Blog Entries

Who’s Your Patron Quaker (non)Saint?

While I was at QUIP a few weeks back a woman asked the youth editorial board if we had Quaker patron saints. I’m not sure if that’s the actual phrase she put it in, but it works. I’ve added the non- just so we all know that, of course, there are no Quaker saints! But still, who is, or are, your patron Quaker saints?

By this I mean at least one of two things (but you can add more):

  1. A Quaker you find to be important in your spiritual development and Christian formation.
  2. A Quaker who is theologically profound for your thinking
Blog Entries Quaker

Quaker Youth Book Call for Submissions

I’ve written about the upcoming Quaker Youth Book project I’m working with and said we would soon be giving our call for submissions. Well, the time has come! If you consider yourself a Quaker or a part of the Friends Church and are between the ages of 15 and 35 then we’re talking to you! Here’s the description:

Blog Entries Convergent Friends

Presenting on Convergent Friends at FAHE in June

 So much for a really creative title! It was the best I could think of at this hour. Anyways, Last year at this time I was living in Birmingham England, away from my pregnant wife, finishing up my first year of doctoral studies and working on Quaker theology with a guy named Pink (see my three posts here). Needless to say a lot has happened since that time, and a lot has happened because of that time. As a result of my project I did with “Ben” (Pink) this past summer, and because of his encouragement, I applied to present on convergent Friends for the Friends Association for Higher Education conference happening at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Center this June. I was really excited to see that my proposal was accepted and am now in the midst of preparing for that presentation. I don’t have any fancy titles for the workshop I’ll be doing just yet, but a couple ideas are:

Blog Entries The Theological

More Yoder on Faithfulness and Tradition

I’ve been working through a number of John Howard Yoder’s texts in the last week, reading what he had to say about ecumenicism and tradition within the “Radical Free-Church.” Here are a few quotes that really stood out to me from his essay in The Priestly Kingdom called, “The Authority of Tradition.” One thing I really liked about this essay is his refusal to accept that all tradition is always good, or that every rendering and interpretation of our common texts and the “founding event” is correct. He suggests that tradition is important, and that if it’s going to have any use in our contemporary pluralistic atmosphere, there needs to be a discussion about infidelity to our common tradition, and denounce innovations that are unfaithful even as we express what fidelity to the founding event will look like. 

“Far from being an ongoing growth like a tree (or a family tree), the wholesome growth of a tradition is like a vine: a story of constant interruption of organic growth in favor of pruning and a new chance for roots. This renewed appeal to origins is not primitivism, nor an effort to recapture some pristine purity. It is rather a “looping back,??? a glance over the shoulder to enable a midcourse correction, a rediscovery of something from the past whose pertinence was not seen before, because only a new question or challenge enables us to see it speaking to us…??? page 69


Featured The Theological

Yet Another Manifesto?! Evangelical Leaders Draw the Line

If you haven’t heard by now (I heard from Halden), a group of (select) world renowned Evangelicals got together and compiled their own manifesto (or see the summary). I say ‘select’ because there are certain voices (namely any strongly conservative or liberal ones absent from the group). It’s not that I care whether they have conservatives, moderates, or liberals, involved in the project, but it seems to me that ‘Evangelicalism’ is the very thing that cannot have a manifesto unless is it a ‘select’ Evangelical manifesto. That is to say, the term Evangelical is so contested that at first glance it would seem you need a special theological swat team in order to nail the subject down. And it is firmly nailed down in a number of some areas, Bill Samuel summarizes some of theological stances in his post (and he also has some helpful criticisms here).  Another area where it seems somewhat inflexible is, as Alan Wolf says in his essay for the Guardian, the being, among other things, aimed against Fundamentalists:

One of the most striking features of the Manifesto is the lengths to which its authors go to disassociate themselves from fundamentalism. Protestantism, they write, tends to veer off either in a mainline, liberal direction or in a reactionary, anti-modern one – evangelicalism must be understood as rejecting both. Their critique of the mainline tendencies is not surprising. Their harsh words toward fundamentalism are. Fundamentalism “tends to romanticize the past, some now-lost moment in time, and to radicalise the present, with styles of reaction that are personally and publicly militant to the point where they are sub-Christian.” Jerry Falwell is dead. One wonders, were he still alive, how he would react to other religious conservatives calling him “sub-Christian.”

Now, I don’t care much for fundamentalism (of any sort), any more than the next person (though I’m not sure fundamentalists would like themselves if they heard us describe them!), but why the need to have a document that sets out to do something like this? I’m just not sure why we would take the time to let everybody know who we are not!?  If people can’t tell you’re not a fundamentalist, no manifesto will help you.

Blog Entries The Political

Radiohead’s “All I Need” For MTV’s EXIT

Jarrod McKenna posted this video on his blog yesterday. It is a music video of Radiohead’s “All I Need,” juxtaposing children on opposite sides of the world: one group rich, one very poor. They video is held together through a pair of shoes.  The point of the video? “Some things cost more than you realize.” It’s a powerful and moving video, and worth watching. It’s for MTV’s EXIT a campaign meant to bring awareness to human trafficking and exploitation. Here’s the video:

On related notes: my friends at the Sold Project are working on this issue and you should check out what they’re up to, and this also reminded me of the Simple Living campaign Peter Rollins recently wrote about.

Blog Entries The Cultural

On Immodesty: Too Much Skin (At Church and Elsewhere)?

My buddy Rhett’s written on a provocative topic, what do we do about immodesty in the church? This is pressing for him and I since we are both now father’s of beautiful little girls.  He writes:

No matter what we as parents do I know there will always be that cultural peer pressure on my daughter to do something different. But in the midst of that pressure I hope that we can convey the message of the importance of modesty, and that showing skin is not what she should value or want approval from others for. Doesn’t get easier for parents when teen stars provide much of the cultural peer pressure (i.e. Hannah Montana).

Certainly both men and women are influenced by cultural expectations on how we look, what it means to be successful, what makes someone cool enough to welcome into your group, etc, but what do we do about it?  What have you done, or seen done that’s been helpful in addressing this issue for both genders? I do not think this is a female-only issue. Some church cultures have been more successful than others in promoting modesty. We do not have too much of a show of skin on Sunday mornings at our Mennonite church, but there still is still the occasion. Of course, this doesn’t address the other issues that may be bubbling under the surface in these groups either. But it is an issue that the church in general faces regularly, I remember this conversation coming up about once a semester when I was in undergrad. So, what do we do about the very basic assumptions that fuel these outward practices?

Blog Entries Quaker

Quaker Teacher Fired For Not Taking an Oath

This may be old news for some of you but last week Quaker Wendy Gonaver, an American Studies professor at Cal State Fullerton here in LA, was fired for refusing to sign the loyalty oath.

The LA Times reports:

As a Quaker from Pennsylvania and a lifelong pacifist, Gonaver objected to the California oath as an infringement of her rights of free speech and religious freedom. She offered to sign the pledge if she could attach a brief statement expressing her views, a practice allowed by other state institutions. But Cal State Fullerton rejected her statement and insisted that she sign the oath if she wanted the job.

“I wanted it on record that I am a pacifist,” said Gonaver, 38. “I was really upset. I didn’t expect to be fired. I was so shocked that I had to do this.”

(From Teacher fired for refusing to sign loyalty oath – Los Angeles Times)

This is the second time in the last year that a Quaker woman has been fired from a teaching Job in California for this reason. I personally am inspired by their witness in this situation, I can’t imagine how difficult it must be. But I have reflected on how I would like to respond if I were in their position. I certainly hope to teach someday, and I wonder if I would be able to lay my job on the line for something I too believe it.

The Cultural

Two (Possible) Roles of Religion In A Global World

I’m currently writing a methods paper, laying out how I will conduct my field research among Quaker congregations. In the section where I’m dealing with culture and the role of the church I found Slavoj Žižek’s quote below to be insightful and to the point.

The social order in which religion is no longer fully integrated into and identified with a particular cultural life-form, but acquires autonomy, so that it can survive as the same religion in different cultures. This extraction enables religion to globalize itself (there are Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists everywhere today); on the other hand, the price to be paid is that religion is reduced to a secondary epiphenomenon with regard to the secular functioning of the social totality. In this new global order, religion has two possible roles: therapeutic or critical. It either helps individuals to function better in the existing order [Yoder’s Constantinianism], or it tries to asset itself as a critical agency articulating what is wrong with this order as such, a space for the voices of discontent [Sectarian Withdrawal?] – in this second case, religion as such tends toward assuming the role of a heresy.

Slavoj Žižek, The Puppet and the Dwarf, 3

Blog Entries Quaker

Barclay Press Essay:The Temptation To Surrender

Barclay Press, the main Evangelical Quaker publisher, has totally revamped their website and invited five columnists to write for them over the next year. I am one of their columnists, along with Joseph Thouvenel, Pam Ferguson,  Eric Muhr, and Nancy Thomas. The new site and featured columns launched yesterday. I was really excited to receive the invitation to write for Barclay, they’ve played a big role in helping me first get published, their staff is wonderful to work with, and I really like what they’re doing their.  As a press they have a great mix of spirituality and faith in everyday life, emerging and missional church theology and Quaker books available.

If you’d like to follow my essays on Barclay, you can watch my author page here and read my newly written bio (I know, how exciting!). I’ll be taking this opportunity to develop some of my thinking that’s been influenced by cultural studies, and use those insights to help interpret faith within today’s world. I am trying to take the perspective that these essays are kind of like interventions or disruptions in our everyday formulations of faith. I hope these articles will stimulate some great conversation, and open up new possibilities for the Spirit to work in our lives and churches.
My first essay is titled, “The Temptation to Surrender,” and is on politics, peace, and the Kingdom of God. I hope you enjoy!