Mark Driscoll, John Woolman, Zacchaeus and grace

Thinking a bit more about the appallingly cult-like approach to “church discipline” at Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church, I’m reminded again of John Woolman.

Woolman was the Quaker abolitionist primarily responsible for the Quakers, as a whole, becoming abolitionist:

John Woolman believed slavery was unjust — that it was cruel for those in bondage and corrosive for the bondsman. So he wrote an essay explaining why (“Some considerations on the keeping of Negroes: Recommended to the professors of Christianity of every denomination”). And then, since he was sure that his condemnation of slavery was true, and that the truth of it was compelling, he set out to talk to those who disagreed.

One by one, meetinghouse by meetinghouse, home by home. He would speak to gatherings of Friends, or would arrive for dinner at the home of Quaker slaveowners, and he would talk to them about his “considerations” and concerns with this practice. After the meal, he would pay wages to those slaves who had attended him. And he would invite the slaveowners to liberate their slaves, paying them back wages for their years of service.

Crazy. But even crazier: This worked. Conversation, liberation, transformation. That was Woolman’s method and he continued it, unchanged, throughout his life.

Well, almost unchanged. He eventually switched to traveling on foot out of consideration that the stagecoaches he had been riding in were cruel to the horses.

If you live somewhere on the East Coast of the United States, anywhere in between New York City and Richmond, Va., then you’re probably not far from some old historic Friends Meeting House. John Woolman spoke there. He arrived there on foot and spoke about slavery until he had convinced the Friends who gathered there to condemn the practice and cease participating in it by emancipating their slaves and paying them for their service. And then he left on foot, heading for the next such meeting house or home to have that same conversation again, and again and again.

It’s amazing that Woolman succeeded even once at this, let alone that he succeeded with an entire denomination. But that really happened. Quakers were, like many wealthy white people in the colonies, slaveowners. And then, a few decades later, they weren’t. Mainly because John Woolman talked them out of it and talked them into, instead, becoming the foremost white abolitionists of their time.

Woolman scrupulously kept a journal, but he’s frustratingly sketchy as to how these conversations went. What did he say? What did they say? What else did they talk about?

I desperately wish that instead of a journal he’d brought along a documentary camera crew.

My guess is that when John Woolman showed up at your house you knew what you were in for, you knew what to expect. I suspect it was the same way for Zacchaeus when Jesus came to town.

I can’t help but wonder if the slaves of those colonial Quaker households knew this too. Had they heard stories? Did they know that this man whose place they were setting at the dinner table was going to pay them for their service that evening? Did they know that he was going to try to convince their so-called “owners” that they must be freed and paid retroactively for all the unpaid labor they had provided?

There’s a play to be written here. I want to see it. I want to watch it play out so that I can learn how such a thing happened.

That Woolman was so miraculously persuasive suggests to me that he likely wasn’t as monomaniacally focused on a single subject as the old preacher in the story I shared in the previous post. And the more I think about that story and Woolman’s, the more I want to qualify my commendation of such a single-minded relentlessness. Woolman certainly was single-minded and relentless. He did one thing for decades, obsessively. Yet he also convinced people to change — he convinced hundreds of people to change radically.

I don’t think he could have been so convincing unless all those people who encountered Woolman were convinced that he cared about them. And I don’t think that they could have been convinced of that unless he took a real interest in more than just the one issue he had come to discuss with them — as vitally important as that one issue was.

So I suspect that sometimes Woolman discussed the weather, the crops and whatever else passed for pleasantry and small talk in the 18th Century. I suspect that he asked about the children and all the various members of the household (all of them) and that he cared about the answers — that he genuinely cared and didn’t seem like he was just getting such chit-chat out of the way so he could get down to his real business.

But for all that, even while he was discussing all those other things, everyone knew why he was there and what his being there meant. His agenda and his great subject could never be wholly forgotten, and I think it must have hung thickly in the air even when he was engaged in heartfelt conversation about all those other matters. The urgency and depth of concern for his great cause that radiates from his journal surely must have similarly radiated from the man in person.

And, after all, his cause wasn’t something trivial. It was the greatest moral issue of his time — slavery.

Slavery! — the blogger retyped the word for emphasis, entering each letter on the keyboard of his iMac, which was manufactured in China by …

Oh. Right.

And there it is. There’s the key thing that’s so utterly missing in Mars Hill’s dealings with its wayward and not-so-wayward members. There’s the key thing that’s too often missing in my own dealings with those I am certain are in the wrong — the thing I too often forget about entirely until I’m forced again to remember that I, too, rely on it utterly.

Grace.

Grace, I think, was the secret ingredient that made miracles happen when John Woolman spoke to his fellow Quakers just as it made a miracle happen when Jesus spoke to the wee little predatory lender in Jericho. Woolman didn’t set out to “discipline” his Friends, nor did he arrive at their homes only to convict them. That convicting was part of his agenda, but I think part of it also was to invite them to be forgiven — to remind them that such forgiveness was necessary and available and possible and within reach.

I don’t claim to be as Reformed in my theology as the folks at Mars Hill Church say they are, but a Calvinist reading of the story of Zacchaeus — or the story of the colonial Quakers — is compelling. “Today salvation has come to this house,” Jesus said to Zacchaeus. And for Calvin, salvation is grace and ethics is gratitude. And thus for Calvin, injustice is an intolerable ingratitude.

Zacchaeus’ joyful making of amends is easier to understand as an act of gratitude. The same is true for the Quakers’ eager emancipation — and compensation — of their former “property.” Such radical transformations seem impossible if we think of them as conditions — as aspects of a “discipline contract” that must be performed in the hopes of receiving forgiveness in return. But if we think of them, again, like Scrooge on Christmas morning — as people caught up in the liberating joy of having been forgiven, then such acts seem more comprehensible. “You received without payment; give without payment.” Or as the King James has it, “Freely ye have received; freely give.”

So grace has to be at least part of the equation. Grace can transform an imperial collaborator and tax collector into a champion of the poor. Grace can transform a slaveowner into an abolitionist. Any approach to “church discipline” that doesn’t allow for grace is bound to be as gracelessly cruel as that obscene “Mars Hill Church Church Discipline Contract.”

That wretched exercise in authoritarianism is one more piece of evidence against Mark Driscoll’s douchebag-theology. It’s one more reason to reaffirm what Robert Cargill said: “If you a member of the Mars Hill church, get out.”

But then part of the response to Driscoll also needs to be to remind him that the invitation to grace stands waiting for him as well — that forgiveness, even for him, is necessary and available and possible and within reach.

Perhaps if he accepts that invitation, he too can be transformed and — like Zacchaeus and Scrooge and those colonial Quakers — he may find the joy that has long eluded him by making amends with all those he is now defrauding.

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  • Anonymous

    That line about salvation being grace and ethics gratitude… well, I’ve certainly heard it before.  It’s interesting, though, that Zacchaeus gives away half his belongings and is lauded for it.  Yet, earlier, the rich man who asked Jesus what to do to be saved was told to give away all of his possessions.  You’ve talked about that one before, Fred, and your interpretation was that he was asking the wrong question, by focusing on his own personal salvation.  Zacchaeus accepted salvation as a gift and then did good because he felt the need to repay the grace he’d received.  However, the other rich man asked what he needed to do to achieve salvation.

    I’m thinking maybe Jesus deliberately told him to do something he’d be emotionally unable to do.  The rich man was trying to earn salvation, and Jesus’s point was that to do so would require far more than he’d be capable of.  Perhaps, if it had been a lecherous man, he’d have been told he could never have sex again.  A glutton might have been told he could only eat white rice for the rest of his life.  The point being, we all have something holding us back from God, and if our concern is getting to heaven- well, we’ll never get there on our own anyway.  Rather, the rich man should have asked “what should I do to help advance the kingdom of God?” or some similar question.  Jesus might have told him to give away half his possessions instead, and then follow him.  The more I think about it, the more I think it’s our job to do what we can in this life, and let God worry about what happens to us in the next.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Alexander/502988241 Alan Alexander

    If that theory is correct, then why did Jesus, after the rich man had already departed, turn to the disciples and say that “it is easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven.” In fact, didn’t Fred once condemn the revisionist urban legend that the “Eye of the Needle” was actually a secret entrance into Jerusalem that a camel could only enter by crawling on its knees and therefore, the passage wasn’t an unambiguous condemnation of greed but simply a reminder that even the greedy and selfish must be penitent if they wish to enter Heaven? This theory smacks of the same kind of revisionism to me. As we all live in a nation and a world plainly ruled by Mammon,  I fail to see the need to look past the plain language of the text for some hidden meaning more nuanced than “obsessive greed and materialism are bad and will keep you out of Heaven.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Alexander/502988241 Alan Alexander

    If that theory is correct, then why did Jesus, after the rich man had already departed, turn to the disciples and say that “it is easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven.” In fact, didn’t Fred once condemn the revisionist urban legend that the “Eye of the Needle” was actually a secret entrance into Jerusalem that a camel could only enter by crawling on its knees and therefore, the passage wasn’t an unambiguous condemnation of greed but simply a reminder that even the greedy and selfish must be penitent if they wish to enter Heaven? This theory smacks of the same kind of revisionism to me. As we all live in a nation and a world plainly ruled by Mammon,  I fail to see the need to look past the plain language of the text for some hidden meaning more nuanced than “obsessive greed and materialism are bad and will keep you out of Heaven.”

  • Kirala

    I hold to the theory that Jesus was showing the young man that, in fact, he was not obeying the Commandments – that he did, in fact, have another god which he valued above God, that he stood as much in need of God’s impossible salvation as any of the unwashed masses.

    I also find the “needle gate” myth amusing, because the disciples immediately understand Jesus as suggesting an impossible task, Jesus specifically says he’s describing an impossible task, and then our modern Rich Young Men downgrade it to “difficult”. (Well, that’s one amusement; the other is the idea that anyone, anywhere, would bother using such a gate.)

  • Kirala

    I hold to the theory that Jesus was showing the young man that, in fact, he was not obeying the Commandments – that he did, in fact, have another god which he valued above God, that he stood as much in need of God’s impossible salvation as any of the unwashed masses.

    I also find the “needle gate” myth amusing, because the disciples immediately understand Jesus as suggesting an impossible task, Jesus specifically says he’s describing an impossible task, and then our modern Rich Young Men downgrade it to “difficult”. (Well, that’s one amusement; the other is the idea that anyone, anywhere, would bother using such a gate.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507398586 Tim Fargus

    I don’t think that these two interpretations are mutually exclusive at all. Similar to the tired maxim that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, Jesus could well have been saying that money makes you less able to follow the commandments, and the more money you have, the harder it becomes; to the point where if you’re rich it’s essentially impossible to do.

    A man who has become wealthy is tied to money in a way that makes it impossible for him to see past it. If a rich man gives away half of his fortune, he’s probably still rich. It’s a vast sum of money, but it’s the half that he keeps that reveals that he can’t live without it. The task of giving up everything isn’t impossible because it’s impossible to do; it’s impossible because those who need to do it the most are the ones who are least able.

  • http://www.metagalacticllamas.com/ Triplanetary

    You raise a good point.

    Take the modern stock example of an obscenely rich man: Bill Gates. Wikipedia informs me that Bill Gates is currently worth about $60 billion. If he gave away half his possessions, he would be left with “only” $30 billion.

    Would Bill Gates’ quality of life decrease at all if he did this? Would the loss of $30 billion require any change in Gates’ personal lifestyle? Hell no.

    I’m not saying this solely to condemn Gates. I do have my own opinions about whether or not it’s okay to have that much wealth while there are people starving on the street, but they’re not the point I’m getting at.

    The point I’m getting at is that, like Tim said, if Zacchaeus was anywhere near as obscenely rich by the standards of his day as Gates is today, his actions didn’t really constitute any genuine material sacrifice. But when you’re rich to the tune of $60 billion, your net worth essentially just becomes a video game score. It’s a score that can’t possibly make their quality of life any better at this point, but it’s personally important to them because that’s just the way rich people think, I guess. It’s about ego and power. Maybe Zacchaeus was demonstrating that he was willing to give up that mode of thinking, the privilege of hoarding wealth as a means of keeping score and stroking your ego.

  • Ross Thompson

    I’m not saying this solely to condemn Gates.

    Probably just as well, given that he’s one of the world’s most generous philanthropists, having donated tens of billions of dollars, and he has a stated goal of giving away 95% of his fortune over his lifetime.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Gates#Philanthropy

  • Ross Thompson

    I’m not saying this solely to condemn Gates.

    Probably just as well, given that he’s one of the world’s most generous philanthropists, having donated tens of billions of dollars, and he has a stated goal of giving away 95% of his fortune over his lifetime.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Gates#Philanthropy

  • http://www.metagalacticllamas.com/ Triplanetary

    Oh, I’m well aware. I had a whole paragraph about Gates’ philanthropy and the structural, economic roadblocks in place that make it rather difficult to just hand billions of dollars over to poor people in anything like an effective and helpful manner. But my comment was getting pretty long as it was, so I cut it.

    My ultimate point was that if Bill Gates lost $30 billion today, for whatever reason, his lifestyle wouldn’t change in the least.

  • Anonymous

    I always figured the point was “Most rich men got that way by being greedy or otherwise immoral, and are too tied to their possessions to be able to do any good that requires giving them up.”  It’s not the quality of being rich, so much as what kind of person you generally have to be in order to GET rich.

  • Anonymous

    I always figured the point was “Most rich men got that way by being greedy or otherwise immoral, and are too tied to their possessions to be able to do any good that requires giving them up.”  It’s not the quality of being rich, so much as what kind of person you generally have to be in order to GET rich.

  • Anonymous

    Well, first off, the more likely translation is “a rope pass through the eye of a needle.”  Both impossible tasks, but the one is a better analogy because it’s the sort of thing you can imagine someone trying to do.  As for revisionism- I don’t think I said the meaning wasn’t greed will keep you out of heaven.  I’m just expanding it to be obsessive anything- lust, anger, you name it, if you’re obsessed with yourself you’re ignoring the rest of the world.  But you’re the one who’s inserting “obsessive” into the passage.  Jesus said to give away “all your possessions.”  Interpret that as applying to everyone, and who shall scape whipping?

    In the United States and other affluent cultures, we all have some commodities we don’t need.  Should a family of four living on $18,000 a year sell their $100 TV and give the money to a homeless man?  They don’t need the TV, so why not?  Is keeping any material possessions a sin?  Sure, having too much is sinful when there are people starving, but at some point almost no one can qualify.  So the point I was making was that, while it’s obvious that someone like Mitt Romney is getting rich off others and hoarding money he doesn’t need, we’re all guilty of that sin in some way.  Are we then any better than the rich man?  It’s all a matter of degree, but the fact that none of us are guiltless is proof of the need for grace.

  • Anonymous

    Well, first off, the more likely translation is “a rope pass through the eye of a needle.”  Both impossible tasks, but the one is a better analogy because it’s the sort of thing you can imagine someone trying to do.  As for revisionism- I don’t think I said the meaning wasn’t greed will keep you out of heaven.  I’m just expanding it to be obsessive anything- lust, anger, you name it, if you’re obsessed with yourself you’re ignoring the rest of the world.  But you’re the one who’s inserting “obsessive” into the passage.  Jesus said to give away “all your possessions.”  Interpret that as applying to everyone, and who shall scape whipping?

    In the United States and other affluent cultures, we all have some commodities we don’t need.  Should a family of four living on $18,000 a year sell their $100 TV and give the money to a homeless man?  They don’t need the TV, so why not?  Is keeping any material possessions a sin?  Sure, having too much is sinful when there are people starving, but at some point almost no one can qualify.  So the point I was making was that, while it’s obvious that someone like Mitt Romney is getting rich off others and hoarding money he doesn’t need, we’re all guilty of that sin in some way.  Are we then any better than the rich man?  It’s all a matter of degree, but the fact that none of us are guiltless is proof of the need for grace.

  • Donalbain

    No. No. No. The likely translation is camel. Not rope.
    The passing of animals through eyes of needles as a metaphor for impossibility is long established.

    http://www.biblicalhebrew.com/nt/camelneedle.htm

    There is no reason at all to think it means anything other than a camel, and an actual needle.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting… I’ve heard it both ways, but that’s an interesting discussion.   Well, either way, it refers to something impossible- I certainly wasn’t thinking of a gate to the city that you had to duck to get under.  Some people are bothered by the idea that the Bible varies between formats, but personally I find I appreciate it more when I learn about how it came to be.

  • Cal

    As someone who has been attending Quaker meetings for the last couple of years, I do spend a lot of time thinking about John Woolman and how he convinced the Friends of his views. How do I convince them of what I know to be true, and that they should take action regardless of how inconvenient it might be for them?

  • Ouri Maler

    Well, I’m not an expert on convincing people…
    …but if I were to venture a guess, I’d suggest being respectful, trying to see things from their perspective, and trying to be their friend rather than preaching at them (not accusing you of doing the opposite or anything!).

  • Ouri Maler

    Well, I’m not an expert on convincing people…
    …but if I were to venture a guess, I’d suggest being respectful, trying to see things from their perspective, and trying to be their friend rather than preaching at them (not accusing you of doing the opposite or anything!).

  • Cal

    As someone who has been attending Quaker meetings for the last couple of years, I do spend a lot of time thinking about John Woolman and how he convinced the Friends of his views. How do I convince them of what I know to be true, and that they should take action regardless of how inconvenient it might be for them?

  • We Must Dissent

    The paragraph about asking after the household and caring about the answers reminds me of this scene from The Big Kahuna.

    http://youtu.be/wcsBvX10h74

  • We Must Dissent

    The paragraph about asking after the household and caring about the answers reminds me of this scene from The Big Kahuna.

    http://youtu.be/wcsBvX10h74

  • LunaticFringe

    “I mean, seriously, did any of this letter,
    except for perhaps the “heavy heart”, infer that Mars Hill loves
    Andrew? Oh I know they think their actions represent love. But really,
    many of us have experienced firsthand that kind of “love,” and we know
    very well that it’s an abuse of the term.”

    “Even in human life we have seen the passion to dominate, even to digest, one’s fellow; to make his whole intellectual and emotional life and extension of one’s own – to hate one’s hatreds and resent one’s grievances and indulge one’s egoism through him as well as through oneself. His own little store of passion must of course be suppressed to make room for ours. If he resists this suppression he is being very selfish.
    “On Earth this desire is often called “love.” In Hell I feign they recognize it as hunger.”

    -C.S Lewis, preface to The Screwtape Letter

  • WingedBeast

    I think that John Woolman’s success might also have been a measure of the discourse of the time.  Tell me, during the Lincoln Douglass debates, was there much interruption?  Was their much deliberate and open declaration that the opponent lacked for intelligence, courage, or whatever?

    These days, a conversation over a topic of disagreement isn’t a conversation.  It’s a complex game.  Victory goes to those who treat it most as a game and least as a conversation.  And, that game scores you points for repetition regardless of context, distortion of the opponent’s position, context-immune appeals to emotion (you could run a daily poole to see how many times Fox News will reference the Nazis in any given day).

    But, if a conversation is a conversation, then you have an attempt to actually comprehend the position of those with whom you disagree.

    I have no doubt that Woolman’s Friends knew exactly what to expect, that they invited him (or accepted his invitation) because they had their doubts already, that the start may have been his friends but the later Friends were friends of the Friended.

    I think time and context plays a lot for him.

  • Alicia

    I think that John Woolman’s success might also have been a
    measure of the discourse of the time.  Tell me, during the Lincoln
    Douglass debates, was there much interruption?  Was their much
    deliberate and open declaration that the opponent lacked for
    intelligence, courage, or whatever?

    You mean, literally during the actual debates, or during campaigns of that time? Because if it’s the latter, politics was as rancorous and insulting then as it is now. Lincoln himself was regularly referred to by reporters as a “hideous baboon”, a tyrant, a despot, and suggestions were often made for him to be placed in a circus freak show. Douglass called Lincoln a two-faced politician, to which Lincoln had a memorable rejoinder.

  • WingedBeast

    Yes, I mean literally mid-debate.  I realize that Thomas Jefferson backed Newspapers that accused John Adams of being “hermaphroditical”.  But, mid-debate, was there more civility, more actual debating about the actual issue at hand and less ad-hom?

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    I realize that Thomas Jefferson backed Newspapers that accused John
    Adams of being “hermaphroditical”.  But, mid-debate, was there more
    civility, more actual debating about the actual issue at hand and less
    ad-hom?

    You mean in the nation and the generation where a dude got beat by a cane on the Senate floor for his opinion of slavery?  Yeah, they were super civil…

  • Anonymous

    Or that time Matthew Lyon and Roger Griswold had it out in 1798.  I kind of wish this sort of thing still happened; it would certainly make CSPAN more interesting.

  • Alicia

    I think that John Woolman’s success might also have been a
    measure of the discourse of the time.  Tell me, during the Lincoln
    Douglass debates, was there much interruption?  Was their much
    deliberate and open declaration that the opponent lacked for
    intelligence, courage, or whatever?

    You mean, literally during the actual debates, or during campaigns of that time? Because if it’s the latter, politics was as rancorous and insulting then as it is now. Lincoln himself was regularly referred to by reporters as a “hideous baboon”, a tyrant, a despot, and suggestions were often made for him to be placed in a circus freak show. Douglass called Lincoln a two-faced politician, to which Lincoln had a memorable rejoinder.

  • Guest-again

    Woolman is the reason that a place like Loudoun County, VA remained essentially part of the Union, providing a vital bulwark against any simple invasion of Washington DC.

    But to provide a bit of a backdrop of Woolman’s time –
    ‘When you look at how American planters discussed slavery, over
    time, you find a marked shift. In the late 18th, early 19th century,
    slavery is is seen as an unfortunate inheritance, a problem of morality
    lacking a practical solution. Thomas Jefferson’s articulation is
    probably the definitive in this school of thinking:
    There
    must doubtless be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people
    produced by the existence of slavery among us. The whole commerce
    between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous
    passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading
    submissions on the other.

    In
    Jefferson’s day, talk of eventual abolition was not particularly rare
    in the South. Slave-owners spoke of colonization and some
    even emancipated their own slaves, The Quakers had a presence in the
    South and in the late 18th century banned slave-holding (If anyone has
    a precise date, I’ll gladly insert.) Prominent slave-owning southerners
    like Henry Clay were in pursuit of some kind of compromise which would
    purge the country of its birth taint.’

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/01/compensation/251886/

    FromTa-Nehisi Coates and his view of the Civil War and Ron Paul – a good overview here –  http://absurdbeats.wordpress.com/tncs-civil-war/

    But Woolman’s age turned into what we still live in, at least in the world of people like Paul, and that of rank opportunists like Gingrinch –
    ‘But by the 1830s, such thinking was out of vogue in the South. Men like Henry Clay’s cousin Cassius Clay, once wrote:
    Slavery is an evil to the slave, by depriving
    nearly three millions of men of the best gift of
    God to man — liberty. I stop here — this is enough
    of itself to give us a full anticipation of the long
    catalogue of human woe, and physical and intel-
    lectual and moral abasement which follows in the
    wake of Slavery.

    Slavery is an evil to the master. It is utterly
    subservient of the Christian religion. It violates
    the great law upon which that religion is based,
    and on account of which it vaunts its preemi-
    nence.

    In
    1845 Clay was run out of Kentucky by a mob. By then the Calhoun school
    had taken root and Southerners had begun arguing that slavery was not
    immoral, but a positive good:

    Never
    before has the black race of Central Africa, from the dawn of history
    to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved,
    not only physically, but morally and intellectually.
    In the meantime, the white or European race, has not degenerated. It
    has kept pace with its brethren in other sections of the Union where
    slavery does not exist. It is odious to make comparison; but I appeal
    to all sides whether the South is not equal in virtue, intelligence,
    patriotism, courage, disinterestedness, and all the high qualities
    which adorn our nature.  But
    I take higher ground. I hold that in the present state of civilization,
    where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and
    other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought
    together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between
    the two, is, instead of an evil, a good–a positive good.

    This
    is not just a rebuke of abolitionist thinking, but a rebuke of
    Jeffersonian thinking. Fifteen years later, Alexander Stephens would
    call Jefferson out by name arguing that his presumption of equality
    among men was a grievous error.

    Perhaps this
    is too crude an interpretation but the graph above, measuring the
    incredible rise in the wealth represented by the pilfering of black
    labor, tracks directly with the political debate. When slaves were
    worth only a cool $300 million, property in man was an “unhappy
    influence.” When that number skyrocketed in excess of $3 billion,
    suddenly it was a “positive good.” Perhaps this is to deterministic. I
    leave it to my fellow commenters to color in the portrait. At any rate
    the notion that such an interest–by far the greatest collective asset
    in the country at the time–could be merely incidental to the war is
    creationist quackery.'(Hope the formatting remains correct – not really a patheos strongpoint in the past.)Woolman lived in a different age, one that at least recognized what it considered its flaws, even if it didn’t generally find a workable solution – after all, the Quakers had motivations apart from money alone. A fact that also seemingly separates that age from ours – in our time, money is considered the most definitive argument possible.

  • Guest-again

    Woolman is the reason that a place like Loudoun County, VA remained essentially part of the Union, providing a vital bulwark against any simple invasion of Washington DC.

    But to provide a bit of a backdrop of Woolman’s time –
    ‘When you look at how American planters discussed slavery, over
    time, you find a marked shift. In the late 18th, early 19th century,
    slavery is is seen as an unfortunate inheritance, a problem of morality
    lacking a practical solution. Thomas Jefferson’s articulation is
    probably the definitive in this school of thinking:
    There
    must doubtless be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people
    produced by the existence of slavery among us. The whole commerce
    between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous
    passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading
    submissions on the other.

    In
    Jefferson’s day, talk of eventual abolition was not particularly rare
    in the South. Slave-owners spoke of colonization and some
    even emancipated their own slaves, The Quakers had a presence in the
    South and in the late 18th century banned slave-holding (If anyone has
    a precise date, I’ll gladly insert.) Prominent slave-owning southerners
    like Henry Clay were in pursuit of some kind of compromise which would
    purge the country of its birth taint.’

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/01/compensation/251886/

    FromTa-Nehisi Coates and his view of the Civil War and Ron Paul – a good overview here –  http://absurdbeats.wordpress.com/tncs-civil-war/

    But Woolman’s age turned into what we still live in, at least in the world of people like Paul, and that of rank opportunists like Gingrinch –
    ‘But by the 1830s, such thinking was out of vogue in the South. Men like Henry Clay’s cousin Cassius Clay, once wrote:
    Slavery is an evil to the slave, by depriving
    nearly three millions of men of the best gift of
    God to man — liberty. I stop here — this is enough
    of itself to give us a full anticipation of the long
    catalogue of human woe, and physical and intel-
    lectual and moral abasement which follows in the
    wake of Slavery.

    Slavery is an evil to the master. It is utterly
    subservient of the Christian religion. It violates
    the great law upon which that religion is based,
    and on account of which it vaunts its preemi-
    nence.

    In
    1845 Clay was run out of Kentucky by a mob. By then the Calhoun school
    had taken root and Southerners had begun arguing that slavery was not
    immoral, but a positive good:

    Never
    before has the black race of Central Africa, from the dawn of history
    to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved,
    not only physically, but morally and intellectually.
    In the meantime, the white or European race, has not degenerated. It
    has kept pace with its brethren in other sections of the Union where
    slavery does not exist. It is odious to make comparison; but I appeal
    to all sides whether the South is not equal in virtue, intelligence,
    patriotism, courage, disinterestedness, and all the high qualities
    which adorn our nature.  But
    I take higher ground. I hold that in the present state of civilization,
    where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and
    other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought
    together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between
    the two, is, instead of an evil, a good–a positive good.

    This
    is not just a rebuke of abolitionist thinking, but a rebuke of
    Jeffersonian thinking. Fifteen years later, Alexander Stephens would
    call Jefferson out by name arguing that his presumption of equality
    among men was a grievous error.

    Perhaps this
    is too crude an interpretation but the graph above, measuring the
    incredible rise in the wealth represented by the pilfering of black
    labor, tracks directly with the political debate. When slaves were
    worth only a cool $300 million, property in man was an “unhappy
    influence.” When that number skyrocketed in excess of $3 billion,
    suddenly it was a “positive good.” Perhaps this is to deterministic. I
    leave it to my fellow commenters to color in the portrait. At any rate
    the notion that such an interest–by far the greatest collective asset
    in the country at the time–could be merely incidental to the war is
    creationist quackery.'(Hope the formatting remains correct – not really a patheos strongpoint in the past.)Woolman lived in a different age, one that at least recognized what it considered its flaws, even if it didn’t generally find a workable solution – after all, the Quakers had motivations apart from money alone. A fact that also seemingly separates that age from ours – in our time, money is considered the most definitive argument possible.

  • Guest-again

    Man, that formatting sucks – and it looked so good on preview.

    Nonetheless, the point is that Woolman truly lived in the Age of Enlightenment, and is a perfect illustration of what it was capable of. We live in the age of the American Empire – but at least I take cold comfort that none of my computer is even first hand, that the solar cell/battery set up to run my sound/router/laptop (at least in the summer) was manufactured in Germany/the U.S, as was the router and the speaker.

    But the LL Bean clothing I bought recently in the U.S.? – none made in North America. Only the Wigwam socks were U.S. made.

    The U.S. has become a giant self-reinforcing circle of wrongness – and the only way to change it is to live differently, which is pretty much impossible at this point.

  • Guest-again

    Man, that formatting sucks – and it looked so good on preview.

    Nonetheless, the point is that Woolman truly lived in the Age of Enlightenment, and is a perfect illustration of what it was capable of. We live in the age of the American Empire – but at least I take cold comfort that none of my computer is even first hand, that the solar cell/battery set up to run my sound/router/laptop (at least in the summer) was manufactured in Germany/the U.S, as was the router and the speaker.

    But the LL Bean clothing I bought recently in the U.S.? – none made in North America. Only the Wigwam socks were U.S. made.

    The U.S. has become a giant self-reinforcing circle of wrongness – and the only way to change it is to live differently, which is pretty much impossible at this point.

  • Guest-again

    Man, that formatting sucks – and it looked so good on preview.

    Nonetheless, the point is that Woolman truly lived in the Age of Enlightenment, and is a perfect illustration of what it was capable of. We live in the age of the American Empire – but at least I take cold comfort that none of my computer is even first hand, that the solar cell/battery set up to run my sound/router/laptop (at least in the summer) was manufactured in Germany/the U.S, as was the router and the speaker.

    But the LL Bean clothing I bought recently in the U.S.? – none made in North America. Only the Wigwam socks were U.S. made.

    The U.S. has become a giant self-reinforcing circle of wrongness – and the only way to change it is to live differently, which is pretty much impossible at this point.

  • Guest-again

    And I hope that didn’t double post after a disqus system error message – I hate this commenting system.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    Reading in John Woolman’s journal

    The way in which I did it was thus: When I expected soon to leave a
    Friend’s house where I had entertainment, if I believed that I should
    not keep clear from the gain of oppression without leaving money, I
    spoke to one of the heads of the family privately, and desired them to
    accept of those pieces of silver, and give them to such of their negroes
    as they believed would make the best use of them; and at other times I
    gave them to the negroes myself, as the way looked clearest to me.
    Before I came out, I had provided a large number of small pieces for
    this purpose, and thus offering them to some who appeared to be wealthy
    people was a trial both to me and them. But the fear of the Lord so
    covered me at times that my way was made easier than I expected; and
    few, if any, manifested any resentment at the offer, and most of them,
    after some conversation, accepted of them.

    Wow. Why have I never read this before? Thank for you for linking!