Friday, February 05, 2010

D.C. Reading

Some light reading at the William Penn House.

While I lodged at the William Penn House in Washington D.C., I was able to pick up a few books from their library to read in the evening. I perused numerous back issues of Quaker Life magazine and the Friends Journal. Of course I will not try to detail the various perspectives I gleaned – more than read – but I was intrigued by so much of what I read. I have long had an affiliation with Quaker thinkers – going back to my neighbors on Princeton Dr. in Eugene, Oregon where I grew up. And, despite my Nazarene roots and connection for all of my life to and through the Church of the Nazarene, I identify my call to ministry to have taken place because of the local Friends church while I was engaged in contemplative prayer at that location when I was a teen. Over the years I have been influenced in significant ways by the works of John Howard Yoder (I may go back and review the specific titles on another occasion.)

In addition to the numerous things I gleaned from reading Quaker Life and the Friends Journal, I was also able to have delightful conversation with several of the person who worked at the William Penn House, Byron in particular, who gave me insight into the various branches of the Quaker Tradition as it is dominantly practiced in the United States – as per his description. Byron specifically gave me his perspective on the Friends General Conference, the Friends United Meeting, and Evangelical Friends. In any branch, the friends have dominantly been characterized by their inclusion and embrace of others (abolition of slavery), by their practices of non-violence and pacificism, and their active social engagement. There is so much to befriend about the Friends!

I picked up and read If Grace Is True Why God will Save Everyone. I viewed this as casual reading so did not plan to argue nor agree with the thesis. Which, in fact, made for an enjoyable read. I have read elsewhere about issues of Universalism, of course. (Last summer, also in a casual way I read The Evangelical Universalist published then by Wipf and Stock, written under the pseudonym, ~ Gregory MacDonald) Since I read the book casually, I will only say that it proved a delightful casual read. As should be obvious, the authors (two adherents of the more liberal perspectives within the Society of Friends), tell stories and express their hopes and belief that God will ultimately save everyone. The book is not a grounded logical argument, nor is the book an exegetical perspective of Biblical texts – and, in fact, the authors seem to tell experiential stories more than anything, alongside a berth of quotes suggesting universalistic tendencies from various persons in history. Idea about exegesis or salvation aside, a Christian must finally affirm that her own salvation is from the grace of God. That is a clear fact of discerning Orthodox faith. That being the case, the idea that God could and should (and would ? and will ?) extend that grace freely to all people can be the idea of wonderful hope or perturbing frustration! For the past number of years I have told students the following clear affirmations of Scripture as plainly as I can see them across the texts of the Bible. “There will be judgment. There will be grace. How either of those get worked out in ultimate categories are finally and fully the response-ability of the Judge.”

I also delightfully read Christopher Buckley’s Washington Schlepped Here. With a wonderful satirical wit, Buckley “guides” a person through the city of Washington D.C. to both “see” the sites and to fictionalize and humorize (is that a word!?!) the events that a tourist would see. Several of the locations that Buckley offers stories about – are places I have not or have not yet visited. The locations he described that I have visited were a delight to read about. Buckley has the ability to both tell you about the site or location – but also point out the odd/unique/ambiguous/disjointed features of a location to cause the reader/tourist to rethink the location. I would not recommend the book for someone as a true “guide” to D.C. – but as a humorous perspective on being guided around D.C.!

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