I have a confession to make: sometimes when I look at the state of our religious society today, what I see is bleak.
I see a lot of white, middle class Americans passing off white, middle class culture as essentially Quaker.
I see us catering heavily to Friends in their twilight years and losing the interest of young people who are excited and ready for transformation.
I see this happening at a time when we are passing on to the next generation unprecedented debts, crises, and possible hard times to come. In other words, unprecedented need for guidance, strength and spiritual preparation.
I see that we hold comfort as a higher priority than truth, that we shy away from conflict and confrontation, that we keep coming back to our Quaker Gatherings as a place to be safe, amongst community.
I see that we have codified our testimonies and feel satisfied paying lip service to them instead of welcoming the fundamental transformation in our personal lives that they would require of us.
In short: I see an entire religion of people going through the motions.
What would George Fox have to say about us now?
What would Jesus Christ say, for that matter? (Since that is who George Fox was emulating/channeling, after all.)
The Next Revelation
So this is what I see.
It would be easy to find myself (and I have done years of) following up these observations with an almost academic analysis.
How we are in this particular period of history, how the culture has impacted and affected us, the ways that we are more distant from one another than we’ve ever been. The ways that we are insufficient and unfaithful. Ultimately, finger pointing.
But I have had a revelation, Friends.
It is time to stop looking at the past and the present with regret, with excuses. We are the movement. When we come together to listen and be faithful, we are Christ embodied.
Or at least we can be. But it requires a breaking from our present stage of stuck-ness. It requires real transformation, nakedness, discomfort, courage, deep listening, release of expectations.
It requires getting low.
The Essential Questions
So I wonder, Friend: from what angle have you witnessed the lack of vitality in the modern Religious Society of Friends? How have you experienced it as lacking? What are your feelings about its shortcomings?
But more importantly,
ARE YOU READY TO PUT ASIDE YOUR FRUSTRATION, YOUR ANALYSIS, YOUR GRIEF, AND… REVIVE?
- Are YOU ready to hold our structures, institutions, traditions, ideologies and selves in the refining light of Christ’s presence?!
- Are YOU prepared to radically listen and transform your life accordingly? Even if it is uncomfortable or scary?
- Are YOU ready to accompany Quakers as we wake ourselves from our tradition-induced coma and explore how we are called into a “Lamb’s War” against the empire that surrounds and permeates us?
- Are YOU ready to explore what would it mean to take the first step in turning away from the systems of death that enslave us and accepting the gift of abundant life that Jesus offers us?!
I have felt a hunger amongst Friends to explore these questions in earnest, opening our hearts and minds to transformation and a new, vital energy instead of dwelling on the old, dead energy that we have inherited.
When we come together to do the transformational work of radical listening, and when we heed the subsequent call to confront the destructive forces of the empire in which we live, we can be vital. We can be relevant.
WE CAN BE REVIVED.
So. A group of us are going to try it out. And you’re invited.
Re·viv·al [ri-vahy-vuhl] n.
1. Restoration to life, consciousness, vigor, strength, etc.
2. A resumption of use, acceptance, activity, or vitality after a period of obscurity or quiescence.
3. A new presentation of an old play, movie, opera, ballet, or similar vehicle.
4. (a) A time of reawakened interest in religion.
(b) A meeting or series of meetings for the purpose of reawakening religious faith, often characterized by impassioned preaching and public testimony.