2 Sessions: Quaker Capitalism and Is Revival A Myth?
One of the beautiful things I find about engaging in history is summed up by the writer Christopher Hill:
There are few activities more cooperative than the writing of history. The author puts his name brashly on the title page and the reviewers rightly attack him for his errors and misinterpretations; but none knows better than he how much his whole enterprise depends on the proceeding labours of others.
(The World Turned Upside Down: radical ideas during the English Revolution)
It is this 'continual co-operation of learning' that I am mindful of as I put the finishing touches to two dialogue spaces that I am hosting next month.
QUAKER CAPITALISM: a creative solution or capitalism in masquerade?
A revolution took place by Quaker families during the late 18th and 19th century that radically challenged the business world. Described as ‘Quaker Capitalism’, there was a new business language alongside codes of practice and company structures that addressed social injustices within the UK and beyond. For example: town planning, land reform, agriculture processes, saving plans, health clubs, and holiday entitlement. Through creative means founded upon historic principles, those families successfully maintained a balance between financial growth and active responsibility for the world they lived in. Yet over time, many of those businesses and daring ideas resembled oppressive, selfish structures that they once fought hard to move away from.
With renewed focus towards social enterprise, corporate responsibility and the recent changes to government investment within 'the state', there seems to be many opportunities for a Christian voice of action. But the history of ‘Quaker Capitalism’ with all its success and failure, invites us to take a breath: to critique the presented path, and prophetically image another way.
IS REVIVAL A MYTH? challenging our assumptions and expanding our inventory of ideas
Myth – ‘a wildly held but false belief’ (Oxford Dictionary of English, 2010).
There are many definitions of revival: the well-known stories that are filtered through our opinions and interpretations, reflecting personal journeys, political bias and theological preferences. The dominant revival tale is biased towards a dramatic divine moment, a location and heroic figure (usually male and evangelical). But this focus can ignore hidden and intricate storylines.
For example, activism during the early 18th century Methodist revival demonstrated political resistance and moral duty. It was a movement that minimised bloodshed (when compared to the French Revolution taking place at the same time), through its community infrastructure. Their focus on governmental critique, organisation of community protests, school programs for the poor and work clubs for the unemployed, amongst many other examples, presents another possible description to this revival narrative - a 'Methodist Revolution'. This storyline is not unique and leads us to ask the liberating question: “is our understanding of revival a myth?”