Zac Moon, Nevada Dessert Experience and Quakerism

met Zac Moon today from Nevada Dessert Experience, a Franciscan ministry that seeks to non-violently protest the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the nuclear test site in Nevada. I really enjoyed meeting with this fellow Quaker who comes as a radical Christian from the un-programmed group of Friends.

In talking about the problems of identity crisis within all strands of the Friends church he pointed to two ideas about why our Quaker churches aren’t as radical as they ought to be: A fear for suffering (owning our traditions narrative and the narrative of the Gospels) and a loss of focus on the Cross of Christ.

We all love our lives to much to be willing to go and protest things we theologically disagree with. Quakers today (especially evangelical ones) are not in the radical stream of living out their faith (generally speaking). What i mean is we as a community are not countering the power structures of the world today in the way that our forbearers did, who were repeatedly scorned, imprisoned, threatened, hated, debated, etc. We are afraid, I am afraid, to own the Gospel narrative in this way. It is much more american, and human, to read about Jesus’ suffering and say “that’s Jesus, I’m not Jesus, he doesn’t expect me to be,” than it is to say, “i own that story as my own, i bear the name of Christ and all he did, and will live it no matter the cost to me, my family, my friends, i have counted it all loss.” We need people today who are willing to enter into this kind of Christianity again, people who will truly own the Christian story, and show us again the power of faith, witness and the cross.

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Wess

...is the William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

2 thoughts on “Zac Moon, Nevada Dessert Experience and Quakerism”

  1. Hmm… it is interesting how you interpreted your experience. I really appreciate you and Emily’s passion to see social change. It’s beautiful and needful among Christians as well as the world.

    I am confused by the last paragraph and the last reason your friend gave you regarding the lack of Quaker involvement in political protests. I’m not a Quaker and know just a little so perhaps my confusion stems from my misunderstandings there.

    What I don’t understand is that sounds like your saying that lack of political involvement among Quakers is the result of a lack of being obedient to our call as Christians (taking up our cross). I interpret the words of Jesus to take up our cross, to die to ourselves, to sacrifice our lives, no matter the cost of friends, family, etc to be connected to Christ’s commanded to go and make disciples, to share the gospel. This is our primary responsibility as Christian’s. His words about persecution and sacrifice no matter the cost of friends of family were to encourage people when they were persecuted for their faith that they were doing the right thing. Basically, God wants us to be followers of Him and to share Him no matter the cost.

    Regarding the government and political activism, the Bible tells us to pray for those in authority over us and for government/political issues. There is a verse in the bible that speaks of the governments of this world being in the palm of God’s hand. He moves the heart of the king like water. Other verses speak of the real rulers of governments of this world being in actuality demons (principalities and powers). Regarding involvement with the government, the Bible tells us to live in submission and obedience (romans 13:17).

    Obviously there is a line the government crosses when you don’t have to submit (i.e. when it uses its power to inhibit your relationship with God, to take your life, or the lives of people around you). At these points we don’t have to obey them. Additionally since we are in a country where we have the freedom to express our opinions and protest things we disagree with we have the right to do this through ralleys, etc. Plus God has given us minds, free will and free time so I think it’s awesome to invest our time in these things (even more importantly to pray in order to bring about these changes). Therefore, I think as socially responsible people who love mankind it is a great ideal to put efforts into preserving the physical lives of people.

    However it’s dangerous to relate political activism to Christ’s command to take up our cross, or to relate persecution for political activism to Christ’s warning us that we will be persecuted for our faith. What I feel He is calling us to is to be pouring our energy into saving souls, rather than into political differences (even if its for a righteous cause). An hour at a protest rally verses an hour street evangelizing, or praying. Which do I feel God has actually “called” me to do.

    Further, regarding what you said about people loving their lives and therefore being afraid of activism because of the persecution they would receive. I don’t think it would be a good think to be “imprisoned, hated, threatened, debated, etc” for efforts to stop nuclear weapons or war. At this point people will confuse your mission and purpose with that of political activism. This draws attention to the cause and not to Christ. This will stop some from hearing the gospel in your lives and in your words.

    I also think that I think (well I’m not really sure, I’d like to hear your opinon) that God promises the government will persecute people who resist them. Rather than commanding or encouraging this though, God tells us to submit to their will rather than experience their wrath (romans 13:2), unless, of course it’s for spiritual reasons.

    I consider the people in other countries who are actually suffering in prison and under real persecution for the crime of believing and practicing their faith. This I think is what the verse meant.

    Also, I think that’s a real struggle ministries and people deal with. Many people have gotten distracted helping people physically from helping people spiritually (i.e. Salvation Army, YMCA, etc).

    Finally, I think so few people get involved in rallies and protests because of fear or apathy. These aren’t necessarily good reasons to not do something. But I don’t think it is a spiritual issue as much as a personal choice.

    I know that you feel sharing the gospel is the most important thing, so I don’t want to make it sound like I’m ignorant of how passionate you are about that; I just thought what you wrote was confusing. So that is my response. I’d love to hear what you think in response to my response… erg… response.

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