Faith Now

Faith Now can refer to what the state of our faith is at this moment. And/or it can be an admonition to focus our faith on what is happening now.

My witness has been so many people, including people of faith, are driven by the past. This is obviously true with religious practices demanding adherence to some set of rules. Rules created in the past. Rules designated by systems of dominance.

One of the reasons I have remained a Quaker is the minimum of such rules. We say we believe the Spirit can speak to us now, that ours is a living faith. We use a set of queries (questions) to help us continue to examine our faith. This can make our faith less passive.

It is not my place to judge other’s faith and practice. But there are things that have troubled my spirit for a long time.

One is that Quakers do have unwritten rules. As a recent example, prior to the forced separation because of the COVID pandemic, I was told, many times, that Quaker business decisions could only be made when Friends were together physically. When I lived in Indianapolis, I had suggested using programs for remote connections to my meeting in Iowa, but that was universally held to be unacceptable. We see how that has changed. What are other unwritten rules? Identifying them might account for why we are attracting few new attenders in this time of spiritual poverty.

And there is the universal challenge of living our daily lives consistently with our faith.

White Quakers were and continue to be settler colonists. Our ancestors claimed Indigenous land for their homes and farms. Ever since, we have continued to live on and profit from these lands. And have engaged with capitalism and systems of dominance and control that come from this colonization.

There is the devastating history of churches’, including white Quaker’s involvement in the institutions of forced assimilation of native children and genocide of Indigenous peoples.

I’m also devastated by the use of fossil fuels. Speaking from my own experience, when I saw the smog when I moved to Indianapolis (1970), I was led to know I could not be part of owning cars. My faith showed me how to go about this, helped me get through the significant challenges involved. I’m of course not the only person to have made the same choices. And I’m challenged today having moved to a small town in Iowa. The sprawling way our cities and towns are designed coupled with the absence of mass transit is a challenge. But we would not have built cities this way if we had chosen to build mass transit systems instead of the massive infrastructure for cars. Building all the streets and highways. Parking areas, traffic control systems, so many gas stations, extractive systems for coal and oil, and pipelines.

Had the decision not been made to follow the path of cars, we would not be in accelerating environmental collapse now. Think about that.

We are in perilous times. I believe spirituality and spiritual connections are key for survival.

My reference to faith now comes from being led to call on Quakers to apply our spiritual practices to critically evaluate the systems we live in and take for granted. That are unjust and must be replaced. We must reject capitalist systems and systems of dominance. Build Beloved communities where everyone is cared for. Mutual Aid communities are a template for doing so. Are radical in the sense of freeing us from the power systems we find ourselves living in.

By faith now I mean today. Every day we live in this settler, colonial, capitalist society, we continue to be oppressors.

The following quote expresses this eloquently. People are desperately hungry to have a purpose, to do something concrete to help others.

You and your relations, my friend, are (still) busy building a different world at the end of this one. This is something I’ve emphasized over and over again in my own work. I cherish the belief and practice that it is never enough to just critique the system and name our oppression. We also have to create the alternative, on the ground and in real time. In part, for me, because Nishnaabeg ethics and theory demand no less. In part because in Nishnaabeg thinking, knowledge is mobilized, generated, and shared by collectively doing. It’s more than that, though. There is an aspect of self-determination and ethical engagement in organizing to meet our peoples’ material needs. There is a collective emotional lift in doing something worthwhile for our peoples’ benefit, however short-lived that benefit might be. These spaces become intergenerational, diverse places of Indigenous joy, care and conversation, and these conversations can be affirming, naming, critiquing, as well as rejecting and pushing back against the current systems of oppression. This for me seems like the practice of movement-building that our respective radical practices have been engaged with for centuries.

Maynard, Robyn; Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. Rehearsals for Living (Abolitionist Papers) (p. 39). Haymarket Books. Kindle Edition.

Following is a diagram I’ve been developing for several years. I’ve written a lot about these things on this blog (Religious Socialism, Mutual Aid, and Abolition of Police and Prisons).

Faith Now

  • Spirituality can show us how to live with integrity now. How to be examples to others. This is how change happens.
  • The Creator can help us heal the wounds of the past. And the wounds that continue to be inflicted.
  • The Spirit can guide us through the coming chaos.
  • It is by the Spirit we create connections among diverse peoples.

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.

Joseph Campbell


  • How are we working to deal with existing chaos and preparing for further collapse?
  • Do we provide for everyone’?
  • What is our relationship with Mother Earth? Do we honor and conserve the resources we use?
  • What systems of dominance, of vertical hierarchies are we involved in?
  • Do we work to ensure there aren’t vertical hierarchies in our communities, in our relationships with all our relatives?
  • Do we have the courage to follow what the Spirit is saying to us? To not force those messages to conform to our existing beliefs and practices.
  • How do we connect with communities beyond our Quaker meetings? What are we learning about spiritual connections beyond our meetinghouses? Are we sharing these spiritual lessons with others?

Running throughout (Lopez’s book) Horizon is the question of human survival. The multiple threats we now face, especially the very real possibility of climate disaster, expose the tensions between human aspiration and ecological reality. Perhaps what is most needed, Lopez suggests, is for us to lament what we’ve destroyed, but also to praise and love the world we still have. “Mystery,” he writes, “is the real condition in which we live, not certainty.

Bahnson: You’ve confronted the darkness you see on the horizon with anthropogenic climate change. How do you talk about this with audiences? People need to know what’s coming, yet if you overwhelm them with depressing news, they might freeze. How do you strike the balance between educator and artist?

Lopez: Whenever I speak in public, I write out a new talk. I begin by stipulating, with a modulated voice, that things are way worse than we imagine. And I offer some examples: the collapse of pollinating insect populations; the rise of nationalism; belligerent and ignorant narcissists like Donald Trump; methane gas spewing out of the Siberian tundra. You’re saying to everybody, “Let’s take off the rose-colored glasses now and see what our dilemma really is.” And then the second part of the talk is an evocation of the healing that is necessary and possible, a gradual elevation of the human spirit. It’s about the mobilization that is needed and which is within our reach. Then people know you’ve spoken truthfully, and you have evoked in each person a desire to help, to take care of their families, to have self-regard. I see this pattern in every talk I give. To remember, geographically, exactly where you are speaking that night, and to know whether there might be a full moon outside the building; to offer that sense of immediacy and groundedness; to underscore the specificity of the moment; and to be sure that you implicate yourself in the trouble. It all helps in these situations. If you attempt any version of “I know, and you don’t” or “This is not my fault” or “I am the holy messenger, and you’re the fools,” the evening ends in darkness. You have to be in it with them.

The World We Still Have. Barry Lopez On Restoring Our Lost Intimacy With Nature BY FRED BAHNSON, The Sun, DECEMBER 2019

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