Quakers & Capitalism — The Protestant (Quaker) Ethic & the Capitalist Spirit (via Through the Flaming Sword)

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Here’s the next installment in the book I’ve been writing on Quakers and Capitalism: The Protestant (Quaker) Ethic and the Capitalist Spirit The early, groundbreaking sociologist Max Weber, in his most famous book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904), offers a useful framework for approaching the relationship between the religious culture of early Friends and the social culture necessary (or at least optimal) for the rise of c … Read More

via Through the Flaming Sword

For some reason, this paragraph from the article fascinates me:

When you cannot achieve grace through sacraments, good works or confession, the only proof of grace is a way of life that is unmistakably different from that of others. This requires a certain withdrawal from the world. It requires the individual to supervise her own state of grace in her conduct—that is, it permeates the life with asceticism, forcing the “rationalization of conduct within the world for the sake of the world beyond,” as Weber put it. The requisite “rational” planning of one’s life in accord with God’s will forces you to reengage the world with a plan—or, more accurately, with a discipline (discipleship); that is, a self-conscious deliberateness that includes robust structures and processes for drafting the plan (discerning God’s will) and correcting mistakes through negative feedback (gospel order).

This description of the believers need for discipline describes the usual “Baptist” form of conversion and post-conversion interaction with the world. When we are converted, we are supposedly called to be “not of this world” yet we are simultaneously asked to have an impact upon it. Baptists haven’t given much thought to how this is done as a spiritual discipline. Sure, reading the bible is high on that scale of disciplinary measures, but there is no real advice about how to “supervise” our own states of grace.  This dichotomy leads to Protestant Christianity being seen as a culture so intermingled with the world that we have Christian pop culture as a result, which mimics culture, so that we have an excuse to interact with it. What I find about Quakerism that’s appealing is their discipline of silence. It’s a withdrawal with a view toward “a plan.” I don’t believe Baptists are taught to have a “plan” of interaction with the world. If they are it’s merely to bring as many Baptists into the fold as possible. So insistent is that plan that there isn’t much of a desire to follow up on all those conversions (discipleship).

Isn’t this just like capitalism? It may be a simplistic comparison, but think for a moment. There is a need for a product. People buy the product. Others want it. More product is made until finally the market is saturated. Product still gets made but there is no outlet for surplus and no plan to deal with the surplus. There is no thought of any kind taken of the ramifications of mass production, be it spiritual or material. There is no follow through or discipline, only production.

Hmmm. I had not heard of this article before and I’m glad I found it at QuakerQuaker.org. Good food for thought.

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When “Thinking Biblically” Means Violating Someone Else’s Civil Rights

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Listening to Christian radio is something I do periodically. I do it because it’s helpful to know what Christians are actually saying and not rely on hearsay. The same goes for listening to Rush Limbaugh and the guy that makes my ears bleed, Glenn Beck.  I listen also because I used to be part of that subculture and I like to hear all sides of a cultural issue, even if I do disagree with it. Janet Parshall is the host of a radio show on Moody Bible radio called “In the Market.” This show discusses cultural topics from a “biblical viewpoint.” Today’s show was about bullying and the LGBT public campaign called “It Gets Better.”

Parshall begins by outlining the tree criteria for defining a protected class. Three criteria to be met as a protected class:

Immutable characteristic

Suffering politically

Suffering economically

Parshall and her guest today protest this campaign because they do not believe the bible supports homosexuality as an “immutable characteristic” but as a “lifestyle” that is chosen. Therefore, homosexuals should not be a protected class as defined by the government. They also take issue with the statistics provided by the campaign that 9 out of 10 LGBT are harassed at school and that fully 1/3 commit suicide. Parshall’s guest and Parshall herself take further issue with the whole campaign and believe it to be another way to “legitimize” homosexuality in our culture. This is also a common tactic to bring down the whole argument the campaign is trying to get through because of the personal characteristics of those asking for it. Over and over they emphasize that it’s not right to bully at all, end of story. Except it isn’t the end of their story. It never is. It’s like saying it’s never ok to abuse your wife and then go on to emphasize that Ephesians 6 gives husbands “authority.”

I must say that this is typical of Christian radio. They all agree that bullying is wrong or that ________ is something we should fight against, however, they make it particularly clear that the action these human beings commit are “biblically sinful”  They believe they are “speaking truth in love” by pointing out that these people are sinful and even if they decry bullying as an action, their very denigration of homosexuality promotes the kind of thinking that steeps into their children and which grows into the idea that these people are “less than” “normal” human beings and are therefore not deserving of “special” treatment as they call it.

It is true that all bullying is wrong and should be dealt with, but since it isn’t AND since the bullying is also statistically more prevalent among the gay community, then it is absolutely incumbent upon them to not make things worse by marginalizing a group basing their justification for doing so on ancient, middle eastern principles that are questionable at best when used as universal principles for modern societies. Science has also backed the modern belief that homosexuality is far more complicated than waking up one day and deciding whom to be attracted to sexually. I did not “decide” who I was attracted to. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I experimented with kissing some girls in my class and even an older girl. The kissing was enjoyable, however, I just happened to find kissing boys more enjoyable. I didn’t decide to kiss more boys. It just turned out that way. If I’d gotten better offers from girls, I might have thought about it more!

The point is that “thinking biblically” will always trample on modern society’s civil rights, merely by being biblical. Being biblical means being frozen in time and having ancient ideas declared universal. Why this isn’t more obvious is inscrutable to some who don’t live by a set of scriptures, but having come out of it, I can only say that it is perfectly reasonable to think so if one is convinced that the bible is literally and irrevocably the word of God, dropped from his mouth to the hands of scribes writing it down; infallible, correct in all areas it touches, and binding for all time to those who believe it. It’s safe and effective for circumscribing one’s life with it. Until and unless you can prove this to be untrue, you will never penetrate that fundamentalist armor. Never. How did I do it? By having an open mind and by going to college that taught mythology, literature, and philosophy, and history. By seeing that time and cultures move and evolve and change and that the God of ancient scriptures also moves, evolves, and changes according to the men who wrote things down.  And yes, being open to the ever evolving Spirit that exists in everyone and tells me truly that it matters not what a person does if they are harming no other human being because the Light of the Divine in them demands respect, dignity, and basic human rights, whether you agree with their essential and irrevocable genetic makeup or not. End of argument.