Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Some catching up to do

I've been too busy to write anything recently, but here are a few things I've been reading and found to be valuable.

Marshall Massey has a very good post on how to read the Bible -- as an insider reading a family album.

Liz Opp has generated a lot of thoughtful comments with her discussion of the FGC Long Range Plan and whether it suggests that FGC is part of the convergent Friends movement. (I have a longish comment there that probably should have been posted here.)

I've just finished Taylor Branch's At Canaan's Edge, the third of his massive and masterful history of America in the King years. This one covers 1965-68. As any of you know who've read the earlier books, Branch is a magnificent storyteller, full of detail that makes reading the book like chewing a sandwich made with 7-grain bread -- you feel like you've accomplished something when you're done with it.

One of Branch's best points is how he weaves strands of different stories together to create a vivid picture of the time he's writing about, making connections that you hadn't seen before. In Canaan's Edge, for example, he weaves the rise of the Vietnam war with the ultimate demise of the Civil Rights Movement per se in such a way that made sense of a time that seemed nothing less than chaotic -- obviously important and historic but chaotic nonetheless -- during the time I was 10-14 years old and watching all this stuff on TV. For example, I knew in my memory that Dr. King was murdered only five days after LBJ abdicated running for a second full term, but I had forgotten how it felt to have the world fall apart all around me like that. Branch's book reminded me again. I can't recommend the book highly enough.

This past weekend, I picked up and am carefully reading Catholic Quakerism by Lewis Benson. (Although I bought the book at the FGC bookstore in person, it doesn't show up in its on-line catalog, for some reason. So the link is to New Foundation Fellowship.) I must have read it before because parts of it seem so familiar, but I couldn't have told you before rereading it much detail.

I love reading Benson, though his intensity and the challenge he poses usually scares me. It is as if I would like to believe as he does, but I haven't yet found the courage to do so. He, more than any other Quaker writer I've read other than ole George himself seems to be describing an alternate universe that exists and to which I have access if only I am willing to go there. In doing so, he explains the unique power of the Quaker message and gives us a reason to be. I'm especially impressed by his discussion of Quakerism's place in the ecumenical movement and how powerfully he argues that we are not merely a branch of liberal Protestantism -- or, at least, we need not settle for that weak soup.

On the plane to and from Philadelphia this weekend I read most of this month's issue of Friends Journal, which is a special issue on "What are Friends Called to Today?" (I was going to and from the Journal's board meeting.) Bloggers Robin Mohr and Martin Kelly have articles in it that I hope will lead many readers to their and other blogs to learn more about what this convergent Friends stuff is all about.

I also enjoyed fellow Northern Yearly Meeting member Kat Griffith's article "Conversations from the Heartland" about her experience talking politics with fellow home-schooling mothers who hold dramatically different political and religious views than she does. Or do they? I always enjoy Kat's writing which I find courageous and strong.

The entire issue is worth reading, and I hope that others find it useful in sparking something in their meetings.

I'm beginning to prepare to give a talk on how Quakers approach the Bible as part of an interfaith dialog sponsored by the St. Paul Council of Churches. There is a five or six week series where two or three speakers a night from the Abrahamic tradition -- Jews, Muslims, Christians -- discuss their respective approaches to the Book. I'm on with a B'hai and a Unitarian, which tells you something about how the rest of the Christian world places us. This is one reason why Marshal Massey's post mentioned above was so welcome. I am also interested to see how this experience influences how I teach Quakerism 101 again after the first of the year.

And there's lots more going on, actually, at home, at work, and in the meeting that is making me feel quite busy and just this side of frantic. I could use a long nap. But in the end I count it all a blessing to be so engaged. I just wish I had the time to do them all as well as I would like.


Chris M. said...

Paul: I could use a nap, too. :)

I was hoping to write about Kat's piece in Friends Journal, too. It really spoke to me. Thanks for getting there first.

And of course, I'm all for reading Robin & Martin, too.

-- Chris M.

Liz Opp said...


Thanks for the hard work you put into helping corrale (sp?) some of those articles for Friends Journal! What a neat group to have all in one place.

Thanks too for the long and thoughtful comment on The Good Raised Up. I am considering posting it as a guest piece, perhaps with a few edits because of references to other comments... What do you think?

Oh, I also wanted to point you to the Bible Half-Hours from the 2005 Gathering by Tom Gates, which might go along with your upcoming presentation at SPCC. Let me know if you want to take a look at it, otherwise I've written some about it myself.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

I was quite inspired by your "longish comment" on Liz's blog site! Thank you for sharing it with us.

Michael Bischoff said...


Like Marshall, I was also inspired by your comment about sweeping floors and going to the moon. I'd encourage you to post it on your blog too. I read your post this morning, and it stuck with me much of the day. Let's go to the moon!


Linda said...

Thanks for linking to Kat's piece. It's a lovely and thought-provoking piece.