Friday, April 29, 2011

A Quaker presence at the ICUJP/LA Times Book Festival event

This Saturday ICUJP will be sponsoring a peace and justice book fair called "Cost of War, Culture of Peace" at the LA Times Festival of Books at the University of Southern California. I will be part of an afternoon panel with my dear Sufi Friend John Ishvardas Abdallah (author of One World Under God), Phil Goldberg (author of American Veda) and Sarrah Shahawy, an amazing young woman who is president of the USC interfaith council and grand-daughter of Hassan Hatthout, one of the great Muslim spiritual leaders of our time (see
To find out more about this event, see

For those of you who can't make it to this event, I am sharing a draft of what I intend to say in the five minutes I have been allotted.
I became involved with the interfaith movement after 9/11 when I decided to reach out to the Muslim community. I did so because I am a Quaker and have been doing peace and reconciliation work for over 25 years, beginning with Soviet-American reconciliation during the time of Ronald Reagan. Quakers have a peace testimony that goes back to the founding of Quakerism in the 17th century. This was a time of intense and bloody religious war among Christians. Quakers were convinced that war was contrary to the spirit and teachings of Jesus. Quakers have been pacifists for 350 years. During WW I Quakers founded the American Friends Service Committee for conscientious objectors. In 1948 Quakers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The AFSC has become a multicultural and multi-faith organization. I used to work for the AFSC as a youth service project coordinator.

To combat the intense fear that arose after 9/11, I fasted during Ramadan and went to local mosques. I was so warmly received by Muslims that I began taking a serious interest in Islam. I wrote a pamphlet called "Islam from a Quaker Perspective," which tries to explain Islam to Quakers, and Quakerism to Muslims.

I also joined interfaith organizations, like the South Coast Interfaith Council and Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace.

As a result, my spiritual horizons broadened and I got to know some truly amazing people of different faiths. Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs and others who are passionate about peace and who are trying to make this a better world. These are people who don't get a lot of media attention. But they are nonetheless wonderful, inspiring people, like the panelist here at this table....

I have been so inspired by the interfaith movement that I now spend my whole life doing interfaith work for various organizations, locally, nationally and internationally.

One of the keys to interfaith work is compassionate listening. This is a technique that was developed by a Quaker named Gene Hoffman. Gene was trained as a pastoral counselor and applied these techniques to trauma healing in conflict situations. She helped start the Compassionate Listening project with Leah Green, a Jewish American peace activist. I went on a Compassionate Listening Project to Israel/Palestine and was deeply impressed with how Compassionate Listening can help people to listen to each other and to gain trust at a deep level. Such heart-based listening is essential for peace-making.

There are many other positive aspects of interfaith work that I could talk about if I had more time. For example, the interfaith environmental movement has brought together people of different faith traditions to tackle the problems of global warming. All religions agree that life and the earth are precious. In 2007, I edited a Quaker-inspired book called EarthLight: Spiritual Wisdom for an Ecological Age. This anthology has articles on spirituality and the environment by authors from numerous faith traditions: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, etc. Clearly saving the planet for future generations is something that all people of faith, and also people who do not profess any faith, have in common.

But my time has run out, so all I can say is what all authors say under such circumstances, if you want to find out more, read my books!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Howard Brinton as a Theologian and Apologist for “Real Quakerism”

This article appeared recently in "Quaker Religious Thought" and sums up what I have learned so far about Howard Brinton's theological perspective. This summer I will be part of a Brinton Symposium at Pendle Hill in which Paul Lacey, Steve Angell, Doug Gwyn and other Quaker scholars and theologians will explore the theological legacy of Howard Brinton. To find out more, go to

Summary: Although Howard Brinton was one of the major theologians and educators of 20the century Quakerism, his contributions to Quaker thought have not been critically evaluated in part because of Quaker aversion to theologizing. This paper surveys the development of Brinton’s life as a Quaker educator/theologian, focusing particularly on his classic work Friends for 300 Years. I argue that Brinton was influenced by Barclay’s Apology and was writing a defense of what he considered “real Quakerism”—unprogrammed worship, and what he saw the authentic theology of Fox and Barclay, updated in modern language for modern times. Brinton’s concern for theology was broadened and deepened by his participation in the World Council of Churches, which made him (and other Friends) keenly aware of the contemporary theological thought, particularly that of Karl Barth and Reinhold Neibuhr. Finally, Brinton was interested in and supportive of revival of interest in Quaker that took place in the 1950s, particularly the formation the Quaker Theological Discussion Group, which was started in 1957 to raise awareness of theology among Quakers and to help foster constructive dialogue among different branches of Quakerism. Finally, I conclude that most liberal Quakers are “theologically illiterate” as well as averse to theologizing, but that Brinton himself was keenly interested in a theological approach that was grounded in spiritual experience and provided a cogent intellectual framework for modern liberal Quaker theology.

A critical understanding of 20th century Quaker theology would be incomplete without assessing the contribution of Howard Brinton, whose works helped create the theological framework for modern liberal Quakerism. Given the importance and stature of the Brintons, I felt some trepidation about undertaking the daunting task of writing the first book-length biography about them. Fortunately, I had access to Howard Brinton's unpublished autobiography, dictated to Yuki Brinton a year before his death in 1973, as well as to the Brinton archives at Haverford College and to his family and friends, who have been very supportive. But the lack of secondary material about the Brintons has made my scholarly efforts extremely challenging. As Ben Pink Dandelion, director of Woodbrooke, has observed, Quakerism, and particular 20th century Quaker theology, is “vastly under-researched.”

Ironically, Brinton, one of the most important Quaker theologians of the 20th century, was never trained as a theologian. When he did his undergraduate work at Haverford College, he majored in mathematics and physics. But he did feel drawn to religion and philosophy. The teacher at Haverford who exerted the most influence on his young impressionable mind was Rufus Jones. It was Jones who led Brinton to pursue his interest in philosophy and to study the works of the German mystic Jacob Boehme (the subject of Brinton's doctoral dissertation). With Jones' encouragement, Brinton went on to earn a degree in philosophy at Harvard University, where he studied with such giants as William James, George Santayana and Josiah Royce. But during the first twenty years of his teaching career, Brinton taught math and physics, albeit with many references to religion and philosophy. As one of his students at Earlham noted, Brinton had a unique approach to teaching physics: “Howard enriched his discussion of Newton’s laws, Faraday’s discoveries, and the predictions of Einstein by making cross references to philosophers and theologians and their concepts.”

It wasn't until Brinton married Anna Cox and earned his Ph. D. in philosophy from Berkeley that he was given the opportunity to teach philosophy and religion at Earlham College. He began this new phase of teaching in 1925, when he was 41 years old.

It wasn't until 1933, when he became director of Pendle Hill, that Brinton had the opportunity to devote himself full-time to teaching Quaker theology. By then he was nearly fifty.

During the next fifteen years, Howard devoted himself full-time to teaching Quakerism as it had never been taught before. Pendle Hill was an experimental school that attempted to apply Quaker principles to education. During this intense period with its very sharp learning curve, Brinton created a whole new approach to Quaker pedagogy as well as well as a framework for Quaker theology.

Brinton's training as a scientist and philosopher shaped the way he thought about theology as well as the way he taught this subject. He saw Quakerism as an “experimental” religion in almost scientific sense; and this approach had a strong appeal to liberal Friends, many of whom shared his scientific background.

Brinton was also influenced by the theological conflicts that were taking place between evangelical/fundamentalist and liberal Friends, which he experienced on a personal level. He came from a “mixed” background—his mother was a Hicksite Friend and his father Orthodox. His wife Anna descended from Joel and Hannah Bean, who were disowned from Iowa Yearly Meeting after it was taken over by evangelicals. Until Brinton became director of Pendle Hill, he taught mainly at schools run by pastoral Friends, whose approach to Quakerism was radically different from his own.

Brinton's theological writings can be divided in three phases. His first important theological writings—Vocal Ministry and Quaker Worship (1928) and Creative Worship (1931)—were written while Brinton was in his forties. As their titles imply, they focus on what Howard considered to be the distinctive core of Quakerism: unprogrammed worship and its philosophical implications. These works also lay the foundation for Howard’s theological perspective, his effort to reconcile Quakerism and science, and to address the urgent spiritual needs of 20th century society.

In his second phase (1943-1952), Brinton took on a more ambitious aim: to educate modern Friends (especially newcomers to Quakerism) in the theory and practice of Quakerism. During this period, he wrote two classic works that are essentially didactic: Guide to Quaker Practice (1943) and Friends for 300 Years (1952). These works arose out of Brinton’s experience as a teacher of Quakerism at Pendle Hill and are intended to help Friends understand the theological basis for unprogrammed worship and to practice their faith based on such worship. These works were written when Howard was in his sixties and at the peak of his powers as a writer and thinker.

In the final phase of Howard’s theological journey, he wrote Friends for 75 Years (1960), Quaker Journals: Varieties of Religious Experiences Among Friends (1972) and The Religious Philosophy of Quakerism (1973).

By far the most important work that Brinton ever wrote was Friends For 300 Years. The time has come—indeed, it is long overdue—for a critical assessment of this enormously influential book. Sales figures confirm this work's enduring popularity, if not Chuck Fager’s observation that “Howard Brinton’s stature as a preeminent Quaker scholar and religious thinker of the twentieth century continues to grow, and rightly so, while other once-prominent names slip further into obscurity.” Thomas Hamm called Brinton “one of the most influential Friends of the twentieth century.” Yet even though Friends for 300 Years has become a classic, and has sold around 30,000 thousand copies since 1965, and probably nearly that many from 1953-65, there has never been a serious study of this classic work. This lack of a critical assessment is truly astounding, given the fact that most Quakers are highly educated people who are quite critical in matters other than theology.

The only critical assessment of Friends for 300 Years is a book review written in 1953 by L. Hugh Doncaster, who agreed with F.B. Tolles’s laudatory assessment that Brinton’s work is “the closest thing this Quaker generation has produced—or is likely to produce—to Robert Barclay’s great Apology.”

Comparing Friends for 300 Years to Barclay’s Apology is the highest praise that a Quaker could bestow since Barclay’s work, written in the 17th century, could be considered the summa theologica of Quakerdom. While many contemporary Quaker theologians would dispute whether Brinton's work deserves such an accolade, Brinton himself makes it clear that Friends for Three Hundred Years was intended to be an “apology,” or a formal defense, of what he viewed as “real Quakerism”--unprogrammed worship grounded in a mix of modernist and Conservative/Wilburite theology. Brinton cites as the two most important sources for his work George Fox's pastoral epistles and Barclay's Apology.

Published in Latin in 1676, and in English in 1678, Barclay's Apology was a systematic defense of Quakerism against its various opponents, from the Calvinists to the Socinians. Unlike many Quaker polemicists, Barclay provided a learned and well-reasoned treatment of key theological issues such the Inward Light, scripture, Man's fallen condition, justification, perfection, ministry, worship, baptism, communion and Quakerism's relationship to society and government. In his introduction to Friends for 300 Years, Brinton says that Barclay's Apology “affords the most complete interpretation we have of Quakerism as thought about.”

Friends for 300 Years defends unprogrammed Quakerism against contemporary non-Quaker opponents, such as Neo-Calvinism and fundamentalism, and also against forms of Quakerism (such as evangelicalism) that Brinton felt had distorted George Fox's original message and mission. Brinton deals with many of the same issues as Barclay: the authority of scripture, conscience vs. the Light Within, the role of reason, the universality of the Light, Christology (the Eternal Christ and the historic Jesus), Man's Responsibility for Good and Evil, Perfectionism, the Fall of Man, and the Relation between the Divine and Human. Unike Barclay, Brinton addresses the contentious issue of the Atonement, which had been one cause of the division between American Friends in the nineteenth century. Brinton, like Barclay, both defends and explains Quaker doctrines logically and clearly so that Friends could understand the rational basis of their faith and enter into a theological discussion/debate with other Christians.

Brinton understood perhaps better than any of his contemporaries the need to educate Friends about theology. The paucity of critical reflection about Quaker religious thought on the part of many modern Friends can partly be explained by Quakerism’s long-standing aversion to theologizing. For this reason, explained Brinton with more than a trace of irony, he used the word “Christian thought” rather than “Christian theology” in the title of an essay published in 1959 because “while many Friends shy away from theology, we do not, or least we do not profess to, shy away from thought.”

Brinton cites as a positive development the establishment of the Quaker Theological Discussion Group, which began in 1957. The first issue of Quaker Religious Thought (Spring, 1959) contains an essay by Brinton entitled “The Quaker Doctrine of the Holy Spirit.” This essay is followed by responses from three leading Quaker thinkers of this period: Lewis Benson, Thomas S. Brown, and Charles F. Thomas. Brinton is given the chance to respond to his critics and have the last word. More will be said about this exchange later.

The aversion to theology among unprogrammed Friends stems in part from the pain caused by the Hicksite-Orthodox separation and by the other schisms of the 19th century, but its persistence to the present day is puzzling. As Brinton makes clear on numerous occasions, Robert Barclay and William Penn were deeply involved in the theological and philosophical debates of their times, while George Fox had a passionate concern for theological matters despite a lack of formal training.

But these Friends and their successors were suspicious of theologizing not based upon a direct, immediate and felt experience of Spirit. Today many unprogrammed Friends confuse theology with a creed (the former are religious reflections by individuals within a religious group, while the latter is a requirement for membership in the group). Creeds help to bring cohesion to a religious group, but they can also create an “us” vs. “them” attitude that liberal Friends find repellent. Theological debate may be divisive, but it may also foster understanding and respect if those who disagree agree to disagree agreeably.

Friends often lacked the training to engage in meaningful theological dialogue. Because seminary training was not a requirement for Quaker ministry during its first hundred and fifty years, and was indeed seen as suspect, many early Friends were ignorant of the theological trends of their day. Even Brinton confessed that because his training was in science and philosophy, he sometimes felt disadvantaged when discussing theology at ecumenical gatherings.

Quaker aversion toward theology shifted somewhat in the latter part of the nineteenth century when Friends adopted the system of paid pastors, who required some form of training in theology and the Bible. Quaker schools like Earlham, Guilford, Haverford, Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore offered courses in religion and some outstanding Quaker scholars emerged, like Rufus Jones and Henry Cadbury. But for the most part, recorded ministers in unprogrammed Meetings had little or no formal training in religion or systematic theology. It wasn’t until 1960 that Earlham School of Religion opened its doors.

Brinton’s work at Pendle Hill in the 1930s and 1940s was a ground-breaking attempt to help educate unprogrammed Friends who felt called to ministry, or to live their Quaker faith authentically. During this period Brinton became aware of how important it was to provide guidance for these eager but inexperienced newcomers to Quakerism. With this group in mind, Brinton wrote a Guide to Quaker Practice (1945), which ended up having a broad appeal. As he explained in his introduction, “This Guide [was] originally written largely with new Friends’ meetings in mind, but also met a considerable need in older meetings. It has been found to be useful not only as an aid to the instruction of new members but also as a reminder to older members of the character and significance of certain practices which at first sight may seem based only on tradition and custom.” Brinton’s purpose was to encourage Friends to reflect more deeply about the theological underpinnings of Quaker practices and procedures.

Brinton along with other Friends were obliged to think more deeply about theology after the formation of the World Council of Churches in 1948. To take part meaningfully in this ecumenical dialogue, Friends were obliged to articulate and defend their beliefs within the context of Christian theology. When Howard Brinton went to this gathering as a representative of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, he become keenly aware of the importance of theologians like Karl Barth and Reinhold Neibuhr. This awakening to contemporary theology had a profound influence on Friends for 300 Years.

Following the World Council, occasional articles about contemporary theological trends began appearing in the Friend Intelligencer—most notably, by William H. Marwick, a Scottish Friend, and by William Hordern, a professor of philosophy and religion at Swarthmore College.

But the aversion to theology among unprogrammed Friends continued and articles analyzing contemporary theological ideas (Quaker or otherwise) rarely appeared in the successor to the Friends Intelligencer, Friends Journal. Even though Friends Journal calls itself a magazine of Quaker life and thought, it probably should be called a magazine of Quaker life and experience since it seldom, if ever, addresses theological issues. Quaker theological discussion has been mainly confined to specialized publications with limited readership, such as QRT and Quaker Theology (founded by Chuck Fager in 1999 as a progressive alternative to QRT).

With this Quaker aversion to theologizing in mind, Brinton tried to make Friends for 300 Years seem like an historical study rather than what it actually was—a defense of what he considered “real Quakerism.” (In his autobiography, Brinton confessed that he took copies of Friend for 300 Years to the Third World Friends Conference in Oxford so that Friends would know what “real Quakerism” was.) Many Friends, when exposed to Friends for 300 Years for the first time, imagine they are reading an objective account of Quaker history and thought. This was never Brinton’s intention. He had a very clear theological agenda in mind—to defend the principles of unprogrammed worship and “traditional” Quakerism, as he understood it.

Brinton’s major contribution to Quaker thought was to present Quakerism not as a system of beliefs, but as a methodology. “The endeavor of this book is not to produce a history of Quakerism,” wrote Brinton in his introduction, “but, by means of historical illustrations, to examine a method.” For this reason, Friends for 300 Years is not organized chronologically, but thematically, beginning with what Brinton regarded as the most important practice of Quakerism: the experience of worship. The first chapter, entitled “To Wait Upon the Lord,” describes the how Quakerism arose from silent, unprogrammed worship leading to a direct, mystical encounter with the Divine. Subsequent chapters deal with aspects of that experience (“The Light Within as Experienced” and “The Light Within as Thought About”). Four chapters are devoted to how Quakers practice their faith—meeting for worship, decision-making, vocal ministry, and witness in the world. There is a chapter on Quaker history (including the various separations), followed by a final chapter: “Quaker Thought and the Present.”

It is notable that Brinton focuses on what Quakers experience and do, rather than on what they believe. In contrast, Wilmer Cooper’s introduction to Quakerism, A Living Faith, is divided into chapters concerned with doctrines, e.g. Quaker View of God, Quaker Understanding of Christ, etc. Patricia Williams uses a framework similar to Brinton’s but begins with theology rather than with religious experience. John Punshon adopts a chronological approach, as does Ben Pink Dandelion.

Brinton’s decision to focus on methodology rather than on doctrine was in keeping with his scientific outlook and training. Throughout the book, Brinton uses metaphors from science that make it appealing to those trained in this discipline.

At the same time, Brinton quotes liberally from early Quaker writers whose rich biblical language conveys the passion and power of their religious experiences. In this way, theology (theory) and history (practice) are combined.

Although Brinton focused on the practice of Quakerism, he also dealt with crucial issues of Christian doctrine in the chapter called “The Light Within as Thought About.” Brinton made it clear at the beginning of this chapter that what unified early Friends was not a common set of beliefs, but a common religious experience that sprung from unprogrammed worship. Even though Brinton privileged this experience over theory, he also saw the importance of “consistent system of ideas.” With this in mind, Brinton was the first to present a systematic Quaker theology for the 20th century. He addressed many of the controversial questions that divided Friends from other Christians, and often divided Friends from each other.

•Is the Bible the ultimate source of authority, or the Inward Light, or both?

•What is the difference between conscience and the Inward Light?

•What role does reason play in Quakerism?

•Is the Light universal? Is there a Christian basis for universalism?

•How do Friends feel about the historical Jesus? What is the Universal Christ?

•What is the Quaker view of the atonement? How has this shaped Quaker attitudes and actions?

•What did Quakers believe about Good and Evil and human responsibility? What about the Fall of Man? Original sin?

•What did Quakers believe about human perfectibility? How do Friends feel about the relation between the Divine and the human?

In addressing these questions, Brinton explored historical precedents and explained their relevance to today's world.

Another important innovation in Brinton’s book was his attempt to address the key theological issues of his day, particularly the neo-Calvinist theology of Karl Barth. Like Barth and the Neo-Calvinists, Brinton recognized the limitations of liberal optimism and saw some validity in Calvin’s dark view of human nature, but he felt that the Neo-Calvinists had gone too far. As L. Hugh Doncaster noted, Brintons suggested that “Quaker historians of this century were influenced, perhaps overinfluenced, by Hegelian idealism; and that now we are facing the challenge of neo-Calvinism. Between these two stands Barclay, ‘pessimistic regarding… ‘natural’ man’s present condition, but optimistic in regard to man’s capacity for regeneration and union with God even in this life.”

Brinton staunchly defended Rufus Jones’s view that Quakerism is essentially a mystical religion which differed dramatically from the Puritanism of its day. This view has been challenged by Hugh Barbour and other Quaker historians, who Brinton felt went too far in their assertions. Brinton also saw the evangelical and holiness movement as fundamentally at odds with “real Quakerism.” This view has also been challenged by evangelical Friends, most recently by Carole Spenser in her book Holiness: the Soul of Quakerism. Certainly, one of the weaknesses of Brinton's argument was his reluctance to acknowledge that his view of Quakerism is a minority position. Pastoral and Evangelical Friends were at the forefront of missionary efforts to spread Quakerism in the 19th and 20th century, and today only 25% of the world's Quakers are unprogrammed Friends.. As Margaret Bacon pointed out, “it is no longer acceptable, as it perhaps was fifty years ago, to write the history of the Society of Friends from the point of view of one's own affiliation.”

Even though Brinton espoused a liberal, modernist viewpoint, he was open to dialogue with those from other branches of Quakerism. He was part of the modern revival of theological discussion among Quaker academics and became involved with the Quaker Theological Discussion Group at its very inception. In the very first issue of Quaker Religious Thought, Brinton's essay on the “Holy Spirit” was published, along with responses from notable Quaker theologians. This exchange among Friends is worth summarizing to give a flavor of the theological views of this period.

Lewis Benson, a Friend who was passionately Christocentric and later founded the New Foundation movement, argued that Brinton overemphasized the “Hellenic” as opposed to Hebrew-Christian side of Quakerism (the Universal Christ Spirit rather than the historic, incarnate Jesus) and did not acknowledge the Trinitarian views of early Friends. Benson, an expert on Fox’s writings, cited passages from Fox’s work acknowledging the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Brinton responds that while Fox occasionally used this traditional formula, most early Friends did not. Penn and Barclay often referred to the Spirit and to Christ in universalist terms. Brinton saw a need for both the universal/impersonal and the particular/personal, and denied that the universal is necessarily “abstract.” According to Brinton, experiencing Spirit as a universal, ineffable presence can be as deeply felt as experiencing Spirit as “I-thou.”

Thomas Brown pointed out “the dangers inherent in religion based only on the Spirit within.” According to Brown, those who rely only on the “Spirit within” run the risk of pride and “idolatry.” Brown also argued for a Trinitarian viewpoint, citing Tillich that the “unity between ultimacy and the concreteness in the living God.” Brinton responded that early Friends had safeguards against spiritual pride: they relied on group discernment and scripture as a way to test the leadings of the Inward Light. In this respect, they were unlike the Ranters and anarchists of today. Finally, Brinton agreed that the Trinity is a “time-honored and suggestive symbol,” but argued that God should not be limited to only three ways of presenting himself to human beings. Why not two, or four, or an infinite number?

Speaking on behalf of pastoral Friends, Charles Thomas argued that there is no reason why the Holy Spirit cannot communicate through pre-arranged worship, as in a sermon. Brinton responded that while it is possible for the Holy Spirit to communicate through this means, prepared talks on religious matters are best presented before or after a Quaker meeting for worship. The distinctive characteristic of Quaker worship is that it offers a unique opportunity for the Holy Spirit to manifest itself spontaneously and without human contrivance. As Brinton noted, “A Quaker meeting is a group search for Truth and seedbed in which individual insights may mature and develop. Such a group exercise of worship is a peculiar and difficult undertaking which may fail more often than it succeeds but three centuries of Quaker practice have proved its power and worth.”

The first issue of Quaker Religious Thought offered a fascinating theological exchange—unlike anything recorded before in a Friends’ publication. It was the beginning of what would prove a lively ongoing dialogue among Friends of different theological perspectives.

Brinton and QRT went in divergent directions, however. Brinton went on to publish articles about theology in Friends Journal, a popular Quaker publication with a wide readership among unprogrammed Friends. QRL became a journal read mainly by academics, although in its early years its circulation climbed to nearly 1,000 readers (a large number for the Religious Society of Friends). Despite the best efforts of this group, most liberal Friends remain theologically illiterate. Chuck Fager has claimed, with some justification, that contemporary Quakers live in an age of theological amnesia. Certainly Brinton tried his best to cure, or at least alleviate, this condition.

Notes on sources:

Introduction to Quakerism, Cambridge University Press, 2009.

J. Theodore Peters, “Remembering Howard Brinton,” Quaker Life, Dec. 1973, p. 30.

Quaker Theology, Issue 7, 2002.

The Quakers in America. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003, p. 67.

The Bulletin of the Friends Historical Association, Vol. 41. Autumn, 1952, #2, p. 138.

Friends for 350 Years, p. xv.

Guide to Quaker Practice, p. 5.

See my article “Howard Brinton and the World Council of Churches" in Quaker Theology.

“Some Current Trends in Theology” by William H. Marwick, Friends Intelligencer, Tenth Month, 11, 1952, p. 583.

“Modern Trends in Theology,” Friends Intelligencer, Fifth Month, 2, 1952, p. 249.

Friends for 350 Years, p. viii.

Quaker Religious Thought, ibid, p. 24.

Latest news from the "Pay Your Taxes Under Protest" Campaign

Did you let your elected officials know how you feel about the way your tax dollars are being spent? Are you happy with huge tax breaks for the rich, increases in military spending, and devastating cuts in education, health care and other social services? Why not go to and let your elected officials know how you feel? Better late than never! (There is no penalty for protesting after the deadline for filing has passed.)

Steve Leeds, a Quaker from Northern California, sent me the following note regarding the Quaker "Pay Your Taxes Under Protest" campaign:

A group of six of Friends from Northern California (Elizabeth Boardman of Davis MM, Bob and Kathy Runyan of Chico MM, Janet and Ed Hale of Palo Alto MM, and Steve Leeds of San Francisco MM) have been continuously meeting and engaging both within CPQM and with Friends from SCQM at the PYM Annual Gathering since 2007. Among some of what this small committee accomplished:

-The statewide Pay Under Protest campaign focusing on Friends within PYM is now complete for this tax season - a total of 99 participants, almost all Quakers. We are pretty sure there were a few others we didn’t hear about who wrote to their congressmen, or will later. And there were many who were sympathetic, but just didn’t get around to it this year.

-Elizabeth, Bob, and Steve facilitated a workshop and display at the 2007 gathering in Redlands.

-We have hosted "meal" tables at the Annual Gathering each year and at periodic CPQM gatherings since 2007.

-We presented a workshop in Claremont in 2010 and disseminated information throughout both Quarterly Meetings by sending and calling MM clerks.

-Elizabeth and Steve visited approximately 13 monthly meetings and Berkeley Friends Church in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

-We have an email list of almost 100 Friends throughout PYM that we disseminate information to on the issue Friends and war taxes.

-Each of us has worked with Friends corporately and individually within our own Monthly Meetings. Janet and Ed Hale were key organizers of a "Federal Budget Pie Party" at Palo Alto MM in March focusing on war taxes.

We are realistic and understand that engaging with Friends on this issue is a long-term project. Friends have a wide variety of views on the issue of Quakers, the Peace Testimony, and their taxes paid to make war. Some Friends don't think about the issue, don't want to, are fearful, think they might go to jail, feel the responsibility of job, family, concerned about the opinions of their peers in their Meeting and beyond, and more reasons. We've learned there is a lot of misinformation on the consequences of taking action.

Hopefully, we can carry forward and work closely with PYM's Peace and Social Order Committee. Any thoughts and ideas you have as clerk how to push this issue forward among Friends and beyond would be much appreciated.

We hope in the future that there will be clarity and specificity about the process for applying to present a workshop at future Annual Gatherings.

Please feel free to contact us if you have questions or ideas about how we can move this issue forward among Friends and ways to connect this work more broadly to PYM.


Elizabeth Boardman, Janet Hale, Ed Hale, and Kathy Runyan, Bob Runyan, and Steve Leeds

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Golden Dove Award for Best Peace Film and Book

The idea of giving an award to the best pictures/animated feature promoting peace and justice came to me because of my role as an uncle. One of my duties as an uncle is to take my nieces and nephews to the movies--a task I don't mind in the slightest since I love animated features. Over the past year I noticed that several of the movies I was taken to by my nieces and nephews had a message that gladdened my heart as a Quaker peacemaker. Instead of showing the good guys vanquishing or killing the bad guys---the staple of Hollywood films--they showed enemies being turned into friends, and bad guys becoming good guys.

The features that most impressed me were "How to Tame Your Dragon," "Megamind," and "Despicable Me"--all of which earned what I called at first the "Quaker seal of approval."

The phrase "Quaker seal of approval" didn't seem very appealing, however. It sounded too much like the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" and reeked of oatmeal. Who'd want to see a film with such a dubious accolade?

Then it occurred to me to call my award "The Golden Dove" award and to involve the interfaith community in selecting the best films, documentaries, animated features and books. Once a year representatives of the religious community of LA  (and eventually the USA) could vote on the Golden Dove and we could have awards events, perhaps at USC and UCLA.

It seems to me that many films (and books) appear that deserve this kind of recognition. For example, the films "I am" by Tom Shadyak and "Of Men and Gods" are ideal candidates for the Golden Dove. And for books, "War is a Lie" by David Swanson is a strong contender. Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace is sponsoring a Peace and Justice Book Fair during the LA Times Book Festival (see Awarding a "Golden Dove" award for best peace book could be a feature of this event.

The "Golden Dove" award would involve an annual awards event, in which authors, producers, and actors would take part. In addition, we could apply for grants to produce educational material to use at churches, mosques, synagogue, schools etc. The possibilities for peace education are endless!

I shared this idea with Susan Stouffer, director of the Peace Center at USC, and she was very enthusiastic. I am currently floating the idea with others in the interfaith to see if it will fly. I have a sense that angel wings are a-flutter....

Stay tuned!

PS  If you like this idea and would like to run with it, please let me know. I don't need credit. I just want to see this happen. As Harry Truman once said, "There is no end to what you can accomplish if you don't seek credit for it."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Have No Fear: Reach out in Love": Kathleen's final Easter sermon

I felt led to write something about Easter, but wasn't sure what to say. It's been almost two years since Kathleen's passing, and I wanted to write about the way she faced death with grace, courage, and dignity--and how her life and death gave me new insights into the meaning of Jesus' death and resurrection.

I pondered and meditated but couldn't think of suitable words, so I searched my archives and found a sermon that Kathleen preached a year before she died, and a few months before she learned she had cancer. It was her last Easter sermon. As usual, Kathleen expressed the heart of Jesus' teachings far better than I ever could. She spoke not only with words, but with her whole life, her whole radiant being.

Two months after she gave this sermon, she discovered she had lymphoma--the same kind of cancer that killed her mother at the same age. I wonder if Kathleen had some inkling of what she was going to face when she spoke these stirring words on Easter Sunday:

I don't want to die a natural death, like a plant. Just fade, whither, and flop over. I don't want that. I want to face death with courage, boldness, and hope, because I know that though I die, I will live, because of the victory given to me through my Lord Jesus Christ.

Truly Kathleen did not want to die. She loved life and did everything possible to escape death and find a cure for her cancer. But she knew that life was more than just a physical experience, and that cancer could never conquer her soul. Her soul was unconquerable because of her deep faith and love.

Kathleen was victorious over her cancer because she faced her final challenge with love, and without fear. She made a whole-hearted effort to fulfill her life's purpose, which was to be "perfect in love." She was grateful for each day, and for each person she encountered. The world became her parish.

I will always cherish her final Easter sermon, which ends with the words:

"Have no fear…reach out in love. For 'No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and His love is perfected in us.'"

Kathleen's words and life express better than I ever could the essence of Easter. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed, when we open our hearts to the Love which never dies. 

Easter Sunday 3/23/08

“Have No Fear”

John 20:19-31

Rev. Kathleen Ross

Have you ever had a sense of panic? There’s that fear that wakes you up in the middle of the night. There’s the anxious sense you have during the day that there’s something very important that you forgot to do. Was it my rent check, or my house payment?… O yes! I’ve got to fill out my taxes!

Fear and panic not only makes our heart race or our minds seize up. Fear also causes us to do some very strange things.

I read, for example, that in 1947 Vladimir Zenchenkov, a government accounting clerk in Russia, returned home from a night of drinking to discover that he had lost 400 ration cards which belonged to his boss.  This was not a good thing. In postwar Russia ration cards were worth your life. To lose these cards meant that Vladimir would be sent to Siberia. So Vladimir’s wife took quick action. The next day she told his coworkers that he had run off with another woman. Then for the next twenty-two years the terrified man never once left his house.  In 1969 Vladimir’s wife died, so he went to the local police station to turn himself in. The police looked up the case and told him that the ration cards had actually turned up in his desk drawer the day after he disappeared in 1947. So for 32 years he had been cowering in his house simply because he panicked. It’s amazing what fear will do to us, isn’t it?

In the story of Jesus’ resurrection, John tells us that the disciples panicked, too:

It was late that Sunday evening, and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors, because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities.

You could hardly blame them, of course. Their leader had just been tortured and killed in a brutal, cruel way by both the Roman and the religious authorities. It was logical to assume that they would be next to be nailed to crosses. Fear had frozen their thinking about the future. There were just two choices – hiding or running away.

So when the women came to the tomb with completely new information that would completely change their plans, it’s no wonder it took a while for this news about Jesus’ resurrection to really sink in. You mean… we don’t have to be afraid, we don’t have to run and hide?

Then when Jesus appears Himself in their midst, they are completely bowled over by this completely surprising and new possibility for their future.

Jesus said to them, "Peace be with you. As the Father sent Me, so I send you.”

Then He breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.

Carlyle Marney told about an old man who was asked once, "Have you ever seen God?" He said, "No, but I have known a couple of Jesuses in my lifetime.” That’s what Jesus meant by breathing new life into the disciples – they were sent to be Jesuses to others.

The St. John writes in his first letter: “

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12)

That is what John is talking about. No one has ever seen God, but what you can see is God's love. And in another place St. John writes: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18).

According to John, love is the continuing testimony of Jesus’ resurrection and ongoing life in the world. And there are two places especially where you can see how love casts out fear. You can see it when you approach death, and you can see it when you approach the neighbor.

Look first at what the end of life looks like when, in fact, God dwells in us. If God's love dwells in us, then "we will have boldness on the day of judgment." That is the way John puts it. We will have boldness on the day of judgment because "there is no fear in love, perfect love casts out fear."

The fear he is talking about is the fear of what is going to happen to us at the end of our life. These days adults prefer not to talk about death. I found out last Friday night at Kids Club that children love talking about what happens when you die. But adults don’t like to talk about it directly. We use euphemisms or rationalize it. We say death is "only natural." We have analyzed the process of dying, the stages of dying and grief. Science assumes that if a process is repeated enough times, it becomes natural.

Well it may be natural for you to die, but not for me. For me, it is the most unnatural thing that I can think of. The natural thing for me is to keep on living. Naturalists tell us there are six phases to human life: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, middle age, old age, and death. I can accept five of the six. Five of them are natural. One of them is unnatural. The sixth is not natural, it is terrible.

A woman's mother died. Somebody hears about it and says to that person, "I am sorry. You have our sympathy." Then she asks, "How old was your mother?"

"Well she was ninety years old."

"Oh, well, then it is all right."

As if it matters how old the person is! As if it is less painful when we lose a parent, or a friend, or a spouse.

Our problem with death is that we are the only animals that know that we are going to die. That knowledge creates anxiety in us. We cover up the anxiety with euphemisms, objectify it with science, and we soften it with cosmetics. That is the way we handle death.

I prefer the biblical way. In the Bible, death is the enemy, "the last enemy." God has sent His son to conquer it, which He did in His resurrection on Easter. Now because He lives, we, too, shall live. So St. John says you can have "boldness" in approaching this enemy called “death”.

I love the word that he uses, "boldness." It is a word that is used to describe somebody going to battle the enemy. It is the way David approached the giant, Goliath, without fear. I can see David going to face Goliath, wearing only a T-shirt saying "No Fear." David rejected the armor of Saul. He said, "I don't need it, because the Lord is with me." John says if God's love abides in you, then that is all you need." There is no fear if God's love abides in you, for perfect love casts out fear."

I say, no more of this natural business. I don't want to die a natural death, like a plant. Just fade, whither, and flop over. I don't want that. I want to face death with courage, boldness, and hope, because I know that though I die, I will live, because of the victory given to me through my Lord Jesus Christ.

That’s why I love the final verse of our Easter hymn written by Charles Wesley, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”. It goes:

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!

Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!

Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!

Where’s thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!

“Where's thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!” That’s the hymn that shows that Christians need have no more fear of death!

That is our hope. No one has seen God. But you can see God's love in the way Christians approach death with boldness, hope, courage and, no fear, "for perfect love casts out fear."

You can also see God's love in the way Christians approach the neighbor. There are no more unequivocal words in all of scripture than these in 1 John 4:20-21:

Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

John was writing to a congregation that had lost its vision, had grown fearful of the future and had closed in on itself, shutting others out. But John reminds us that the Church's vision is outward. When churches turn inward, as so many do, the members argue with one another about all kinds of things. The results are predictable: hurt feelings, divisions, things said that shouldn't be said, recriminations. You know the way it happens.

John writes to them. If you say that you are Christian, then give the evidence. Not only in the way you face death with boldness, but in the way you face your neighbor in love. "For if you say you love God, and you hate your neighbor, then you are a liar." And love for God begins at home in our country, and reaches out around the world.

I’m sure you are as concerned as I am that the neglect of children and youth in our society is already a tragedy. The use of drugs in our society drops to a lower age every year. Forty years ago we were concerned that there were drugs in our colleges and universities. Now they are in the elementary schools. Teenage suicide has doubled in the last ten years. We hold the world's record now for teenage pregnancy.

If we are going to save kids, we give them a caring adult. If there is a caring adult in the life of a young person, the chances are that that person is going to live a more productive, happy, joyful life, even in a troubled environment.

It seems to me that the sign of a civilized society. No matter how sophisticated the society is, or how advanced technologically, or how wealthy it is, it is not civilized if it doesn't care for its young. It seems to me, and also to the writer of the epistle of John, that if a church says it is a church, and is too afraid to do anything about suffering neighbors, then it is lying. That is the kind of blunt language John uses to the Church.

I know that this church is committed to do something about what is happening in our society. Whether it’s addressing the needs of neglected children and teenagers, finding homes for the homeless, treating people of all races with dignity, caring for the disabled, or encouraging our leaders to provide health care for every citizen in this great land. A sure sign of a Christian community is that they are concerned about such things, concerned about those who are neglected in our society. In fact, this church has always been involved in what is happening in our society.

And now we have a new opportunity to courageously step out with love and faith into the future. We are not dead – we are alive! Many of us are excited about the new connection being formed between our congregation and Rolling Hills United Methodist Church through the appointment of Rev. Diane Rehfield to Walteria UMC in July. Among other things, this new partnership will help us serve the needs of the older members of our congregation through their health programs led by their parish nurse, as well as new fellowship opportunities through field trips and other learning programs. Of course, our service to the needy will continue through our partnership with Torrance Korean UMC. And now our outreach to teenagers will be led by Steve Oak, who has begun an English-language Bible study on Friday nights for middle and high school youth from our Kids Club graduates and TKUMC.

We have always said that our priority as a church is to be a place to provide service for the Walteria neighborhood, and now we can continue to do this in new ways. This is a real resurrection time for us as a congregation. The opportunities and joy we share in the Lord will grow as we continue to overcome our fear by reaching out in love to our neighbors near and far.

When Jesus appeared to His disciples He said two times: “Peace be with you!” Then He offered these words of assurance, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit...” 

Why did they need the Holy Spirit? Because He would no longer be with them physically, but He would be a living breath of spiritual life living within them. And look what happened to them! They went from being fearful to being some of the most daring people who have ever walked this earth.  Ridicule could not deter them, or torture or the threat of death. Nothing could stop them. That’s why more than one billion people on this planet today bow at the name of Jesus. Their terror turned to trusting, their fear was replaced by faith. They left the panic room to plant the Gospel in every corner of our world. 

Jesus’ two most important commands were “Love God and one another”, and “Don’t be afraid.” So on His day of resurrection, have no fear…reach out in love. For “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and His love is perfected in us.”

Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Parable of the Family That Went Broke

Rick Jones, a marketing executive at Lockheed Martin, called his family together to share some grim news.

“My job was outsourced,” he explained. "I got a pink slip."

“Oh dear,” said his wife Jill. His children Emily and Rob were, for once, speechless.

“The good news is that I have been offered a new job,” explained Rick. “Unfortunately, it’s only half time, and half the pay, with no benefits.”

“Oh dear,” said Jill. “How will we manage?”

“We will have to make sacrifices,” explained her husband. “We will have to sell our house and move into an apartment.”

“Oh dear, “said Jill. “Is that really necessary?”

“I’m afraid so,” said her husband. “Not only that, we can’t pay the tuition for our kids’ education. They will have to drop out of college.”

“What will we do?” cried Rob and Emily.

“You’ll have to find jobs,” replied their father. “I hear there are openings….at Wall Mart.”

"Oh, Daddy! That's terrible!" cried the children.

"I know," said their father, sadly. "But we have no choice. We're broke."

“What about health insurance?” asked Jill.

“I am making enough to pay for my own,” said her husband. “You and the kids will have to chance it without insurance. Take your vitamins and hope for the best.”

“Oh dear,” said the wife. “What about your Jaguar. It’s worth $50,000. Couldn’t we sell that?”

“No way,” said Rick. “I worked hard for that Jag.”

“And what about your membership in the country club?”

“That’s off the table, too,” said Rick. “What is life without golf?”

“And your summer cabin?”

“The one by the best trout stream in the state?” cried Rick. “You can’t be serious. It would be insane to give that up.”

“What about your gun collection?” asked Emily. “You told us it’s worth millions.”

“I can’t believe you’re suggesting we sell our guns,” replied her father heatedly. “They’re our security, and your legacy. What would we be without the family guns? In fact, I am proposing that your mother get a part-time job so we can pay the storage fees.”

“Oh dear,” said Jill.

“It’s very hard, I know,” said her husband, tears welling in his eyes. “But we have to be realistic. We’re broke.”

With that, he adjourned the family gathering and everyone went their separate ways.


The next day, the children received a call from their mother and rushed to the house.

A moving van was sitting in the driveway and the mother explained her plan to the children.

“I have packed my bags and have the key to the storage unit for our gun collection,” she said with great excitement. “And I have found a dealer willing to buy them for a handsome price.”

“Good job, Mom!” cried the kids.

“You betcha,” she said, grinning. With that, she and the children drove off, sold their guns, moved into a pleasant condo, and lived realistically ever after.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Resurrection and our Quaker Faith

Alana Parkes, a Quaker singer and musician, gave the following testimony about Easter in her album entitled "Grace in Your Face":

"A couple of years ago, I went on a Quaker retreat for Easter weekend. The purpose of this retreat was to consider Jesus' death and resurrection, to figure out what that meant to us, and to our spiritual lives...On the evening of holy Saturday, we gathered in the dark and prayed together, and tried to imagine ourselves as if we were Jesus' friends waiting in the darkness after his death and wondering what would become of us. As I sat there, I was overtaken by a powerful spirit. I felt as if I were one of his friends, as if I were one the the women who had been his disciples. And I felt this powerful sense that my friend had been taken from me and I cried and cried that night. As I sat with my friends and prayed, we turned towards the morning and considered Jesus' resurrection. In that moment my sorrow was transformed and I felt this incredible joy because I learned something new about death: when Jesus said I will not leave you, I will leave my Spirit and my Comforter will always be with you, I knew that was true, and that was true for me. And over the years I was able to cry not only for the death of Jesus, but of my friend Hunter, who died of AIDS when he was only 23 years old....I learned that Hunter hadn't left me, his spirit was with me. And that knowledge has carried me as two of my other friends were infected with this terrible disease. I know that when they pass on, God will take them in His arms and hold them...."
Alana helped to form a Quaker gospel choir whose lead musician, Frederick Evans, died of AIDS in 1994. Never have I heard an album so full of love and life and joy-- yet the specter of death was never far from the minds of its singers.
"AIDS is not only all around us, it's in the middle of us," Alana avows. "As scary as this is, we try not to hide from it....What happens if you stop hiding? When we sing, we lift each other up, and are lifted. We love each other very much and love is the tide that carries us. We are so scared, we are so blessed. Find some friends. Look at what is in the middle of your life and sing it..."
When I heard these words, and the music accompanying them, my heart opened up, and I wept tears of joy. I had just come back from taking a group of Quaker teens to an AIDS hospice center in L.A. The teens had served food and sung Christmas carols to the residents, and it was a very moving experience. During that time of sharing our feelings about AIDS and dying, we came closer together than we ever had before. It was a moment that none of us will ever forget.

Death, and the hope of resurrection, are things that we cannot hide from. How we respond to this mystery says a great deal about who we are, and how we live our lives. There are basically four ways that people respond to the mystery of resurrection: 1) They deny it completely (the skeptical approach) 2) They accept it as an article of faith (the dogmatic approach) 3) They regard it as a symbol (the Jungian approach) 4) They keep an open mind and an open heart (the experiential/existential approach). I would suggest that the fourth approach helps us to get in touch with the heart of our Quaker faith.

To deny the Resurrection entirely is to presume that one has certain knowledge and understanding of the universe and its laws. Such an attitude may seem "scientific" and rational, but it really isn't. A real scientist keeps a mind open to all possibilities, even the miraculous.

On the other hand, to accept the Resurrection as an article of faith means that one is relying on secondary sources--written words rather than a direct experience. The believer runs the risk of placing a distance between himself and what the Resurrection is all about. Such a blind-faith approach may also lead to authoritarianism.

The Jungian perspective appeals to the intellectually minded because it assumes that the Resurrection was a psychological rather than physical reality. The problem with this approach is that we usually do not stake our lives on mere symbols. If the Resurrection is simply an archetype, like that of the mythological Osiris, we can contemplate its meaning with calm detachment. There is no rolling away of the stone, no frantic women running from an open grave in amazement and terror, and no smell of fish when Christ communes with His disciples.

For those who staked their life on the Cross, the death of Jesus was not a mere symbol. A real man suffered and died on a real cross, just a real men and women have suffered and died for the Truth throughout history. What, then, can we know for certain about the resurrection?

The most honest, the most scientific, and perhaps the most Quakerly, answer is: we don't know. And we never will know for certain. Even if tape recorders and video had existed in the time of Jesus, there would still be an element of doubt. There is a limit to scientific and human knowledge.

What we do know is that there was something about Jesus that keeps pushing away the stone from his tomb. Generation after generation, lives are changed, incredible risks are taken, and painful sacrifices are made, because people know in their hearts that Christ lives and is dwelling within and among us.

This, to me, is the real miracle of the Resurrection.

Many leaders have used personal charisma to persuade their immediate followers to "martyr themselves." But Jesus was somehow able to influence people who never knew him to make the ultimate sacrifice. Paul knew Jesus only from a vision, yet this hard-headed, pious Jew was willing to gamble everything, even his life, on the Resurrection. Why? Because he knew in his heart, from deeply felt personal experience, that Christ cannot die, that Truth cannot be destroyed, and that each of us can, through our faith, can become embodiments of the Truth.

Thousands of Quakers and millions of Christians have followed Christ's example and willingly, even cheerfully faced persecution and death.

I don't know if I have that kind of faith. Reflecting on this question, a very honest Quaker woman once said to me, "I haven't been tested yet."

Although I haven't had to face the ultimate test, I have, like most of us, been "quizzed" on my faith by daily challenges. Hardly a day goes by that I don't have to choose between trust and cynicism, between taking risks and playing it safe, between holding grudges and forgiving those who have hurt me. Each day I must choose between affirming and denying Life. Sometimes I make the wrong choices, and live to regret it But when I choose Life, when I choose to love instead of hate, to forgive instead of judge, to give of myself instead of hold back, I feel a joy and power that is impossible to put into words.

Meister Eckard once said, "The important question is not whether Jesus was born in Jerusalem two thousand years ago, but whether Jesus is born in my heart today." That is also the most important question about Easter. What does it matter if Jesus was resurrected two thousand years ago if I am not resurrected today?

Perhaps that is why the Quaker song puts the Christ story in the first person. In singing Sydney Carter's "The Lord of the Dance," we are obliged to identify with Christ:

The whipped me and stripped me and they hung me on high,
And they left me there on a cross to die.
They buried my body and they thought I'd gone,
But I am the dance and I still go on.

They cut me down and I leapt up high,
I am the life that'll never, never die.
I'll live in you if you'll in me.
'I am the Lord of the Dance,' said he.

As I reflect on the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection, I feel immense gratitude that a man named Jesus was willing to gamble his life on the divine potential of us flawed human beings. When a disciple said, "Show me the father," Jesus responded, "If you have seen me, you have seen the father." This statement has often been interpreted to mean that Jesus uniquely embodies the image of God. Such a view is in a way very comforting. It says, "I don't have to do any redemptive work. Jesus will do it all for me." But Jesus did not let his disciples off the hook that easily. What he made clear is that no savior, and no priest, and no paid minister can "do" religion for us. We must work out our salvation for ourselves, in fear and trembling, in love and hope, because just as God can become like us, we can become like God. Jesus says in a seldom quoted passage (it's far too revolutionary!): "To tell you the truth, anyone who trusts in me will not only do what I have been doing, he will do even greater things..." (John 14:12). What a staggering thought! If we trust in the divine potential within us, we will not only equal, but surpass what Jesus did.

This is too radical an idea for conventional minds, but it has been the revolutionary faith of Friends since the time of Fox, and it has inspired incredible acts of faith, courage, and love. The redemptive power of God--the eternal Christ---lives in each one of us. And if we are willing to speak our truth, risk rejection and remain faithful to the Light, we will come to know what James and William Penn meant when they spoke of the "crown of life":

Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love God--- James 1:12

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Honoring Tom Fox, Quaker martyr to pacifism, on Palm Sunday...

"The only thing that will tip the balance between planting [olives trees, symbols of peace] and uprooting is for all peoples, Jewish, Muslim and Christian to work together in solidarity. We must pray together. We must work together. We must continue to bring light to those from all faiths whose hearts are trapped in darkness. We must all find ways to root ourselves in the creation of peace." --Tom Fox, Quaker peace activist and martyr, qt. in "Tom Fox Was My Friend, Yours, Too" (ed by Chuck Fager and available through Kimo Press,

It seems appropriate to honor Tom Fox on this day when his friend Jim Loney will be leading a Palm Sunday Peace Parade in Pasadena. (See This parade was started by Mennonites and brings together people of many faith traditions to honor the "Prince of Peace." In my Universalist blog I talk about how Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem can be interpreted as a political demonstration challenging the Roman empire and its notion of peace (the Pax Romana). See

Tom Fox and Jim Loney were two of four Christian Peace Team members who went to Iraq to stand in solidarity with the Iraqi people (not to convert them) after the US invasion and occupation. They were kidnapped by some radical insurgents in November 2005. After 118 days, all were released, except for Tom, who was brutally murdered.

No Friend is better known throughout the world today, especially in the Muslim world. Fox speaks to the heart of our Quaker faith. Like Mary Dyer, Mary Fisher and other early Friends who were called to travel in the ministry, Fox was willing to risk his life to bear witness to the power of love and the Inward Light.
Fox was also part of the interfaith movement. Although he considered himself a Christian, he was open to spiritual insights from other religions, such as Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam. He went to Israel/Palestine and listened to all sides in this tragic conflict. He lived side-by-side with the Iraqi people and took up their cause and their concerns. He showed by his example what it means to “walk cheerfully on the earth, answering that of God in everyone.”

When news of Fox’s death was announced, he was deeply mourned by the Muslim community, which will always remember and honor him. A young Muslim man I know named Yasir Shah wrote a letter to Friends Bulletin when he learned of Tom Fox’s death: “I’m heart-broken to say that it’s only recently that I’ve come to find out about such a courageous and dedicated man…. I believe that Tom Fox’s family, the American people, and the Iraqi people were blessed to have someone of his caliber to fight for them…Tom Fox embodied the characteristics of the leaders of the civil rights movement….[and] I pray that we increase our unity in the stand against injustice, and continue to strive for the rights of all humans.”

Friday, April 15, 2011

ICUJP Peace and Justice Book Fair

You are cordially invited to this interfaith event, in which I am a panelist.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Camouphlage-colored easter eggs available at CVS!

Corporate America has drafted the Easter Bunny into the war effort and is producing camouphlage Easter eggs. What next? Crucifixes that are actually missiles?

I totally support Nancy's suggestion that we go to CVS and let them know that we don't want a holiday honoring the Prince of Peace to be militarized.

CVS Makes War on Easter

by Nancy Aykanian

Don’t be surprised when you walk down the Easter aisle of your local CVS to find that the company has decided to do its part for America’s war effort. Amongst the usual pastel-colored eggs, chocolate bunnies and bright-yellow chicks, there’s a new egg in town for America’s children to discover during their Easter egg hunts this year: the war egg. For $3.99, you can buy a package of camouflage-colored eggs, with matching green and white armed plastic soldiers—the “toy prizes,” that, just like the jellybeans of Easters past, are, according to CVS, “Perfect for Easter egg hunts.”

Shocking? Perhaps. Surprising? Well, not really, given the increasing militarization of every aspect of American culture and society, and the aggressive ‘targeting’ of young people. What is particularly alarming, however, is that it appears that promoting and normalizing war to high school and middle school-age children is no longer enough; it seems that we have to start reaching out to toddlers, too; or rather, children between the ages of 6-12, especially young boys. While war toys and playing war are nothing new, what is new about this particular toy is that it was manufactured specifically for Easter, a time of year when Christians around the world celebrate life, rebirth and renewal. There is nothing in the Easter story, as far as I remember, that even remotely embraces death, destruction and war—except, that is, for corporate America in 2011, and its war-for-profit version of the story and mass marketing of it.

That the CVS Corporation deemed it appropriate to produce and sell militarized Easter eggs to our nation’s youngest children shows a serious lack of judgment, sensitivity and decency, which would be the generous reading of the situation. What is more likely is that it is yet another example of a laissez-faire corporate mind-set that operates within the (il)logic that anything goes if a company can make a buck. We may never know the truth behind the decision to associate war with Easter (what’s next drone Reindeer?): was it due to the ignorance and insensitivity ‘of a few bad eggs,’ who saw the product as ‘just another cool toy’; or was it, in fact, a more deliberate and informed decision on the part of the higher ups in the company’s chain of command? What we do know, however, is that CVS either lacks, or chooses to ignore, a coherent policy of what is and is not appropriate to sell to children, not to mention a clue about what might, furthermore, be highly offensive to its adult customers. (And while it is true that the chain sells lots of products that are not good for children, this particular item is both dangerous and disturbing for all that it represents,)

It is imperative that CVS be held accountable for its decision to endorse the sale of these “Easter” eggs, which specifically target the youngest, most vulnerable and impressionable members of our citizenry who are growing up in an increasingly militarized and militaristic society.

For more, go to:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Palm Sunday Peace Parade: a Quaker/Mennonite perspective

Four years ago, when my wife asked me to preach on Palm Sunday, I based my sermon on Marcus Borg's book The Last Week of Jesus, in which he argues that Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem during Holy Week was making a political statement--a rejection of the Roman empire and its militaristic notion of peace. Only later did I discover that the Mennonites organize an annual peace parade on Palm Sunday in Pasadena with the same intention--to reject the militarism of the American empire and to affirm Jesus' pacifist teachings. This year the speaker will be James Loney, who was one of the Christian Peace Team members who was taken hostage in Iraq along with the Quaker Tom Fox (who was martyred). To find out more, see:

Here's what I said in my sermon:

I’d like to begin by sharing with you some history of Bible times provided by theologian Marcus Borg’s insightful new book, The Last Week of Jesus.

The day which Christians celebrate as Palm Sunday, the first day of the Jewish festival of Passover. Borg informs us that there were actually two processions entering Jerusalem on that day. Christians celebrate each year Jesus’ parade with palm branches. However, most of us don’t know that there was a second procession -- Pontius Pilate’s parade.

You may be surprised to learn that Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea/Palestine, did not usually stay in Jerusalem. He lived in the governor's residence in Caesarea. Caesarea was an important port city about 70 miles northwest of Jerusalem, on the Mediterranean coast of Palestine. Besides being a seaport, Caesarea was also a tourist haven, with modern Roman architecture and all the advantages of civilization.

Only during important Jewish festivals, like Passover, did Pilate reluctantly leave his plush governor’s mansion. He always took a contingent of well-armed soldiers to march to Jerusalem. He did this for security reasons. During the Jewish holidays, Jews were especially hostile to the Roman empire. The vast majority of Jews were angry with Roman occupation of their country and stir up riots. Pilate’s army came to insure stability and to let the Jews know who was in charge.

The Jewish common people had good reason to be hostile to the Roman Empire. Both the Romans, and their wealthy Jewish collaborators, taxed the common people almost to death. To pay these exorbitant taxes, poor people had to sell their lands and become day laborers. That’s why Jesus told parables about workers without land. The workers in Judea/Palestine lived as precariously as day laborers, homeless folk, and migrant workers do today.

These landless workers resented their Roman overlords. They were like the insurgents in today’s Middle East. Groups of angry Jews, called the Zealots, formed “cells” and engaged in acts of terrorism against the occupying imperial army.

Now, Pilate did not see himself as an oppressor, but as a bringer of peace. Peace was the official policy of the Roman empire. The Pax Romana, the peace of Rome, it was called. Whether people wanted it or not, the Pax Romana brought the advantages of civilization—beautiful buildings, roads, trade, and prosperity. Of course these perks were only for those who were smart enough or powerful enough to seize advantage of these opportunities Rome provided. Pilate, like most Romans, felt that he represented a superior civilization, just as Americans do today. Pilate looked down on religious Jews as ignorant and superstitious. Why couldn’t they be just like other nations and accept Roman rule?

Because Pilate was concerned about security and peace, I think you can see why Pilate would not have been pleased with Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. Pilate had no doubt heard about this upstart prophet/trouble maker from Galilee. His spies would have told him that everywhere Jesus went, crowds of poor people hailed them as a great prophet. Some even called him the Messiah, the King of the Jews. Jesus was a dangerous man who needed to be kept under surveillance. He might even be a terrorist, or someone giving material support to terrorism. That was the purpose of Pilate’s security parade.

Now, what about Jesus? What kind of parade was he sponsoring?

We know from the Gospels that Jesus planned his arrival in Jerusalem very carefully. As Marcus Borg notes, what Jesus did had the earmarks of a planned political demonstration.

Take, for instance, the fact that he rode into the city on a donkey. This was political symbolism which every Jew in Jerusalem would immediately have understood.

For a Jewish religious leader to ride a donkey into Jerusalem was the fulfillment a well-known prophesy. According to the prophet Zechariah (9:9-11), the Messiah would come to Jerusalem riding humbly on a donkey, just like the great King David. Those who shouted “hosannah” to Jesus expected him to act like King David and drive out the Roman Goliaths and restore Jewish independence.

No one knew how Jesus would do this. But Jesus had a reputation as a miracle worker. So many people were willing to believe that somehow he might be able to bring about the social transformation they yearned for.

During the rest of this Passover week, Jesus’ dramatic actions suggested that he was, in fact, about to bring in a powerful transformation of society. He challenged the religious authorities at the Temple. He challenged Roman tax collection policy. When he said, “Give to Caesar what he Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s” this could be interpreted to mean, “Give God everything, and give Caesar nothing.” After all, the book of Job tells us that the whole world and its riches belong to God (Job 41;11) . Jesus’ radical words made him very popular with the common people but very unpopular with the ruling authorities.

By the end of the week, Jesus was arrested, tried, tortured, and sentenced to be executed in a tortuous, humiliating way. From a worldly point of view, Jesus’ plan failed. He didn’t have sufficient power or clout to be a worldly king of the Jews. From a worldly standpoint, what Jesus did was very foolish.

That’s why the people and many of his followers turned on him. Clearly this Jesus guy was no miracle worker. He was just another foolish would-be Messiah.

Jesus’ death should have been the end of the story. Many charismatic leaders had come to Jerusalem just like Jesus did, and were killed by the Roman authorities. But Jesus’ death was different. His death on the cross changed the world.

What made it different is what happened to his followers after his death. That will be the theme of next Sunday’s sermon.

I’d like to conclude by talking about what the Palm Sunday procession means to us today.

I gained new insight into Palm Sunday in March 1992 when I went to the nuclear test site in Nevada to protest the testing of nuclear bombs. I went during Holy Week and the theme for that year was taken from the the Gospel of Luke. In that Gospel, the religious authorities complain about how the crowds are cheering Jesus. And Jesus answered them, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out." (Luke 19:37-40, ESV).

Those of us who went to the protest were not only deeply concerned about the wisdom of ever using powerful nuclear bombs. We were also affirming the power of God and the wisdom of Jesus.

By the world’s standards, we were being very foolish. But we were in good company. Many religious people, of every faith tradition, have been arrested at this test site, including members of our church, and our bishop, Mary Ann Swenson. We haven’t yet persuaded our nation to end its addiction to violence, but as Christians we would be foolish not to try.

The rulers of our country believe that they are wise, and those of us who oppose them are foolish and naive. They spend billions on the military, and mere peanuts on what is called “soft power”—the power of diplomacy and negotiation. The results of violence have been disastrous, yet they still call us fools!

Looking back, we see parallels with what happened to the Roman Empire. As Rome grew more and more rich and powerful, it grew more and more corrupt. When the empire was teetering on the brink of disaster, the Emperor Constantine embraced Christianity. Sad to say, he missed the whole point of Jesus’ message – the power of compassion. Instead, Constantine put crosses on the ensign of the Roman army and sent them out to conquer the world in the name of Christ. This was a sick perversion of Jesus’ message. Today, many people still believe that you can fight wars for Christ. What’s worse, many believe that the US is engaged in a holy war to bring Christ to the Middle East.

What is Jesus’ real message? It’s so simple every child knows it and can recite it. Love God. Love your enemy. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.

“Loving your enemy” means talking with them, listening to them, trying to figure out why they are angry with you, and trying to find ways to make peace. As a nation, loving your enemy does not mean letting them walk all over you. It does mean diplomacy. It means giving food to the poor instead of selling them weapons. It means supporting international law and treating every nation with respect.

Imagine how things would improve if we applied these Christian principles to our foreign policy!

Foolish as it may seem to those who are fans of Caesar and the empire, Jesus’ wisdom of compassion can actually work in the real world. We know from the example of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. These men were able to transform India and the US without resorting to violence.

But to make compassion work, you need to be willing to take risks, to put your life on the line for what you believe in as much as any soldier on a battlefield. Forty years ago, almost to this day, Martin Luther King stood in the pulpit at Riverside Church in New York City and announced that he was opposed to the Vietnam War. Among other things, King called for a revolution, a revolution of values:

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just."…. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

In the face of this spiritual death and destruction, King challenged the religious community to speak out: “Silence is betrayal. We can’t be silent any longer about the evils of war and economic exploitation.”

These prophetic words aroused the anger of many in power who had supported King’s Civil Rights work. A year after King gave this message at Riverside Church, on April 4, 1968, he was shot down in a motel in Memphis, TN. United Methodist pastor Rev Jim Lawson, and many others, see King’s death not as a political assassination, but as a kind of crucifixion.

Like King, Jesus also did not mince words when he went to Jerusalem and confronted the worldly powers. When he went to the Temple and overturned the tables of the money changers, he said:

“My house was supposed to be house of prayer for the nations. You’ve turned it into a den of thieves.”

These prophetic words infuriated the religious authorities who profited from their collaboration with the Romans. That’s why the chief priest went to Pontius Pilate and told him that this trouble maker had to be stopped.

The Romans killed Jesus’ body, but they could not kill his spirit. This spirit lives today among those who boldly say, “Religious communities must not bless war.”

Jesus was the Prince of Peace, but he was no fool. Like Martin Luther King and Gandhi, Jesus knew that peace came with a price and he was willing to pay that price.

The question facing all of us today is: Whose parade will you join, Caesar’s or Christ’s?

I hope that as we lift up our palms today and celebrate the Prince of Peace, we will say “No” to the power of empire and “Yes” to power of God.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Time to let your elected officials know how you want your taxes spent...

Are you sick of the Pentagon receiving the biggest slice of the federal budget pie? Do you feel education and social service should not be starved, while the war makers fatten? Check out this "pie chart" created by the kids of Palo Alto Meeting. This was a wonderful way to convey to kids (and adults) just as misguided our budget priorities are in the United States. The biggest slice went to the Pentagon (30%) while the smallest slices went to Labor (3%) and Veterans (4%). Education got 10%--hardly enough for someone on Weight Watchers.

You can find a more conventional pie-chart, with some concrete steps about what you can do to shift America's budget priorities at and

There is a movement among Quakers here in California to "pay under protest" their income tax and to write letters to their elected officials letting them know how we feel about the misguided budget priorities in DC. Here's the letter I sent out this week to President Obama, Senators Boxer and Feinstein, and my Representative Karen Bass:

Dear Mr President,

I am paying my taxes under protest this year because I am appalled that  taxes for the rich are being cut, and most big multinational corporations pay less taxes than average Americans, and in many instances pay nothing at all. For example, between 2007-09, the country’s top five companies (by market capitalization) have paid between 4.5% and 25.8% in taxes--far less than the average middle class tax payer.

While big corporations and the rich are given tax breaks, social services for the poor and middle class are being slashed, and the military budget is being treated like a sacred cow.

Our bloated military budget is sucking all the resources from the social services, education, r and d, and infra-structure development that Americans desperately need if we are going to continue to be a first-rate nation.

That's why I am paying my taxes under protest. I want my tax dollars invested in schools, green jobs, energy conservation, parks, libraries, etc. I want the rich to pay their fair share of taxes, and for big corporation to pay what they owe.

Yours in friendship,

Anthony Manousos

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Entering Jerusalem: Speaking Truth to Power

In this reflection on Quakers and Easter, I consider how we sometimes need  to risk being rejected in order to be faithful to Spirit's prophetic leadings. Several years ago, I had an experience that gave me a sense of what it means to be a prophet. The war in Iraq had broken out, and there were mixed feelings in my Meeting about how to respond, and so we had done nothing. After attending an event commemorating the assassination of Martin Luther King,  I told Friends that I had gone to this demonstration with the intention to get arrested, but decided not to do so because I had an appointment with my tax accountant. I later felt guilty. I was not living in the spirit of Martin Luther King, but rather playing it safe like a middle class. I told the Meeting that over $500 of my tax dollars was going to pay for the war in Iraq and that was about the same amount that Friends give to support our Meeting. "If we don't do something to oppose war," I said, "What kind of Friends are we?"

After I gave this message, which was really a confession about my own feelings of inadequacy and guilt, an attender of our Meeting stormed out of the meetinghouse angrily. Another member sent me an email saying I was a "knee jerk liberal." It was not a pretty scene, but it could have been much worse.

I later realized that those who give prophetic ministry should not expect to be appreciated in their own Meeting. Certainly Jesus was not appreciated when he went to Jerusalem to share his radical gospel of Love.

This entry is about "speaking Truth to power in love" and was written fifteen years ago when I first became acquainted with a remarkable peace activist named Sis Levin, who at that time was working for the American Friends Service Committee. It begins by recalling the radical faithfulness and courage of early Friends:

In that year [1654] a large company of Quaker evangelists, not quite seventy in number, spread out through the kingdom in pairs like the seventy sent forth in Luke 10. Known as the 'Valiant Sixty' by modern Friends they began to take their message into all parts of the country. In the few years that followed many became leaders of the Society, and some were to die in prison....For some reason the first Quaker preachers at both Oxford and Cambridge seem to have been women. Each group was roughly handled. The seats of learning dealt out beatings for those who dared disturb their fragile tranquillity...(63-64)

At Brigflatts Meeting Anne Wilson stared accusingly at Sam Bownas and said, 'A traditional Quaker; thou comest to meeting as thou went from it, and goes from it as thou came to it, but art no better for thy coming; what wilt thou do at the end?' (135- 36)

---John Punshon, Portrait in Grey

"George Fox is alive and well and living in Pasadena." This thought crossed my mind as I watched a film about Sis Levin, a woman who for a while was director of the AFSC's Middle East program here in Southern California. When Sis's husband Jerry, a CNN Bureau Chief, was kidnapped and held hostage in Lebanon in 1983, neither the Reagan Administration nor CNN did anything to help; in fact, they tried to silence the families of those who came to known as the "forgotten hostages." After a long, agonizing period of waiting and praying, Sis finally found the courage to "speak truth to power." She didn't just write polite, carefully worded letters. Aided by Friends such as Landrum Bolling (former president of Earlham college), she took her case to the media, and to her own faith community. In the movie, she is shown squirming in her pew as Episcopal clergymen conduct a "peace and justice" service. Unable to stand it any longer, she rises and exclaims,

How can we talk about peace in Central America and other parts of the world and ignore what is happening in the Middle East, in the Holy Land, the source of our faith?
As she passionately explains her concern, some shout, "Shut up and sit down," while others insist, "Let her speak." Leaving the church in an uproar, Levin rushed out. Neither she nor her church would ever be the same.

This kind of impassioned behavior was typical of George Fox and early Friends. By entering the public arena and speaking out from the depths of his heart, Fox felt that he was following in the footsteps of Jesus, who confronted the religious leaders of his time on their home turf, the Temple of Jerusalem. Nowadays few of us have the courage to take such risks. We prefer to withdraw into our cozy meetinghouses and meditate. We are reluctant to confront one another or the powers that be. "Comfortable" has become our favorite watchword. As a result, most of us are what Anne Wilson called "traditional Quakers."

Courage was the distinguishing characteristic of Quaker life in its spiritually vital early days. In the first decades of the Quaker movement, over 15,000 Friends were arrested and confined to horrible dungeons where many died. Others lost all their property and legal rights. Those who traveled around England spreading the good news of the Peaceable Kingdom came to be called "the Valiant Sixty, " and for good reason: most suffered persecutions comparable to those endured by Soviet dissidents. When Russian historian Tatiana Pavlova first read about early Quakers, what impressed her most was their willingness to run risks and make enormous personal sacrifices. As a Russian familiar with totalitarian repression, she found it incredible that a hundred and sixty-four Quakers signed a petition asking to take the place of those who had been imprisoned for their religious views.

When I encounter stories of such courage and faith, I wonder, "How does one get that kind of courage?"

I suspect that for most of us, it starts with small actions. It might be something as minor as refusing to sign a draft card or to take an oath.

There are basically two forms of courage: the first arising from a natural, and the second from a spiritual base. Both involve discipline. Natural courage is associated with the warrior; spiritual courage with the peacemaker and healer. Warriors live by a code that emphasizes courage, loyalty and duty. These virtues are essentially externally motivated, and so are their rewards: medals, public recognition, and "glory." A soldier's courage is not to be taken lightly, however. Gandhi used to say that one could not be a true peacemaker if one did not have at least as much courage as a warrior.

The courage of the healer and peacemaker springs from a deeper source, the power of love. As the Gospels put, "perfect love casts out all fear." Those who are motivated by love are willing to take risks that go far beyond the call of duty. They are sometimes willing to "lay down their lives for their Friends" even when their only reward is resistance, rejection, or even disgrace.

Evidence of this self-sacrificing love can be found in all spiritually centered activists. Woolman affirmed that he was "moved by a motion of love" when he worked tirelessly on behalf of the oppressed and met with frequent rebuffs from Friends. Sis Levin became a peacemaker first out of love for her husband, but finally out of a love of truth and justice. Working with Muslims who were victims of war, she learned to appreciate them as much as she appreciated Christians and Jews.

Not all acts of courage and love are as conspicuous and newsworthy. Many equally significant acts of faith go unsung and unnoticed, except by the Spirit that knows and sees all. It takes courage to face divorce or rejection and not become bitter. It takes courage to face a long-standing, festering conflict and continue to hope and work for reconciliation. It takes courage to face illness or the loss of a loved one and not lose faith in God's love. It takes courage to affirm the gospel of love and forgiveness in a world seething with violence, self-righteousness, and grievance-collecting. Perhaps the greatest act of courage is to face up to deep-seated problems in oneself and in one's faith community, and do all one can to bring about change.

The spiritual life of an authentic faith community is sustained not by rules and procedures, nor by traditions and customs, but by acts of courage and commitment that spring from love. If Jesus had waited till all his disciples "felt comfortable" with his decision to risk death in Jerusalem, if George Fox had waited until a committee gave its approval for him to launch his equally dangerous ministry, it is doubtful that these men would have been allowed to proceed. Every meaningful action entails facing up to the possibility of rejection and death.