Tears of Fire

And when Jesus was come near, he beheld the city and wept over it …. — Luke 19:41

The following is a rough transcription of the vocal ministry I offered yesterday at Homewood Friends Meeting. I spoke a few minutes after another Friend had spoken about our call to “spread integrity over the world.”

I am reminded that Jesus said, “I have come to cast fire over the earth, and how I would that it were already kindled!”1

Philosopher Slavoj Žižek has said that we are living in the end times of global capitalism, and that we — at least those of us who understand the ecological destruction and gross injustice of these times — tend to go through some of the classic stages of grief, from denial to anger to attempts at bargaining and perhaps to depression and passive resignation.2 But we Quakers have another model: that of George Fox.

Fox believed that he was living in the end times of normative Christianity. (How I wish that he had been right!) In his journal, he records passing through some of those same stages of grief over the condition of his world. But his grieving didn’t end in depression and resignation. When he mourned, he wept tears of fire; he was an exemplar of, in the memorable image of Anglican solitary Maggie Ross, “our willingness to use our tears to light the divine fire upon the earth.”3

Clearly, we do live in apocalyptic times, and many grieve, as I do each day, over the damage being done to the earth and its living beings by the excesses of capitalism. But we know from our Quaker tradition that such grief need not end in resigned depression — that if, like George Fox, we can overcome the temptation to withdrawal and despair, our tears can help kindle a fire of hope.


  1. Luke 12:49.
  2. Slavoj Žižek, Living in the End Times. Žižek’s conclusion to that sequence, “Acceptance: the Cause Regained,” may be more optimistic (and perhaps not congenial to the Quaker sensibility): I have not finished reading the book. The information I was recalling yesterday is from an “editorial review” at amazon.com.
  3. See the post “Autumn” (pub. October 06, 2011) at Voice in the Wilderness blog.

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