Becoming a Wilderness People

We live in a holy time. God, the Eternal Love Being, surrounds Her-His people.

It’s a broken time. God, the Healing Love Being, is not able to fully reach all of His-Her people.

Indifference, self-reliance, idolatry, pride and greed have kept us from knowing God, the Transforming Love Being, within and among ourselves.

The brokenness of the world is not new and we are not to blame for it, but we are called, in partnership with Christ, to help mend it.

The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt. Pharaoh through his demands for luxury treated them quite cruelly. God heard their cries and sent Moses to help free them. Moses had to show the Pharaoh time and time again that Yahweh was more powerful than the gods of the Egyptians. Finally, the Pharaoh set them free. Guided by God’s merciful hand, the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and then wandered in the wilderness until finally they arrived at and were willing to enter Canaan, the land of milk and honey.

This American Empire, our country and nation, was created by European American Christians most of whom believed that they were more pure than other people – in particular the indigenous people that were here when they got here and the African people that were enslaved and brought here by European Americans. These white Christians believed that God gave them the authority to degrade, plunder, and exploit indigenous and African people and nature for their profit.

This belief, that God gives authority to some to cruelly treat poor, brown and black people, animals and the land, continues to persist today. While it came to these shores over 500 years ago, it unconsciously perpetuates through people in positions of power, is continually reinforced through organizational and institutional cultures and the messages we are indoctrinated with through our socialization. In order for this cruelty and decimation to stop, we and our institutions need to become aware that our ancestors’ spiritual shortsightedness and fear, rather than God’s preference for them, created the injustices of today.

While many movements and activities, Quaker and otherwise, have helped to improve this nation, global climate change, war, poverty, economic disparity, and the criminalization of black and brown people (see “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander) reveal that our institutions still systematically discriminate against some peoples and creation. We need to consider how our own spiritual shortsightedness and fear keeps us from using our God-given capabilities to overcome these evils.

We are Pharaoh’s elite, enjoying the benefits of white overprivilege, security, health and wealth. Are we willing to listen to Moses? Will we accept the signs? Will we trust God so much that we are willing to leave the security and predictability of this the domination system with the Israelites for the wilderness?

In order to return to balance, to restore the Covenant, to bring the Reign of God, those who are in positions of power, including ourselves, need to become aware of the suffering around us and to acknowledge that God is free, that God does not bestow privileges on any one person or group of people. That all persons and peoples have unmitigated access to God’s love.

Perhaps now God, desiring our return to the Covenant, is calling us back, showing us the way to the promised land.

After sitting with the call that I heard during and after the First Annual Gathering of Friendly Mystics, I have come to some sense of what we are called to do.

I believe Friends are called to listen spiritually to those who are the most destitute in this country, primarily American Indians but also African Americans and other people who are marginalized and/or living in poverty, and to witness to the presence of the Holy Spirit within and among them. Then, through holding in the Light and reflecting upon what we see and hear, we will discern the spiritual condition of the world. Also, periodically, I believe we are to gather with each other, so that we might share what is revealed to us and together name the world’s condition. Finally, through speaking and writing about our experiences and insights, we will reveal the Truth to the Powers (see Colossians 1:16) so that they might find kinship with those who have been marginalized, thus breaking down the internal barriers that sustain the external forms of domination.

When we share in the suffering of the poor, oppressed, disenfranchised and forgotten in this country and witness to the presence of the living God among them, we will have a chance, with the help of our Guide, to help tell the Good News that God was not, is not, and cannot be bound. We will then participate more fully in the unfolding of the ongoing story of redemption.

Our ability as a People and a Nation to break free from the domination system lies in our capacity to trust those whom our ancestors hurt to answer that of God in ourselves. May we risk their rejection, their righteous indignation, even bodily harm to participate in their suffering so that we might know more deeply our own and the spiritual condition of the world. In the end, the Powers, who are currently in denial, will recognize and conform to the truth that all peoples are Children of the Living God.

Our prize is greater spiritual wholeness and the return of creation to environmental, economic, social, and political balance. The task is to become a wilderness people. A people who are willing to stake their lives and walk into the unknown on the love, mercy and redeeming power of God. Like the Israelites, we need to be willing to leave the security of the Empire for the wilderness so that we might find our way to the promised land, the promised land of the Beloved Community of All Peoples where peace and plenty prevail.

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6 thoughts on “Becoming a Wilderness People

  1. I think ‘Clem’ means 2 Peter 2.4.

    The whole question of what these “Powers” are… Whether “revealing truth” to them is the way to return them to whatever role God had in mind for them…?

    What if their role is to be obstacles, challenges we’re collectively assigned for our spiritual development — forces of illusion that people are Intended to see through in time? I would say that what renders these ‘creatures’ (whether truly animate or simply metaphorical) dangerous —

    is not some magical power innate in them, but some human vulnerability of the mind and/or heart that inclines people to believe, follow, fear or love them. One might worship the stars in the night — but when the Sun comes up?

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  5. One can not live in this country (USA) without enjoying the benefits of the domination system. We drive to a conference with gas guaranteed by our military alliances. It is not enough to participate as little as possible; we must throw a (figurative) monkey wrench in the works. And no, I have not done as much as I should; I have not spent time in jail (as an inmate). I am reminded of Henry David Thoreau’s response to Emerson when Ralph asked his what he was doing in jail (failure to pay poll tax that went to pay for the war in which we took our south went for Mexico as I remember), Thoreau responded “Ralph, what are you doing out there?” Why are we (myself included) all out here?

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