Oct 2 2014

QuakerSpeak: A Friends Journal Thursday Video Series

Every Thursday I collaborate with Friends Journal on a video about Quakers for the Quaker Speak video project. Here is our most recent:

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Jun 4 2014

Can Self-Promotion Be Spirit-Led?

Give over thine own willing; give over thine own running; give over thine own desiring to know, or to be any thing

-Isaac Pennington full quote

As Quakers, we make this fundamental, unshakeable distinction: God’s will. My will.

If we are to do the will of God, we must first let go of our own striving, our own willing. And if we are to give over our own willing, how could it ever be in good order for us to reach out for something as vain and creaturely as celebrity?

I wrote this post as a part of QVS’ synchroblog on Quakers and new media. See what other bloggers had to say here.

The Allure of Attention

I am familiar with the allure of acting out my void in public. I want the attention. I want to be seen. I want to be known. I am afraid of being passed over.

"PLEASE LOVE ME!"

“PLEASE LOVE ME!”

Everything in this culture tells us that celebrity is a great way to do that. Celebrities say that they hate the attention of the tabloids, of the public. That its invasive. But do we really believe them?

They are lifted up. And admired. And safe. In a way that most of us are not.

In a culture that teaches us to strive to be happy, isn’t that the ultimate?

Love and Social Media

Social media gives us unprecedented access to this kind of attention.

social-media-in-real-life

So we’re skeptical as Friends, when we see blatant self-promotion. We’re skeptical when someone says, “go read my blog!” “Check out my website!” “Put me in the spotlight!” And we’re skeptical for a good reason. We see the emphasis of these phrases as being on “me“, “my“.

But this striving for perfect humbleness can easily become dogmatic. We can come to reject anything that looks remotely like attention-seeking, and we miss God’s message in it.

extinguish_ego_gurus_604055

Read also: “Bum-Rush the Internet!” (an article I wrote for Friends Journal)

After Enlightenment: Chop Wood, Carry Water

I made my own mistakes with dogmatic rejection of self-promotion, when my own process came unexpectedly full circle in 2006.

In 2004 I laid down my music career, which I saw as primarily self-serving. I released one last secular album and put away my guitar.

Two years later, when I felt called back into engagement with music, but this time as a ministry, I was surprised to find that the tools for lifting up a ministry looked surprisingly similar to those of seeking personal fame. If anything, it felt like God was calling me to involve myself in more so-called “self-promotional” behavior. I was now the steward of this art. If I didn’t lift it up, no one else would.

When I first received the call to do this work, my core values were offended. Hadn’t I already rejected the part of myself that strives for public attention? I was so attached to my humbleness that I refused to “self-promote”. Ironically, it was my pride and self-will that got in the way of my calling to publicize this ministry.

It wasn’t until I was so certain that this was part of good stewardship of this message – until it was painfully clear that this was my job and no one else’s – that I was able to move into an experiment with “self-promotion”… as something that God could call me to.

This was a clear part of the calling for me. That God wanted people to see it. That God wanted people to hear it and experience what God had created through me. That it was egotistical and selfish of me to just create it, and not do the good work of shouting it out from the rooftops.

So I started shouting. I got onto Twitter and made a Facebook page and did photoshoots. Most of the time I was doing these things, I felt embarrassed, vain, and silly. I often had to remind myself that it wasn’t about me, regardless of appearance.

"The spotlight" is often a really humbling and dangerous place to be, in my experience.

The spotlight is often a really humbling and dangerous place to be, in my experience.

Looking back, my experiment with self-promotion has paid off. Thousands of people from all over the world have heard this music through my YouTube channel, my bandcamp page, and my Facebook page. None of that would have happened if I hadn’t swallowed my pride and self-promoted. I feel it has been the faithful thing to do.

How to Be Humble
(in the Digital Age)

In the age of social media, I would argue that we are all self-promoters. We are all choosing what story to publicize about ourselves (and what stories not to).

In this new environment of constant self-publicizing, I would suggest that the question has moved from if we are self-promoting to why we are self-promoting. Social media can just as easily be a megaphone for spirit-led ministry as it can for our creaturely-attention seeking. What is it that you are publicizing? What do you plan to do with the attention?

I am lucky enough to be out of the spotlight, for the moment. My new job of directing the QuakerSpeak YouTube Channel allows me to shine that spotlight on the ministries of other Friends, and mostly to remain safely behind the curtain.

But I still post on Facebook and Twitter. I still have a YouTube channel. And I still ask myself, every time I post:

  • What is my primary motivation in posting this?
  • Is it faithful for me to post this?
  • Is this post from me or is from God?
  • What do I plan to do with the attention generated by this post? Will I enjoy it for myself or allow it to be a service to doing God’s work in the world?

And once I feel clear on those questions, I ask these:

  • Am I holding back because I’m worried about how I will be perceived?
  • How can I make this bolder and more accessible? How can I reach more people with this message that has come from God?

Oct 16 2014

Are Quakers Racist?

Does racism exist in the Religious Society of Friends?

This week, we talk with Vanessa Julye, the author of “Fit for Freedom, Not For Friendship” and the coordinator of Friends General Conference’s Ministry on Racism.


Oct 12 2014

Quaker Pacifism Isn’t Just Anti-Violence

Quakers aren’t just anti-violence. Much of our work is in fact pro-healing. John Calvi, a renowned Quaker healer talks about why healing work is so incredibly essential.


Oct 2 2014

Quakers Believe That War is Not the Answer

Diane Randall of Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) in Washington, DC talks about Quakers and Nonviolence and FCNL’s tagline, “War is Not the Answer”.


Sep 25 2014

Standing to Speak in Quaker Meeting for Worship

What does it feel like to stand and speak in the middle of a Quaker Meeting for Worship? How do you know when you are supposed to stand and speak?


Aug 21 2014

Scott Holmes: The Quaker Lawyer That Stopped Wearing a Tie in Court

Scott Holmes, a Quaker lawyer from Durham, North Carolina, felt led to stop wearing a tie in the courtroom. This is his story of exploring that leading and its implications.


Jul 17 2014

No, Quakers Are Not Amish. But We Do Have Some Things in Common.

This week’s Quaker video: “You’re a Quaker? You mean, like, Amish?” It’s something all Quakers have heard. Max Carter, professor of Quaker religion studies at Guilford College, tells us about the differences between Quakers and the Amish.


Jul 3 2014

Noah Baker Merrill on How Quakers Can Transform the World

Noah Baker Merrill discusses sacramental living, Quaker Voluntary Service, and how our Quaker prophetic witness can transform the world.


Jun 16 2014

About the QuakerSpeak Project

An introduction video I put together for the Quaker Speak project. Watch more!


May 29 2014

Quaker Depictions in Movies

We put together a compilation of Quaker depictions in the movies.


May 22 2014

Quakers and the Inner Light

What do Quakers mean when we talk about the inner light? In this video, we asked several members of the Religious Society of Friends about this particular piece of interesting Quaker Theology.


Apr 30 2014

Do Quakers Believe in the Bible?

Quakers believe that the real way that you understand what the Bible has to say to you is to let the words be illuminated. Paul Buckley explains.


Mar 6 2014

How Quakerism Began

Max Carter, Quaker professor at Guilford College, preaches on the beginnings.


Dec 12 2013

The Birth of QuakerSpeak

A little vlog I did to explain my new project.