A Friend After 50 Years

A record of one journey into a peculiar type of Quaker Christianity, and a bit of silliness to boot.

Location: Arkansas

Monday, March 13, 2006

Check in

Its been awhile since I posted. I do this more when I'm really seized by something...sort of like those who say of vocal ministry in meeting for worship that their "test" is they speak if they just can't hold it in.

But as its been so long, I almost feel compelled to blog just to keep the cobwebs away.

Had a most disturbing medical emergency a few weeks ago in the family. The patient has recovered, but not sure I have. Things seem different: although not bad necessarily, I'm still looking over my shoulder, figuratively speaking. Its sort of like after I got rear-ended last year - I wasn't hurt, but shaken -- "you mean that can really happen?"

And how minor those events are to all the tragedy of the world. In searching for meaning, God's purpose if I may, I find myself feeling much closer to friends and family, more aware of my own fragility and mortality, keener on how much I take for granted. How much more I depend on others than I really knew.

And then Tom Fox died. Very sad. Many more people have written eloquently about him, and I won't attempt to go there right now. I feel just a little sadder about that then when I hear of someone more anonymous to me in Iraq or elsewhere dying a needless, violent death. Probably more than a little, although I didn't know him. I'm asking why...because he looks more like me and was a Quaker?

We started our Bible study last night at our house, using the Friendly Bible Study method. It went great. We had people from all sorts of backgrounds: Quaker, Baptist, Catholic, Church of Christ, Unitarian et al. We started with Matthew, 1:1-17, Jesus's Genealogy. Some of us were incredulous that we'd get much out of that (the study method provides for responses to 5 queries from each participant). What ensued was an amazing discussion of family ties, the importance of context, patriarchy, Biblical history, chromosomes, elitism, faith, and doubt. One participant who grew up in a small town in south Arkansas talked about the power of these verses for him: at home everyone knew he was _____'s and ______'s boy, and knew the lineage for each of them. I grew up in southern California, with my parent's relatives far away. Rarely saw my grandparents. Not the same at all.

We were asked to relate any problems we had with the verses. For me it was the need to emphasize Jesus's authority or authenticity by tying him back to Abraham. Someone said Matthew was writing for a Jewish audience so this makes sense. "He's one of us" and part of the tradition. Therefore, give him creedence.

I was pleased to learn Edward R. Murrow came from a Quaker family, an affirmation of "Quaker goodness?" And therefore an affirmation somehow that I'm at least in the right company, and even dare I think it, of my own "goodness?" Is that why Tom Fox's death is a little more poignant?

A lot of this is natural enough and perhaps not to be rejected out of hand. I grieved tremendously for the sudden illness of a close family member, but feel only mildy melancholic for the deaths of faceless children in the news. I'm not going to feel too guilty about that, although I do take note of it. But there is a sinister side to it as well. Isn't it just out of this sort of thinking that we devalue the other, the one not like us? The Friend from South Arkansas, who felt the power of those verses, also alluded to this.

I don't really mean to moralize here, to myself or others. The lesson for me is not that I or thee deserve reproach. Our ability to see all this is of the light. In the seeing is the healing and a torch to light the way to something better. Another few cracks in my shell, a way beyond my self-concern, a way to friends and relations and the knowledge that we are one.


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'What can I do?' - SiCKO