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157 Turn out the lights? No!

Perpetuation of the group concerns both religious and secular institutions. This article expands Article 153 (using the same Quaker setting) to stimulate growth through invention. As we seek "truth," we tend to become stuck in it as if it were a place rather than a developing organism.

Lights on

I was in an LDS service capacity once where the other participants were gradually moving out of town, reducing the available work force. We developed a saying "would the last person out of the committee please turn off the lights." I don't want us to turn off the lights on my Quaker Meeting.

Not negative:

  1. There seems to be a feeling that because America is losing interest in religion, our faith group will atrophy and possibly disappear as others have in the past.
  2. Senior members of our group sounded a strong note of reason: namely, the question of relevance. Why should anyone far from the location support a museum?
  3. Watching the Quaker downstate population die off appears to give objectivity to the expected demise of the Yearly Meeting campus, a place I call "heaven in a cornfield."

Are we going to succumb? Do we regularly accept our own excuses?

Let's view the above steps as positive steppingstones. Let's also think about the fact that Judaism has survived 7,000 years because of its flexibility. It ain't the old outfit anymore.

Frankly, I'm reinventing Quakerism. If that turns out futile, my energy goes into promoting Ernstraud Philosophy as a new social movement. I have broad cognitive categories and don't see my tinkering as a threat to the organization. I see it as an invitation to grow. [In contrast, top-down religions are not prospects for growth. They have driven me away, to nontheist ethical humanism.]


Early in my Quaker experience (starting with coming to The University of Chicago in 1961), I found the currently used Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice much more appealing, satisfying, and useful than the Bible. It was realistic description of the good in humanity. A similar positive perspective requires effort to find in the Bible where it is hidden underneath the condemnation of humanity.

Early Quaker writings don't depart sufficiently from the Bible to emphasize the positive creatures we are becoming. Let us not focus on human weaknesses we are leaving behind. Instead of decrying war, leave that behind and realize the society where war is not a useful tool. Concentrate on the good we do by living on a higher plane.

Of course, the Bible presents interesting literature alongside the companion Greek mythology. The early Quakers are worthy of the same respect as the ancient Greek philosophers. With full appreciation of that, we must not copy either. It is a new world now.


Two thoughts have been growing:

a) Our function is not to help others participate in traditional Quaker practices. Rather, let us practice so close to those around us that we become one with them on fresh, morally sound, foundations. We are not growing the fold; we are leavening the loaf.

b) The above step does not happen on our turf. It happens where the people are. I love the advice of Lau-Tsu:

Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say 'We have done this ourselves.'

If people do not come to our campus, or do not attend organized worship sessions, that need not detract from their practicing our Testimonies with us (perhaps unconsciously) as we together accomplish their ends. [Making the campus a more secular retreat center can be a brilliant use of a precious jewel.]

None of the above is concrete. Applied to any organization, it is abstract wishful fantasy that should be considered. The point is that our organization's fate is up to us. Social progress will be relevant to people's perceptions whether or not it comes from us. If we are attuned to the direction of history, we are on track; we do not need to worry about extinction. We will increase to the level at which we are relevant. Dr. King assures us that the arc of history bends toward justice. I think we all want to go there together.

It is a question of mindset: let us not shrink; let us GROW-even if it means being something we are not yet.

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