What We Stand On
By Paul Christiansen. Pendle Hill Pamphlets (Number 429), 2014. 29 pages. $7/pamphlet.Buy from the publisher
The Door In
By Renee Crauder. Pendle Hill Pamphlets (Number 430), 2014. 36 pages. $7/pamphlet.Buy from the publisher
When each of two Pendle Hill pamphlets in immediate succession explores a Friend’s personal witness, together they offer us a welcome opportunity to compare and possibly contrast them. The first of these is largely present and future-oriented, by a young adult not far along yet on his journey, while the other reflects on how the challenges of her life’s journey have brought her to where she stands from the vantage point of her later life.
Paul Christiansen writes with the bold tone that the young seem to manage best: “We American Friends may have taken war off our list of options, but we have not taken all the causes of war out of our hearts. In fact, we’re in them up to our necks.” In his straightforward attempt to find the seeds of war, he finds the unadmitted—and often unrecognized—fear of losing our privileges and middle-class comforts. He points his finger at the more fundamental facts that war has the ability to simplify, gives a sense of unity and purpose, and is in fact addicting and intoxicating—“we go to war for what it gives us,” he says, and challenges us “Can we speak truth to power when we are the power?” (emphasis added).
“I look at Quakerism,” Christiansen adds bluntly, “so lacking in integrity, with its pitiably naïve doctrine of ‘answering that of God in every one.’” He sees this as woefully innocent because we imagine we can erase war by simply appealing to a common humanity, and yet fail to see that a seed of war lies in the plain though unconscious fear that impels us to protect our privileges. Friends not only need a far more radical vision of faithfulness, but we must change a whole attitude in fostering an alternative way of life. Christiansen intends to do this: “the impossible is what we stand on” is the challenge he offers to Friends.
Renee Crauder looks back on the many life-changing experiences of her active journey between the late ’70s and the mid-’90s, the years she spent with her husband mainly in Bangladesh, Burma, and the Middle East. Notwithstanding this retrospection, the pamphlet is written in the present tense, because “in a life of self-examination, and especially in prayer, there is no yesterday or tomorrow. There is only now.” Finding the appropriate blend of the active and the contemplative, and coming to know herself, is for her always a road paved with trials and uncertainties, because her self-monitoring repeatedly asks anxious questions like whether she is really doing enough, or experiencing dryness, or even heading the right way. As Crauder gradually becomes easy with longer and more demanding retreats with others, she finds herself sensing more surely the presence of God. As she grows in discernment and confidence, she moves into leading retreats herself (although she prefers to think of herself as not leading but “empowering”), offering workshops and becoming qualified as a spiritual director.
Today these have come to form the ministries by which Crauder is well known. She comes ever nearer to the beckoning but not yet reached goal of “the door in,” until as she waits and prays she loses her sense of self, boundaries blur, and God eventually invites her in. For her this realization carries a special sweetness because “an inner authority has taken the place of fearful Renee.”
The two pamphlets are written by Friends looking in almost opposite time directions, yet both are firmly grounded in the now. It is hardly accidental that the title of the first is the present-tense “where we stand.” The most striking similarity here is that both reflect on their own personal call to witness. Both view their lives with the same scrupulous honesty and integrity, and both are written with the passion of sincere searching. They are responding, each in a unique way, to the same Inner Light.