Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Kinder, Gentler Apocalypse

I hope that many people - and Quakers in particular - will read Licia Kuenning's new novel Farmington! Farmingon!, will enjoy the story,will appreciate its occasional wit and humor, and will ponder the moral, philosophical and theological issues it raises in its pages (as well as those it presents directly by its very existence). For that reason I will begin this review by describing the book's many virtues as well as I can. Only after providing that context will I proceed to discuss my some facts about it that - if presented first - might well put some readers off.

One more disclosure before I begin the review itself: I have been personally acquainted with Licia Kuenning and with her husband Larry Kuenning for over 30 years. I also know some of the characters who appear in the book, either in fictional disguises or under their own names. This has increased my interest in the book, has in some cases increased my enjoyment, and in others has caused me discomfort. The reader may want to consider this in evaluating my review.

Farmington! Farmington! is a fictional story set in a real town (Farmington, Maine)in the very near future (June, 2006). It has realistic and sharply drawn characters. It is so rich in local color that the town of Farmington and its people become very vivid to us - as, indeed, do many characters who are not from Farmington but are part of the world of North American Quakerism in its many varieties. The book takes satirical aim (sometimes in an off-handed way) at politial and theological correctness, at liberal humanists and fire-and-brimstone preachers, at child rearing in suburban America, at war, medicine, the law, and many other features of modern life.

For all that, it is not a "realistic" novel in the usual sense of that term. The most important event in the story, coming very near the beginning of the book, is the fulfillment in real time and in a specific location (Farmington, naturally) of an age-old dream: the end of death, sin and evil, and the beginning of justice, peace and eternal life. It is, in short, a novel about the inaugaration of the New Jerusalem or the Kingdom of God on earth.

I hasten to add that it is not like the infamous "Left Behind" series by evangelical millenarian Tim LaHaye nor is it like any other book I am aware of in that genre. In Farmington! Farmington! there are no apocalyptic bloody battles between the armies of the Lord and the legions of the damned. Neither the wicked nor the unbelievers are dumped into a lake of fire. What happens to the wicked, instead, is that they simply stop doing wicked things once they find their way to Farmington, Maine. As for unbelievers, their only punishment is the embarassment of realizing they'd been wrong all along, that God does exist after all, and that He is loving and kind. This is, in fact, such a sweet and airy version of the New Jerusalem that in itself it might seem to furnish little material for the conflicts and dramatic tensions that any story has to have if it is to hold the interest of its readers. The writer has solved this problem, however, and has provided us with a very good story. Its interest derives from the subtle way that this New Jerusalem makes its appearance, and from the fact that it coexists and interacts for many years with earth-as-we-know-it. Most people outside of Farmington seem very slow to understand what is happening there. Much of what occurs in the story happens because Farmington has borders and people have to travel to get to it.

There is a kind of prologue to the main story that I think could just as well have been omitted. It reports a conversation in heaven between God and Christ and is very different in tone and point of view than most of the book. The main part of the story, however, begins in Farmington, Maine on June 6, 2006. (More about that date later in this review). For some people, even people right in Farmington, the changes that occur that day are at first rather subtle. A man named David Ford is drunk and stumbling home at daybreak on June 6, but suddenly becomes sober. Another named Joel Batzell wakes up early and feels unexpectedly energetic. He looks out the window and observes
"...all the physical objects that he remembered as being visible from that window were still there, and there were no new ones visible. But there hadn't used to be a glory reflecting from them, right down to the rusty chair in his yard."

Two prisoners wake up in a cell in the county detention center and smile at each other instead of eyeing each other warily.

It is soon obvious, however, that something far more profound than an extra nice day has happened. Death itself ceases to hold any power within the limits of Farmington. People who went to bed on June 5 with apparently terminal illnesses wake up on June 6 with no illness at all. Broken and missing limbs are restored to health. It isn't long before people who have died in Farmington even before June 6 reappear in its streets: not as zombies or ghosts but as more or less the same people they were before they died (only better, of course!). It is not only death that disappears. So does every evil tendency in the heart of man. An incestuous father repents his sin against his daughter. She - as a resident of Farmington - is able to forgive him and they successfully establish a healthy and loving non-sexual relationship. Former addicts are freed from their addictions. Former murderers are reconciled to their resurrected victims. And - lest you think this novel is completely apolitical - a truckful of National Guardsmen who pass through Farmington on the way to deployment in Iraq find that they are unwilling to kill their enemies once they are on the battle field. Later, George W Bush comes to Farmington to see what's going on, and ends up calling all the troops home. (Like I said: not a "realistic" novel in the usual sense of the term.) A nice touch in this part of the book is the narrator's off-handed comment that even though lots of people are mad about the troop withdrawal, they can't impeach Bush because he has broken no laws while in office "except the laws of God."

Regarded purely as a theological fantasy-novel, the book illustrates several themes that are controversial but well worth considering. The most obvious of these is universal salvation: the concept that there will be a place for everyone in the Kingdom of God. (Althogh the New Jerusalem begins in Farmington, it becomes universal in scope by the end of the book). This is a familiar enough notion to theological liberals, but it is surprising to find it in a novel by a well-known conservative Friend who tends toward a rather literal reading of the Bible.

Another theme is the (temporary) tension between God's Kingdom and the world-as-we-know-it. Between the time that Farmington changes and the time that everything changes, there is a complicated relationship between the two. Farmington has its own laws and own reality, but it influences the world around it by simply being itself and presenting a visible alternative to the way things are usually done. It is not too much of a stretch to see this a parable of what the church (or the Sociey of Friends) today would be if it were faithful to its mission.

Closely related to universal salvation is the theme of universal but voluntary repentance. People in Farmington who have been sinners in the past all mend their ways, but they do so not under compulsion but purely because - after hearing Christ's voice - they decide they want to.

Related to this is the theme that spiritual authority comes directly to the individual from God rather than through intermediaries. In Farmington, the churches, synagogues, and Friends' meetings don't seem to have any special purchase on the truth. The two prophetic protagonists might seem at first like substitute authorities, but it soon turns out that everyone in Farmington has direct access to God. As already mentioned, they all start hearing the voice of Christ on a daily basis, and he gives them not only moral instruction but step-by-step directions on what to do. This sounds, on the surface, like nothing more or less than elementary Quaker doctrine - that Christ has come to teach His people Himself. I have to say, however, that the way in which this relationship is envisioned in the novel sometimes strikes a false note. I like to think that Christ not only guides His followers when necessary but gives them scope for their own natural intelligence and decision-making - that he is happy to have us suprise him from time to time. It's not clear to me that there is room for this kind of truly individual initiative in the Kingdom of God as envisioned in this novel.

All of this is presented to us by a third person narrator who is not named. The narrator's point of view is close to that of the "omniscient narrator" who appears in a great deal of western fiction. At times, however, the "omniscience" slips and the narrator says that "I don't know" one thing or another.

The story's protagonists mentioned above are two women who prophesy the events in Farmington before they occur. One of them is named Kathy Lee and the other is named Eleanor Fisch. In a "Transcriptionist's Introduction" to the novel, Licia Kuenning says
"I am not Kathy Lee, though she resembles me in some respects. I am also not Eleanor Fisch, nor is my husband Errol Fisch, though readers who know us may observe some correspondences there, too."
This is an understatement. Among the "correspondences" that are most glaring is the fact that Licia Kuenning herself has been widely publicizing through various internet forums a prophecy that is virtually identical to the one Kathy Lee makes concerning Farmington.

This leads me to some more troubling questions raised by the book. One is the question of what Christians in general and Friends in particular mean by "prophecy" and how we regard people who claim to be prophets. If this novel were only a novel it might be psychologically possible to imagine that we Friends - upon hearing a prophecy like Kathy Lee's - would welcome it. The fact that Licia Kuenning is preaching the very same "prophecy" in real life and that no one I know of accepts it as true undermines that illusion. A prophecy, of course, is not necessarily a prediction about the future. It has usually been understood as any kind of message that God moves an individual to proclaim to others. The message of George Fox is often spoken of as a "prophetic" message. In one sense any message given in Meeting for worship is "prophetic". The idea that such messages can give information about future events is difficult to accept, but it is not possible to rule it out a priori. Certainly some prophecies in the Bible seemed to have that character, and early Friends sometimes made such predictions (though they were sometimes off the mark).

Licia Kuenning has acknowledged that a message revealed to her should not be automatically accepted by others who have not heard it directly, but she has seemed to suggest at the same time that Quaker publications are out of line if they refuse to print it, and to suggest that too much skepticism about the prophecy calls the skeptics' own Christian commitment into question. I can only say that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and I have seen no evidence whatever that God intends to end death in Farmington, Maine, in 2006. The fact that a sincere Christian and good person believes she has received a revelation to that effect does not seem like very strong evidence to me. The question of whehter to print such a prophecy in a Quaker publication seems to me like a question for those publications; they are perfectly within their rights to decide either way.

Licia Kuenning has stated (and no doubt believes) that she is not the author of this book, but only its "transcriptionist" because it was "dictated" to her by Christ. Although I believe that Christ does speak to people, I simply don't believe that He dictates novels, and certainly not this particular novel. For one thing, although it is a good novel it is not that good. Licia has stated that she as an individual would not be "capable" of writing such a novel. She has, however, always been a good writer, and this book seems to me well within the limits of her considerable but very human talent.

For another, I notice that the narrator of the story shares a number of beliefs with Licia - beliefs that I do not personally share and that I would be very surprised to find that Jesus shares (though of course I could be wrong). One of these is that homosexuality is a disorder that will be "cured" in Farmington. I accept this as Licia's sincere belief - and I do not equate it with hatred of homosexuals as I know that some people do - but I do not believe it is true. I am afraid that it is a notion that can do great harm, especially in the hands of spiritual leaders who attempt to effect such a "cure" on this side of the Kigndom of Heaven through therapies of their own devising. The idea of homosexuality as a "disorder" certainly does not square with what I see in the homosexual people who I know.

Finally, the narrator of the book mentions various individuals who I think I recognize, and the narrator's view of their characters and qualities sounds a lot more to me like Licia Kuenning's view than what I would imagine would be Jesus' view.

The treatment of some very real "sinners" in the book seems to suffer from another defect - that it does not treat the sin seriously enough. I have mentioned already that an incestuous father and his daughter are reconciled in Farmington. No doubt, in the Kingedom of Heaven on Earth that could happen. Even Hitler, some believe, may be transformed into a righteous person at the coming of the Lord. But this part of the book seems shallow to me. No sense is conveyed of how deep and horrifying such a sin really is, of how the whole personality is involved in it and in need of change, nor of how it devastates its victims. The thoughts of the victim Elaine Blair, who is 14 years old and pregnant by her own father, are described like this
The last thing she wanted was for her father to go to jail. She loved him. Maybe it was true, as the prevailing wisdom said, that he was abusing her, but she loved him anyway.
And this was even before either she or her father made it to Farmington. Her father's thoughts - after realizing that she had gone to Farmington against his wishes - are described as follows:
It wasn't what he would have advised, but he also knew how stubborn Elaine could be and how determined she wsa to have his child (well, his grandchild), so he did not interfere.
This bland depiction of what would be in reality a nightmarishly horrific situation undermines for me the "miracle" of this father's repentance and reconciliation with his daughter. An author who imagines that such a father truly "loves" his daughter even before conversion is no longer credible enough to me to convincingly describe how such a conversion would change him.

Another aspect of the book that I find troubling is its rather inconsistent attitude toward the Bible. In some places, the author seems to be criticizing liberal or humanist Quakers because of their ignorance or rejection of scriptural teachings, in others she seems to dismiss without serious argument theological positions that many people believe are grounded in scripture. Although she hints that the non-existence of Hell can be squared with apparently contradictory scriptures, she does not flesh this out. This is fair enough in itself. A true discernment of the spiritual truth in scripture is not always obvious on the surface. But then why dismiss so cavalierly people who reject other apparently scriptural teachings?

And why, for that matter, turn some scriptural symbolism so provocatively on its head? The most glaring example of this is the role in the book of '666', described in the book of Revelation as the number of name of "the beast". Not only does the end of death come in this book on June 6, 2006 (6/6/06), but '666' itself is set up by Kathy Lee as a phone number to call for information about Farmington. This almost seems like a deliberate thumbing-of-the-nose at Biblical literalists. But what is the point being made? It is not explicitly discussed at all.

I want to be clear, however, that I in no way think this book is dangerous or evil. On the contrary, I see in it a God-inspired faith that God's love and care is meant for all humanity and that by its power the power of death and sin will be broken. If the author has erred in believing this will happen in an outward and visible way within the stream of time, then she is only repeating an error made many times before - sometimes by truly great spirits, including most of the first generation of Christians. It is a far less serious error than the widespread defeatist belief that God is the author of death and is powerless against evil.

Judging by the reaction in some internet forums, I gather that many Friends find Licia's prophecy to be deeply unsettling and even frightening. I think this reaction comes in part because we are threatened by visions that seem "crazy". The possibly manic energy of Licia's promotion of her prophecy is understandably off-putting, as is her impatience with those of us who don't "get it". I'm not sure that Licia is any "crazier" than George Fox or William Blake, but they are conveniently dead and she is very much alive. In the book, she has the character Kathy Lee muse about the relationship of prophecy to madness.
I think that before we received the new Jerusalem in Farmington people who spoke up for God in the face of nearly universal rejection were probably a little crazy -- though whether as a cause or as an effect it might be hard to say. Normal people either didn't become prophets, or didn't remain normal, for God never gives out a bland message. Most people just can't digest the idea that a radical change is in the works. Their minds filter out the supernatural. They love ghost stories, horror movies, and other supernatural fiction, even though the events in many of those narratives are indeed very horrible. It shows that they do yearn for something beyond the ordinary - but actually believing that such a thing can happen seems to be beyond most people, at least until it does happen... Perhaps my mind lacked some of the usual filters that most people keep securely in place in their brains.

The biggest test of Licia Kuenning's prophecy will be what happens on June 7, 2006. I honestly don't think that outward death wlll have ceased to occur in Farmington or anywhere else. If I am right, the author of Farmington! Farmington! will have to consider that either her voice has misled her or she has misunderstood Him. I would call this a crisis of faith, and therefore I think it could well be an occasion for spiritual growth. My own faith is that Christ Himself does not mislead, that His words to us are for our good, that it is hard for all of us to hear him rightly, because of our own competing yearnings and fears, and that he is gentle with us when we misunderstand.

For more information about this book, see Licia's website.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an extremely accomplished and judicious response to a very complex matter. Balanced, sensitive, perceptive -- and fascinating.

-- Mitch

11:59 AM, November 28, 2005  
Blogger Joe G. said...

I'm with Mitch! I've followed this matter of the Farmington prophecy sinced I first learned of it earlier this year. Your review of the book as well as of the work or leading that Friend Licia advocates is fair and sensitive. Thank you for offering this.

2:01 PM, November 28, 2005  
Blogger Zach Alexander said...

Again, thanks... I think you've done everyone who's been following this a service.

5:27 PM, November 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For comments by me, the author of Farmington! Farmington!, on Rich's review, see the Quaker-G posts dated 11/28/05. I would also encourage Mitch, Beppe, Zach Alexander, and others who read Rich's blog to write to me at I don't bite, rave, or foam at the mouth! and you can learn more about what will happen next year in Farmington by asking me, than by "following this matter" as if it were a distant news story.

Licia Kuenning

12:00 AM, November 30, 2005  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

I am pleased that Licia Kuenning visited this blog. Her comments on Quaker-G about my review of her book were generally positive, though of course she takes issue with my view of her prophecy.

Since Licia has invited us to view her posts on Quaker-G, I hope she will post another comment explaining how Friends can subscribe to Quaker-G.
- - Rich

9:08 AM, November 30, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In answer to Rich's request that I tell readers how to subscribe to Quaker-G - just send me an e-mail indicating that you want to be subscribed: I thought that supplying 2 e-mail addresses for myself would eliminate the need for the program-oriented instructions which increasingly people find hard to follow. Quaker-G was originally intended for Conservative Friends and others interested in Quaker history, but it is now open to Friends of all branches, who are willing to have their posts replied to by historically well-formed Quakers. My own faith is close to early Quaker principles such as may be found in Lewis Benson's writings. Please use your real first & last names--we do not accept anonymous subscribers.

12:40 PM, November 30, 2005  
Blogger Larry Clayton said...

It's so easy to write about evil, and rare is the author who can describe goodness credibly and authentically. I haven't read the book, but look forward to it.

High in that rare category I would recommend George MacDonald.

Thanks for this post, Rich.

12:28 PM, December 03, 2005  
Blogger Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

It's been a long while since I was in touch with Licia (I exchanged email for a while with her, years ago, when we were on the same Quaker mailing list). I remember, oh, it must be more than six years ago, since it was back when I was still in northern California, when she posted that she had gotten this leading about how death would end in Farmington, and requested we ask God about it. And I did, the next Sunday in meeting for worship (though I didn't see the prophecy as likely), and got apparently no meaningful response, for the next thing that came to my mind was something or other about the story of Noah which had nothing whatsoever to do with Farmington.

2:47 AM, December 05, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few questions:

1) How do contemporary Friends discern the value of an individual's leading?

2) How do comtemporary Friends discen whether a leading may be the product of mental illness>

3) How to contemporary Friends do either when an individual is not part of a monthly/quarterly/yearly meeting structure or subject to its discipline?

3:50 PM, December 05, 2005  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

"Anonymous" has posted 3 extremely important questions that go right to the heart of some fundamental issues for Friends today. I hope to highlight them and take a stab at answering them in a new post within the next few days.

I would be grateful if "anonymous" continues to comment, and even more grateful if we could know his or her name.

- - Rich Accetta-Evans

9:24 AM, December 06, 2005  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

Lynn's experience is interesting. The jump from thinking about Farmington! Farmington! to thinking about the story of Noah seems pretty natural to me, and the two seem very related. What is the Farmington of Licia's novel, if not a kind of ark to which people can repair to find salvation from a the flood of death and destruction that has covered the earth? The contrast is that in Licia's story the ark is somehow open for everybody, and not just for two or seven of every kind.

- - Rich

9:31 AM, December 06, 2005  
Blogger Thomas said...

"The biggest test of Licia Kuenning's prophecy will be what happens on June 7, 2006. I honestly don't think that outward death wlll have ceased to occur in Farmington or anywhere else. If I am right, the author of Farmington! Farmington! will have to consider that either her voice has misled her or she has misunderstood Him. I would call this a crisis of faith, and therefore I think it could well be an occasion for spiritual growth."

I have been in contact with the author of Farmington! Farmington! and shared with her my genuine concerns about the extraordinary claims of her prophecy, urging caution as well as counsel. However she responded very rudely and sarcastically to what she called my "silly questions". She also said she knows of no one qualified to judge her prophecy. Finally, she said she has "had it" with my "unhelpful emails" and told me not to write again and if I did she would "delete it unread".

I see very little fruit of the Spirit in such actions and that says a lot to me about her prophecy -- "By their fruits ye shall know them". . I truly hope that June 7th will indeed bring her to a crisis of faith that will issue in her spiritual growth.

8:25 PM, January 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I check back after more than 2 months to find more comments on Rich's post of Nov. 23. I am not used to this type of forum and hope I have logged in correctly, showing my full name (Licia Kuenning) as I wish other participants would do. I for one take a person's comments much more seriously when they identify themselves. I do recognize the name Lynn Gazis-Sax, and we must have met in cyberspace back in 1996, as that's when I was first writing about Farmington. I apologize for asking her to ask God about my prophecy--as I have since learned that God doesn't like being asked questions that he has not himself directly led the person to ask. I don't think there is much connection between my prophecy and the story of Noah's Ark, unless perhaps it is that one person's message may be true even while everyone else is laughing at it.

Feel free to write to me directly at my personal email address:

The person calling himself only "Thomas" complains that I replied "rudely and sarcastically" to what I called his silly questions. It is possible. I appreciate intelligent questions and enjoy responding to them--but I get many silly ones, and only one who has been asked the same silly questions about a very important matter, over and over again, can appreciate how exasperating that gets. If in doubt as to whether your questions are good ones--think for a few minutes about what you would be feeling if you had a prophecy of something really strange and unusual, though also beneficial--and you circulated it where you could and were mostly treated as if you were nuts. Suggestions that I will be disappointed when nothing happens on June 6 are pretty cheap--and yes, I have received more than enough of them. Give a little thought instead to what you will do when you find out that I was right.

I see that Rich has replied to another commenter in an entry dated December 13--and I have responded to his comments of that date today on Quaker-G, which I still think would be a better forum for this discussion--but Rich doesn't agree.

Watch Farmington!! (124 days to go)

3:56 PM, February 02, 2006  
Blogger john said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:55 AM, February 03, 2006  
Blogger john said...

Rich writes:
"I have mentioned already that an incestuous father and his daughter are reconciled in Farmington. ... No sense is conveyed of how deep and horrifying such a sin really is, of how the whole personality is involved in it and in need of change, nor of how it devastates its victims. ... This bland depiction of what would be in reality a nightmarishly horrific situation undermines for me the "miracle" of this father's repentance and reconciliation with his daughter."

I haven't read the book. I can think of a few ways to interpret this analysis:
1] Noone in such a relationship could have these thoughts and feelings.
2] The thoughts and feelings narrated here are unfaithful to these particular characters.
3] The mediocrity of the suffering as illustrated yeilds a mediocre reconciliation that is less satisfying than a reconciliation based on greater suffering.

The first idea implies that the reader has internalized sterotypes about what "normal" abuse-victims and abusers are like, and the reader rejects a characterization that doesn't conform to internalized stereotypes. I know quite a few people who have been through experiences most of us imagine with horror, but their responses have sometimes been quite surprising. I'm thinking of a young lady who told a group about her rape experience some time before, and how she was completely unable to play the victim role everyone expected of her.

Sometimes we have to stretch our perceptions of what people are capable (or incapable) of. This is especialy important for those who are called to serve Christ in the work of healing and reconciliation – as a friend of Tom Fox, I would much rather hope that his captors are ideosyncratic people able to respond to conflict in unexpected ways than to believe they are nothing more than my stereotype of masked men, insurgents, or terrorists.

Stories populated with clichés and stereotypes instead of real people are seldom worthy of much meditation, but literature that reveals our internalized sterotypes is very valuable.

The second interpretation says that the reader has gotten to know these characters as specific individuals, and this portion of the narrative is strikingly out-of-character; this, I think, would be a more substantial criticism.

I'm not sure if the third note says anything about the artistic integrity of the novel, or if it's just a matter of taste. For a less forgiving view, I recommend Scott McCloud's Meadow of the Damned (you must scroll right to view the whole comic; be sure to click through to Parts II and III).

Sorry for running off into a tangent. Are any of these options the point you were driving at?

2:12 AM, February 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John is right that sexual abuse situations are not all alike, and Rich is right that the depiction of Elaine's experience is not politically correct. It isn't meant to be politically correct--it is meant to illustrate what Farmington is all about. As it happens, I based Elaine partly on the knowledge of a close family member who was an incest victim--and it is true that some such young women love the parent who imposes on them, despite the undeservingness of the perpetrator. My family member put off telling anyone she was being abused, for 10 years, just because she didn't want her father to go to jail. But in any case, Rich's criticism overlooks the fact that we first meet Elaine when she is on her way to Farmington! Within an hour or two of our first learning of her existence, she is in Farmington with her baby. Neither mother nor baby suffer long term damage for the simple reason that they are in Farmington. (My family member did suffer long term damage, so I realize that can happen--but anything that can hurt someone can be healed in Farmington--and will be healed in Farmington starting June 6 of this year.)

Farmington is NOT politically correct--and Rich has mentioned only one of the ways it isn't. Expect to be surprised--even shocked if you haven't been here--next summer when the reports come out!

I hope that if John contributes again he will identify himself by using a full name or e-mail address. My e-mail address (which is also on my website) is, and I enjoy intelligent discussion both of the Farmington prophecy and of my novel based in part on that prophecy.

8:14 PM, February 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yesterday I posted a fairly lengthy response to John's comment; today I find it is not here. Rich, can you figure out what happened? If not, I could try to reconstruct what I said and post it again with the hope of better results.

3:21 PM, February 04, 2006  
Blogger john said...

Licia writes:
"I hope that if John contributes again he will identify himself by using a full name or e-mail address."

If you click on my name, it will lead to my Blogger profile, which includes my full name (John Stephens of Triangle, Virginia), and links to some of the other projects I'm involved in – my contact information is posted online at BEARDEDBABY.NET. No effort was made to post anonymously.

I am a member of Woodlawn Friends Meeting, a liberal meeting in Fort Belvior, Virginia. When I became Quaker five years ago, I had no intention of confessing any kind of Christianity, but since then I have fallen into the Bible, and the prophetic conversation there has claimed me. Like most liberal Quakers, I struggle with spiritual pride, which seems to be one of the attending risks of experiencing a sense of divine vocation.

Because of that risk, I hesitate to use my own judgement regarding your Farmington experience; but because of that sense of divine vocation, it is my intention to continue serving God and neighbor in my own community, come June 6.

12:50 AM, February 05, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks to John Stephens for identifying himself in his comment--as is probably obvious by now I am a newcomer to the world of blogs and the ways they work--I hadn't even known there were such things as "blogger profiles."

John writes,
"Like most liberal Quakers, I struggle with spiritual pride, which seems to be one of the attending risks of experiencing a sense of divine vocation.
"Because of that risk, I hesitate to use my own judgement regarding your Farmington experience; but because of that sense of divine vocation, it is my intention to continue serving God and neighbor in my own community, come June 6."

It makes good sense to withhold judgment on someone else's prophecy, when you have no immediate revelation about it yourself. I find that God frequently gives new directions which I had no way of anticipating months ahead of time. So when June 6 comes, or in the days immediately following, when news about Farmington will be reaching mass media, I trust John will follow whatever leadings he is given then. I never tell people it is necessary for them to rush to Farmington--for God can lead them to come here when he wants them to--and ultimately everybody will get here. I look forward to seeing John some day, and wish him well in the meanwhile.

7:38 AM, February 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a compassionate, wise review written with great sensitivity and insight. Many thanks.
Katherine Frank

12:32 PM, February 19, 2006  

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