Friday, March 24, 2006

Old and New

Several people have written lately with some mixed feelings about Quaker blogging: why do we do it; is there really any value in it; because of its dependency on high technology, and because high technology can have negative environmental impacts, is it even ethical to indulge in this; etc.?

As I've buried myself in the writings of early Friends, I am astounded at what prolific writers they were. They wrote letters and tracts. They took great pains to respond to the criticisms the movement was receiving. Their writings were sometimes fiery and passionate; other times very carefully worded and argued.

Quaker blogging seems to me the contemporary version of tract writing. Yes, it uses a different medium, and a medium not accessible to everyone. But the writing of the early Quakers also had limited circulation and was not accessible to everyone. The point for them and to us is to reach who we can. I doubt that any of us bloggers only blogs. I suspect that we also talk to friends and colleagues, minister in Meeting, travel amongst Friends, and present writing through other media as well. Some also teach, give lectures, lead workshops. In all of this, we who blog share not only ideas we have developed in our own blog writing, but ideas we've read in others' blogs too. And so in all of this, we are very much following on in the spirit of the early Friends.

The questions about the ethics of high technology (its human as well as its environmental cost) are a matter of concern. But such questions are not just about computers, but about transportation, housing, the production and distribution of the food we eat and the clothes we wear, the nature of our jobs and the value of what we actually "produce" in our work, etc. We live in a complexly interdependent world. John Woolman would be racked with agony today, because it is unavoidable to rely to some extent on the products of war and environmental damage.

I console myself with the belief that it doesn't have to be this way. I can imagine a creative, thriving world that creates such possibilities without war or environmental damage. Just because this broken world has mixed seeds of pain into every human endeavor does not mean we should -- or even can -- reject it all. The loving and redemptive response is to keep looking for what yet is good, and keep drawing that forth, and keep trying to weave those shining threads into new tapestries of hope and joy and love.


  1. Excellent thoughts! I like the idea that we're writing mini-tracts, and that not only do we write, but we have the joy of others being able to contribute.

    As long as I can balance it with being in community and in solitude (not letting it take away from other areas God calls me to), then it's a great thing!

  2. A re-emergence of the publishers of truth!

  3. When our world changes, we have to be willing to rethink our methods in order to remain in the world and bear witness to it. Isn't this what distinguishes us from the groups that withdraw from participation? We are not just writing to each other ~~ I hope.

  4. Yes, we are living in exciting times. And there are multiple ways to bear witness. Each of us must discern our own way(s) of bearing witness, and collectively we then cover these multiple ways.

    Someone read this passage from George Fox's epistles today: "Spare no place, spare no tongue or pen, but be obedient to the Lord God; go through the work, be valiant for the truth upon the earth.... Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone; whereby in them you may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you" (Fox, Epistle, 1656).

    Could we interpret "all places" to include the new "place" called the Internet?