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Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
In the early 80s I attended seminary in New Jersey and had my only exposure to the Silent Friends, the Quakers who still have the silent meetings until someone feels led to say something. Their spiritual emphasis was on the Inner Light. Getting aquainted with a few Quakers, Friends as they call themselves, I learned that among the Silent Friends were those who were Christian, and those who were not.

Evidently things have not changed that much since. Christianity Today has this article on the growing numbers of pagans who are Quaker, or Quakers who are pagan, among the Friends holding traditional practices.

The article does not really address the why, but I think I know. It grows from the concept of the Inner Light, the presence of God guiding the believer found in Friends doctrine. In early Quakerism, this experience was tied to Christianity, and Quakers were biblically literate. But, once the subjective experience of an inner guiding principle is elevated into an authority, the possibility arises that it may become separated from Scripture. In that case, there is no external check on the subjective perception. One can be a Christian Quaker or a non-Christian.

One of the reasons I am not comfortable with some aspects of the charismatic movement is the reliance some people place on subjectively hearing the voice of God: "God told me . . ." There can be insufficient check on this subjectivity if Scripture is not determinative. And, combined with modern individualism, the group cannot act as much of a check on the subjective imagination. Weird things can grow.

I believe the Spirit speaks, but what a person thinks he or she hears must always must be checked by the Word. And the Word is the Word taught by the historic Church.
A while back I accomplished one of my New Year's Resolutions: reading a Cormac McCarthy novel. Post here.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy is one of the bleakest novels I've read. The book pulls you into an ashy-grey dead world with crumbling dead vegetation and only the memory of animals. But somehow part of the human race has survived the abominable desolating horror that killed all other life on earth. A horror apparently visited by humanity itself.

The reader journeys with a man and a boy, his son. They are heading for the coast where perhaps things may be better, though the man has no real hope. They scavange for food in abandoned houses, occasionally finding items overlooked by previous travelers. And they hide from other humans, since many have turned to canniblism, even forming gangs that hunt down others on the road. A few people they meet are harmless, mostly through weakness, but no one can be trusted.

The man sometimes wonders about God, not really believing. He tells the boy there may be good people somewhere--they'll be known by the fact that they do not eat their children. But mostly the man just chooses every day to keep the boy alive and move forward, without real hope.

He had had a wife, the boy's mother. But sometime after delivering the baby into the dead world she had killed herself, telling her husband she could not face a certain future of rape, death, and being eaten.

The boy feels pity for others, at least for those others who are not hunting a living meal. He even has qualms about stealing from empty houses. He hopes to meet some of the good people.

How do you live in a God-forsaken world? That seems to be McCarthy's question. Would you turn cannibal, hunting your own kind? Would you become prey? Would you kill yourself, unable to face a future without hope? Would you devote yourself to protecting your own, even without real hope? Would you maintain a kind of innocence, worrying that an old man along the road might starve if you did not share some of your meagre supplies?
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I held my first live rattlesnake this past Friday afternoon. And also my second. I was not demonstrating my faith, just working the "Get Your Picture Taken with a Live Rattlesnake" table at the annual town Rattlesnake Festival.

We have lots and lots of rattlesnakes in the hills west of town (known locally as the Slick Hills). Lacking much else to build an annual festival around, we go with the snakes. You can watch the presentations from the snake pit, where "Fangmaster" Ronnie Orf stands amid a writhing mass of rattlesnakes wearing tall snake boots, picks up the occasional snake to show it better to the crowd, and explains how these creatures are an important part of God's creation here in Oklahoma. He has only been bitten three times in as many decades. You can watch snakes being butchered, then buy the meat and skin, or purchase fried snake meat (very bland and bony). If you are brave enough, you can join in a guided snake hunt in the hills. Thousands of people fill the town for three days for snakes, yard sales, vendors, and carnival rides.

The Rattlesnake Association is the largest philanthropic organization in town, giving away lots of money to good local causes, money raised from vendor fees, snake meat, and the picture table.

Late Friday afternoon, as I sat in my chair trying to calm down the snake by holding him in my lap (one hand behind his head, the other gently near his middle), and not having a lot of luck (he would have bitten me if he could have but his mouth was held shut) I watched the people amble up and down the main street: All shapes and sizes, very few models, a broad cross section of "Okie Redneck", Indian, and soldiers and their families from nearby Ft. Sill. Eating funnel cake, buying geegaws, coming closer to touch the snake, or retreating to a safer distance.

This is America. This is small town America. We like our guns. We believe in God, though many are very informal about it. We are not really bitter--except toward those elites who just do not get us. Then, when we feel looked down on, we rattle our tails. Just show us some respect.
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