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.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

An Open Letter to Martin Kelly

Goodbye For Awhile

Friends, I am away for about a month or so. I don't know if I will be able to post to the blog... so, some thoughts for awhile.

For many years we lovingly waited for Richard Nixon to come to clearness... we held him to the light and he refused to meet for clearness. It is not the evil he did as president which leads me to shudder when he is referred to as the second Quaker president, is the fact that he felt no call to come to the well of the water of life that is clearness.

For some two months, I have followed Gospel order, in hopes of clearness with fFriend Martin Kelly for clearness on comments which I made which he felt were anti Christian, and his comments which I feel are ageist and anti Semitic. Friends and institutions have reached out to him, and he is adamant that there he feels no desire to meet for clearness. Friends should know, that this is still gospel order. We hold others to the light, such as we did Nixon, when all stages of attempts at clearness are exhausted. I do this in love, as I believe Martin is a loving, well intentioned Friend, who is taken by something, - anger, ego, habit... I wont make an assumption, I will only say that he will not be moved towards love. It is not the mean spirit of the letter he sent to me, it is not the aparent racializing of my Jewish ethnicity in his comments which leads me to say I will be away for the next month with stones in my shoes and a weight on my heart, it is the fact that someone who believes himself non-violent, would refuse the process of clearness which is how we mold the beloved community.

He has removed this blog from his links, and in that has declared it beyond his appreciation of Quakerism. Ye will note, his is still in my links. Friends do not shun. In his letter he misquotes and misrepresents my view of Christianity. He declares in his letter knowledge of my personality, though we never met. I have offered to go to him, to meet for clearness as we are advised to do, and as the sermon on the mount tells us in no ambiguous terms is our Christian way.

What is clearness? It is not an inquiry or trial, it is not, as Martin says of me in his letter, a laying down of the law... it is building a loving community, it is the glue that holds a community together. Without it, we are as guilty of waging war as any other warrior community. I invite any Friend who would like to travel to facilitate a meeting for clearness, and to urge our fFriend that without clearness we cannot call ourselves a non-violent people. He has done me tremendous violence not with his words, which some find are excluding of love and excluding of understanding, but violence with his refusal to enter the peaceable kingdom with me through clearness.

I have tried first one to one. A fFriend wrote to so we tried two by two, Powell House spoke to him... and in all, I do not judge him. I invite him to clearness. Now I ask ye, fFriends, help him come to clearness. The violence we do others we visit on our selves. I often see in his posts dissatisfaction with others. Well, then lovingly engage, don't remove thy heart from thy community. That is Quakerism 101.

and see ye ... eventually

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Definition of Immutable... and loss of self.

I've worked in civil rights law, a long time, and have testified in court on the immutable nature of certain kinds of identity. A fFriend used the word melodrama to describe my feelings of late about my alienation from various Friends, and in that I have come to understand, inside the sense, the feeling of an immutable element of being.

I was raised a Quaker. I did not choose to become a Quaker, and do not know if I would have found it otherwise, as it is how my mind was formed. It was ... is, a part of me like an arm, a leg, no more like a heart, a mind, a part of me I can't lose. A conflict this past year began the process of my feeling that the safe haven of that identity was at risk. Now, the question of acting for God, or with God... worship of God or idols, this part of my identity as a christian Friend, and the seemingly sometimes anti Semitic reaction by another, has cut close to that sense of self, that safe haven that is that part of me that is Quaker. I can't describe the sense of loss. I ask Friends to try to understand that it just is.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The well

There are three things one can do to the human heart, stop it, break it, or heal it. How seldom, even we Friends do the third.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Do We Hark to Yeshua's Message or Worship Jesus' Image?

Friends have written to me about my example of Quaker hate mail. Some don't see the harm done by such a note, others send notes of comfort to me.

Sure I'm sad. But I am sad, not for an insult or abuse to me, but for the blindness of some Friends to the message of Yeshua, come to the well and give me to drink.

There are two moments where I am convinced that the message of Yeshua comes through. It is in the event at the well, where he asks water of the Samaritan woman, and the sermon on the mount, in which large portions reflect back to the event at the well.

In Thomas he says, the Kingdom of God is here, it is just that many don't see it. Then at the well, he takes water from the hands of one he is supposed to shun, and he says this is the water of life, by which we enter the Kingdom of God. It is in forgiveness and healing of conflicts that we enter the Kingdom of God. In the sermon on the mount he says to make amends with friends and enemies before anything else. Our advices reflect this when we say come to clearness quickly.

The sermon on the mount says not to be judgmental, or thee will be judged. Those Friends who judge, and who dismiss, who shun and deny a hand of friendship, are not living in the spirit of Yeshua, which is the Christian center of our faith as Quakers. Friends who turn their backs rather than turning the other cheek, are building walls around their own little clique in the world, and as they do, they build a wall around the well of the water of life, but that wall keeps them from the water of life.

So, why am I sad. Not for the petty harms done to me, but the harm done to the Christian center of our faith. It is not enough to worship an image of Christ, and ignore the teaching of Yeshua. The fruit of the tree of that action quite plainly marks the value of that tree.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Quaker School Yard 101

How to write Quaker Hate Mail and divide our community.

The following is a real letter, with names removed. I wrote numerous letters to the writer to ask to come to clearness and apparently I am being shunned by him. As Friends know, I support multi-cultural Quakerism, so his apparent introduction of Amish culture into our own deserves a pat on the back from me, but I am being shunned, so it will have to come from others....

Following the letter is a bit of critique... The bold print is my commentary and the normal print is the original email...

Dear Lorcan,
I haven't known how to reply to your emails about _____. You do know that they asked me to do a weekend workshop for ( a Quaker grouping) . Unless your pictures lie, that's not you. I wouldn't mind ( other's than that group ) but it would have to be an very respectful participation. Your recent posts and comments show this isn't going to happen.

You've got a bee in your bonnet concerning ( this group of...) Friends. Four long replies in a row on ____'s blog is the sure sign that's something's wrong and it's only reinforced by you trying to force the largely-unanswered conversation on your own blog. I've seen similar disturbing back-and-forths with ___. The last thing I want is an _____ Friend coming to "lay down the law" on ____ Friends and tell them how to act. You've done it to me in the past and now you're doing it to them. Calling Christian Quaker totalitarians and relating them to Nazis is not tolerant. It's rude and dismissive. It's not about who or what you worship, it's about how you treat your fellows; dismissing an entire religious tradition is not okay. If you're too spiritually advanced to even entertain the notion of a inclusive Christian Quakerism then you're too advanced for anything I'd have to say.

You are obsessing about this way too much. It is very clear that your presence at ______ would be disruptive and condescending and I don't want you there. I would recommend that you in sit in long prayer about your recent activity and share a selection of these posts with your meeting's worship and minsitry committee to help with discernment.
In Friendship,

Dear Lorcan, well, most of the names removed...
I haven't known how to reply to your emails about fill in the name of a Quaker Retreated, Meeting House or School - important that it be a Quaker institution to remove thy victim from any future comfort of feeling welcome at the place without a bad memory of thy hatred, as driving people for whom thee has hatred out of the Society of Friends is the intended outcome of a good piece of hate mail. You do know that they asked me to do a weekend workshop for Fill in any of the usual self-identified communities of Quakers, Gay, Hicksite, Wilberite, Old, Young, Transgendered, Black, White, Jewish, Muggletonian, Ranters, Singing Friends, Ugly Friends, Good Looking Friends..., keep in mind that if some one feels they are one thing or another, a good way to stick it to them is to tell them "you're not". Unless your pictures lie, that's not you good one... right to the gut - no room for wiggle room. It is like the "brown bag test on the light skinned Black clubs in the past, it is a repeat of, hit the road, buddy, thee is too dark, sit on the "Black Benches", not with us White folks. I wouldn't mind a few Blacks, a few Straight people, a few Gays, a wider age range, some Ugly folks, some Good Looking folks, one or two Hicksite, a Jew or two... but it would have to be an very respectful participation i.e.. all you -fill in the ethnic or physical group - guys are pushy, ye all want to be one of us Your recent posts and comments show this isn't going to happen. good point, make sure it is someone thee has never met, who needs to meet another Quaker? We can tell everything about them by how we read what they write, everyone understands everything ever written perfectly well.

You've got a bee in your bonnet concerning fill in the category Friends. no judgement calls here! Assume thee knows everything about the other... Four long replies in a row on name's blog is the sure sign that's something's wrong and it's only reinforced by you trying to force the largely-unanswered conversation on your own blog. 44 comments can be said to be unanswered, but that is not important. The key is that if thee is in a quiet minority, stay that way I've seen similar disturbing back-and-forths with name It is important to let the person know that their concern is meaningless, and if thee labors with another Friend, thee must be queer. The last thing I want is a Black, Jewish, Communist, Gypsy, Hicksite, Wilberite, Older, Gay, Friend coming to "lay down the law" on White, Gay, Straight, Wilberite, Younger, Uglier, Prettier Friends and tell them how to act. You've done it to me in the past and now you're doing it to them Great rhetorical point. Point at some unmentioned past event, should be an event the other has no clue to that thee is writing about, especially if the Friend has on occasion asked thee if all is OK and thee tells the Friend, no, all is good between us... conversation towards clearness just makes thee angry, who needs it? . Calling Christian Quaker totalitarians and relating them to Nazis is not tolerant. Make sure thee says something like this. Something the object of thy hatred never said... It's rude and dismissive. It's not about who or what you worship, it's about how you treat your fellows; dismissing an entire religious tradition is not okay. ah yes, ignore what they really wrote and state thy sureness that it is what the other did, cut thy self off from clearness so that thy hates will define Quakerism in the future as a divided community of angered and sad folks, ready to tell the rest of the world how to make peace. If you're too spiritually advanced to even entertain the notion of a inclusive Christian Quakerism then you're too advanced for anything I'd have to say Great point, any of us who stick their head over the lip of the trench get shot at by another Friend. The act of saying that the statements of others contain the potential for harm should be punished right away. I suggest we dig up William Penn and write him out of meeting for writing No Cross No Crown.

You are obsessing about this way too much. It is very clear that your presence at fill in the Quaker event would be disruptive and condescending and I don't want you there No need for clearness committees, no need to consult other Friends, with the other to speak to the charges in thy hate mail, Quakerism works best when Friends act alone as arbiters of faith and faithfulness . I would recommend that you in sit in long prayer about your recent activity and share a selection of these posts with your meeting's worship and minsitry a misspelling or two lets the other know thee is genuine I do it myself! committee to help with discernment Best part of the hate mail. Point to the other's need for piety, and in that thee can cloak thyself in the warm glow of thy own Quaker piety and perfection.

In Friendship, a nice ironic ending Place thy name here

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Pax Amaricana

You will know them by there works. Friends may or may not forgive me for the generalization, that there is something remarkable in the American mind... as expressed by violently hateful liberals and violently hateful conservatives who waver in and out of the blue state red state divide as the price of oil rises and falls, but stay close to a fifty, fifty divide on their solid denial, one of the other.

We are the nation of school yard bullies, for whom it is far more important to gather a clique about themselves than to enter into the process of understanding with those who are other. So, even the most stridently liberal, are still strident enough to hate the intellectual who calls them to think. This is the most aggressively opposed action, to be asked to look into a mirror with another. Even many members of the Society of Friends, rant at those who ask, simply ask, that we look into our souls. These Friends accuse them of laying down laws, while they themselves seek to be unopposed in their individualism to the point that even their prejudices are sacrosanct.

So, in this environment, pseudo liberals call for tolerance, while refusing to engage lovingly in conversations. The result is the new liberal talk radio which seeks, often successfully to match its right wing counterpart for the vileness of its "rhetoric" - little more than school yard insults hurled viciously at the other side, and in this unloving defense of tolerance, they make an in-crowd culture, which might not hang people on barbed wire fences, as do the worst of their enemies, but they create the polarization which excludes those not in their club. So, the lists are different, but the culture is pure Americana and must result in the exclusion of the same people always excluded as the two come together to compile their separate lists, each adding to the list to be excluded until, what do we find? The list includes, Jews, "Gypsies", Intellectuals, Elderly, Infirm, Poor... and oh, that we don't recognize this list.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Quakers and Jesus

Last night, at a talk, a Catholic asked a Quaker speaker if one could be a Quaker without believing that Jesus was God. The speaker said in his opinion no. If that means we are all equally God, then yes, that is fine with me, if by that he takes the gospel writers, Paul and John's meaning, I would react in some degree of ... discomfort.

An English king, angry at his friend once said, "who will rid me of this troublesome priest?" He then claimed plausible deniability when knights murdered Thomas Becket.

In order to accept the history of Hebrew Scripture as presented by Paul and John, thee must commit a great sin against every Jew who was ever born or will be born. They so misrepresented, even rewrote Hebrew Scripture, that for one to be true the other must be a lie.

I have stated my belief that sin is separation, and that we all must sin. The above is a perfect example, if for us to believe one thing, another must suffer the loss of our finger pointing, then we must find some way to atone. This, to me, is not how to do it. A fFriend writes to a fFriend on a Quaker blog...

"you said, "How much do you find that the Hebrew Scriptures have to say to you?"
Well a great deal, but without any superstitious (faith-based?) approach to it. The Great Commandment came from the O.T. through Jesus.

For me loving God with all you mind means taking a critical faculty to the scriptures-- all of them in fact. Be aware of the fact that the early Hebrews were primitives, with primitive values and emotions.

What they wrote is like a mine, a filthy place from which we occasionally extract diamonds and gold.

Some of the O.T. we're better off without. God gave you the discernment to work these things out for yourself. Remember that we all came up "out of the miry clay". But we don't have to live there now. "

I would give this fFriend the best benefit of the doubt... he self describes as an anarchist, and maybe he feels all theology is primitive, but even in that there is an expression of mono-culturalism. I assume his best intentions, however, the blatant anti-Semitism of this seems plain, it says our people lied in our writing, but out of our lies your God was born. There is no plausible deniability in the deaths which followed such statements, from the Jews killed as "other" by Roman Christian swords to zylon gas, we died for the sentiment above. I can only ask thee, how would thee atone?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Sin, Separation, Mono-culturalism and Quaker violence.

Or feed my ducks…

A duck walks into a chemists shop.
“Good day sir…”

Good day to you, Mr. Duck…”

“Have you got any duck food?”

“Why, no, you must have missed our sign, sir, this is a chemists shop. We sell drugs.”

“Ah, thank you and good day to you sir,” and the duck walked out.

The next day he is back…

“Good day, have you any duck food?”

“Why, no, sir. As I said yesterday, we sell drugs… no duck food.”

The next day the same… and now the druggist is getting annoyed.

The next day, the same question. This time the druggist leans over the counter…
“Look you! If you come in here one more time asking for duck food, I am going to nail you to this counter by your big flat feet!!!!!”

The next day the door cracks open… white feathered wing , then a beak, a head, he looks both ways and a foot, then he is in the shop…

“Eh, hem… eh… good day sir…”

“Good day…” the druggist responded with caution and a hint of threat…

“Emmm… ahhh… have you… any….. Nails?”


Big grin on the ducks face and a sigh of relief, “Got any duck food?”

Oh friends and Friends, dear dear ones…

Have ye read about the riots over the cartoon of Mohammed? Are we not in the same place? This is why I think all this will not work out well for humanity. God gave many of us a yearning for mono-culturalism. In our nature, some of us seek the comfort of being surrounded by a world without question and conflict. Then God set up a world where diversity was law, and then gave humanity a need to wander and become diverse. God created a world where there will never be a world without question and conflict, even when, likely soon, we humans, together commit the sin of self destruction. We will be gone, and question and conflict will survive. The hungry animal will ask himself is this good to eat and… ? Oh we are such silly, foolish apes, we humans. Did God make a mistake by not going the way of Neanderthals? Tradition came easily to them… they stayed in one place, the ultimate mono-cultural humans. But, then again, they died out. Who knows? Not I?

Our divisions in the Society of Friends are the same event as the sin of the Danish publisher, and the sin of the Muslim rioter, each believes in the sin of the other.

The rioter says thee has sinned against me by making an image of the Prophet. The publisher says thee has sinned against me, as I treasure the right of individual expression. The publisher says why do you come to my country if thee will not accept our freedoms. The rioter says why do you invite me into thy nation and tell me your body is welcome but not thy soul… and who of either seeks unity in God, but both seek to defend their images. One the image of free expression, the other of the right to be free of insult. Both wish to be loved on their own terms alone.

A Friend on her blog wrote that she wishes to test a leading to dress plain. Oh dear fFriend. I know a few plain Quakers and frankly, I am not sure if we all seek the release of symbols in our plain witness or seek the false God of tradition. Our dark coats without collars are beginning to represent to me, more of a lack of adoration of that of God in each other, than a lack of adornment. Few of the plain Friends I know seem to treasure unity in God. They seem to believe in a hyper attention to those traditions to which they are drawn, while rejecting the process of clearness, and this seems to me to be stark and unloving. As Hamlet said, “it is not alone this inky cloak, good mother, nor customary suits of solemn black…”

Such attention to dress as a statement, without clearness, without love, seems to me to be a hollow reaching back to false tradition, not the expression that our clothes reflect our rejection of the symbols of fashion, to trade a slavery to fashion to a new slavery to tradition. Slavery as we loose the freedom born of love.

I am both the rioter and the publisher. As the rioter, I ask fFriends to think about the images they use to insult the history of Jews. As the publisher, I ask the question and fFriends to whom the image of Jesus is sacred respond in anger and hate filled emails and cold, cold, cold, hearted silence, a silence to which a grave seems a warm comfort in comparison. But, there in the grave, there is the final world without ambiguity and questions. As a Quaker I call for clearness, and many fFriends say no, I am content to publish, and riot. And in all this, all the rioting and publishing, God asks, remember me? I’m not where thee seeks nor the things thee defends, I am not even in the cold comfort of thy grave.

I may be more the duck than the druggist. I ask to be fed of that which God tells me will sustain me, love, and the druggist offers nails. And, I? The stronger the druggist proclaims the wares of his faith, the more my hope, but not my faith wanes. Friends tell me not to seek love in humans, but seek love in God, and yet, it is that of God in others where we see the most present face of God’s love, and where we as fFriends are called by faith to reveal God’s face to each other.

All I can do is ask, “got any nails”… and we are not saved.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

All Will Not Be Well...

Sorry Friends, I am afraid it is true. It is a book all in its own, all by itself, the honest truth. I wish it were not true, but it is.

Warlike Quakers

Confrontation as opposed to War

What is it to not have outward weapons? It has come to me that there are a lot of violent and warlike Friends. There are also a lot of confrontational Friends. To be confrontational is not to be warlike. Confronting is to bring thy concern to another. To go to war is to annihilate. Annihilate... the same root as in Nilism, to remove, nullify, to kill.

Clearness is to seek confrontation towards truth, and unity. Banishment, shunning, the making of cliques within the Society of Friends is to remove the other, to go to war, to make null.

I got a few really nice emails from a non-theist Friend, and oh... about 4 am, my thinking time... I began to think about the nature of God and the implications on our actions from the peace testimony to... Well, here it is...

For the warlike among us, the Christian Soldier, or even the Non or Anti Christian Soldier among us, the terms matter not at all, as the war is everything. So, God becomes the system, the system of perfection which justifies any action, and Jesus, or anything else which proves or clarifies God becomes the profit of the system. God can be Communism, Nazism, the American Empire, and Jesus can be Marx, Lenin, Hitler or Regan, the perfect communicator of the system, the arbiter of perfection. The act of opposing the system or the system's spokesman, casts one out, one is banished and nullified.

I know a few Friends who act for God, rather than seeking to move towards God. Acting for God is often an act of violence, of war, of nullification. These Friends take the attitude that God, sometimes an audible voice heard only by them, "tells" them that their actions are right, and so their action must be unchallengeable. Rather predictably, they do not seek confrontation, they don't need it. They simply act, they lay down the law, and anyone with contrary light is wrong, an enemy of God, and are nullified. Their outward weapons are letters, are emails, are messages in meeting, are gossip and politicking.

My families motto is Si Deus Nobiscum, Quid Contranous ( hope I spelled it correctly... ) "If God is with us, who can oppose us?" This is the key to being a Friend or a Soldier of God. If one reads this motto as, God empowers my hand, so I can nullify thee... then the bearer of this motto is a soldier. If one reads it, I will confront thee, from God in me to God in thee, so that together we come to unity, one is a Friend. All the names, the labels, the idols which divide us are so many words.

The soldier acts for God. The Friend acts with God. The soldier says, "God tells me to... " the Friend says, "Come, let us find what God intends for us... " Perhaps, those who seek rationalism, to the point of rejecting the word "God" really are confronting this God, the God who tells the soldiers among us to act against... to be the wielders of the terrible sword of perfection...

But all these outward weapons, these swords of perfection, the email, the message in meeting, can be a plowshare when they break the soil to confront rather than nullify. Again I approach the original conflict with some, in this line of thinking, do our messages divide? The question in our discernment is do my words nullify another? Do they begin the conversation, the clearness of loving confrontation, or do they end the conversation with an absolute... damnation, banishment, alienation...?

Funny how it keeps coming back to love. We who seek to love, confront without nullification of the other. Others decide that they will love those who God or a voice in their head tells them to love, and annihilate all the others, whether they read them out of meeting, refuse them clearness or drop a bomb, it is all the same act of nullification. The pain these acts cause, the damage can break bones, and split stone.

Not seeking unity together, being violent and warlike towards each other, I have seen, can stop the work of a meeting, and in that, can surely split stone. The time we spend at war with each other, we neglect our fields. Our meetinghouses, our schools, we neglect them by our focus on nullification of others. Who can deny this can split stone. If thee neglects to keep the roof tight, and the water seeps in, and freezes... when we war with those who confront us, we invite the destructive cleansing of rot and pestilence into our families house.

Friends... I have a simple plea... let us, we Quakers stop killing each other. Lets us beat our swords into plowshares.