Conversations, VOLUME 6

Philip Gulley – Living the Quaker Way [Interview]

[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”0307955788″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”” width=”106″]Page 2: Philip Gulley Interview

Bob: Absolutely. To certain religious audiences, Living The Quaker Way may seem more like a political statement than like timeless wisdom or the framework for a better lifestyle. How can we help people hear the importance of this book without them writing it off as political ideology in disguise?


Philip: (Laughs.) Whenever you do theology, it always has a political component to it. There’s just no escaping that. It’s always a commentary on culture. After reading theology for a while, people believe they can discern the politics of the writer—and in some cases they can—but then they assume that was the primary focus. (Laughs again.) I’ll just say that theology always has a political aspect. It did for Jesus. It did for all the folks I call “spirit people”—you know, those people who have a gift and who’ve been entrusted with articulating the priorities of God. They always have a spiritual connection and a cultural dimension that often seems political in nature. There’s no avoiding that.


For me, what I always have to guard against is feeling that if somehow we can find the right political solution then somehow our world will be saved. This overestimates the power of politics and its ability to transform the world. If you look at politics that way, you’re going to end up really disappointed. But I haven’t figured out yet how to do theology without it having some political dimension. How do you talk about caring for the poor and loving justice without at some point talking in a political fashion?


Bob: I often meet people who know very little about Quakers. All they can recall from their U.S. History class is the Salem witch hunts. (Laughs.)


Philip: (Laughing too.) Which we had nothing to do with!

*** [easyazon-link keywords=”Philip Gulley” locale=”us”]Books by Philip Gulley[/easyazon-link]

Bob: Exactly! So there’s this big gulf that has to be crossed in helping the average person come to see the Quaker way as a better life. What are some of the ways you’ve bridged this gulf? Besides your book.


Philip: Well, I tell you what, that might be the hardest obstacle to overcome for modern Quakers. Getting people to realize that we’re not the “oatmeal people,” that we’re not the Amish, and that we’re not all dead!


I often point to Quakers who are well known and doing significant work in their fields. So if somebody is talking to me about music and they mention that they like James Taylor, I say, “Yeah, I do too. He’s such a good Quaker.” I’ll sneak that in. If they talk about a Parker Palmer book they really like, I say, “Yeah, he really writes out of his deep Quaker experience.” There are Quakers who are prominent in nearly every field, so it involves knowing what modern Quakers are up to and being able to work them into the conversation. It will help people realize that this is a contemporary expression.

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