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Remaking Friends: How Progressive Friends Changed Quakerism & Helped Save America Paperback – May 16, 2014
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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About the Author
Chuck Fager has published many books and countless articles, many relating to peace and civil rights, with a special interest in Quaker history and convictions. He began studying the Progressive Friends in the 1990s.
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I never had any statistics to back it up, though. And I was always a little troubled by my stating something as true which was just hearsay to me. This is why I ordered and read Fager’s book. Spoiler alert, I don’t know whether I was right or not - accurate statistics don’t seem to be available- and it would be a project in itself to even figure out to gather them to back such a claim But I did learn of a host of factors which negatively affected the Friends and much else as well.
First, the Hicksites, of whom I had always considered myself an example, were not the nice guys and gals I had supposed. The extraordinarily rigid Hicksite hierarchy - a surprise - exacerbated the whole natural crisis s among Friends at this time. And not only on the war/slavery issue, but women’s rights and other progressive issues. (I still like Hicks, though.)
Second, this created a reaction among some Friends of social conscience who were either booted out of their meetings or quit and formed rival meetings of Progressive Friends. In fact, it’s this movement which is the main focus of the book.
When you add the war and the enlistment of many young friends, the pot really starts to boil. The weakening of the traditional structures led to a loosening of some traditional practices, Friends became less “peculiar” in behavior and dress. Some returning soldiers were welcomed back, many it seems, but some also were not.. And the next thing you know, this younger generation began “marrying out”, again sometimes with and sometimes without being disowned or quitting.
This is a lot more, you might say a really lot more, nuanced than the mantra I’ve been repeating about the Civil War and Friends. History is messier and thicker than the stories we often tell. I enjoyed this book very much, a real learning experience.
One note of formatting. The book is full of quotes from sermons and other primary material. In this format, I often missed the transition from the author to the quoted material and back again. A minor issue. I think all historically minded Friends would get much from this book and also anybody else with serious interest in American history of this period