If you, like many of my friends, believe that summer reading = murder mysteries, please add Barbara Neely’s amazing Blanche White series to your queue. (You may have already discovered these wonderful books and I’m late to the party!) What a premise: that an ignored, heavy-set servant in a grey uniform and small, white apron sees, hears, reasons, and, ultimately, brilliantly solves mysteries/saves the day—all the while inwardly noting how racism plays out in her dealings with her white employers.
Propitiously, this has been the perfect week to consider the role of servant as I, having finished Blanche on the Lam, have also been preparing to give a talk at my Quaker meeting on George Fox’s Christology. (Here’s another form of summer escapism: Get all wonky and in-the-weeds-obsessed by something you know nothing about and are therefore required to look up every other word!) The founder of Quakerism, in 1647 Fox declared: Oh then, I heard a voice which said, “There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition,” and when I heard it my heart did leap for joy.
What did the word Christ mean for George Fox? I’ve spent this week asking this question. And have learned that, apparently, in one of many ways he differed from his contemporaries, Fox believed, as did both Peter and Stephen, that Christ meant “servant.” * ( When Fox used the word Christ he also meant “Prophet.” And “Light.” And “The Word”/Logos— as in the Preface to the gospel of John; what a stunning piece of writing! And . . . )
Not sure how this bit o’pedantry will land on my (mostly white) listeners this Sunday. (Not matter what our race or class, “servant” is a loaded word to twenty-first-century ears, isn’t it? But surely this version of Christ—another loaded word—meant something quite different for Fox’s seventeeth-century listeners.) Thanks to Blanche/Barbara Neely, however, I’ve been gifted with much to think about and consider!
*Benson, Lewis, (1974) George Fox’s Teaching About Christ, Quaker Religious Thought, Vol. 39, Article, 3, p. 34.