said, “let’s take a look at Justice John Roberts.”
He then suggested “somebody’s got something” on the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and, as evidence, said a lot of retired FBI and CIA agents live in his district and have told him so.
“I hear this all the time,” Steinburg said. “All the time.”
Asked about his habeas corpus post, Steinburg said he was “merely quoting what the general said,” but he also said it should be an option if the president feels there was foreign intervention in the election, as Steinburg himself certainly believes.
Chris Krebs, head of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said last month that there is no evidence of any foreign country changing vote tallies or preventing Americans from voting. The president then fired him.
Steinburg struggled to define habeas corpus in any way, replying to questions on the topic at one point with, “I’m not an attorney.” Suspending habeas corpus would let authorities detain people indefinitely without bringing them before a judge.
That explained, Steinburg replied: “If that’s what needs to be done, if there are people who have been identified as folks who are suspected of high crimes and misdemeanors, who are threatening the very security and foundation of our nation … for whatever period of time it takes to round them up, then yes.”
The Insurrection Act, also mentioned in Steinburg’s post, allows the president to deploy the military on U.S. soil.
The post also notes that presidents Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt suspended habeas corpus. Lincoln did so during the Civil War, Roosevelt during World War II. During WWII the U.S. government held Japanese-Americans in concentration camps.
Steinburg, 72, won re-election last month and will return to the state Senate next year for his second term. He served three terms previously in the state House. The Facebook post appeared on his personal Facebook page, but it would not be out of character on his official page, where he frequently posts conspiracy theories from conservative media outlets. . . .
A couple footnotes:
Steinburg is not exaggerating about retired intelligence agents being located in is area. His district covers Chowan County in northeast coastal North Carolina. It is close to Harvey Point, a semi-secret CIA training facility specializing in explosives training and other clandestine activities. Another nearby landmark is the vast site of the former Blackwater private paramilitary training center (now renamed Academi & still in business), near the Virginia line.
For that matter, a couple hours north in Virginia, across from the entrance to Colonial Williamsburg, is Camp Peary, home of the CIA’s “secret” (but well-known to spy thriller buffs) training base dubbed “The Farm”.
Steinburg wasn’t alone among GOP lawmakers in suggesting that Trump suspend civil liberties, even after the electoral college finalized Biden’s win on Monday and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) publicly acknowledged the Democrat’s victory on Tuesday. Virginia state Sen. Amanda F. Chase (R) on Tuesday also called for martial law, echoing a suggestion floated by [ex-General] Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser pardoned by the president last month.
In another article, The Post noted Chase, who is running for governor in the upcoming Virginia primary (calling herself “Trump in heels,”)
said she was holding out hope that Trump somehow would be declared the winner when the electoral college ballots are formally counted during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 — an all-but-impossible outcome, especially as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday publicly acknowledged Biden’s victory for the first time since the election. Barring that extremely unlikely turn of events, Chase thinks martial law is in order.
Under martial law, she said, troops would “go and seize these [voting] machines and voting equipment to find the voter fraud. There needs to be a national audit.”
This call echoes a similar declaration from an Ohio-based group, “We The People Convention” (WTPC), described as a rightward spinoff of the Tea party movement. QTPC bought a full-page ad in the rightist daily The Washington Times of December 12, to showcase their demands.
WTPC is headed by Tom Zawistowski, President of the TEA Party affiliated We the People Convention (WTPC) and Executive Director of the Portage County Ohio TEA Party. Zawistowski is a longtime Trump supporter.The Washington Times ad (full text here) was written in near-apocalyptic terms:
Exercising Extraordinary Authority in Defense of Our Vote May be Required because Martial Law is better than Civil War!
In the months following the start of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln struggled to preserve the Union. Many objected to Lincoln’s extraordinary use of Presidential authority, in particular his suspension of the right of “Habeas Corpus”.
On June 12, 1863 Lincoln defended his extreme measures in a letter published in the New York Times. Citing Article I of the Constitution he argued: “Ours is a case of rebellion…in fact, a clear, flagrant, and gigantic case of rebellion; and the provision of the Constitution that ‘the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when, in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it’, is the provision which specifically applies to our present case.” Lincoln used the same reasoning in justifying a series of extraordinary Presidential Orders:
• Lincoln ordered hundreds of Northern newspapers that spoke against him to be shut down and their owners and editors arrested.
• Lincoln ordered the arrest of Ohio Congressman Clement Vallandigham for the crime of speaking out against him.
• Chief Justice of the US Roger Taney ruled that Lincoln had violated the US Constitution when he illegally suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus. After hearing this Lincoln signed an arrest warrant to have the Chief Justice of the U.S. arrested.
• Lincoln ordered the arrest of thousands in Maryland for the crime of “suspected Southern sympathies” including ordering the arrest of US Congressman Henry May from Maryland. These people were arrested and held in military prisons, without trial, some of them for years.
While some debate these measures still today, no one disagrees that Lincoln and his use of Presidential power were responsible for saving the Republic. While History, and even former President Obama, has judged Lincoln as perhaps our greatest President, few would have agreed at the time he took those actions.
Then, as now, a President with courage and determination was needed to preserve the Union. Today, the current threat to our United States by the international and domestic socialist/communist left is much more serious than anything Lincoln or our nation has faced in its history – including the civil war.
We have well-funded, armed and trained marxists in ANTIFA and BLM strategically positioned in our major cities acting openly with violence to silence opposition to their anti-American agenda. . . .The results being massive increases in violent crime and deaths in our cities and the destruction of small businesses orchestrated by those politicians and leftist groups, many funded by domestic and international communists. We are literally under attack from within!
Then there are admitted Democrat/Socialist federal officials plotting to finish gutting the US Constitution after 100 years of trying. . . .
The Socialist Left has been openly working to destroy the United States since Obama promised and tried to “transform” America in 2008-16 . . . Culminating in this corrupt and provably fraudulent current election planned to illegally and un-constitutionally deny the American people their most sacred honor, right and privilege – which is the right to elect their Representatives!
How can we have a Representative Republic if we cannot hold fair elections to elect our Representatives? There is no doubt that this attempted stealing of these elections again “is a case of rebellion…in fact, a clear, flagrant, and gigantic case of rebellion” that requires exercising extraordinary authority to preserve our Union. . . .
The enemies are within our gates and our Constitution and Nation are in real risk of being lost to this socialist/communist invasion unless you act decisively.
At least half of all Americans do not and will not accept this fraudulent election because of the eyewitness testimony, and the material, statistical and mathematical evidence of OVERWHELMING fraud. . . .
We the People must not and WILL NOT cede our exclusive Constitutional right to elect our Representatives to judges, lawyers, courts, Governors, Secretary’s of State, Congress, corrupt election officials and local politicians, the corrupt media – or Leftist threats of violence! It is OUR EXCLUSIVE RIGHT to decide our Representatives not theirs! Therefore, We the People MUST demand a NEW and fair national vote, a vote that all Americans can trust and live by regardless of the winner!
Without a fair vote, we fear, with good reason, the threat of a shooting civil war is imminent. Gun sales are at an all time high and 40% are first time gun owners looking to defend themselves, their property, and their rights. Therefore, Mr. President you must act now before there is no peaceful way left to preserve our Union.
When the legislators, courts and/or Congress fail to do their duty under the 12th Amendment, you must be ready Mr. President to immediately declare a limited form of Martial Law, and temporarily suspend the Constitution and civilian control of these federal elections, for the sole purpose of having the military oversee a national re-vote.
A vote that assures a fair election in every jurisdiction and reflects the true will of the people. Federal candidates only. Paper ballots. No computers. Hand-counted with both parties watching every vote. Only registered voters. Photo ID to prove residence. Conducted safely with everyone wearing masks and six feet apart, just like we did in Ohio.
Only then can the winning candidate be accepted as legitimate by a true majority of We the People who must give our consent to be justly governed! Unfortunately we are at a point where we can only trust our military to do this because our corrupt political class and courts have proven their inability to act fairly and within the law.
You must also act, like Lincoln did, to silence the destructive media’s one-sided propaganda designed and proven to influence the election outcome, and end the unlawful censorship of Big Tech, to restore the confidence of the American People in our electoral process or we cannot continue as a nation. Failure to do so could result in massive violence and destruction on a level not seen since the Civil War. Limited Martial Law is clearly a better option than Civil War!
Many will object to these actions, as they did in Lincoln’s day, but we assure you that We the People understand that no less action will suffice to prevent the loss of our Constitutional right to vote and preserve our Republic. . . .
“There’s no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election. Zero. There is no role there,” he said in an interview with National Public Radio.
“We have established a very long 240-year tradition of an apolitical military that does not get involved in domestic politics,” Milley said.
He added that he is confident the courts, Congress and local authorities are prepared to handle a contested election outcome in the race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.
“Of all the countries in the world, I think that we are the only one or at least one of the very few that swears an oath of allegiance to an idea that’s embedded in a document called the U.S. Constitution,” Milley said. “We don’t swear an oath of allegiance to an individual, a king, a queen, a president or anything else. We don’t swear an oath of allegiance to a country, for that matter. We don’t swear an oath of allegiance to a flag, a tribe, a religion or any of that [but rather to a cherished set of ideas].”
Does that settle it? Seems like it.
But here’s what I wonder about: have any other short-term plans, traditional “norms” and venerable traditions been upended by the events of 2020?
Yeah, just a few.
Who am I kidding? In fact, if I had to make a top Ten list of any of those, I’d soon have to give up and make it the Top Twenty. Or 30.
In mid-2014, a blast of church schism fever blew into the three-century old North Carolina Quaker community like a line of summer tornadoes.
At its annual conference, a purge was suddenly demanded to “purify” their ranks of meetings deemed theologically “liberal” or friendly to LGBTQ persons. The same wave had already shattered Quaker groups in Indiana, and would soon roll west into Oregon and Washington state.
But the targeted groups in Carolina stood up eloquently in their own defense. They issued cogent rebuttals to the doctrinal charges, and stood firmly for the integrity of recognized Quaker decision making. The purge attempts repeatedly stalled.
Yet they continued. For two years the question was, how far would the crusaders go? Were they, like U.S. troops in Vietnam, ready to destroy their Quaker “village” in order to “save” it?
”A house divided against itself cannot stand!” was the insurgents’ refrain, citing the gospels and Abraham Lincoln. Something would have to give.
And ultimately, it did.
Murder at Quaker Lake unpacks this dead-serious true story. It is now available, in paperback & e-book form. Since the turn of the 21st century, five U. S. Quaker Yearly Meetings have become battlefields, truly making the opening decades of the 21st Century as The Separation Generation.
[Trigger Warning: Quaker jargon ahead] I’m just finishing a book about the demise of North Carolina Yearly Meeting, which came about in 2017 after the group’s 320 years of existence. [Watch for a book announcement soon.] That long, unQuakerly process was covered in detail in this blog as it unfolded, and the story will not be rehashed here. (But if you want to go over it, click this link.)
The book was supposed to be done by now. Yet what with the seemingly endless succession of calamities and catastrophes this year, completion was delayed until this week.
That meant there were now election results to take account of. So I just wrote an “Election Postscript” for it.
If you drove west on the Chapel Hill-Greensboro Road through Snow Camp, North Carolina on Sunday, November 1, 2020, at about eleven AM, you would have passed a white chapel-looking building on your left. A few cars were parked outside, on the grass under the big old trees, which are shedding their wrinkled brown leaves after a hot green summer.
That was Spring Friends Meeting. From the outside, it looked quiet, secluded, and almost deserted. Easy to miss amid the wooded stretches and dairy farms of southern Alamance county.
But inside, it was none of those. Yes, just a handful of Quakers, or Friends, were sitting, widely-spaced and mostly masked, on its long benches. And they weren’t loud. But a lot was going on.
English-speaking Quakers today are in dire need of some new “spiritual” books, and I have a top candidate to recommend here. It is John Calvi’s How far Have You Traveled?
Amid all the wonderful stuff that’s in it, some of what makes Calvi’s book so excellent is what’s not in it.
For example — and this fact alone made me an instant fan — in its 200 or so pages, the word “transformation” occurs only once.
Further, the bogus cliche “spice” shows up only thrice – and each time, thank goodness, it’s part of “hospice,” programs that bring comfort and peace to the often painful work of dying; in his career John has very often been a two-legged hospice. “Spiritual journey” likewise is limited to three appearances.
For that matter, “theology” is mentioned only ten times, and then mostly not from John’s pen, but in quotes by one of his elders/mentors, the late Elizabeth Watson.
But be not deceived; How Far Have You Traveled? is indeed a Quaker theological work, a substantial and serious (while often hilarious) one. For one thing, while Calvi is pretty loose on doctrine, Jesus pops up about twenty times. The book is not academic. John is an avid learner, but school academics have not been his forte.
Instead, he introduces us to what I would call “un-systematic theology,” and without argument he shows compellingly why it is so much needed. Instead of riffing on the trendy banalities of much “devotional” writing, or wandering into the mazes of academic abstractions, John’s theology grows out of reflections on decades of hands-on work as a massage therapist. Continue reading John Calvi: Boon Companion for Spiritual Travel→
A year ago, on October 10, 2019, I had a stroke. And I saw a vision of my future.
It started in the living room, about 7AM. I was in my battered recliner, reading newspapers on an Ipad. Across from me, on our long couch, grandson Calvin was stirring. His mom worked nights at Waffle House, so he often stayed over. It would soon be time for him to head out for the school bus.
I glanced up at him, and then something else stirred to my left: A bright metallic blue curtain had appeared, and seemed as if it was being drawn to the right, across my field of vision.
There was no pain, in fact no unusual sensation at all. But clearly something was wrong. I called out to Wendy, asleep in our bedroom. “I think I’m having a stroke!”
Calvin had to get himself up and out that morning. Shortly I was walking into the Duke ER, which is barely a mile away. And immediately I discovered one of the upsides of my condition. Having spent many bleak and painful hours in that ER waiting room, when I calmly answered the reception nurse’s “May I help you?” with, “I think I’m having a stroke,” it was like waving Harry Potter’s most potent magic wand. Continue reading A Whole Year In One Stroke→
Almost by accident, in 1997 I became a crime reporter, specializing in church-related financial frauds. My first major investigative report, called “Fleecing the Faithful,” is still online.
Michael Cohen’s book “Disloyal” brings back those years.
The crime schemes I covered were obscure, and often complicated to explain. Although they ruined many lives, they did so quietly. Cases typically lacked physical violence, dead bodies or sex. Hence few except the biggest ever got much media attention.
Yet religious based frauds were (& are) plentiful & destructive. And they didn’t have to directly involve “church” to be religious, at least for me. That’s because these crimes, like others, involve one of the central religious issues, namely the reality of evil. In fact, these cases’ lack of lurid melodrama made it easier for me to focus, at least In reflecting on them, on the underlying question: