Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Kingdom Strategy

How should Friends respond to ____?

I expect that you, like I, approach such questions by thinking.

That is, your first impulse is to look at the (probably ghastly) situation, consider the position of the Society of Friends within existing political structures, try to deduce upon which levers we might best fling our massive bulk.

We aren't massive? Well, okay, so how are we going to Save the World?

Guess what? We aren't.

If the world is going to be saved, God's going to have to do it. Probably using Friends for the purpose, among other good people. And we aren't forbidden to use our minds in the process.

But where are we putting our faith? In God's ability to put our minds to use?--or primarily in the strategic use of our minds?

I'm not just saying that this comes close to being a dangerous form of idolatry, and that you people need to watch out for it! I'm not just formally including myself as part of the problem, out of an effort to be fair! When I'm presented with a problem, the first thing I do is to try to figure it out.

I'm trying to figure this out now... Okay, God, how should I put this? What's going on that I should try to explain? (& Who's doing the explaining here, anyhow, my mind or Yours?)

I've read, and believe, that it's a good practice to ask, first. That God's mind sees farther than ours can--and that we can atune our minds to God's, via striving to make a habit of asking.

But if I'm not watching myself constantly, that isn't what I do!


Nancy A said...

There is a funny circular nature to the idea of God saving the world and of praying for God to save the world. God acts through us. So when we pray for peace, social justice, environmental renewal etc., when we finish our prayer, the task is sitting there before us. "You're right," God seems to say, "so then, go answer your prayer."

God's answer is our task. If that of God is within us, then the steering mechanism of saving the world is in us too.

So ironically, ultimately, the world will be saved by us. One person at a time, one vote at a time. Just as it always has.

I think what might be spiritually dangerous are half-prayers -- that is, asking for the answers but not submitting to them.

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

"The glory of this day [in which Quakerism has arisen at last] ... is that blessed principle of Light and Life of Christ, which we [Friends] profess.... It was by this we were first touched, and effectually enlightened, as to our inward state.... In that day we judged not after the sight of the eye, or after the hearing of the ear; but according to the light and sense this blessed principle gave us, we judged and acted in reference to things and persons, ourselves and others, yea, towards God our maker. For being quickened by it in our inward man, we could easily discern the difference of things, and feel what was right, and what was wrong, and what was fit, and what not, both in reference to religion and civil concerns."

— William Penn, A brief account of the rise and progress of the people called Quakers (preface to George Fox's Journal [1694]), §VI

Note that while Penn gave all credit to God, not human beings, for the necessary wisdom, he nevertheless wrote, "we judged and acted ... we could discern" — not "God judged and acted through us" or "God could discern".

Such was the early Quaker view of how such things work, and it seems pretty accurate to me. God supplies the insight; our own wisdom, without His correction, is quite inadequate. But we are the discerners and the doers in the situation, and it is our duty to discern and to do.

forrest said...

Jesus said to love God using all our faculties...

As Nancy says here, God's steering mechanism is at work within us, and within our ways of deciding.

And as Massey says, we need to discern and do, ourselves.

But what are we deciding, discerning, doing?

Do we ever get to say, "Okay, I've placed myself under God's authority, therefore my decisions from here on out are automatically His"?

Remember the wife in the story, who only made the unimportant decisions, including the discernment of which decisions were unimportant?

David Carl said...

"Do we ever get to say, 'okay, I've placed myself under God's authority, therefore my decisions from here on out are automatically His'?"

That, it seems to me, is what leads to all the horrors perpetrated in the name of religion. That I once had a genuine opening does not guarantee that everthing frome here on out is a leading of the spirit. We do need to keep turning back to God for continuing guidance. We can learn to distinguish between the fresh, spontaneous (to us at least) nature of the holy spirit, as opposed to the clever use of our accumulated and "automatically applied" knowledge.

Quakers and Sexual Diversity said...

Elton Trueblood said at PYM in 1947: “We do not seek to make all people Quakers. Quakerism, as we have known it, is not good enough. What we desire is that all people be brought into a far more ideal society than any we have known. If Quakerism ever helps to usher in that larger and more ideal society, it will have done its peculiar work.”

To bring all people into a far more ideal society is a real calling. For me this means taking time to be prayerfully silent while trying to bring greater Peace to all that I can. This does not mean demanding peace in the world, but to be loving in all actions. It's not easy, especially in some of my work with Conservative Christians and Fundamentalist Liberals (I'm a gay man), but when is truly done not in my name but in God's name, and with his/her strength of love, it's powerful.

I find the Prayer of St. Francis ("Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace") is a wonderful guide to doing this work.