Ron Hogan was drawn to Quakers by their commitment to social justice, “an upending of the order of the world as it is now in favor of a radical equality.” He sees in those testimonies a mirror of Jesus’ message in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), or Mary’s in the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)… and also a reminder that, in the original Greek of the gospels, Jesus didn’t call on people merely to “repent” their past sins (Mark 1:15), but to change their lives.
“The kingdom of the heavens is a massive project, for lack of a better term,” Ron admits, and not easily achievable, especially given human nature—which is why Friends are called upon to move past any cultural assumptions they may have absorbed, especially assumptions of privilege, and make a more conscious effort to recognize that of God in others.
(By the way, Ron’s a member of the Friends Publishing team; as our audience development specialist, he organizes the social media and newsletters for Friends Journal and QuakerSpeak.)
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So for me, a lot of the Kingdom of the Heavens boils down to the messaging in things like the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes: you know, blessed are the poor, blessed are the mourners. But even more than that, I think it goes back even earlier to Mary and the Magnificat: you know, Mary says God will cast down the mighty, feed the poor, send the rich away empty. It’s a very upending of the order of the world as it is now in favor of a sort of radical equality
Changing Course for the Kingdom of the Heavens
Hi, I’m Ron Hogan. I use he/him pronouns, I live in New York City (specifically Queens), and I attend Flushing Monthly Meeting.
The Kingdom of the Heavens is a massive project, for lack of a better term, and it’s not necessarily achievable in my lifetime or the next generation’s lifetime – it’s something we have to work towards incrementally, and it’s something that we have to work towards in the conditions we have to work with, and it’s not something for which there are easy answers given human nature as it is now, and that actually ties into another big part of Jesus’s message.
Repentance and Metanoia
Jesus talks a lot in the Gospels about repentance as we translate it today. But when he says repentance, the Greek word that’s being used in the Gospels is metanoia, and metanoia really means something a little bit more profound than repentance as we understand it, which is simply saying, “I’m sorry I did that. I’ll try not to do it again.” Metanoia is more profoundly understood as a change of heart or a change of mind. It is literally the taking up of a new way of thinking; a new way of living one’s life. It’s not simply to say, “I’m sorry about that”; it’s to take proactive steps not to take one’s sins, one’s errors, and so that metanoia (that change of heart) includes more consciously attempting to recognize that which is of God. A lot of that is unconscious on our parts, and by that I mean the omissions and the sins that we’ve made, many of which we have made simply by virtue of the privilege we had and did not recognize. And once you come to recognize that and recognize that what you’ve been doing is antithetical to the gospel, you know that’s a big change and you can sort of look back at your past life and be racked by guilt about it but part of, for me, what the gospels say is that God still loves you. God still recognizes that of God in you. You have a do-over – and that does not mean you are unaccountable for the things you’ve done; you’re absolutely accountable, but within that accountability you can start today to be a better person. You know, weaning yourself off of racism, misogyny, homophobia, classism; it’s not an easy process but your life becomes so much richer, so much more vibrant and diverse when you make the effort to do that that it is absolutely worth it.
- 1) What are some potential steps towards achieving the Kingdom of the Heavens here on earth?
- 2) When you think of repentance, sin, and/or metanoia, do you think of Quaker faith? Why or why not? How does it tie in with your faith, or how is it seperate?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.