And at number 1…

(This is a part of my “Top Ten things that drive me crazy about Quakers” list. Thanks to Barclay Press for the opportunity to think about this.)

1. Living in the past

Yes, we have a heritage. Yes, we have a wonderful history. But we are the heirs of a living, breathing, present-tense vibrant experience of God! I long for us to look forward, to be radicals who listen to God and who communicate the power and love and inclusiveness of God to our broken, wounded, and exclusionary world.

God is not silent! God is not finished with us yet! If we want to be relevant to the world in which we live, we would do well to find ways to articulate a meaningful way forward…and leave behind closed doors our reminiscing with the family about the good old days.

Number 2…

(This is a part of my “Top Ten things that drive me crazy about Quakers” list.)

2. Our naiveté about symbol

In our right pursuit to have our faith in Jesus be pure and real and unencumbered by ritual, we have wrongly framed our spirituality as if only the mind exists. Bare rationality is not the only way to encounter God. We are embodied people! We desperately need to rethink our theology, specifically in regard to symbol. We worship with our bodies as well as our minds. We worship through images as well as words. Language itself is a symbol.

This is not a cry for us to “follow the crowd” and adopt communion with the elements and baptism with water. It is much deeper, a call to articulate a theology of encounter with God which recognizes the physicality and the sociality of worship, and the meaningful place of symbol in deepening our life with God.

Number 3…

(This is a part of my “Top Ten things that drive me crazy about Quakers” list.)

3. The separation of Jesus and social action

I know that the identity wars among Quakers in the early 20th century were painful and rooted in the deep convictions of Friends who disagreed. But I honestly don’t understand how or why those disagreements came about. What seems so incredibly unique about the Quaker message is that intimacy with Jesus birthed world-changing activism. If you love Jesus, why wouldn’t you want to join him to change the world? And if you want to change the world, how (and why) would you do it without Jesus?

Number 4…

(This is a part of my “Top Ten things that drive me crazy about Quakers” list.)

4. Why aren’t U.S. Quakers exploding in growth?

Our combination of inward, deep spirituality with outward, passionate social activism is one that a postmodern world is crying out for. It drives me crazy that we aren’t catching on like a contagion. Why aren’t we exploding like an epidemic?

Number 5…

(This is a part of my “Top Ten things that drive me crazy about Quakers” list.)
5. Our “Just Say No” attitude toward anything charismatic

We believe God speaks to us all, but hush the prophetic voice. We want to yield completely to God’s Holy Spirit, but know the Spirit would never lead us to speak in tongues. I’ve never understood how a group of people completely committed to listening to God’s Spirit and obeying whatever we hear became a group that puts walls around what God will and won’t do. I would never say Quakers must worship like charismatics. Nor do I think we can say Quakers can’t worship like charismatics. Let God be God!

Number 6…

(This is a part of my “Top Ten things that drive me crazy about Quakers” list.)

6. Our lack of humility in wider Christian circles


There are Nazarenes who earnestly want to hear from God. There are Baptists who long for God’s justice to roll down like the mighty waters. There are many who take communion or baptize with water as an earnest and real connection to the living God, without letting it be a dead ritual. I sometimes think the way we approach those outside our Friends’ circles is similar to the way the Pharisee prayed as he stood next to the tax collector in Luke 18.

Number 7…

(This is a part of my “Top Ten things that drive me crazy about Quakers” list.)

7. Individualistic, self-defined faith

George Fox famously described the power of a real encounter with God in his journal:

“When all my hopes…in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me…then, oh then, I heard a voice which said, ‘There is one, even Christ Jesus, who can speak to thy condition’.”

When we translate that into “Don’t try to tell ME how the Spirit speaks”, a dangerous line has been crossed.

Individual Quaker practices like silence, solitude, centering, and listening cannot be separated from community Quaker practices like meetings for clearness, eldering, submitting, consensus, and gathered worship. When the life-giving truth that each one of us can hear from God isn’t grounded with the healthy realism that we often hear incorrectly and need others to help us, “God” devolves into “me”. We don’t get to define God, nor can we escape the fact that to be Quaker means to be submissive to a community. We must correct, admonish, challenge, and submit to each other in love.

Number 8…

(This is a part of my “Top Ten things that drive me crazy about Quakers” list.)

8. Pride in our peculiarities

While we often give lip service to our frustration at being a marginalized minority, we can also take a quixotic pride in our uniqueness. We seem to like being different a little too much. Our distinctives become our definition, which sometimes means we turn the original purpose of our peculiarities upside down. The Quaker distinctives of peacemaking, equality, social justice, and simplicity (to name a few) are just branches. Leafy, fruit-bearing branches organically sprung from the Jesus-trunk, rooted in God’s ever-speaking Holy Spirit. We need to stop lopping off branches and planting them in the ground as our center. Branches belong on the trunk.

Number 9…

(This is a part of my “Top Ten things that drive me crazy about Quakers” list.)

9. Our jargon

“Are you FGC or EFI?” “Are all hearts clear?” “Is that an FUM or EFM field?” “That of God in each person.” NWYM, AFSC, YAF, FWCC. “The Light Within.”Acronyms. Phrases. Insider code. If we were TRYING to make ourselves incomprehensible to others, I don’t think we could do it any better than we do now. I’d love for us to work harder at sharing who we are and what we think in fresh, understandable ways.