Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


A lot has been said of the value of three legged things to stand firm. A three legged stool is far better on uneven ground than a four legged stool, and a two legged stool, well, just would not stand up. So, it seems rather proper to speak of thee legs to hold up the central value of our Quaker faith, love. Trust, Forgiveness and Atonement, seem to me to be the legs, as I have found watching Quakers in conflict, and in my own conflicts in the meeting and life.

I have seen Friends claim to love as fFriends should, and yet, bear conflicts with other Friends for so long. At the core is often a failure to trust. They tell me, "I can't trust because..." and that because never evolves into anything but a barrier to love. Time does not heal, it adds layers to the walls. Trust takes interaction, openness, a light and open and an honest heart. Talk. Without talk there can't be trust, because, well, think about it, "I don't want to talk to you... but let's not have any missunderstandings... " There is a logical disconect there. When there is a missunderstanding... talk to each other, it is the only road to trust.

Arthur Berk, delivered a wonderful message last First Day. He said that we all know what we ask of God in our waiting on the Lord, and we all know the peace and strength He gives us in response. "What do we give back to the Lord?" he said. He said what we should give back is love to each other. Be a friend to those who need friends, be a father to those who need fathers, be a child to those who need a child... be God's work on earth.

Distrust keeps us from doing as Arthur said, to do God's work on earth. Each leg that holds up love stands alone. One can give trust, not because the other deserves it, but because it is righteous to give trust. But, the other two legs help, also standing alone.

Trust, not because thee knows thee will not be hurt by another. Trust not because it is the best way to reach that of God in the other, so hurt will not be done. Trust because thee is a child of love.

Atonement. Atone not because thee is wrong, or becase thee meant to cause hurt, or if thee did cause hurt. Atone. Atone, not because you expect forgiveness, but atone because thee is a child of love.

Forgiveness. Forgive, not because the hurt is done, but if thee forgives, the hurt has less weight, but that is not why thee forgives. Forgive because thee is a child of love.

I beg fFriends that we become children of light, once more, children of love.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Mono culturalism and Multiculturalism in The Religious Society of Friends

Where are we today in regards the healing of the great schism in the Religious Society of Friends? I don’t think we have done a great job in understanding the parameters of thought within our society, so we struggle towards compromise rather than unity, many afraid of hurting each other, some wanting purity, others, well a thousand agenda’s besides God. Some may detect some hardness in my recent writing, and for that I am sorry. I am trying to peal away parts of my soul, while at the same time dealing with personal conflict among Friends who not only think differently about this, but personalize that struggle for clarity without regard for personal clearness. In such an environment anger, pain, hurt and greater misunderstanding must result. Without communication there can’t be trust, and without trust no love and without love, no unity.

I believe we begin by understanding the issues, by giving them names, layer by layer, naming and describing that we can know.

Let us start with one. Tradition. Tradition within a cultural isolate is unconscious. Much of Quaker original tradition was unconscious. It evolved out of the needs of a community led into a new pattern of organization based in our emergent religious thought. As we become less isolated new traditions are introduced, and then there is a predictable time when a conscious movement to name and reclaim traditions of the past happens as a conscious act.

Next let us define two more concepts. Mono-cultural and multi-cultural. As we grew in England, we began with a single people, for the most part, English and a few others, French or Anglo-Irish. We came in our first period to the New World where prejudice and opportunity created a community apart from others, a community with boundaries of dress, language, as well as faith. Even with the liberality built into a community without creed, we were more mono-cultural than we can imagine today, and yet there were the seeds of multi-culturalism sown in our tradition of individualism. Traditional monocultralism came from the unconscious event of our similar background, all coming from Christian societies, where Christianity was legally enforceable, and, not unimportantly, all were of the same racialized distinction, “White“. Our multiculturalism asserted itself from the start in the recognition of the individual, so Fox found himself in heated debate and schism over, for example, the issue of removing or not removing, one’s hat when a non-Quaker prayed. Small things like this were seen as vital questions of his day, and we divided over them. Oh, what was to come!

The great schism. After the events surrounding the preaching of American Quaker, Hannah Bernard in
England and Ireland, we split. The Hicksite tradition was, by its definition, multicultural while the Orthodox tradition was by definition mono-cultural and in that set the parameters for a religious discussion which has troubled us since the late 1820s.

So, now let us make a few more definitions. Hicksite, Wilberite, Gurnnite, Liberal, and New Age and perhaps a few others like neo-Christian. Some may set the boundaries for these differently, and I welcome correction and comment. Some of these definitions are classical, some are my attempts at naming for clearness.

Hicksite, in its original meaning was unconsciously Christian, in that the ministry of Jesus ( Yeshua plus Paul and a good deal of commentary thereafter ) set the religious framework almost exclusively. But, there was an acceptance that the personal definition of history and nature of persons in the Bibles and religious patrimony were one’s own, within reason, to define. One could, by being too far beyond the pale sever oneself from membership in this community. It was definitely not a theological anything goes. Original Hicksite communities, by many standards of today’s Quakerism would be described as Christcentered, as it generally was when I was a child. But, in the multiplicity of personal interpretations, it was more multi than mono cultural. For the most part, in its early years, Jesus was seen by virtually all, at least publicly as perfect or without sin. Proclaiming Jesus as a sinner would likely cause great concern if not, I’d imagine, get one read out of most early Hicksite meetings.

Wilberites were generally mono-cultural on the nature of Jesus as perfect, without sin, and a personal savior, though there was an element of multi-culturalism injected in the acceptance that the Bible, though the word of God, in translation contained the potential for flaw.

Gurnnites believed the bible to be as perfect as the nature of Jesus and therefore were the extreme of mono-cultural Quakerism.

Liberal Quakerism. As Urban Quakerism attracted more folks, during times of war often, within the Hicksite tradition, especially after the attempts at conscious reunification, conscious multi-culturalism but starting earlier, there began to emerge truly liberal Quakerism. In this all tradition was challengeable and the role of the individual interpretation became pronounced. Universalism began to hold that as there was that of God in all, there was truth in all faiths. Quaker universalism for some liberals became nearly an absolute.

New Age Quakerism. Some writers before me, have described New Ageism as the religion of the modern consumer culture. That one can go and get an element here or there, the ultimate tradition by choice rather than by unconscious expression. One can spend from five minutes to five decades learning about or from another culture and take elements into ones life or religious practices. Some critics have held that often there is a surface quality to this, for example the relevance of bear teeth hung around the neck of an artic hunter can never have the same degree of meaning to someone for whom they are a religious commodity, purchased and incorporated as a fetish into their religious ritual life. Others find the richness of multi- cultural acceptance in it broadening.

Minimalist Friends, attempt to avoid division between Friends by not using any words to define that commonality we seek in each other and in waiting in meeting, avoiding all abstractions if possible, including the word God.

Non-theist Friends. Don’t believe that there is a God. I think this might be more extreme than what I refer to as “Minimalist” Friends, but I can’t get past all the protective gates on their web page to speak with authority on this.

Neo Christianity. Today, there is a political, theological, and even fashion trend back to Christ. In these time of complex worries, some seek direct and simple answers. Others seek to restore purity through definition, and that might even have been part of the original Jesus movement arising as the Temple fell in 66 AD. These Friends find commonality in the theologically recent emergence of expression of common Christianity, such as the focus on being “Born Again” and Jesus as a personal Lord and Savior.

Anti Christianity. There are Friend who are openly hostile towards all mention of Jesus, and in answer to messages which even mention Jesus, will walk out, or make angry comments.

Now, another definition. Fundamentalism. The word emerged as the description of a new Protestant conservatism in the United States over a hundred years ago, to describe a specific list of fundamentals which defined the boundaries of mono-culturealism in that protestant expression, in short, you are us if you believe this. As the term began to be used to describe that foundation of “us” which makes them, them, its meaning has broadened, so that it is any us defined by an unchallengeable fundamental or fundamentals. In that in order to say us, there is a fundamental statement, we are all fundamentalists of some sort.

Sin. Sin is that which divides us, from each other or and God.

I am a fundamentalist, and like all it is one of my many sins. Humanity cannot live without sin. We sin in our diversity, and in our taking to live. Sin is not right or wrong, it is the failure to atone, to mitigate which makes sin wrong and deprives us of righteousness.

I pointed out, early in our unconscious traditions, Quakerism began as a White movement. This was one of our communities many sins. How we address that sin defines us as righteous or not. Our best works drew Black Americans into the American Quaker community. Our mono-cultural tradition at the time excluded them, segregating them to “Black” benches, and denying to them full membership in our Society. This becomes part of the sense of separateness of some Black Friends today, who seek our understanding that removal of the segregation and restricted membership does not completely atone. We also have to welcome the many cultures of the Black Friends into our Society to make it truly multi cultural. We must atone and Black Friends must forgive for us to be present to God in each other.

And here we begin to approach my fundamental and my sin. My fundamentalism is defined by “there is that of God in everyone, and I must seek to be present to that of God in all others.” For me, that is what it is to be a member of the Religious Society of Friends. Division and disunity strike at the core of my soul. When a fFriend turns away from me, it is at least mildly disturbing, if it is someone I interact with, I loose sleep, if it is a fFriend I love as family, it crushes me and grinds me as if between mill stones, exposing every nerve, splitting every bone in my being into glass like shards, and that separates me, even from God. I seek, I atone, I forgive, and yet, I cannot free myself from the damage which can flow as sin from my fundamental belief. I find it hard to see as “us” those who don’t seek unity. Like neo Christians who point to the writings of early Friends to “prove” that acceptance of Jesus is fundamental to being Quaker, I often point to advices and testimonies as “proof” that seeking clearness is fundamental to being a Quaker.

Why do I point out the fashionable element of Neo Christianity and where is there a potential sin in that? Peer pressure and fashion are hard to separate out from each other. Today, the aggressive spread of “Born Again” Christian faith is a hard sell in even my own community. Folks I am fond of, beg me, call me, write to me with great concern, that I am not saved. I want to be gentle with them and find commonality in God with them, but one of their foundation beliefs is that Jesus saves, and frankly what I find is that Jesus, as a fetish of God, divides as often as saves. But, I bend and seek unity, and in the end, I find I am presented with a test of faith, which many “Born Again” Friends tell me I fail and for that I am damned. For young Friends, that is a pretty hard sell when the “Born Again” community presents itself as under threat and oppressed by a Godless world of evil, and is cloaked in the glamour of sweet stories and a veneer of love, while divorcing itself from the bombs, the poison gas, the hopeless prisons and torture carried out in its name. It denies that a natural outcome of its mono-cultural goal is the closing of the mind, so that many people are led by its glamour and thrall into evil. There is a reason that the more multi cultural the attempt of the vision the less likely its proponents will bomb a women’s clinic, bomb a foreign land or jail someone for thought crimes. What the exact violence or evil will flow from the mono-culturalism of one’s own fundamentalism hardly matters, the environment will lead many into temptation to act for their God, and will not deliver us from evil.

So, why all this. In order to mitigate our sins together, in order to atone and forgive and heal, we have to become aware of what separates us. Perhaps it is my fundamental sin which leads me to hope we can someday have a large and diverse conference to find a way to be a truly multi cultural Society of Friends. One of my beliefs is that we cannot return genuinely to a mono-culture past, because diversity is a fact of our nature, and part of our growth. Even unconsciously traditional societies had to work hard to suppress diversity to attempt mono culutrlism. In the past and today, cultures which aim at monoculturalism banish, jail and kill to defend the belief that they can define themselves by a single set of fundamentals and achieve that degree of monoculturalism. Quakers seek to do the same with, generally less bloody tactics, though I have seen cases in history where suicide may have been the result of attempts at fundamental definition in Quaker meetings. That seems to me to be a shared violence on the part of the community and the banished member who strikes back by self destruction.

So, we come to the question is all religion irrational? Hmmm… Well, science cannot allow itself fundamentals. All must be questionable. So, for example if Science were faith, there would be a faith called Einsteinism. My brother’s doctoral thesis would have been heresy for the element of Einstein’s theoretical conjecture that was in part disproved by the mathematical proofs of his thesis.

Well, if God is, than all bets have to be off, for us to be rational in our religion. Religions that accept mystery, by the expression of faith and the wonderful statement, “I don’t know” are rational in that new light does not find itself heretical. Faith that is weighed against a fundamental may also suffer the sin of idolatry, in that, if new light can bring a greater understanding of God, but is declared heretical as it offends the central fundamental, then that image hides the reality as well as the experience of God. The more mono cultural the objective of the faith, the less likely that new light can be achieved by reason of the closing of the system of thought by fundamentalism.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Pretty Little Lies

When do these potentially harmful myths of faith become pretty little lies?

I can, in my heart, without bearing tales by speaking their names, count over a dozen Friends with ease who would, at some time cut another Friend off from their heart, not even take the hand of a greeter at the door of the meeting, while both considering themselves convinced Friends, and while clinging to... delving deeply into, the texts of the description of these myths of perfection, their faith in the Jesus of their heart, or the myriad of spiritual masters, or the complex swamp of superstitious fortune telling, and all the while, tearing at the soul of their meetings with self righteous glee, rather than seeking the righteousness of forgiveness and unity. Their god myths become satanic ironic jokes.

Do I sound bitter in this...? Well, yes. I've seen over the years silent withdrawn Friends, who come each week, slip into meeting and out again, dear quiet people. One comes to mind, who responded with the same expression when once, I invited him to business meeting, and again, when I asked him if I might ask him some questions as meeting historian, about our meeting's and his past. It was a sort of half bemused, half shocked refusal... and whatever the cause, I feel the danger of becoming such a Friend. At the center of our meetings are zealous "Quakers" who, as my father used to often say, seem not to have the milk of human kindness in their veins.

Where does the myth come into this? As Malise Ruthven writes, in the book Fundamentalism,
"as a 'defender of God', the fundamentalist militant claims the right to act on his behalf. By collapsing myth into history, fundamentalism paradoxically affirms the supremacy of human will, unwittingly following the madman in Nietzsche's story who proclaimed the Death of God. p.94"
I can't tell thee the number of times such Friends give to God the authority for their actions which blast the peace of the meeting, destroy gentle souls, and defame, all the while speaking of hearing the voice of God, or finding the beauty in the commentary about the Lamb of God... while pouring poisonous venom and sharp bile into the sweet well of the water of life.

These voices of God become like the trumpets which felled the walls of Jericho in order to carry forwards "God's" commandment to the Israelites to slay the Canaanites, to commit holy genocide. It is the same thing as the modern day zealot of Zion who calls for modern Israelis to cast down the temple of the mount, and to carry out the original slaughter's command, or the Palestinian who wishes every Jew out of Palestine. The only difference between them and us, is that we kill each other on a spiritual plane. We damn our fellow Quakers to a place of exile in the corner benches ... away from our hearts, which we have given over to idols of God. I once told a judge in Family Court, that she was wrong in her belief, that Quakers don't shun. I owe her an apology. We shun right in the "gathered" meeting. We give our hearts to Christ and the souls of our sisters and brothers to hell, and color it gentle with pretty little lies.

A Friend asked if I was ridiculing the Christian faith. No. Am I wondering at the faith of many Christians? Well, that's another story. I know a very few Christians, I hope I am not bearing tales to name one especially, Richard Evans, and for him, these are not pretty little lies, but an active language of faith. Other folks? Well, a Jewish fellow once said, "Oh ye scribes and Pharisees." He ruffled a few feathers in the saying of it, and some rather zealous Romans gave him what for it.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Last year, a little after this time, I believe God called me to strip away most every soft piece of flesh from my bones... I wrote about being asked to prune the tree of my life too fast and too deep. God didn't think so. I think I am in the process of returning the favor.

I found every comfort of my life falling away, my music, my singing voice, my friendships, my future expectation of a roof over my head, promises made to me by loved ones, hopes and dreams, ... and I began to learn to ask less of life, ask nothing of life.

Looking back, well, in some cultures the dead are left to dry for a year before burial. Cleansed, down to the bones... the pristine remains are laid in the grave, ready for eternity.

Well, God... all the myth and beauty which I was raised to see when I considered thee, even in the stark simplicity of Quakerism, the gentle image floating over the gathered meeting, the sweet stories and pretty pictures, the dreams and the flesh, I strip away from thee, to confront thee as best I can, ready for eternity, the stark emptiness of eternity before and after time and energy and form... everything and nothing at all - thee becomes you to me.

Staying to hear each other

fFriends. I've tried to express here, the process of forgiveness of our huge differences. I also know that many don't understand my attempts to express the harm of thy beliefs which some of us feel are myths, and potentially harmful myths to the peace of pluralist Quaker meetings.

Part of this is that ye, who as part of thy Christian faith idealize Jesus, look to the harms done as being separate from the act of objectification. And feel that any attempt to explain that harm is an assault. So in meeting, when ye present what some see as an objectified view of Yeshua, and some get polarized, ye feel censored.

And so, I try to show that the harm separates, and in doing that, we are separated.

To show how the harm separates, one must illustrate the harm. That act causes pain and division if we don't understand the difference between multicultural society and monocultural society.

One way to achieve a multicultural Quaker meeting is not to talk to each other. Ignore the differences by compromise or consensus. But our meeting communities are not about compromise or consensus. They are about staying in process until there is unity. Unity is not full agreement, but it is complete attempts at understanding each other until we find the common ground.

The nature of Christianity divided us for over a hundred years. We attempted divorce as a solution. Divorce is contrary to the single shared fundamental in our faith, that we are present to God in each other.

So, since 1955, we have tried to heal and come to unity. That process is hard, can be painful, but it is who we are. Quakerism is a funny bird, as we try to do things, other faiths gave up on. Most religious institutions take divorce as a matter of course, even if they say they don't recognize it in marriage.

The Catholic church makes a huge myth about annulment to create a divorce option. Personally, I am not big on myths. I have seen fFriends divorce meetings. I am fairly sure this is not a good way of fFriends to act, as they then villainize the meeting they left in order to make their leaving a believable act of righteousness, rather than the abandonment of process, that process of continuing to seek unity. And our stated community of love becomes a community of factions.

So, I beg fFriends to stay in the process of learning about each other. I am not closed to the idealized Jesus, and have found great gain in hearing this and that flow from the notion. But, in suggesting fFriends look inside, during the period of discernment of messages to consider if it is the right time and place, in meeting to use certain images, I would ask fFriends to think if I had the bad graces to present any of these past posts that unnerved some fFriends so, as a message in meeting. There are times we can talk and listen in ways we do not do in Meeting.

But, say some of thee, THY posts here are hurtful. Yes. To the objectified there is harm unseen by the objectifier. I am not alone in the belief that it is harmful to remake another in thy imagined image. The whole question of myth to me, as a Friend is vital, the difference between a story which illustrates and a lie which is sent to deceive. Why? Well, let us look at the lives of the Saints. The farther back one goes, the more outlandish the miracles. It once was a tool of rhetoric to use the mythical story to illustrate a point. However, in the modern age of empirical forensics, those churches that depended on the miracle story to solidify belief and to teach came to a dilemma. A number of the more fanciful Saint's lives were abandoned. They cast more doubt that light. The miracle aspect of the story obscured truth rather than illuminated truth.
Once sees, in the process of church building, the development of an emergent Jesus, which can be used as a story to teach, or as a reality to deny the original life of the man. In the second case, in order to become He, he recedes into oblivion. The He that emerges becomes an unchallengeable truth, and to me, any truth that is unchallengeable fails the first test of honesty. The harm in that, is the evil that unchallengeable truths empower.

The other harm is the loss of faith. If we begin the process of challenging the myths of Saints for whom God violated the laws of nature and reason, and we wind up challenging the central myth, and are in danger of loss of God in the process, well, we begin to see the harm in myth making in the first place. Religion which must be based on the veracity of elements myth to be true, is built on a potentially rather sandy foundation.

So today, fundamentalists try to find rational excuses for God's miracles, an earthquake to prove the Red Sea might have parted, pseudo scientific explanations of the origins of life, electro-physical theories that the shroud of Turin's image is proof of a power surge during resurrection. And then, what, when other's show the shroud was likely stained with bacteria from the sweat of the agony of a dying Yeshua? What then, that it is indeed real, but not miraculous, that a man lived and died, but the former "proof" of resurrection fails. What then, when we fully understand and show the process of evolution? What then when we find the Pentituke to be contrary to other records, of other cultures, which have better physical evidence for their veracity? Instead of the lesson of the story, the image of God comes crashing down, or is sustained against reason, and societies split.

So, yes, believe, but understand that we are no longer the isolated monocultural community where tradition is unconscious. In order to be a "traditional" people some people choose, and in that choice shut others and other things out which fly in the face of the foundation of their belief. There we are, fundamentalism is not a specific belief, it is a way or organizing thought. I can no more be a fundamentalist, than I can stop the process of unfolding of thought in my viewing the world.

So, I suppose, what I am saying is, that we not divorce. We stay in process, and that we challenge ourselves to look inside, as Yeshua asked us to do, as that which we hide in us, kills us. To enter the kingdom of God, we have to look inside, with some hard courage.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Taking Yeshua off the cross

I received a dear letter from a fFriend about the post below... So much to say. In the Hebrew Scriptures the need to atone is linked to the need to sin. In life we constantly take to live, take as we must, and deprive another, and the resulting separation is sin. So, we must atone to walk with righteousness before our God.

Some of ye takes Yeshua from us to make Jesus. For thy faith ye must. Should ye atone to those who are harmed? Must ye understand the harm? That's thy concern. In taking some of Yeshua back to me, I have hurt some of ye, and yes, I must atone. I must in humility ask thy forgiveness, for necessity to hurt thee. I must sin against my landsman, Yeshua, and all the Jews killed in the Christian holocaust, in Jesus' name, or sin against ye.

So, how do we atone. We ask each other for the water of life. Yeshua, or Jesus, did not need to work out all the past harms between the Samaritans and Judeans to ask the woman at the well for water. And she did not need the same of him. And yet, he also did not ask her to stop being who she was and become Judean. So, he continued to be Judean, and she Samaritan, and they drank together of the water of atonement and forgiveness.

So, we speak and seek and grow and in that sin against each other. The answer is not, not to speak and seek and grow, but to forgive as we listen, and try to understand each other.

Today, I saw the film Munich. Munich is about revenge rather than sin and atonement. One of the characters actually states this. Some fFriends are like the Israeli state that needed to define its boundaries with actions against, rather than atonement and forgiveness. In the film we see that both sides cannot atone or forgive, so they kill, the ultimate banishment. They kill the first objects of their fear and anger, then when that person is replaced they kill the next. It never ends, no boundaries result, only the four corners of the grave.

All these walls we build, all these boundaries we throw up, don't do anything but keep us from walking with righteousness before our God. We carve out the boundaries of our faith, of our nation, of our meeting, of our faction we build wall after wall after wall, and we build a wall around the well of the water of life and we are not saved.

The Gosple According to Lor

And so it came to pass, that latter that same day, there came wandering up the road a fellow, who was feeling a bit down and sad about this and that... and he saw a great crowd around the cross.

"Och, my, what's this? The poor wee maun!" says lor, looking up at the fellow on the cross.

"It's alright my son, I am the Pascal Lamb, who is suffering for thy redemption!"

"Oh! Go'way that you!, come down from there this instant! Let's not have all this... COME ON! Right now, that's it, down you get... Let's get you to a doctor and then to a pub, I can do my own atonement, thank you very much. Sweet of you, but REALLY!"

So off they went to a small sheebeen down the road where they ordered up a cider for one, and a wine for the other... "Ah look, Yesh', I understand what you want to do, boyoh, but, don't ya see the trouble in it?"

"Ah, yes, the whole cult of personality thing, the owl' Maotsetung sort of a thing, ya mean... didn't think of tha' "

"Right!..., spot on, Sherlock. It isn't the heart in the doing it, lad, its the head they'll make of it when they say its ok to knock some poor chap on the noggin for one thing or another and saying its because ya' said so and so. Who ever wants perfection? Jeeze ( excuse me... ) F's-sake, Yeshua, it all comes down to we have to atone all by our selves, look our sins in the eye, and do right by God and everything else we sin against."

So, lor and Yeshua knocked back a few more and Yeshua said, "I see what yer gettin' at, but, well, who WILL they look at for THE truth?"

"You've got her thinkin' cap on, I see. And that's the rub. Look over there, they are already pointing to yer empty grave as proof you rose from the dead!"

"Maybe I better wander over there and set them straight!"

"God no! If you try that, that will only prove their take on things, especially with a few glasses of wine in ya, best we have another round and knock around a few more ideas..."

"I did tell them to look inside, to bring out all that they keep within, that those things they hide inside will kill them... "

"Oh, my yes, dear boy, dear fellow, I'm not saying yer not wicked clever and right... you know you are! Ah but it is the bright ones what lead them astray... look at our cousin Karl Marx... there's a thinker, eh? And what a bollix of it HE made! And Gandhi! Oh, oh, oye! I don't have any answers, I really don't. I used to think it was all about playing music, that was life, a real treat! But, even that can go sour on ya, or boats, or ... now I don't know, I just don't know. But, I'm rather happy in knowing that I don't know... leaves me open for the next thing I wont know."

"Another red wine, my son", Yeshua said to the barman. "Well, I must say, this does beat all to hell getting hung up on a cross!"

"Well, that's a start then."

And lo, they closed the place, broke a few glasses and had a good laugh.

PS I'd show ya the golden tablets that I found all this on, they were all wraped up in me ruxter ready to bring to show and tell, but the dog ate them while I was gettin' ready for school. My bad.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A Lesson in Love

President-elect Michelle Bachelet, and her mother were jailed and tortured by Chile's military junta, who also murdered her father.

She has said...

"Because I was the victim of hatred, I have dedicated my life to reverse that hatred and turn it into understanding, tolerance and — why not say it — into love,"

What say we Friends?

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Foolish Teacher

Once upon a time there was a teacher who could neither read or write, who lived in a small house on the edge of the desert. Students came to him, and he led them into a questioning of all things that they held were true, so that they might learn to accept the great mystery of existence.

One day he lost his voice. A new batch of students came. At six in the evening, the teacher retired to bed, as was his usual practice, leaving the new students to get settled in. One of them noticed that the house had no flag, so he raised one on the front lawn. Another saw that there were no household Gods, so he placed some statues in the vestibule, another realized that there was not statement of law, so he wrote up a constitution for the little community and place it on the mantle. Another felt there were no heros, so he considered who was the most uncontroversial and wonderful person they would all know and love, and he placed a picture of that person ‘s image on the wall.

The teacher awoke the next day to see what his students had done. some saluting the flag, others wishing it to be replaced by another flag. Some were placing flowers under the picture of the hero, others leaving notes about the harm this hero had done to one group or another. Some were burning incense before the house God, others sprinkling water on the God, each saying that smoke or water offended the God. Others were arguing over the meaning of the laws. So, he gathered all these things together, and the students watched as he dug a deep pit in the desert and tossed all these things into it, and covered it with soil. The disturbed soil would not pack down flat again so there was a mound raised over the trove.

The next morning the teacher found his students assembled before the mound, placing flowers, burning incense, sprinkling water, and arguing. He took up a broom and swept the mound away.

The next morning he found the students had set the broom at the edge of the desert and they were burning incense to it, leaving flowers before it, and arguing over it. So, he broke the broom in half.

The next morning, half his students were wearing small images of a broken broom around their necks, others breaking every broom they could find, others making brooms. He gathered up the broom charms, broken brooms and newly made brooms, and made a fire of them in the desert.

The next day the students were worshiping, venerating, and arguing over fire.

The teacher decided he was the fool, though he worried that humanity would kill itself over its best intention.

Alternative ending supplied by John Maynard 15th Street Meeting SOF. ( also loving self titled, “The John” ) … so he closed the school, and became a sanitation collector, perhaps the most honorable of all professions.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Totalitarianism and Quakers

Sin and Separation


Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abyss nature leads, or you shall learn nothing - Thomas Henry Huxley:

Recently I was profoundly effected by a question… Just as Penn noted that most Christians (other than himself and other Quakers ) were Pagan, can it be that most Christians, including Quakers and my former self, are sewing the seeds of totalitarianism.

Some Friends sent me messages, that the questions raised were valuable to their being at peace with their meetings, others sent what I can only describe as hate mail saying that I was attacking the core beliefs of other religions. However, I don’t believe in taboo subjects, subjects that Quakers can’t discuss. If Christian Friends wish some authority on the setting of questions before each other, I offer thee that Yeshua ben Joseph the rabbi from Nazareth set more than questions before his co-religionists. He referred to some as being sons of their father the devil who they worship. John 8:44 I would not make a statement in such strong words, rather I would pose a question, but than again, I’m not perfect.

There are several schools of thought on Yeshua, or possibly Paul’s “bee in his bonnet” ( as a Friend said of me the other day ) towards Jews or other Jews. Some, and I think this is part of it, express a belief that it is the conflict between the Bet Hill el and Bet Shammai, very different schools of Jewish thought, being reflected in the writings of later non-Jews. I think this simplification of intensely interesting and complex history is a good simple model, as well as a lesson to us, that division is inevitable in human society, but before being be dismissive of the other, one should look long and hard at the core “truths” we hold to be self evident. Think of Galileo, is it time to remember the words of the anthropolgist, Louis Agassiz? " Every great scientific truth goes through three stages. First, people say it conflicts with the Bible. Next they say it had been discovered before. Lastly, they say they always believed it."

What did Yeshua mean by his attack on some other Jews, or did he even make that attack? Damned if I know! The Christian movement, which Friends as me not to question, so destroyed his place in the history of his own people, that we don’t know. They took the man and made him theirs, and destroyed his message to his own people. So what?

To begin, let us find some definitions, first of “totalitarianism“, of “sin” objectification, and hopefully of redemption and righteousness.

Aba Eban, if my memory is accurate, in his commentary on the history of Judaism, introduced the naxi period, as a time when questioning was outlawed, and there was an attempt to create a world without ambiguity. For him, this was the definition of totalitarianism a world without unanswered questions. The source of the answer was the perfect party and the perfect leader.

Let’s break this down. Totalitarianism is a form of utopianism where the system claims a degree of perfection that negates any opposing thought. It is self proving. You are wrong, because I am right. How do I know I am right, let us look to the source, the arbiter of perfection. At the top of the hierarchy of each totalitarian system one finds an arbiter of perfection, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Caesar, the will of the arbiter becomes law. . Each comes to the moment of expulsion of heretical ideas, and the irradiation of dissenters. You are wrong, and dangerous because you simply are too shallow or stupid to accept the perfection of our arbiter of all right thought. Mythical beings are created by objectifying humans as idols of perfection. Stories about the early wisdom of leaders are circulated and memorized by the faithful. Those who question core concepts are banished, incarcerated or killed.

What do I mean when I speak of the objectification of the leader as a symbol of perfection, and where is the harm in that? Well, to begin with, truth. Human beings exist as complex and diverse beings, with virtue and flaw. An American political movement assigned to Black Americans a status of 4/5th of humanity that they might no longer being humans, but objects to buy and sell and force to labor. Long after the restoration of full humanity by law, the effect of dehumanization and objectification persists in the view of Black Americans held by many White Americans, either consciously or sub consciously. The effect of the objectification of another profoundly effected the White world outlook and sense of self, as well as effected the humans who were the object of that objectification. We all hear older White Americans makes statements like, “he was a Black man, but very nice…” the speaker unaware of the exposure of their internalized objectified view of their brother. There is the objectification as ideal, the ideal of the exceptional Asian student… for more views of the day to day objectification as superior or inferior through racism, there is the classic example of American racism, the book the Bell Curve, wherein the authors and researchers “cook” the evidence to “prove” intellect is tied to the mythical concept of race. I can tell you, that I have yet to meet the Asian student who appreciates the casting of them as more intelligent than average, by that book. Today it is getting harder to find American women who would want to be placed on the pillar upon which was there lot to stand, in the 1950s.

In every case those who objectify others have two responses when challenged, first, that it is right to do so, and two, what is the harm in it?

This brings us to the issue and definition of sin. When I was very young, in First Day school, Sin, I was told, was that which separated us, from God, from God in others, from God in ourselves and from that which we are meant to do.

When we commit the sin of the objectification of racialism we separate from our definition of norm other humans. In the Bell Curve, Asians were superior to the norm, and Blacks inferior to the norm. That separation from the norm, made the believers able to separate the defined “ other” from full presence to God in either. That sense of separation grows and without addressing the central issue of the continued separation of objectification, atonement and healing does not happen. One can’t deny the sin and atone at the same time… one can’t say, “I’m sorry I feel you to be inferior, I just do, so let’s be friends.” One must listen and learn and grow towards atonement. To atone begins with acknowledgment and then making good, as one can.

Righteousness is not to be in a state without sin, but is to acknowledge sin and seek a path of atonement and seeking an open way to remake the unity destroyed by the separation of sin.

Christianity and its symbols.

What happens, what difference does it make if the arbiter of perfection is a mythical person, rather than an actual person? Unlike the modern totalitarian state, what if the arbiter of perfection is proclaimed after his death, and like Marx or Mao, passes into a place in the state, as the ghost arbiter, his words being unquestionable, due to his perfection, his image being perfect, his will enforced with violence or banishment?

The virulent way many Christians defend the central image, the central symbol of their faith leads me to the question of totalitarianism and sin. I commit the crime of raising doubt in the eyes of many if I ask, what makes thy actions, in the objectification of Yeshua different than the objectification of say, Lenin? I commit the sin of raising doubt if I raise the question, how is it that thee does not trace the slaughter of others to the central concept of the cult of the myth of the perfect arbiter and yet thee seems to lay at the feet of other systems the crimes which flowed from the same effect? I commit the crime of doubt when I ask, has thee no feelings for those thee separates from thee in the act of taking from them, one of there own, and making him a symbol and object of thine?

The only answer I get is, it is our faith and it is wrong for you to question my faith. Well, fair play. Whose faith is it wrong to question? Certainly, it is not wrong to question the underling principals of other totalitarian faiths, and formulate the question bracketed by the oppression that flowed from the totalitarian nature of the system and faith. Some of thee will say, well, we are not the same Christians who place their faith in THEIR belief in Jesus in the cockpit with them as they slaughter innocents. Well, easy to say, that harm is as vivid as can be… it is right out there in the open. But the sin of separation can be more subtle. The sin of separation can be a “them and us” growing in Quaker meetings, when some feel that they are preached to in the name of a symbol, not God, and a symbol that for some, was taken from their own home, their own tribe, one of them/us objectified. But thee tells us, do not be offended dear Friend and I am not listening, nor do I need to atone or even understand, the sin is thine for thy assault on my faith.

Am I wrong to see this process like a game of Russian roulette? I have done all that others who create totalitarian systems have done, in my case there was an empty chamber, ( at best ) I did not kill when I went through the process of creating the arbiter of perfection. But, I have I really avoided all the harms that flow from my actions?

This brings us to the concept of White empowerment. We can watch others call thee Yid, Nigger, Kike, Spic, and all the other dirty names of separation, we can cleanse our soul by not using those filthy names, and yet, if thy questions come to close to bringing me into view as part of the problem… I will place you on the outside, and feel righteous doing so. This is the foundation of White empowerment. In these conversations, recently, it was driven home to me, that, in my Jewish heritage, I am not White. I can be raised Quaker, believe myself to be fully Quaker, at home in my identity as a Quaker, run to that home when as a child I am called Jew Boy, but some day, when I least expect it… I will discover that I can never be fully a part in that home… members the self confident White Quaker establishment defines my people to me, with mouth wide open and eyes and ears fully shut.

I find myself joining my alienated Black Quaker sisters and brothers, patiently waiting in the process for a light to shine and wondering if it ever will and sending out notes from a former White man.

We will always come to different conclusions and differences, this is the story of the tower of Babel. But, when Friends call the process of doubt and questioning shallow, when Friends turn away from the pain of others born in thousands of years of slaughter of the innocents in the name of their symbols and alive in the filthiness of racism, we are not present to each other. This is the danger of symbols. This is why Moses broke the tablets when he saw his people worshiping a golden idol, that idol could offer nothing but absolute truth in the deadness of its silence, and only deafen its followers to new light. Call me intolerant, and I will look inside, as I do each day, and I will listen to thee. But, I am yet to be shown how an idol speaks to my heart in silence, for me only God speaks to me in silence, and when thee places an idol between thee and me, often thee hides that still small voice of God in thee from me.

Do I think that knocking over an idol does any good? No, it is like weeding a garden, ten more idols pop up in the place of the idol we cast out of the garden. But, weeding is part of life, and I recommend it to every human mind, once and awhile. This was some weeding of my own mind, thy mind sn thy own garden - weed or not, frankly I find there are some weeds I love.

People from my country believe -- and rightly so -- that the only thing separating man from the animals is mindless superstition and pointless ritual. - Latka Gravis

Friday, January 20, 2006

When are we Quakers?

Many Friends are talking about Rob's entry this week "A Crisis of Faith Tradition". I have to say, I discovered Richard's blog when it was very new, and was really joyful to find that he was coming to New York, a while ago. His journey has spoken to my heart again and again on his blog.

In my most comment, to the above thread on Rob's blog, I made a comment, which I feel I need to go deeper into, without taking space in his thread. I wrote about a Friend who said we take too many people into meetings who are not yet ready.

So, I felt I might sound like I am saying meetings make Quakers. We do not.

When a Friend becomes a Friend, it is internal and a state then recognized by other Friends. We are not a faith of hermits, though, we are builders of the Peaceable Kingdom through our joint efforts in the Lamb's War, that struggle in each of us, and together as Friends and together in the world. We hold each other up and together we remake the world.

But on the individual level.

There is that of God in me, in thee, and I am as present to God in thee as to that God in me.

There we are. That is the process. All flows from that, one can say others said it, in other words, Hill el, certainly did, in "Do nothing to another that is abhorrent to thyself, that is the Torah and the rest is commentary"...

This simple statement of relationship calls us to observations and actions. The observations sometimes are stated in the Testimonies, and actions sometimes are stated in advices.

But, it is the understanding of the relationship in the acceptance of presence to God in others that makes thee a Quaker. We are human, and struggle to be present, we sin, we atone, we heal. The sin does not remove us from that relationship, the atonement does not restore us to that relationship, it moves us towards rest and righteousness. As Yeshua is reported to have said, to Thomas, in answer to "how do we know the Children of light?" We know them trough movement and rest." Humanity is not born to not sin, humanity is called to walk with righteousness before our God, and to do that, we must be present to God in all things. We can only know our sins, when we know God in that which we sin against.

Meetings only are a coming together of Children of Light, present to God, and trying very hard to walk, together with righteousness,

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Fear and loathing and Merton's quote

Why was I so affected by Merton;s quote on another's Blog? "Whatever I may have written, I think it all can be reduced in the end to this one root truth: that God calls human persons to union with Himself and with one another in Christ, in the Church which is His Mystical Body."

Well, because in choosing our words, our symbols, if we are not very careful instead of empowering our best thoughts, we express the opposite.

The question becomes how can we speak in ways that our words can convey the light inside, and not simply feed the hurt and fear which so divides us. It is both the responsibility of the listener and the speaker.

But to face that responsibility takes courage, not only the courage to look at those symbols which we use as sword and shield, our arrows of desire and chariot of fire, we have to look at those fears which cast us out of church.

Some Friends gird on their fear as armor. It does not work to keep out the world that they imagine will hurt them, but rather traps a host of pains within them. Like a warrior readying themselves for battle, these Friends draw cliques about them using the symbol of their fear, their pain, to exclude others, to define their allies by who they will deny access to their church, rather than the church.

And these churches grow and divide God’s family. The pain that this causes in others is then used as the weapons of war to further build walls of fear and loathing in place of God’s church, we build fortresses where fear and exclusion are worshiped like false Gods.

I might have used a few other words than Merton, to me they seem poorly chosen to unite, but he was in his core light correct. Those so offended here by my struggle to strip my self bear of armor which I am finding for me to be false might be surprised that I return to the moment, I believe Yeshua becomes Jesus, to describe what I think is the only way to enter the church about which Merton speaks in my heart.

Pick the most our group thee can imagine. Reach down into the treasure house of thy most secret fear and imagine the person thee fears the most to touch. This is what it is to know the loathing a Judean would have to have to touch a Samaritan. Imagine being raised Brahmin and having to embrace the Untouchable, to be raised by holocaust survivors and having to embrace the death camp guard, being raised in fear of germs and having to embrace the unwashed person with out a home, dig deep into the experience of thy own discomfort… and this is what the woman at the well was meant to be to Yeshua.

He asked water of her. “Give me to drink”.

When thee reads of her question, “How is it that a Judean asks water of me?” Try to imagine the depth of true wonder and confusion at this question, is this man crazy? Is this a trap? What’s going on here? Get your own water!

And he says this is the water of life.

This is the water of life.

Our fears and hatred do not keep us safe, they take away from us that gift that Yeshua promised us, to enter the kingdom of heaven the instant we are aware of it and through off our fears which don’t keep the other out of God’s church, they keep us out of the kingdom of God, God’s church.

The Samaritan woman gave him water and together they entered God’s Church, the Kingdom of God, the Peaceable Kingdom where lions lie down with lambs and there is no fear, no pain… To fight the Lamb’s War, we must put off our armor.

That water passed from her hand to his, and was blessed as it erased sin, not by the magic touch of Yeshua, but because it was an act of atonement and forgiveness in a single instant.

When I say, that any of us that reject the water of life exclude themselves from God’s church, I don’t mean to literally go out and seek water blessed in some outward sacrament, in some single church named by man, but offer each other the water of life. Make these words real, not just pretty sentiments. I have seen, in my own meeting again and again and again, Friends ask, give me to drink, of Friends who turn away and walk from the well… the pain of that rejection removing both from God’s church, making the humble cabin of our bricks and wood no church at all.

And, we are not saved.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

No Richard, I do not in these entries equate Christian Friends with nazis.

I equate nazi's with human beings. I am not the first. Hannah Arendt felt certain experiments showed that the evil that is the nazi society of murder and totalitarianism ... the evil which brought it to be is certainty and conformity.

A world without atonement is a world destined to do terrible things.

Richard and I set out to talk tonight about this, we had less then ten minutes... oh well, life intervened. Soon, I hope we will speak more about this.

All human societies, including our Society of Friends has the potential to totalitarianism and sin. I only say that in order to understand how we are called to atone, we have to understand the pain we cause each other, and that takes taking, questioning, not a world so confident that it can be dismissive of the pain of others.

I am not dismissive of the pain of Christians, who feel in this nation, they are under attack. I don't understand the feeling, as I don't see it. I see the majority of Christians committing the sin of war, of shunning, of greed... just like the rest of us. Jews do these things, Hindus do these things, Muslims do these things, all humanity does these things. We are addicted to war and hate and conflict. If we, any of us, are to be agents of peace, we have to come to the well of life and atone... and it is not a place or thing outside our hearts.

I tell each of thee, there is not a human that has done me wrong I would not forgive. There is not a human I would not travel to ask forgiveness of, or come to clearness with. I don't judge those who will not do this... I just don't understand how this can be called Quakerism. The advices are clear, the testimonies are clear... the process is clear, the place where the well of life waits is clear.

I atone for my impatience. I am sometimes wracked in pain of the damage of conflict. I long for a place where there is no conflict, not unresolved, but attended to lovingly towards resolution...

Richard and I, I think, are in such a place. We just don't seem to understand each other, but the love between us touches my heart. I know that we will keep talking, and even the loss of tonight's talk, I know our hearts are open to each other. That others don't attend to this love is a weight on my soul that sometimes I can't bear, and I atone for my weakness in that.

When do we stop calling ourselves the society of Friends?

Like all Utopian creations, we come up against the failure of our community when the diversity of human condition intrudes on the core statement of faith.

Time and again, I see Friends simply not let go of an issue, and argument, and refuse clearness. We will never all be in unity on everything, but the Friends who remove themselves from the process of coming towards if not to unity, might ask themselves why they don't declare themselves a new thing, a society of Friends and Enemies.

I wrote about an incident that makes this clear to me. Here is chapter two. First, there was this nazi woman, a Ukrainian who came to the US after the fall of the pro-Hitler government of occupied Ukraine. She would yell "Jew Boy" at me, every time I walked down the street as a youth. So, I ignored her, wrote her out of my appreciation of the universe, and in this silent way, I sinned against her. I did not know that it was atonement, when, passing her the other day, I saw her stranded at the bottom of steep steps with a heavy cart. I walked passed her then knew I could not keep going, so, I walked back and offered to carry it up the stairs.She said someone else would come along, but I said, no, and took it up the stairs for her, and she touched my arm and said "God bless you... ". Well, I didn't tell the mum.

Chapter two... My mother and I are walking yesterday and she tells me the story from the point of view of the woman up the block. She told me that the woman was aware that she had offended me and would ask her son, ( who is my age, and a gentleman, who I always said hello to, and still do... ) what could she do, that the boy, then the man, down the street looks right past her. He said, don't worry about it. Well, for some forty years she did. She told my mother about me lifting her cart and said it made her feel good, so good ever since.

The good we do, the forgiveness we give spreads.

The opposite is also true.

Justified or not, the forgiveness we withhold spreads. Friends who refuse to come to clearness, who allow fear to divide them, spread the disunity throughout our society. It is always the other persons fault that they will not attempt clearness, unity. Well, maybe this is the way. I took forty years to realize that forgiving this woman her nazi past, was not enough. I had to offer her to drink from the well of the water of life... and my fear of her began to fade and my love of her began a small garden of light.

PS As I wrote this, I did not capitalize the name Hitler. I withheld in my heart from him that small recognition, and kept him and keep him in my heart as symbol of perfection of evil. In that objectification of him, I sin. Replacing the capital H... starts an atonement. Atonement for sin against Hitler the man... the thought shocks me... but I am so trying to be a member of the Society of Friends.

Monday, January 16, 2006

An Open Letter to a Dear Young Friend

In my years of becoming an young adult Friend of Fifty, I wore out the soles of a number of shoes and boots on Freedoms road. Right off my head, it is hard to remember how many issues I marched for, worked for, traveled and slept on concrete floors for, rode buses for, walked in the rain and the sun and the cold for. Even one as thick as your humble Friend, learns something.

I've met and reached out to the bigoted, the small minded and hateful, and I've met and been reached out to, and talked and listened with some of the great hearts of this civil rights movement whom I had the great privilege to see, once upon a time, on the move.

And, wether it was American days of apartheid, or the anti-Catholic venom of the orange order, or the Quaker who could not listen to the heart of the Gay Friend or the Black Friend... the side which stood for the walls of prejudice, cowered behind those walls in fear while the heart and mind which bent towards liberty had the courage to meet their fears straight on.

I had a friend, now gone, who was in the room with Dr. King the day he got the poison pen letter from the FBI, which tried to scare him off freedom's road with allegation and venom and just plain dirt. But, King had a mind on liberty, on truth, and when thy heart bends towards justice, that light is so much more valuable than any of the pettiness which cowards throw your way.

I treasure evenings I have spent in deep talk with the Martin King of Ireland, Bernadette Devlin McAliskey . It does not weaken her, that she went to tea with Ian Paisley, much the opposite, she addressed the evil of the fear which causes him to call for violence straight on, even after being shot and nearly killed... she spoke truth to power and listened to the craven and cowardly as well as the inspired and brave. She has the courage to teach and the courage to learn. Though she has the courage to offer to come here, to the US, the cowards who hide behind tyranny in the US, today, tell her, "We don't want you here" words that are ever in the hearts of those who fear that they might just not be right, and they sure as hell don't want to have to defend the weakness of their prejudices.

There are little names, not well known names, attached to big people. Dan Charging Hawk comes to mind. He was at Wounded Knee and Oka. He was a Lacota, who never ran from a discussion, or turned away from the road to justice. He was, like all, a very human hero. I met him, drunk and fallen out on the streets of New York. I would sit on the corner with him, and listen as he told me about different treaties, explained Lacota beliefs, and then one day, he got up and said he heard there was trouble in Oka, and that there were not enough Indians around to waste one. I smiled, not really in hope of him turning his life around. He did. I have seldom seen such a super human act of bravery, as Dan getting himself well.

It takes a brave person to face one's illness and weakness. I saw Dan at war with the State of Connecticut, in the longest armed standoff between an Indian Nation and a US government in the 20th century. All that time, he had the courage to stand for the sovereignty of a small nation, while reaching out in small acts of kindness to cowards who faced him with guns. He would engage them in conversation, teach and listen.

My friend Tarlach, a hero of mine, and a fearless young man of my age, who came out in Belfast and helped forge the way for Gay men and women there and here... those Hibernians who damn him to hell, fear to be around him, fear to listen to him, fear even to talk with him, choosing to talk to him in hate filled, cowardly letters or on TV, never in debate or conversation.

Well the fellow who wrote me this cowardly email, I think knows who he is. I still offer to go to thee to talk. I advise thee that thee might consider it. Just as there are not many Indians to waste these days, there are not a lot of Quakers and other progressive activists. Ours is a generation called upon by God to bravery. We are the first generation that will either have the courage to face old tired institutions and static systems, to look beyond the painted iconic eyes to the truths which will save us, and recognize what divides us. To do this takes the courage to teach and to learn, to speak and to listen.

We can dig ditches and build walls around our hearts, divided as one by one the creatures of earth die... and we with them... or we can be the young light which rises to the job of saving creation from the folly of cowards. It is up to thee. I made my mind up a long time ago.

In closing, reread thy email to me, and try to imagine William Penn's name attached... doesn't seem to fit, does it Friend? Show a little spunk, life for the coward isn't really very rewarding, at the end of the day (world?)

A War Without Rules, A War on Sovereignty, A War without End

What are we to do, now as we still can talk about it? This "war" takes on new aspects of lawlessness every day. The killing of innocents inside a nation with which we are at peace, as is the case on the air raid on Pakistan, is a crime which takes its place in the list of those days that will live in infamy.

Today, Mr. Bush has informed us that we have the right to criticize the "war" as long as we do it along his guide lines.

Well, I reserve to myself the right to call sneak attacks on sovereign nations with whom we we at peace what as I see them, as a day which will live in infamy.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Quakers and Separation and Fear

Seems to be a recurrent theme these days, separation and fear. We proclaim ourselves present to God in each other. I believe we are, this does not mean we know how to do it. I've had a week of painful openings, and many emails. I felt the pain in some of the emails, read expressions of rejection and expressions of anger. I've written things to others in anger, and some Friends wrote to me about my courage to raise questions which were in their hearts.

There is no courage in this. These questions are simply not escapable for me at some point, and if some Friends are angry or pained by the asking, the examination, feel personally attacked... we've experienced some bit of the Quaker wars that we seem to fight in spite of our desire to be present to each other. Quaker process broke down, in some of these divisions a long time ago, and I can't demand others to come to the process, further it is for each of us to ask if we ARE separated from process or not, and more, that Friends divide one from the other in fear or anger, happens, just happens. I would have us promise each other to come to process, but sometimes, Friends just can't, and like any other letting go, well,just can't find the way to find the process, but aside fear, ego, all the traps of "I", I want, I am, and the other twin of the "You are" ... So, I, so we, take these lumps, my and our longings for peace, and unity, and well... that's life. We can't heal another, or bring another to the water of life, it is there the moment any of us wish it, we might ask it of another, but it is for them to give it.

Our belief that a Peaceable Kingdom, even for just we Quakers, has proved and is proving to be as imperfect as any other utopian dream. I still cling to a commitment to it, to my own Lamb's War for my own heart, in my own heart, in my soul, and open arms to others to join in that... but with each year I have to learn a new degree of acceptance and sometimes disappointment, disappointment in myself and others. And the sting of rejection, that never becomes less of a surprise, no matter how familier.

I have been weighing ending this blog, even deleting it, as electronic communication is becoming accepted by some, as knowledge of people they never met, a blief that they know the soul, the heart, of another... but I don't find it to be the case. Perhaps I am being drawn to a deeper simplicity, or I am simply afraid. And yet, if we do not learn to speak, to many together, in this new manner, I fear there is not much hope that we can be among the voices of hope or peace, which are now so needed in the future.

This question also remains open, as do a thousand other new questions this week. All these questions cut deeply to my sense of whom I am... I have always felt I am only the me I am at this point in the road, never complete, never going to know who I will be, even, always learning who I was. Others seem to be certain of these judgements, if not about themselves, then about others... I'm less certain then they seem to be...

So, for now, at least for now... I am weighing the value of this thing which has opened my heart to some things, and closed some hearts at the same time.

I have found it easier, this past few weeks, to communicate with some who wish us violent harm, for our desire for peace in these warlike times, than I have found it to communicate with we who dedicate ourselves to peace.

Some who might think I am angry at them, may be wrong others right. All should know that I never consider any final judgement in anger, only in love, and that judgement, that I love you, even sometimes in the error of anger, well, only love will endure.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Martin Luther King Day Draws Nigh

And I am musing on his message... that ( as Quakers point out ) we harm ourselves in the instant we harm another. He spoke to the harm to the White biggot, their hatred caused. I am thinking of those who he ministered to, some who hated him, some who came to love him... after...

The symbol of the confederate flag does not create the racist. I am not opposed to the understanding that many honorable and good people fought under it. Men like Robert E. Lee, a caring and good man, who strove to walk in the light of righteousness before God.

The southerner who slaps the stars and bars on his tee-shirt may commit the sin of separation because of the harm... the hurt, he does others... but everyone sins. The southerner who will not heed the voices who ask him to hark to their pain, that person wallows in his sin. The initial harm is to harden the heart. The harm after that is the hardening of the world around him. To listen is to begin to heal. Listening, is not coming to the end... there is no coming to the end. We always sin, but when one declares the end, the final conclusion, the closing of doors to each other... the world begins to die around us.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

When we were very young...

young Quaker

In a soldier's stance, I aimed my hand at the mongrel dogs who teach
fearing not I'd become my enemy, in the instant that I preach
... Ah but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now...
Bob Dylan

I received a pronouncement from an older Friend that I am no longer a young adult. This surprised me, as I don't know what that means! I asked him to tell me when that happend, and as with other questions, he pointed to silence, his own, I am afraid.
I've always thought that it was for the young to ask why.
I have, in the past week, asked... deeply and gravely why, and the only answer I gave... I did not post, nor will I post, as that answer was a bitter and naked atonement which is between me, a very small circle of Friends and God.
But, I was informed that I was not a young adult Friend, and told that my "Unless your pictures lie, that's not you." and that I tend to lay down the law.
Oh my dear old Friend. I can tell thee that pictures do lie. When I was a combat photographer, I attempted to tell the truth through my images of war. I found that my pictures were honest, but the truth did not shine through on its own. An image is never the truth. It is a symbol which can be manipulated to say whatever it is perverted to say.
In my songs, about the rape of young women in Bangladesh, I sought to point my finger at war, and chose my language so carefully, and only asked a question. That question, it turned out, was answered by using that image as an anti-Muslim anthem, leading me to write another song, trying to transcend the symbols... it is what we Friends attempt... to transcend symbols, no?
To thee, my questions are a symbol of intolerance. To me, thy response is symbolic of Whiteness, White empowerment. But, I look past that symbol of thee, for I don't know thee. We never met.
When I was very very young, we had a young president, we were told. He defined youth, not by years, but by asking rather than telling. That thee feels in my questions, I "lay down the law" and that it saddens thee... this and that, I see as a matter of age. I am not sure I ever will be as old as I assume thee to be in the certainly of thy answers. Maybe if we ever meet, I will find a young man in thee.
Age... a dear young Friend of mine, regarded by some as the Dr. King of Ireland, Burnadette Deviln McAlsiky once spoke of age in a speech. I hope I remember it well enough. She said, in the sixties, the youth of occupied Ireland sought to inform through demonstration, the government that they were wrong in the oppression of Catholic and Nationalist people. "The old ones said, do this, march, and it will lead to war. Oh no, old woman, Oh no, old man, we replied, if we show the wrong of their ways, those who oppress us will change... and in less than a year, we were at war."
It seems I committed the grave sin of youth. The hope that I might demonstrate my pain at the oppression of my people by another White establishment... and a wise old man told me, if you demonstrate these issues, there will be war. And war there was. Funny how times change... when I had seen a few springs less, I thought that war was begun by the old, in their set old ways. Ah but I was so much older then...
There was a band... to me it seems a few years ago, who sang... " I hope I die before I get old..." I used to think that was a stupid thing to say, because... ah foolish youth, I thought that old age was a golden time. Perhaps it is a golden thing to be so sure, and set the questioning of youth aside. I'll tell thee when I get there, perhaps our Friend the contented Larry, down in Florida, might... if he ever get's old, in spite of the name of his blog... I don't think he will. I am pretty sure he'll die before he gets old, and I pray that is a long time coming.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Truth and the Internet, letting the nazis march through Skokie.

A Friend whose wisdom and friendship I treasure, deeply wrote on her blog recently, in regard to a post of mine, where I admit to the human frailty of a lack of precise exactitude in minuet facts in blogging...

"I don't want to sound as though I feel there is no place for fun and silliness and less than ponderous discussion, because of course I think we have room for lots of the above. But without a sense that we are upholding truth and mutual understanding to the full extent of our abilities, no matter how heavy or light the subject, I find it difficult to have a meaningful and fruitful discussion about anything, let alone the deep, tender subjects that seem to be Quaker blogger mainstays."

I wrote more than a bit in answer to this, yet I still feel there is much more to be said when the word truth is spoken among Friends. I could not sleep tonight, as I thought of the advice read today at the meeting for worship with a concern for business. It was about our tradition of not speaking oaths in court as we spoke the truth in ever word we say.

This is a heavy thing, when we as Quakers divide ourselves out from the public who, it is felt, must place their hand on a bible to be trusted with truth. The search for truth takes both courage and a tough skin. If we are to approach truth, more than that to be truly honest, takes the courage to look in a mirror and ask have I sinned against the truth in ways that shock me to admit.

Some feel that I quibble over trite phrases when I shudder at the danger of the myth of the man without sin, or imperfection, the man who stands over Fox, and Pen, and Hicks, and thee and me, to guide us to the kingdom of God.

But, I come back and back to the question of totalitarianism and the pluralist society. What role is there for totalitarian thought, and is the sin of totalitarianism the murder committed in its name, or the act of damning the "other" in the act of saying our image of God is perfect, rather than saying, only God is perfect. Is there a damnation inseparable from the word perfect, or without sin?

Let me present a query, then a hypothetical then return to the query.

Should nazis be allowed to march in uniform through the town of Skokie? This was a real question for the courts, which is revisited again and again in asking how to be tolerant of intolerance.

There is real harm, as in Skokie, it was chosen by the American nazi Party, because it has the highest population of death camp survivors in the US. The harm to such a survivor, at the age many are, is a life endangering threat, to see thy former killers march past thy house.

OK. Hypothetical. What if these nazis proclaimed, "Hitler was a heretic to true nazism, which really is only the worship of the old Teutonic Gods as expressed by Bismark."
"Wait, thee says. Bismark had nothing to do with nazism."
"Oh, ye of little faith", they reply. "Our faith tells us that Bismark was the true founder of our faith and was in fact a good nazi and so, we reclaim all the nazi images, from our dear swastika to our brown shirts and even the dear old horst weasel song, and will parade it in love through Skokie. We are the good nazis."

Well... are we to say, "Oh, right boys, no harm in that, well met hail fellow, and sig hiel to thee, friend?"

Well, not me, not yet, I need more convincing.

By this symbol will you conquer cost the lives of uncountable millions in a holocaust of over a thousand years. Every year of my life, someone was damning me for seeing Jesus in a different manner then they did, even when I accepted Jesus as perfect, though not God. At the deep root of the evil of Christian totalitarianism was the symbols that made conquest possible, the cross, the crown and yes, the Christ.

But, Friends say, we are the new, user friendly Christians. We are not the movement which even killed OUR forefathers and hanged our foremothers. We seek truth, though we hold back one symbolic tie to totalitarianism which we cannot bring ourselves to abandon. In this we forsake the evil done in the sin of division out from God and our fellow humans, but not the sin, the separation of saying we hold a image to be perfect or sinless, and yet, we stand on our tradition to speak truth in every word.

When we weigh the symbols of totalitarianism... are we brave enough to look at our own? Are we deniers of the Christian holocaust, and planting seeds of the next years crop of totalitarian sin and war?

Jesus Yeshua and Totalitarianism - Clearer, I hope, for Richard

Richard, in reply to my last post notes he does not understand it, so let me try and break it down...

Aba Eban said once, and I am paraphrasing from memory, that the wrong of fascism, and other totalitarian systems, is the creation of a world of absolute truths, a world where ambiguity is outlawed. Who can forget George Bush, stunned by the question, whatever did you do that was wrong? In a totalitarian world, there must be a place to go for the perfect answers, answers that are never a mystery, never an I don't know. The subscribers to the totalitarian state are allowed their ignorance of the nature of mystery, as long as they say, but the perfect man, the perfect system IS the answer and IT knows and is always the answer and always right.

The Perfect Man.

Karl Marx writes that there is a system by which we can know. We can transcend the abstractions of language and approach an understanding of the meaning of things as opposed to words. Our abstraction for the concept of chair then includes the chair in time and place, the materials which made it, the history of chair, the place of chair in the future... It is a brilliant mind opening thought. Along come communist parties and proclaim it the most important thought and more, that Karl Marx has given us the single road to understanding, and that to deny the correctness of Marx in every application, and more in the application of perfect Marx's perfected man in form of Lenin, or Stalin, or who ever the perfect interpreter of Marx is at the moment, is to be in absolute error and to be a heretic worthy so dangerous - the state can kill thee.

This perfect man, the source of all knowledge and right thinking is found in Mao, all the while he is decrying the cult of personality, in Hitler, and in the central figure in all totalitarian systems.

Objectification of the Perfect Man

In modern times the objectification of the perfect man happens while that person is alive. Marx might be the exception. I get the sense that Marx was a man of fairly well developed ego, but that he would be horrified at the way his person has been elevated by modern "Marxist" states to that of a perfected man. Like many philosophies, Marx interned his method to be a path not an outcome. Once one makes a world of solid immovable answers, one creates an end of progress of the mind, a world of outcome where process is an expression of the crime of questioning, as we saw when the Marxist students were killed in Tiananmen Square.

The founder of the faith in a totalitarian system is made into an idol, not the imperfect human who adds a sign on the path, but the image of the perfection at the end of the road and the proof that the system works. When this is done to a human without their consent often good teachers best work is destroyed beyond all recognition and it is a terrible thing to have done. It is a taking of their most treasured aspect, that they are one of the rest of us. The pedestal they are placed upon robs them of the treasure of humanity in the same way that placing womankind on a pedestal robbed them of their place. We tell the philosopher, "be quite, thy original thoughts don't count anymore, only those words I place in thy mouth..." the philosophical version of, "don't bother getting a job, my dear, I will take care of you, don't worry your pretty little head. You are a Goddess to me - so shut up and stand on your pedestal."

Yeshua the man becomes Jesus The Christ

I think, we can burrow into the gospels, and find traces of Yeshua the man... but they are like footsteps in the sand, washed out in places. Paul and the Christian churches have robbed the grave of Yeshua who lived and died for Judea ... and for God, and pointed to the empty grave and said, "look, evidence of the perfect man."

Did this lead to totalitarianism? Well, let's look at the history of the Christian movement once Yeshua slipped back and Jesus was pushed forward. State institutions began to use the myth of the perfect man to conquer land. When struggling for power, interpretations of the word were used to kill one's poetical enemies, and heretical movements and millions of marginalized people... a bloody purge of the crime of questioning resulting in one catholic and apostolic church, one protestant perfection of the word and being of the perfect man, one road... of ... Christian ecumenicalism which worshiped together while still divided. All because at the root is that which can never be questioned.

The cost to Yeshua

And what of poor dear Yeshua, who suffered so for his beliefs. All value to his conquered people has been obscured by this movement who grabbed him away from his place between Hill el and Bar Kochba, to make him a stranger to his own people. Don't worry thy perfect head about it, Yeshua, we don't care what you lived and died for, your image is too important to us to prove the rightness of our faith to care about why YOU lived and died. Yes we do give a damn, to any who inject a question into thy life, Yeshua. Thee no longer exists or ever existed, other than as the sand under the foot of our idol. In the world of Romania, the way of Roma (Gypsies) there is no greater curse than, may your name be forgotten.

Fox, Penn, as perfected men and the totalitarian world

We must be very cautious that we don't make our own ancestors perfect. We point to the Christianity of Fox and Penn as proof that Christianity complete with Jesus as perfect is a cornerstone of our Quaker faith. In doing this we close the door on the unfolding of process and make Quakerism a stagnant faith with two of the chief errors of totalitarianism, perfection and the end of process.

Why might Fox and Penn thought of Jesus as the perfect man, instead of Yeshua, one of us all. Well, they were born into a totalitarian world where the concept of the error of the perfect man had not yet seen the example of the rapid rise and fall of totalitarian states. In the last centuries, with the rapidity of change, we can witness the creation of Christ figures as a function of the empowerment of totalitarianism. I can no more say with confidence that Fox and Penn would have been Christocentric Friends today as I can say WWJD ( what would Jesus do ) about anything. We are made by the times in which we live, and to look back for perfect truths... well, lets see the effect...

I was asked, as one with some expertise in Irish History to give a talk about the cease fire in the Northern counties of Ireland, early in that cease fire. I was sent by an organization, I even forget which one now... to one of the alphabet soup communists parties, I again, even forget which set of letters defined them. I began to tell the story of NATO in Ireland and the times changing with the fall of the Soviet Union. The leader of the group ( and they really did look to this young energetic man as a leader ) leapt up next to me and proclaimed, "What Mr. Otway means is that the peoples uprising in Ireland succeeded because... " "No, I said, the Irish working class were tricked into fighting a war in order to keep NATO bases in a non-aligned nation..." There was some shock, I was told I was wrong, that this young man who had never walked the streets of Belfast or seen a shot fired in anger, was more informed about Ireland than I... I said, well, hear me out then we can go to discussion ... but I am not into some angry debate with thee. After the talk, a member asked me to recommend a good book. I began to apologize that the book I was going to recommend, Too Long A Sacrifice, was a bit out of date, having been written in the 70s, but provided a good background to study the situation in Ireland, when their leader said, ?Marx and Engles on the Irish Question..." One hundred and ten years older than the book for which I was apologizing.
Hmmm... look back ... out of context... and find the truth?

Sure there are truths in the bible, old and new... but THE truth... to make it thee truth, have we engraved an image of that which is above us?

The Ten Commandments

"You shall have no other gods besides Me...Do not make a sculpted image or any likeness of what is in the heavens above..."

Any likeness. What would Yeshua say was done with his likeness...

"You shalt not swear falsely by the name of the Lord..." -

What would Yeshua say was done, when prayers and oaths are said in his name...

You shall not steal"

What does thee take from Yeshua, and from the Hebrew people in taking Yeshua from his place in this world...

"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor"

And the Jews did not accept him, killed him. Dear Friends, it was not the Jews... he was killed by Rome. No doubt about it. He was not stoned, he was crucified.

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house..."

What part if the temple of Jerusalem have you claimed.

And Yeshua, as Jesus is said to have done, I rather believe gave us one more, that we should love each other. So, in love for each other, is meeting the place to hash out all this? It is not a matter of one side or the other being silenced... just understanding that unity is not possible on the facts of this issue if one side or the other is presented in a forum where one can't answer the other.

Presented with God's love.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Is there anything salvageable in Christianity for me?

In contemplating our nation (our nation of faith not the political nation, the USA) as Christian, our tribe as Quaker... I have to ask if there is anything salvageable for me in Christianity ( not in Jesus who is remarkably important to me... ) and if there is, why bother. From at least the time of Constantine to the mid eighteenth century mainstream Christianity was a totalitarian political entity, which evolved into several feudal institutions and a few utopian attempts at limited democracy.

Let's face it, to show any ambiguity in the dark ages on the proscribed view of Jesus meant death. By the time of Fox and Penn limited questioning was tolerated until it challenged the state and so Fox is concerned to free the mind from the bondage of state terror centered on the idols of state sponsored Christianity. After over a thousand years of violent indoctrination, how could early Quakers appreciate that the objectification of a human was a violent act, and in itself idolatry? As religious freedom grew, more and more of us searched the historical record to reclaim Jesus' movement, release it from state sponsored totalitarianism and many of us discovered a rabbi - a teacher rather than an idol injected between our souls and God.

I hold a dear spot in my heart for such salvation of light in corrupted systems. As I grow older, and more of my old fellow travelers refer to me as a sell out, because I continue to serve the social good, but speak out more about the philosophical errors of Marx, not because Marx was not well intentioned, or many revolutionaries were not well intentioned, but because the statement of perfect truth assigned to my dear old Karl made the Soviet totalitarian state an inescapable end product. Could there have been anything else that would come out of Marx? Sure. There is Scandinavian Socialism. But, in those states Marx is not taught as a working class savior and infallible genius, ambiguity is taught and sought. One can formulate and grow beyond Marx without being jailed or killed. It is the idol worship of Marx that led to the Soviet State in the same way the idol worship of Jesus leads to crusades from the past to present, even the gentle crusades which are unaware of the violence in the theft of humanity of this brilliant, but humanly flawed dear Jesus.

Some Friends say we must cling to Jesus as savior, because our Quaker forefathers and mothers did. However, those early Friends lived in the dominant totalitarian state and did not realize yet, could not have ... that totalitarianism was the problem. They set out to create a state in Pennsylvania which was free of totalitarianism, yet retained the cult of the perfect man, and by that sewed the seeds of a gentle totalitarianism.

Well, that is a start, some day I will take on the totalitarianism of the perfect absence of God... atheism.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Can We Separate Out Tribe From Faith?

Recent discussions remind me that tribalism seems to be a part of the human religious experience... that we who seek a rational relationship with God must also weigh tribal affiliations which seem to be an immutable part of many.

What we do with these tribal affiliations is the question. I am rather convinced that idolatry which William Penn accused most Christians who were not Quaker, can be seen in many Quakers today - and in Penn as well. Well, what do we do? Penn sought light by describing what he felt was Christian idolatry. And yet, as modern history uncovers the story of the creation of the image of Jesus... what would Penn say of his own condemnation of other churches? Would he in fact decry his early writing or extend it to rethink his own Christianity?

Hmm... I am often thoughtful of my own tribalism, of which I try, in a search for truth, to be conscious. Among some peoples, with whom I work, I engage in ritual purification ... so as to not pollute their homes in their tribal faith. I also keep several old Quaker customs which are no longer in general use, I remove my hat when a message is being given. I do so to show respect and attention, but I keep separate that action from faith. I could leave it on, but for fear of sending a message that I do not respect that particular speaker, and so I show equal respect...

For me, to be a Quaker, is to transcend the tribal in my life, however to be equally present to God in everyone else. The implication in that ... I find to be important.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Got Oatmeal?


Monday, January 02, 2006

When the new world dawned...

Yet when we achieved and the new world dawned, the old men came out again and took our victory to remake the likeness of the former world they knew...

In Egypt, long before Jesus, in the middle of the 12th month, a statue of Hours was placed in a model of a stable, next to his mother Isis... a virgin...

Mahamaya, gives birth to Buddha, without sexual intercourse...

Vishnu the God, enters the body of Devaki and his himself born as Krishna...

The Sun God Surya impregnates the virgin Kunti who gives birth to Karna and Kunti's maidenhood is restored....

An African story tells of a God walking between two fields with a hat which is green on one side and red on the other. He walks out of sight and reverses the hat, he then walks back... the people in the field begin to fight over what color hat God wears... God laughs...

Sometimes I think some Christians are among the only people who don't teach as a primary function of religious education that it is not the elements of the parable that count... it is the meaning behind the story which leads us to know that of God in others. When the elements become the point... we commit the error of paganism ... we fight over the shape of the idol we have made to hide God.

Thou shalt have no God but God.

Lorcan Otway to a friend one day in Belfast in the 1970s... "Sure we Republicans will win. We will know we win when the best of us is murdered by minor figures in the Republican movement who will declare victory and sell out the Irish working class.The best complement they will pay us on that day... is to shoot us. It will prove we were right. "

Lorcan Otway to that same dear friend, wherever you are today... Then they will make a working class saint of those they killed and say they are following their philosophy... Charston Heston... on the first Gulf War... "This is a war that even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have supported... " old men.

Happy New Year...

a few days late, friends...