Monday, March 25, 2024

Short Review of the Scholarly Biography of George Fox by H. Larry Ingle

First Among Friends by H. Larry Ingle

This is a very important historical study for all Friends and other readers! Probably, First Among Friends is the best book on George Fox and early Friends. (See below for other detailed histories and biographies.)

Unlike so many studies of the religious past, his book isn’t hagiographical but emphasizes verified facts. At some points it even errs to the side of trying to be so objective, that I wondered whether or not Ingle is even a Quaker.

While pointing out many of the outstanding good actions and perspectives of George Fox, Ingle goes into detail showing Fox’s (and other early Quakers) bad characteristics and acts, their major failings, warts and all. Keeping a scholarly tone, Ingle seldom deals with Fox from a spiritual point-of-view.

The volume focuses mostly on outward actions and is more of a cultural biography. And at times, the text comes across almost too academic and skeptical. For instance, the last paragraph of the biography is disconcerting from a transcendental/spiritual perspective.

Still, it seems that this is a must read for all modern Quakers. First Among Friends has given me new awareness of how all moral and spiritual truth is conditioned by culture, time, and other events. Tragically, even the best moral leaders are still weighed down by pettiness and squabbling.

A good companion history to read is Cavaliers and Roundheads. That outstanding history of the England in the 1600's helps readers to understand that though the secular governments of the period persecuted, oppressed, even killed the early Friends, the authorities weren't necessarily evil but often mistook Fox and Quakers for dangerous violent revolutionaries.

It is also strange seeing in Ingle’s account how at times Parliament vs. King varied in their behavior toward the Friends, not always badly.

How very strange it was that James II, a Roman Catholic (who the early Friends opposed) should be the first to really grant Friends and others religions tolerance, while in stark contrast, Parliament in 1683 was so against Friends and other nonconformists that hundreds were sent to prison.

Such intriguing facts show how complicated real history is versus the myths and over simplifications that most people hear about and think is the truth of their movement.

Other powerful histories on Friends:

Primitivism, Radicalism, and the Lamb's War

Quakers in California

Quakers in Conflict

In the LIGHT,
Daniel Wilcox

Thursday, March 7, 2024

GUEST post from Tent of Nations, a Palestinian family's seeking, despite Israeli attacks, to live Jesus' moral Truth

The picture this morning shows "5 illegal Israeli Jewish settlements” who have confiscated more Palestinian land:-( that immorally and unjustly surround
a Christian Palestinian family’s land that has been in their family for over 100 years, since Ottoman times!

Here's part of an accounting of how the Israeli government’s oppression, persecution, confiscation, destruction of Palestinian orchards, etc. make it so difficult for Palestinians such as this Palestinian family near Bethlehem:-(

YET this Palestinian family seeks to love all people including their Jewish enemies with Jesus’ love.

FROM "History of the ToN"
“More than 100 years ago, many family members have worked at the ToN during the day and slept in caves at night. Olives, grapes, almonds, fruit trees, wheat and other crops are grown on the land.

"The farm (Daher’s Vineyard) was purchased more than one 100 years ago...At that time, the country was still under the Ottoman rule. During the British Mandate in Palestine from 1918 to 1948, the property was registered with the British in 1924 and 1925 under Bishara Daher Nassar’s name.

"The Arab Israeli war in 1948-49 (Arabic: Nakba = catastrophe), left more than 750,000 Arab Palestinians without a home. Daher’s son Bishara Nassar began a ministry in the Bethlehem area among the Palestinian Christian refugees by offering Bible Study and prayer sessions to empower them and to encourage them...

More Palestinian land "was occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War, and in the 1970s Israel started building Settlements... Bishara's "ToN is surrounded by 5 illegal Israeli Jewish settlements (Gush Etzion settlement bloc) that are growing to become cities. In 2018, a Torah school, also expanding rapidly, was built right next to the ToN.

"In 1991, Israeli authorities declared the Nassar family farm and surrounding area as" Israeli state land. Despite the facts that the " Nassar family owns all the original land registrations under the name of Bishara Nassar from 1924 and 1925 and has farmed the land throughout Ottoman, British, Jordanian and Israeli rule, which clearly proves that the Israeli government has no right to declare it as state land.

"Since then, the Nassar family has defended their land from demolition of farm buildings, water cisterns, tents, and outright expropriation in front of the Israeli Military Court and Supreme Courts.
More than 0.7 million Jewish settlers already have stolen and occupied Palestinian lands!
"Since then, the process has been repeatedly delayed by Israel, forcing the Nassars to restart the process several times. In 2019, the Nassars finally received confirmation that their application was complete...

"Despite repeated requests, the Nassars continue to wait to hear the results of this meeting. Between February and August 2021, nothing was heard from the Civil Administration, despite several requests from their attorney.
"As in many other cases in the past, the hearing was postponed and rescheduled for January 16, 2022.
"This date was again postponed to October 27, 2022, postponed to November 21, 2022 and then postponed again to January 16, 2023. "..the ToN continued to be the target of numerous attacks. On May 21, 2021, unknown persons set fire on the Nassar’s land and destroyed over 1000 trees, including hundreds of olive trees. On June 9, 2021, Israeli military vehicles and bulldozers entered their private property and cut down approximately 50 olive trees.

"On January 28, 2022, two of the Nassar’s brothers were attacked and seriously injured on the ToN by masked men. The pace of settlement expansion, the constant concern for the family’s physical safety, the construction of settler-only roads, and roadblocks and checkpoints have added to the isolation of the ToN and the sense of imminent threat.

"Countless times so far, the ToN has been attacked, thousands of trees have been destroyed, and damages of over €150,000 have been caused. The Nassar family has been threatened with their lives several times.

Yet this Christian Palestinian family despite "the continuous destructions and the attacks on their lives" attempts to live peaceful nonviolent way based on their Christian values and trusting in God’s justice."

Please relay this story to your Congress leaders and all others that you know so that the Palestinian side of the current horrific tragedy in Palestine-Israel gets heard!

In the LIGHT,
Daniel Wilcox

Sunday, March 3, 2024

To us an Infant is GIFTED--No to "abortion on demand"

What is a baby?

Don't ask many modern thinkers. According to them there are "abortion rights"! And the new human life in its mother's womb is a "parasite" only unwanted "tissue"!

Nothing could be further from the moral truth.

That doesn't mean that state governments or the federal government should make intolerant, oppressive rules like some rightwing politicians have been doing lately, ones that require a woman or girl who has been raped or molested to bring the rapist's infant to birth, etc.

There are also tragic biological accidents where preborn infants in the womb are missing their brain or so severely malformed that they will die shortly after birth or never be able to function.

I'm not speaking to any of those severe pregnancy tragedies.

And, in all cases of pregnancy, the mother (in consultation with her husband and doctor) IS the ONLY one who decides!
NOT strangers or the government.

The key point of this article is that generally conception, growth in the mother's womb, and birth are the wondrous creation of new human life!

Also, don't ask theologians or become entangled in illusions and delusions, long-winded metaphysical splits/spit;-) of religious thinking.

What if we didn't focus on abstract philosophical doctrine, but viewed each baby as a true gift.

Instead, most traditional churches claim the doctrine of Original Sin-- that all babies are born inherently guilty sinners. In contrast, New Thought religion declares all babies are born divine. What a philosophical split!

What does either doctrinal extreme have to do with the real living being who is birthed from her mother?
the creation of her and her husband's love-making?

Human beings at birth are neither divine nor depraved. A baby is a natural offspring of a primate species. But uniquely (probably unlike any other species of life, even dolphins and chimps) a human being has the potential to grow spiritually--to relate to her Creator, and to create, bring newness and improvements into existence since she has been created in the image of God.

What a wonder a baby is! I recently held my first grandchild. Experientially, the moment was blessed. How perfect her tiny living body. What a true gift from the Divine.

But a little later, when she got hungry, wow, what lungs and what a puckered face she suddenly developed!

I must admit, I don't think something called a "soul" enters a baby at conception, or for that matter anytime later.
At conception a new life begins with amazing characteristics from the genes of her/his ancestors. At conception, the life appears to have no awareness. But brain wave activity begins early in the womb.

Even after birth, however, a baby is sort of an eating and pooping blob;-) She has awareness, but probably not much except she wants to be fed, and fed now!

Then gradually her awareness grows month after month. Finally she becomes self-conscious. Then later her sense of conscience develops--what is morally good, true, and just.

Finally, an awareness of her finiteness and the mystery of existence comes into her consciousness.

No, a baby doesn’t come into the world a walking, talking, mentally active philosopher/theologian/moralist/saint.

On the contrary she is a living breathing consciousness at the most simple level.

As she grows in the next 6 to 7 years in her consciousness, self-awareness, and her moral conscience develops with a sense of ought, then she will become a moral and spiritual individual who acts. Sometimes she will fail, sometimes "miss the mark."

But even then she is still an innocent child struggling to function and to understand and to fulfill needs and desires and hopes, and the demands of the big people in her life.

Is not this the stage that Jesus referred to when he said those who enter the Kingdom of God must do so as a little child? And where he said to people to let little children come to him for of such is the Kingdom?

And this was my own personal experience—when so young. I don’t remember being a sinful-driven child that fundamentalist Christians claim all babies and small children are.

Instead, as far back as I can remember, I had very deep desires to do good, to be good, to know God and to love the Light. And I had a lot of childlike wonder questions about God, life, other...always asking why about everything:-)
Of course the slither of wrong thought, wrong action, wrong living does come to us all, but not at conception or birth!

A child's awareness will grow if she is introduced to God and is shown her responsibility to share, to think of others and their needs, even though she still doesn’t voluntarily give outwardly if it is to her own privation.

Finally, the her moral consciousness kicks in mid-childhood. At each given moment, there will be a tussle between her babyhood past (all spontaneous need and desire) and her adulthood future (potentially all share, give, and bliss).

At that moment by moment juncture—that possibility moment--she must make continual moral, spiritual decisions. She is finite and so will make mistakes and fail. She is learning in her emotions, her mind, her conscience, and her body as she moves through time. Her choices are a much more complicated version of the way she learned to walk and to talk three years earlier--by trial and error.

But now a new possibility rears its ugly or saintly head. If she doesn’t continue to develop holistically, widening outwardly her care, her helpfulness, her compassion, then she slows, stalls, or even regresses backward to a total need/want level.
However, since she isn’t an infant but has the outer body and will and growing mental ability of a 6 or 7 year old, her regression hurts herself and other persons.

To try and fulfill life as a growing child, by returning to the barely conscious self-focused life of an infant actually distorts life and will bring harm to others to varying degrees.

Continued growing, in contrast, takes her through new stages of human development and new challenges. Each developmental advance brings new ethical and spiritual choices—either good or bad, advancing or regressing or a combination of both.

As anyone knows, when climbing a mountain, the higher one goes the more dangerous the climb becomes—not because the action of climbing mountains is evil, or because individuals who climb mountains are depraved sinful beings, but because the very nature of going "higher" also offers more options of choosing. Some of the ways are wrong, even could cause one to plummet to the bottom. Some of the ways are right, and lead toward the peak.

If a baby cries when she hungry that doesn’t show she is sinning.

On the contrary that is how an infant acts to get the attention she needs to survive. If a 4-year-old child throws a tantrum and takes her little brother’s bottle because she thinks she isn’t getting enough attention from her parents, while her action is wrong and needs to be corrected, she shouldn't be told she is a sinner. She hasn’t developed enough in her conscious awareness and ethical conscience to make altruistic decisions.

However, if at 8, she hides her little brother’s medicine, because she wants all the attention instead, this is morally wrong because by then her mental, moral conscience has developed enough to know that her action isn't the right way to get attention. And, besides, by this point she should be widening her compassion and care for others out beyond her own needs and desires.

If at 18, she steals her younger sister’s boyfriend to build up her own ego, deep wrong has occurred. By 22 if she joins with many of her countrymen and demonizes others and distant people in another country and lies, steals, and joins in the slaughter of those enemies, we do have actions of evil,
just as if in contrast,
she joins an outreach organization such as Habitat for Humanity or World Vision and sacrifices her time, talent, and money and inspires her younger sister to do so as well, we have actions of goodness.

Then the two sisters think of a way to get other people in their neighborhood, school, and city to get involved. One such inspired girl, about 13 years of age, raised thousands of dollars for starving, hurting people in a far off country.

See how the moral growth of human beings happens. A human being is in process from simple surviving to becoming the acting being of moral truth.

Reminds me of several of Jesus’ moral parables...

Go and do thou likewise...please stop talking about babies being unwanted "parasites" or "depraved sinners..."

“Holy infant so tender and mild*,” except when she cries at 3 a.m. and the parents haven’t slept through the night for weeks;-)

In the LIGHT,

Dan Wilcox