Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Reasons for hope

I'm working as an election judge today, as I have for several years. It's a municipal election, with a hotly contested mayorial race, but very little action in the precinct where I'm working. Only about 150 voters by half-way through the day. I'm on lunch break now.

Because it was slow, I had time to finish reading John Punshon's book Reasons for Hope: Faith and Future of the Friends Church. It is a self-described polemic, written for and about evangelical Friends, by an evangelical Friend who did not start out as one. I won't try to summarize it here, but I think it is important for any Friend -- especially a liberal Fried -- who is interested in whether Quakerism has a future, or, better put, whether Quakers have anything to say about the world and where it's going. Not that it will persuade a Friend not already so inclined to adopt the biblical and evangelical bases of our professed faith, but it should prompt such a Friend to take these things more seriously, and see them in a more sympathetic light.

If there's one brief idea from the book I want to raise up that's appropos of what I and others have been blogging about recently, it's that Quakers have a unique niche to fill in the Christian and broader social landscape, a niche that no other church is likely to fill. If this unique niche -- the distinctives, he calls them -- is abandoned, it will impoverish whatever contribution the Church may have to setting the world aright. He very persuasively makes the case that Friends ignore their biblical, evangelical roots to their peril, just as an individual who is ignorant of ones own family history (or unresolved to it) can never know who he really is or what she is called to do. He isn't at all sentimental or nostalgic about the past or Friends' traditions, but rather considers them in very practical and realistic ways. I highly recommend it.

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