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.
18 thoughts on “Are YOU Ready for the Quaker Revival?”
George Fox doesn’t get to judge me! (It can’t be about reestablishing the ways/ideas of Early Friends, but about letting ourselves be guided and taught as they were, wherever that takes us.)
That whole question of Who are we & what are we doing in this handbasket? — I’ve got a pretty good ‘academic’ version [but no footnotes] at http://www.sneezingflower.blogspot.com/2012_11_01_archive.html
and if that’s too much, the last paragraph is a good place to go on from:
“The results of our experiment are still coming in; but we aren’t raising the dead yet. We have a valuable religious practice, of worshipping silently — which really should be included among every religion’s practices, as a means of leaving the door open to further revelations. It simply isn’t enough on its own. So far as we’re treating it ceremonially, as a way for everyone to have a nice, peaceful experience of silence, it leaves most Liberal Friends with spiritual malnuitrition. We leave Meeting each week with the same ideas we brought in, our emotions blanded over to avoid disturbing one another, relieved at the end to escape into refreshments and small talk with nice people. Many of us are satisfied with this — but it isn’t the reign of God; and many of us still want to see that.”
May God drop in with a nice big surprise!!!
Go ahead and take the risk that some scared folks may be put off by the “evangelical”- or “fundamentalist”-sounding word “Revival.” Go ahead and own it! To me, the opposite is stagnation and smugness, self-satisfied complacency, thinking we’re doing all this religion stuff on our own, and God’s intrusion would be an interruption.
Contrariwise, all that is exciting the Life of the Spirit has to do with a whole cluster of words that connote NEWNESS — the renewal of our minds, the restoration of our spirits, the refreshment of our souls. (See, they’re all “RE-” words!) “Behold, I make ALL THINGS NEW!” [Do I have a witness? Can someone add the scriptural citation? I’m going to guess the last book in the New Testament.]
This is what I think Jesus was about: the New Wine that could not be contained in the old wineskins, the breaking forth of the Dawn of Truth into the stagnation of what folks thought they were doing to please God. All those blessed SURPRISES, including Jesus turning the social order upside down, paying attention to lepers and prostitutes and tax collectors and smelly fishermen and WOMEN!
And, of course it was — and is — REVOLUTIONARY. The Old Order is threatened, and will do what it takes (“By any means necessary”) to keep the upstarts and rebels in their places. To our Teacher, it was a way that led to a cross — think, like an electric chair or hangman’s noose, not a piece of pretty jewelry.
But the Power of TRUTH, in all its freshness and the REfreshment that it offers us, cannot be kept in a grave, or safely contained in reliable old institutions. (And I speak as one who has, indeed, been entrusted with institutional responsibility, like clerking a yearly meeting.)
Folks, if you come to the Revival — or even, like me, praying it along from afar — please be prepared to be Pleasantly Surprised, even startled, when you find that, as Fox was constantly saying, “The Power of The Lord was Over All!”
Love to one and all, -DHF
(from out here in the Midwest, where at least one of your planners will be one of our featured speakers next June, at Illinois Yearly Meeting.)
[Sigh.} So, I hope you all have a good experience at your meeting. If you want to hold a “revival,” that’s certainly your prerogative.
At the same time, to speak plainly, the “analysis”/discernment of contemporary Quakerism presented above strikes me as a bunch of unadulterated bullshit. Superficial, callow, and looking to me more like an effort to avoid the long hard work of faithfulness in our time.
Sorry to harsh the buzz here, but that’s what I see. and not just today: “revivalism” in US Quaker history has not produced a vital, wise-as-serpents kick-ass Friends movement yet, after 150 some years; mostly quite the opposite: a fading appendage of the religious right.
Maybe this time will be different? I’m from Missouri; show me.
My opinion, of course, doesn’t matter. But one piece of traditional text does: Matthew 7:16: “By their fruits you shall know them.” I’ll be watching for a serious harvest; from this quarter it’s been pretty sparse so far.
I’ve seen live Meetings and Meetings that feel pretty comatose. A few people who’ve met The Mystery & a lot of people who would just as soon never hear God say ‘Boo!’ All nice people, but not too many of us “raised up into the state the Apostles were in.”
“Enthusiasm” has a bad name, because it can just mean “all stirred-up with wild emotions.” But it also means “full of God.” And the reason, I think, is that the Spirit has a hard time breaking in — doesn’t feel welcome — where people are too polite and controlled, unwilling to let themselves be “fools for God.”
But we’re bound to be fools, one way or another. Whose?
I agree that religious emotional fervor, in itself, can’t bring people to the presence of God. But it’s also a way that this can happen.
However you prefer to analyze it, I haven’t found much life among Friends since I left Pendle Hill [admittedly a rich lode, which did spoil me…] If a bunch of crazy young folks want to find The Life — even if they make a mistake or two along the way — I think they’re likely to do better than any group satisfied with the way we are.
My hackles, my hackles so risen.
Things just might be right and fine with us. I’m not all that sure. Think I’ll wait on that, and sit quietly. Won’t you join me?
Jon, I want to apologize on behalf of the graying Quakers who don’t seem to understand that our role is to support and encourage new ideas and projects and insights, especially when they arise within younger age groups who discern more clearly where we go next. I quite frankly can’t understand why any Quaker would discourage another Friend who has energy to engage and a leading – what a self-defeating endeavor on the part of us gray-hairs! And where is the love with which God expects us engage one another?! Apologies once again. Blessings on the revival! I will pray for all the organizers and participants.
I love the energy in your call and am certainly with you in spirit. Cornwall (England, UK) is served by several meetings, but none where I live and the ‘energy’ to follow up requests to begin anew where I live has simply gone unanswered. My only question, doubt, concern is: I see ‘that of god within everyone’, very readily. In the worst behaved people, in every creed or religion. I have no worry about using Jesus’ name for ‘internal’ debate or inspiration, but I would like reassurance that in order to encourage a new generation, often of agnostic or downright atheist people towards accepting that of the ‘sacred’ in every living thing, without necessarily labelling it as Christian. The godness of God, or depths of Spirit surely is unequivocal, not needing any further labelling, only accepting that if it comes in the form of Christ for one, it may be Jahweh, or Buddha for others, but that we all share the same essence. This as a starting point, if demonstrated actually in the world, might truly be revelutionary in its effect. I truly wish that anyway. In Friendship, Debs 🙂
This article caused quite a deep discussion among UK Quakers, and others on facebook.
Please take a look
Having gone through a clearness committee involving just this question of whether to remain with Friends when I often feel so frustrated, it became clear that the work to be done is mine.
I strongly encourage people to labor with each other and grow their meetings. And for goodness sake, YAF’s come home.
For the love and the wisdom that exists in our meetings needs the fire of a renewed vision.
I feel very uncomfortablee with this.
I am a young Quaker and understand the issue presented, however moving in to radical evangelical practice in the presumption that we all have the same opinion of contemporary society is, in my opinion, dangerous.
I was raised in the mainline American Baptist denomination. It has never been characterized as “Evangelical,” as far as I know. In fact, I often feel rather out of place among self-defined Evangelicals, because I’m not a scriptural literalist and I don’t particularly care for “praise songs” (I’ll take a hymn any day of the week). And they have revivals all the time. It
is a beautiful time of energy, renewal, outreach and love.
Revivals aren’t a “radical evangelical practice,” but a bible-based (Joel 2:28-32) precursor to the day of the Lord. They are used as a time to encourage people to come to Jesus in large swaths of American Protestantism. “Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions…everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” THAT is what revivals are all about!
December 8 now: Is it too early to ask how this is developing?
Thank you very much for helping to organize this. I’m glad I was there. I wrote a little about how I think we need more of these kinds of events, whatever we call them.
I think the New Testament teaches Christ, JESUS of Nazareth and HIM crucified…..HIS atonement cleanses me and makes me ALIVE, born again or from above. Not my society whatever the denominational flavoring. The GODHEAD is important. It’s the voice, name or nature that will be express. It’s either JESUS or self…..your choice. One’s The Messiah the other a counterfeit pseudo-christ mangod vs. GODman……to be continued
an old idea the Holy Spirit gave me was this…..it’s not the the tool or the method GOD uses it’s about the “rule of JESUS” in my whole thinking process (inner heart or kidneys) this quickening can be a dramatic event leading to a daily “drawing near” to the creator……
……gathering with others of like mindedness, mutually submitting to one another under the Headship of Christ JESUS, becomes HIS bride, holy habitation or dwelling place…….step out of the “label” and into the only Christ, not the label….
I really identify with your frustration in this post. I think it is especially noticeable/ difficult for people in our age range (I’m 32). I really love everyone in my meeting, but I am literally the only person there in her 30s. (I’m truly grateful for the 40-somethings we have, all couple’s with children. Even though I’m single and in graduate school, I feel like I can still identify with them a tiny bit.) I often wonder if meetings are hesitant to reach out to younger seekers in part because they are too comfortable. Aging is becoming incrasingly isolating in our fast-paced society; meeting is probably one of they only places a person in their 60s, 70s, or 80s+ can go to and feel welcome and surrounded by people who understand them. My parents are 62 (though not Quakers) and I feel like they are slipping away from society sometimes— it realy breaks my heart. 🙁
The good news about being Quaker is that we have some control over the situation. We can help our meetings become more intergenerational by taking that project on ourselves or working with a committee. I totally agree with you that there are many people our age longing for spiritual growth and in search of a safe, accepting, welcoming enviroment for nurturing that.
Believe me…I wish I had learned about Quakers a LONG time ago!
In my experience, my meetings are incredibly grateful for the vitality I bring as a younger Friend. Change only gets more difficult as we age, so I think we have to take on the responsibility to keep things moving (as you are doing!).