Jesus says of his crucifiers ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34)... I’ve been helped to read these words by the writer James Baldwin. In his book ‘The Fire Next Time’ (1963) Baldwin offers an important perspective on the crime of ignorance, the crime of not knowing what we are doing.
The Spirit of Christ continually surprises me with the 'incorrigibly plural’ nature of God's creation. Christ is ‘drunkenly various’, a vine that outgrows any trellis we might build for her. I know Christ in me, but Christ is infinitely, delightfully strange in others. The way of peace is more a spirit of curiosity and love in the midst of difference. Unity of communion doesn’t mean that our differences disappear, but they are no longer a dividing wall of hostility between us (Eph. 2:14). We remain our ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ individual selves (Ps, 139:14), but we understand each other better.
Recently, I’ve seen a number of people on social media expressing sadness that Quakers in Britain aren’t at the forefront of campaigning for a particular cause, or against a particular problem. By not taking a collective stand on a moral issue, the Quaker community is falling short of their expectations. I’ve been thinking about why this disappointment might occur, and what I might say to someone who feels this way.
At the 2021 Britain Yearly Meeting Gathering, I gave a talk and workshop on behalf of Woodbrooke called '“Why do you call me good?”: Talking about whiteness and responsibility'. This video is now freely available to watch on the Woodbrooke YouTube channel, and I thought readers of my blog might appreciate it too.
I'm pleased to announce that my article '"Why do you call me good?": Whiteness and Quaker theological fragility' has been published today in the Friends Quarterly (Issue 3, 2021). You can buy a copy of this edition here: https://thefriend.org/magazine/tfq.
The community formed by and around Christ should be one of strangers brought into intimate communion, a new kind of family. But what has happened to this original vision of the Church?... The Church has moved from being a community of intimacy to a community of strangers, strangers who don’t even recognise one other as fellow Christians. In his book ‘The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race’, Willie James Jennings describes the roots of this ‘distorted relational imagination’.