Jnana's Red Barn

A Space for Work and Reflection

Category: Quaker Practice

PSALM VI

1

what blows
to kindle sunset and sunrise
sprouts wings on the field

is faith planting
for a harvest at the end

all these tough nuts to open
amid rest

*   *   *

each day
always more
bands of light

turn within
fields and currents

tempted by more as well as less, but first
those cries being born

*   *   *

crossing water
invites rest

answering the call to dinner

2

 when we are vanilla
           chocolate the strawberry
rhubarb and asparagus
a cake topped in cherries
sweet corn and trout
with apricots and peaches
the scallions, leeks, garlic
carrots, potatoes, yams
spiced pumpkin
whipped cream, fresh butter
applesauce with pancakes
a bowl of black walnuts
yogurt and sharp cheddar
            or baby Swiss
when we are sap returning to maple
when we are …

when we are snow peas or sugar snaps
            a pear or …
fordhooks or limas

3

I’ve had a taste of these things
Hindu Yogi
Zen Buddhist
Sufi
Amerindian
Mennonite, Dunker, Amish
Old-Style Quaker

all of them, with holy visions

Poem copyright 2016 by Jnana Hodson
To see the full set, click here.

SEASONS OF SPIRITUAL COMPANIONSHIP

OF COURSE WE’RE PUZZLED to observe how many conversations begin with comments about the weather. Everybody can see it’s snowing or raining or feel the heat and humidity. What’s actually happening, of course, is the establishing of a commonality – putting ourselves in a shared space. You make a joke in reply, or a factual statement, and edge into conversation, however superficial or deep, gossipy or plaintive.

No matter how introverted or reclusive an individual is, being human requires social interaction. From birth, we require more nurture and protection than other animals do before we are able to move about on our own, much less survive. We learn from each other, and we are highly vulnerable, despite all our acquired knowledge. We are creatures of culture, not inherited instinct. We make bargains and trade. We court and seduce with words as much as our dance steps or glances.

While experiential religion demands individual practice and awareness, few of us undergo its labors and trials all alone. We find mentors and companions along the way, people who have also encountered and value these matters. Even a secluded monk has an abbot or guru; a nun, her mother superior. Confession is part of the practice. What we find of value we feel compelled to pass along.

Our affinity with these spiritual companions has its own intimacy. These friends hold a mirror to ourselves, to point to our shortcomings and prod us to reach for ever greater fidelity to our purpose. They provide harmony and, when we fail, counter self-loathing and blame with compassion and comfort. Ideally, this exists between husband and wife. Sometimes it is found between prayer partners – two people who agree to hold each other in prayer through the week. Much of the life in the monastic confines of the ashram endeavored on this plain, though the bonds broke down quickly outside of it. Whether one-on-one or within the circle of a community of faith, this companionship has the added dimension of spiritual presence and encounter. Sometimes it spans denominations, when the “invisible church” opens in conversation with another or in venturing into a small group along the way, as I have with Mennonites and Brethren. Sometimes it appears in the context of romantic relationship, in the quest for mutual aspirations.

As much as I’d like to say spiritual companionship is forever, the reality often proves otherwise. I’ve seen those who have maintained this through a lifetime, including couples who’ve become connected through the marriages of their children. More often, I’ve found intense periods where paths cross for a year or two and then part.

Typically, the interactions are words spoken together. Sometimes, as in the excerpts that follow, they arise in lengthy correspondence. Who knows what trail will be left from the emails of the Internet.

~*~

For more Seasons of the Spirit, click here.

WELCOME THE MARGINALIA, TOO

In her inimitable, understated, and right-on-target way, she jotted in the corner of the Meeting minutes: “I hope thee feels the Spirit of our Lord with thee in thy life, Jnana – a full covering for all thee does. Seek his care. In Christ’s love, Susan.”

Naturally, she hit me in a period in which I wasn’t feeling His presence in everything – and had come to that realization myself. What her quick notation did was kick me into getting back on my knees regularly and into Scripture, too. Now that’s divine oversight! As a result, Meeting First-day was wonderful, and turned into the entire day – wound up spending much of it with another Friend who would turn forty the week before I did, a guy who had expressed to me back in Eleventh month the difficulty he had with my messages in Meeting (an ex-Catholic, he was growing in the Spirit – and in our day, he was able to come to unity with me on crucial points). We visited a couple in Maine, and then hit My Life as a Dog, his first and my third viewing – the movie gets better every time.

~*~

For more Seasons of the Spirit, click here.

BY UNINTENDED DESIGN

relocating
once again recognize
some possessions as useful

simplicity, sincerity, modesty, honesty, justice
that dwell in the Life and Power

when goods are tools
style arises within purpose

*   *   *

addressing basic practices
ordering well-made clothing
that’s both simple and expressive
and fits properly
liberates
from inbred feelings of victimization and deprivation
O Holy One

to choose what is not fickle
instills elegance
of clear function

I’m a sucker for clean, balanced design
outward expression of orderly life
gingerly facing the idolatry of things
made from metal, wood, stone
and yes, plastic

look, there’s nothing wasteful

O Holy One
elegant is also simple in design and execution
though not always easily accomplished
(the skillful hand and eye – the years of mastery)

Poem copyright 2016 by Jnana Hodson
To see the full set, click here.

IT’S COMFORTING TO FIND OTHERS ALSO INTRIGUED BY THESE HISTORIES

A common version of the rise of the Quaker movement has George Fox wandering north from the English Midlands, receiving a vision atop Pendle Hill in 1652, and soon after finding welcome among a radical group known as the Seekers. As his message then ignites them, the Society of Friends is born and spreads amid a flurry of controversy and persecution.

Many contemporary Friends are quite fond of the term, “Seekers After Truth,” another name for those English radicals, by the way – and that serves to reinforce this view of history.

I’ve leaned toward a somewhat different take, especially in regard to the Mennonite-tinged General Baptists in England who shaped Fox’s growth in the half-dozen years before his 1652 Pendle Hill epiphany.

While history can be quite fascinating on its own terms, my bigger interest is on the continuing impact on thought and action in the present, and that’s where I find myself quite intrigued with  Douglas Gwyn, Seekers Found: Atonement in Early Quaker Experience (Wallingford, Pa., 2000), now that I’m finally getting to it.

While I’d been influenced by some of his earlier writings, this one somehow flew past my must-read pile – in part because it was published just as I was entering my second marriage, along with all of its challenges, and in part because of the ways the title seemed to focus on the Seekers version of the story.

Ah! To leap ahead all these years!

Now that I’ve finally read the book, let me say, it’s far-reaching and profound – much different from my expectations of being focused exclusively on the Seekers. Along the way, he engages topics I’ve written about extensively, adding many welcome insights and prompting me to rethink some of my assumptions and conclusions.

The opening chapter, “A Looking-Glass for Seekers: The American Culture of Seeking Today,” looks at the counterculture of the ’60s and ’70s as parallels to the revolutionary upheavals of the mid-1600s in Britain, a position I’ve long argued. If anything, the conflicting differences in the kinds of hippies he identifies have grown in the 17 years since the publication of his book.

Gwyn then moves to a sequence of Spiritualists he identifies as “seekers” and the ways their thinking and practice evolves to a point that many key Quaker tenets are already in place before Fox and his colleagues. These chapters explore Caspar Schwenkfeld and Sebastian Franck in northern Europe during the Protestant Reformation of the 1520s and ’30s before shifting to England, with its own powerful voices in John Saltmarsh, William Erbury, William Walwyn, and Gerrard Winstanley, among others. To be candid, I was familiar only with Winstanley, along with a passing knowledge of the five Schwenckfeld churches in Pennsylvania.

From there he plunges into the more familiar chronology of the early Quaker movement itself and its rivals, albeit with his own insights and welcome details.

For one thing, he gives more information more on the short-lived General Baptists than I’d uncovered elsewhere, as well as on the Calvinist-leaning Particular Baptists, the kind who now exist widely throughout America.

While it is easy to perceive this work as a history, I’m more inclined to view it as an exploration of an emerging theology, especially as Gwyn tackles one of the thornier issues that’s long spurred critics of Quaker thought – atonement. Or, more broadly, the crucifixion, resurrection, and atonement. While I’ve long argued that early Friends did not dare to fully articulate their understanding in face of the Blasphemy Acts of the time and then declined to do so once they’d gained respectability, Gwyn sees them experiencing the historic events of Calvary within their own actions and suffering for faith. As I’ve contended, their failure to clearly state their alternative theology then set the trajectory for misunderstandings that would rip through the Society of Friends in the early 19th century, something that Gwyn confirms in his examination of the controversy surrounding George Keith in the 1690s as Gwyn turns to struggles that beset the Quaker movement as it coalesced into a disciplined organization out of its many radical, freethinking strands:

Clearly, there are major dangers on both sides of this schizoid split between orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxis (right action), between gospel and gospel order. For American Friends, the theological questions fended off in the 1690s would come back after 1800 to wreak havoc on them in the Hicksite controversy, leading eventually to separation in 1827.   

~*~

On a personal level, I’ve come to value Gwyn as a fellow traveler in arcane investigations, Quaker and counterculture. Turns out he lived in Bloomington, Indiana, the same time I did, and we have similar leaps to both coasts (seminary in New York, for him, while it was Upstate New York and then the yoga ashram in the Pocono mountains for me) and then the Far West (his Berkeley, California, as a Quaker pastor, while I was in the Pacific Northwest). We’re both in New England these days and have had close conversations with both Asian practices and Friends rediscovering the writings of George Fox.

I intend to draw much more from his Seekers Found volume over the coming months. His insights are too pertinent to be overlooked.

~*~

For my own reflections on alternative Christianity, take a peep at my new book, Religion Turned Upside Down.

 

VISIONS OF BLESSED COMMUNITY SOMEWHERE WE MIGHT REALLY LIVE

Again, try to envision that perfect spiritual community. How do we plug our own households (with all of their struggles in a disintegrating society) into that envisioned fellowship? Terra Mama’s got her hubbie and kids, with all of their confrontations in the wider world; meanwhile, this poet-monk keeps hoping to find wifey and kids, to engage in a, well, household, for starters – just to finally get into the game. Too often, I feel like a monk without a monastery! And my prayer life often takes the form of poetry writing, collecting rejection slips from publishers, or playing solitaire and sipping martinis because I don’t want to tackle Pile A, Pile B, or Pile C of obligations awaiting my labors in my studio – usually after my workday.

Put another way, I just don’t see it in the nature of our own liberal/artsy/leftist leaning folkies to get together in anything having a degree of gelassenheit – submission, discipleship, or correcting-rebuking potential. It’s the old problem of trying to herd cats. (Or, as one clerk greeted the Meeting after a presentation by the kids at the rise of worship: “Welcome to the New Age Holy Rollers!”)

Several newer Friends in Agamenticus have been stunned to hear our current clerk tell them how long it has taken Friends here to finally accept my messages, with their Biblical references. Then they look incredulously at me to see my nodding affirmation. There is a place for patience, but the Meeting as a whole still has a long way to go before we’re Biblically rooted. And there will always be a hole forming a “doughnut Meeting, sweet at the edges but hollow in the middle,” until we learn to pray together. At least some people are asking in our announcements time that other Friends hold them in prayer, rather than simply in the Light.

I suppose that practicing as a faith community without openly acknowledging the power and presence of Christ is like trying to do chemistry without any mathematics; things can happen, but you’re never sure quite why, there’s always a high degree of chance, and it’s bound to be messy with unfinished materials all about. Thus, while I find Quaker worship and service can come closest to that of the early church, it is also with a measure of bad manners, not to acknowledge (more specifically, praise and give thanks to) its root and source. Hence, my Mennonite experiences and discipleship, small group, and you and Eric. What a trip!

Now, do you expect the job of pastor to be any easier, facing a congregation of uncomprehending faces or Sunday-only Christians? Most of the pastors I see are pretty isolated, too; they and their families don’t really fit easily into their congregational fellowship. You know the struggles of most P.K.s (“preacher’s kids”); many of the spouses are the real martyrs of Protestant parishes. Maybe what you and I yearn for is grandparents and aunts and uncles in the Spirit, and we long for an extended family – the kind where four Hodgin brothers marry four Ozbun sisters over the course of several years, and are then available whenever for each other whenever needed (that is, between the demands of their thirty-two or so children). Instead, we get Hollywood romance: boy meets girl, zippo.

Actually, you need to go to Cuba and visit with our sister Meetings there. They have community because there’s no alternative. They walk everywhere together. Their faith has been refined in the fire, and they see know their neighbors problems and needs because they live nearby, and they Jesus everywhere. Their representatives who visit New England are re-evangelizing NEYM. Some of their teens, writing to Wellesley’s young Friends, asked: “Tell us about your conversion experiences!” (Our WHAT?) (Out of that, one Massachusetts teen voiced how much his/her parents opposed said teen’s attendance at any religious observance – going to Meeting is an act of rebellion.)

When I clerk, I continue a practice from Ohio of prefacing the session with a quotation of Scripture, which is then minuted. Last QM, I selected a chunk from 1st John. Later, a red Valentine cutout was passed around, a gift from a youth in our sister Meeting, Holguin. As I translated the text, in my hands, I realized she had written, in Spanish, much of what I had read in English earlier. That’s what we long for.

Well, my three-year stint on Ministry and Counsel is now completed, and is I exhausted! Told Nominating I need at least a year’s respite, will serve only as Quarterly Meeting clerk this year; turned down Yearly Meeting, too, in its request for me to be one of the recording clerks. Same reason, plus the gelassenheit reality from above. One thing is enough.

On top of it, I’ve raised a concern with Yearly Meeting’s M&C that maybe it’s time to lay down the Quarterly Meetings, or at least seriously reconsider their role. I think that with modern transportation, the Yearly Meeting committees have simply replaced the QM in most if not all of its functions.

Other fronts help, too: After Meeting for Worship a few months ago, I was in a conversation with someone who shocked me by saying that she and her husband were about to step into retirement – they certainly don’t look it – and that led into a tally of little adjustments in the aging process – the reading glasses, aches, and so on. “Yeah, this getting older isn’t any fun,” I quipped. From behind us came a soft voice, “That’s why old age is saved for those of us who are tough!” – and we turned to see it had come from eighty-something Grace. So maybe we’re just toughening up, rather than being patched up?

~*~

For more Seasons of the Spirit, click here.

FOOD FOR CONTEMPLATION AND GROUNDING

Through much of the history of the Society of Friends, Quakers lived under stick codes of conduct that shaped their distinctive Plain Speech and Plain Dress, along with a host of less visible restrictions. Apart from the Peace Testimony and sets of guidelines that would have us not swear oaths, gamble, live ostentatiously, indulge in most of the fine arts or other entertainments, and so on, those days are long past.

When it comes to food, Friends have long held to the “eat to live, not live to eat” standard, one nonetheless accompanied by a delight in fresh produce, good cheese, and gardening itself. Some of this outlook is guided by our testimonies of simplicity and, by extension, honesty, as well as a respect for quality rather than quantity. Alcohol has had a more varied history, given that it was a basic of daily life at the time the movement emerged in the mid-1600s. Initially, the offense was for “being disguised by hard liquor,” rather than imbibing itself. Only later did much of the Quaker world abolish the consumption of alcoholic beverages altogether. As social drinking has become more widely acceptable in recent decades, so, too, has much of that opposition abated in Quaker households.

That’s not to say individual Friends don’t follow dietary disciplines. Vegans and vegetarians are common in our communities, even before we get to the medically prescribed limitations of gluten, lactose, diabetic, allergies, and more. (Trying to plan for a dinner of potluck can be trying these days – should we save that for a later discussion?) And, a step away, smoking is always discouraged.

As I discussed in Around the Table, a Dec. 17, 2015, posting in the Talking Money series on my Chicken Farmer I Still Love You blog, the issues of feasting and fasting, as well as dietary limitations, are major components of religious practice and awareness. To my thinking, apart from the reasoning behind a ban on one item or another is the essential strengthening of an ability to say No – to curb one’s initial desires and impulses, a virtue that can be conveyed to more difficult decisions in one’s life. We start with the simple things, after all.

Fasting, a common practice among early Friends, is a cleansing I came to appreciate through my residency in a yoga ashram in the early ’70s. It can also be quite liberating and joyful. You’d be surprised.

More recently, I’ve had to acknowledge another kind of fasting – one in which food is not totally avoided but instead the daily diet is greatly curbed, with entire categories of food perhaps removed from cooking or eating.

Looking at the complex regulations the Eastern Orthodox churches impose for Advent and Lent, my wife remarked that vegan would generally fit right in. Since we’ve already (voluntarily) been observing Advent and Lent by abstaining from alcohol, we decided to switch to a vegan cuisine for last Advent, something we’ve considered returning to with Lent, which starts Monday. Yes, I do miss the milk in my coffee, but I’d been intending to reduce the sugar intake anyway – while sweets themselves aren’t off limits, sometimes one step makes another one easier, too, as I’ve found here.

We recognize there are two ways to approach this. One is to go for self-mortification, a bit of suffering, if you will. The other is to delight in many of the options that get overlooked in the abundance we enjoy daily. We’ve been intending to eat more beans, for instance. How do we rise to the challenge? What do we have to use instead of butter or olive oil? Is margarine cheating? How about coconut milk? You get the picture.

Since the Orthodox do relax the Advent rules at times during the week, we’re pondering similar with fish and (other) meat – once or twice a week, at most, and then in small quantities – as an alternative approach . Well, we will confess that Thanksgiving Day was a big exception in our Advent observance. The rules for Great Lent, by the way, are much stricter than those imposed in the approach to Christmas. How do the Orthodox do it?

Anyone have similar thoughts on Kosher or Halal or the yogic considerations of Satvic, Rajasic, or Tomasic or any of the other places where spiritual practice meets earthly tastes? Pipe up, please!

TRAPPED IN THE SCHEDULING

Thinking, too, of Bill Taber’s observation that Quakerism is filled with “strong women and tender men.” Think that describes us?

Which reminds me of a story Sondra Cronk was telling at Tract Association; she was back stateside between semesters at Woodbrooke (the English Pendle Hill center). Friends Meetings there (so she said) are in a very decrepit and lowly state, although as thee may imagine, some of the most powerful worship occurs in the very small Meetings that appear physically most ghostly. In any case, at one of the Quarterly or Yearly Meeting sessions, someone raised the question of whether we were letting the scheduling get in the way of Divine Leading – that is, whether our sessions are too busy to allow the Lord to do His work. Without seeing the irony that followed, the clerk replied: “I don’t see how we can possibly discuss that before 1988!” To which he was challenged: “We can’t wait that long!” “Well, then, maybe we can work it in later in 1986.” No wonder I’m so frustrated with committees! What I’m realizing is that in responding to the call not to serve on committees, I’ve been liberated to perform much needed intervisitation, as the Lord leads me. If I were to do this as part of a committee – and I may still have notes from the gatherings Ohio Yearly Meeting extended when the Lake Erie Association of Friends was not yet a YM – there would be so much effort involved in simply getting everyone together, establishing schedules, packing lunches, carpooling, and writing and duplicating reports, that the visitation would never get off the ground. Well, a committee of two, perhaps: thee and me, or Charles and me. Or even three or four in close combinations such as thee, Charles, Paula, and me. Which seems to be how early Friends did it! How enlightening!

~*~

For more Seasons of the Spirit, click here.

Three sections from MOTET I

1

pick a language . a religion . a star, somewhere

of what I’ve distrusted
and yet seek

in the night of spring greening
where birds begin arguing (the males, as usual

but listen

good questions
guide better
than many answers

let me relate notations
of elk found on mountains
behind mountains – beside mountains, too
where streams run fast and clear
in everlasting rapture

before they appeared to me in their flesh
before I had children
before you appeared
but now

we’ll argue theology over lunch or dinner
or the menu

but first, grace

2

all this is not the same
as sitting by yourself

not the same as watching
anything

or listening to anything
or tasting anything

you can touch

since you asked, I’ll tell
you everything I know

if you tell me
where you’d like to start

3

to be completely honest
is so simple
you would think

until facing others
until facing yourself

all the temptations
all the screw-ups

all the aspirations
all the ruins to your back

all the idealized masks and labels
you wear
the childhood you’ve never left
all the flattery and self-delusions
all the false accusations you can’t quite shake

all the flaking paint on the siding of your house
all the cracking plaster within

as you age, all the lost years
you deny
all the shortcuts

so much of what your mirror
never reveals

no matter what you say
no matter what they say

the sins of omission
as well as commission

all the skills of a Philadelphia lawyer
all the skills of public office
all the skills of executive decision

any or all

the impossibility of saying exactly who you are
or why

Poem copyright 2016 by Jnana Hodson
To see the full set, click here.

FROM HIPPIE TO HOLY

Reading Douglas Gwyn’s 2000 book, Seekers Found: Atonement in Early Quaker Experience, in light of America’s recent political campaigns has him looking downright prophetic. Even though he focuses most of his pages on the emerging Quaker movement in the turbulence of 17th century Britain, his opening chapter looks closely at the 1960s, when “crises of conscience rocked American institutions and authorities.” While the counterculture revolution spanned the political and economic scene, “Religious institutions and authorities were no exception. The postwar religious consensus, one of the strongest in American history, began to flounder.”

As regular readers of the Red Barn will recognize, he’s leading straight into some of my central concerns, especially as he attempts to make sense of the era’s impact over the subsequent years. I like his introduction of sociologist Steven Tipton, who “has argued that, in different ways, Americans continue trying to get ‘saved from the ’60s.’ For some, it is the search for final deliverance from the religious conformism of the early ’60s, which they found personally stifling and morally bankrupt. Meanwhile, others seek deliverance from the legacies of the ‘counterculture,’ from the moral chaos and personal confusion they found so disturbing in the late ’60s.”

Of course, it wasn’t just religion. “Tipton characterizes the countercultural revolt of the ’60s as a crisis of meaning and morality in the face of accelerating technological innovation and bureaucratic organization in American society.” Gwyn then goes on to examine a whole range of currents unleashed at the end of World War II and then transformed in the baby boom generation – way too much to encapsulate here.

Quite simply, these are matters that remain largely unresolved, especially for those of us who came of age during the upheaval and for our children and now, for many, our grandchildren. It remains a mixed bag of continuing portent.

As someone whose hippie openings led to living in a yoga ashram, or monastic community, which then pointed me on a journey to affiliating with the Society of Friends, or Quakers, I can see religion as both “saving” me from the ’60s and simultaneously enhancing its vision. And I am deeply concerned about the marginalization of religious discourse from general society – especially when it comes to the left.

Gwyn picks up on this track in his final chapter, especially as he looks at a touchy topic labeled truth. It was one I had been forced to face in examining the basic early Quaker metaphors of the Light and the Seed and, as it turned out, the Truth. My own efforts soon had me exploring ways to engage truth as a verb, but trying to find an appropriate visual image remained elusive, no matter how intriguing the options. Gwyn solves this quite eloquently:

By recognizing truth as a living, moving being, we may better remember that truth is a someone we must serve, not a static entity we can master. Hence, the four-part framework we have defined is not a “cage” designed to capture truth. Rather, it offers a guide to the dynamics of a faithful conversation of truth. By being accountable to one another in that conversation, we form communities accountable to truth.

That is, Gwyn turns to the life of Jesus. In doing so, he could have saved me a lot of effort! (We’ll likely get to his four-part framework in a future post.) He then turns to O.A. Piper, who

contrasts the truth witnessed in John’s gospel and letters with the static Platonic ideal. For Plato, truth always lies beyond words; its concrete expression will always be flawed. For John, truth is an active, creative, temporal reality; it moves from provisional to final expression. Therefore, Christ is not the essence of all truths. Rather, he reveals the goal for which the world is destined. The provisional expressions of truth given final expression in the incarnate Word include not only the revelation of Moses (e.g., John 6:3) but also the Greek philosophical traditions more implicitly evoked along the way. For John, truth has an eschatological character, since it unfolds in history, moving toward final expression. Through the life of Jesus, the Gospel of John portrays the struggle of truth against falsehood. 

This approach to truth, as Gwyn observes, is hardly confined to religion. It is an ongoing conversation. Without it

we live in one another’s unexamined “shadow” of projected fears and secret desires. Too often, we “seek” mainly to avoid those we fear and loath.

And then, Gwyn’s words leap far ahead to events far in the future of when he wrote them:

Not only does our seeking become self-referential and esoteric, but our continued indulgence in stereotypical versions of the “others” fuels alienated, paranoid politics of mutual aversion that will only breed more trouble in the future.

Oh, my, have they! Even in 2000, he saw the two sides

are strongly polarized today. Orthodox traditionalists continue in a reflexive mode we might call fundamentalist universalism, an insistence that the traditionalist truths they have reclaimed (or never abandoned) have absolute, non-negotiable validity for people everywhere. Those who do not respond to those truths are written off as “lost.” … Meanwhile, liberal progressivists continue in an inversely reflexive mode we will term universalist fundamentalism, a Platonic insistence that truth remains beyond the language and spiritual devotion of any group. … Groups … claiming to know and impart truth in any definitive sense are by definition wrong. … Moreover, as we continue to discredit and neutralize one another, the ruling interests of the age will further consolidate their power over all of us. [398]

Both assume that the truth is some static entity. …

Sound familiar?

Turning to “your truth” as distinct from “my truth” won’t get us anywhere, by the way. We require some common ground where we can exchange what we value and envision, along with ways to pursue them.

As the presidential race headed toward the finish line, we heard many accusations and fears about Muslims thrown into the fray – in effect, a challenge from the fundamentalist universalism side regarding its defense of truth as it understood it. The universalist fundamentalist side still hasn’t heard the underlying challenge, at least not in any way I’ve yet heard.

There were all too many lies tossed about in the campaign season. We need to get back to speaking in truth. And that, for me, means the practice of religion, one way or another.