The whole world is crazy…The only reason we’re not locked up in an institution is that there are so many of us. So we’re crazy. We’re living on crazy ideas about love, about relationships, about happiness, about joy, about everything. We’re crazy to the point, I’ve come to believe, that if everybody agrees on something, you can be sure it’s wrong. Every new idea, every great idea, when it first began was in a minority of one. hat man called Jesus Christ — minority of one. Everybody was saying something different from what he was saying. The Buddha — minority of one. Everybody was saying something different from what he was saying. I think it was Bertrand Russell who said, “Every great idea starts out as blasphemy.” That’s well and accurately put.
-Anthony de Mello (Awareness)
Earlier this week there was a conversation on Twitter that pointed out two realities that we are seeing a lot within Western (and often more “liberal-Liberal”) Quakerism: a) that Quakerism is viewed primarily in the secular West as non-religious; and b) that even within Quaker meetings there is so little religious education that many do not get anything to help in framing the Quaker tradition differently Quakerism in any way other than a morally-based, secular practice.
As someone said on Twitter today, they always thought of it less as a religion and more of a flavor. This is not an uncommon view among many Quakers. I have witnessed the latter problem within Programmed and Evangelical Quaker meetings as well: the lack of Religious education – as it pertains to understanding and framing the Quaker tradition (history, theology and practice) both as it was understood and how it is made manifest within Quaker meetings today, worldwide.
Therefore, I wanted to offer a short reading list with some basic background to the Quaker tradition here in hopes of helping those who are getting started out and want to know more about the history, beliefs, and practice of the Religious Society of Friends. I hope that this list can be of use in folks’ quest to make their understanding and practice of Quakerism more rich, more full, and more critical. I believe that there is a push to make us lose our robust religious language in favor of a very safe religious language that will not challenge the imperial powers, that will not challenge the ego of self, that will not lay us open before Love or call truth to power. We have much to learn from and grow into. I hope what is offered can help give you but a taste.
Code switch is a podcast about race in America with some really incredible hosts. It’s worth subscribing and listening to, but this last episode where the begin a three-part series of looking at President Obama’s legacy as president, especially in regards to race and how that plays into the challenges he faced, is really on point. I can’t recommend it enough:
I recently read Eboo Patel’s new book, Interfaith Leadership: A Primer (2016). I’d recommend it to any student looking to go into the field of interfaith work, or any minister or religious leader trying to find ways to reorient their spiritual work in this changing religious landscape. Patel’s vision is timely and much-needed. Given the growing the misunderstandings between religious groups, the trend towards increased fundamentalism, and the reality that Christendom in the West is crumbling (or already has crumbled?), we need new ways of thinking and practicing religious life together. Patel’s book is wonderfully practical, and backed up with theory throughout that will provide plenty of background to help formulate the vision. As the head of campus ministry at the Quaker college where I work, it is clear to me that we too need a new vision for how divergent religious groups can not just coexist, but actually learn from one another, grow in partnerships, and work towards shared goals and how we help foster in our students this kind of leadership. What does it mean to have a Quaker heritage, while also having a very religiously diverse student body? What does it mean to be a person of faith in these times, especially a person of faith from a nondominant religious tradition?
I read the book with personal and professional interest.