August 30, 2009

An invitation and an argument

Last week, while driving through central New York, I saw two signs with calls to be Christian but totally different approaches.

The first, painted on a farm stand sign along Route 20, read:

Jesus loves you. Love him back.

I kept reflecting on that for the rest of the drive out.

Maybe it prepared me for the writing on the back window of a truck I saw parked at a Thruway rest area on the way back:

God said it
That settles it
You better believe it!

That made for a different kind of reflection.

May 5, 2009

A Liberal Quaker at Liberty

Liberty University, that is. The author:

grew up in the tiny college town of Oberlin, Ohio, a crunchy liberal enclave plopped down improbably in the middle of the Lake Erie Rust Belt. My parents are Quakers, a rather free-spirited sect of Christianity who members (called Friends) spend a lot of time talking about peace and working for social justice. But despite the our affiliation, our house was practically religion-free. We never read the Bible or said grace over our meals, and our attendance at Quaker services was spotty - though we did visit a small Baptist church once a year to sing Christmas carols. (To be clear: this is the kind of Baptist church where the pastor swaps out the gendered language in the carols, like in "Lo! How a Rose E'er Blooming" when "men of old have sung" becomes "as those of old have sung.)

When high school came around, I left home to attend a boarding school in the Philadelphia suburbs. It happened to be a Quaker school, but going there was hardly a religious decision. In fact, during high school, I wasn't sure what I thought about my parents' religion, or about religion in general. I liked learning about the Quaker moral tenets - simplicity, peace, integrity, and equality - but when the subject of God came up, I always found myself lagging behind. Quakers talk about God as an "inner light," and while I understood that position intellectually, I couldn't bring myself to think that there was a divine being who existed independent of the human mind, who guided our decisions and heard our prayers. To put it in Quaker terms, my inner light flickered a light, like the overhead fluorescent at Motel 6, and sometimes, it burnt out altogether. The closest I came to consistent faith was during my senior year religion class, when we learned about the Central and South American liberation theology movements and I became briefly convinced that God was a left-wing superhero who led the global struggle against imperialism and corporate greed. Sort of a celestial Michael Moore.

He takes a semester off from Brown to attend Liberty, Jerry Falwell's university. When I picked it up in the bookstore, I was worried that it just be a trainwreck of cultural conflict, but flipping through it was clear the train stayed on the tracks. In fact, it's easily the best "outside looking in" book I've read on this wing of evangelical Christianity. Kevin Roose, the author, carries off a complex challenge of being an undercover journalist in an alien culture, managing to explain his encounters and his response sympathetically.

It's hard reading sometimes, dealing with homophobia, young-earth Creationism, the challenges of dating when you're not quite who you say you are, the Quiverfull movement, occasional racism, and a lot of stories that don't come up in the Quaker meeting he grew up in. I don't want to spoil the story, so I'll leave you with that intro. (He doesn't spend that much time discussing Quakerism, but it comes up in the background regularly.)

For a lot more, explore The Unlikely Disciple.

May 24, 2007

If Quakers want to proselytize

perhaps they should look into holding more weddings. Many of the responses Angelika and I got after our wedding last Saturday were from non-Quakers who thought that was a great way to have a wedding.

Weddings are a great time to bring in non-Quakers in a happy environment, and people can see - and fairly easily participate in - a rather active though still worshipful meeting. The reasoning behind everyone as minister shines brightly on these occasions, and perhaps the contrast with other services will make people think about services generally.

Some friends have posted pictures here and here.

July 9, 2006

Quaker radio

I've been wondering all week what Quaker radio might sound like. One theory might hold that the airwaves were full of silent worship with occasional bursts of spirit provided by solar flares until Marconi started broadcasting, but that's not quite what I have in mind.

I saw a bumper sticker a while ago for WCII, part of the Family Life Network, and was reminded of an electrician who played it constantly while working on my house. I've been listening for much of this past week. Their playlist is Christian contemporary, which seems to mix lyrics suitable for hymns with light rock, light jazz, or light country, with the occasional power ballad mixed in. It's unfortunate to me that this music seems to choose musical forms I've long felt were utterly soulless to express ideas about the soul's relationship to God, but I guess not everyone wants to hear Amazing Grace, Gotta Serve Somebody, or Hank Williams' finer religious moments - and the songs work pretty well as hymns if you remove the modern stylings.

I suspect there are some Quakers who'd be happy with FLN's offerings as Quaker radio, though I'm not sure that Prophecy Today or Focus on the Family is necessarily the non-musical programming they would choose. (There probably are some who like that programming, though I've not yet met them.) There are other Quakers who I suspect listen only to NPR, or even only to NPR stations that carry Democracy Now and Alternative Radio. I'm not sure they'd even be interested in "Quaker radio", but maybe...

It's not like I expect Quakers to start setting up radio stations, filling a whole day with Quaker-oriented programming (though some folks are podcasting as well as blogging). It's just one of those strange questions that won't quite go away - what would Quaker radio sound like?

"This is WQKR, showing you the way to the power of the Light, the seed that bruises the serpent's head..." (Yes, there is a WQKR, but it's not Quaker. No KQKR, though.)

Update: And Kwakersaur's musings on the Left Behind video game makes me wonder a bit what a Quaker video game would look like. Maybe that's going too far into different media...

Update: And now I find Northern Spirit Radio, programs produced "under the care of Eau Claire Friends Meeting".