Among Friends: Progress in the Direction of Love

How does religion fit into politics? What is the relationship between faith and government? How should we interpret the phrase “separation of church and state”? When we wrote the description for this issue’s political theme, these questions weren’t the ones we posed to Friends to consider. Yes, such queries can spark thought-provoking discussion of abstract ideas arising from the interplay of these two significant realms of life, prompting a reaffirmation of religious freedom in this country, but we knew the Friends of today were already busy in politics.

With the 2016 U.S. Presidential election campaign heating up and the first primaries right around the corner, we were most interested in hearing responses to a more direct question: How should Friends engage in the political process? The how is crucial—take it out and you have another question entirely. The fundamental values of a person of faith spill over into all aspects of life: family, friendships, work, environmental care, service, and politics. As Friends Committee on National Legislation executive secretary Diane Randall says in her inspiring article on Friends in politics (p. 11), “We engage in public life not because activism is part of our rich Quaker tradition but because we practice our faith outwardly.” Once she realized her spiritual life could actually feed her political life, she became a more confident and more effective agent of change in the chaos that both defines and plagues Washington, D.C.

In this issue, you’ll meet Friends who are tirelessly defending our peace testimony, persistently advocating for the environment and climate action, boldly exposing corporate influence in political campaigns, and strategically lobbying for Quaker values at the state level. Their stories paint a fuller picture of how the Quaker way can exist in American politics.

These authors are leaders—follow their lead. Take inspiration from Joey Hartmann-Dow’s story and our interview with Indiana’s Grace Miller and get involved in something that touches you personally in your life, your world. Civic engagement represents the kind of organization of people that can lead to real, lasting change. On page 8, Kevin Rutledge, a grassroots organizer with American Friends Service Committee, shows us a new way Friends can volunteer during the election: “bird-dogging,” a tactic of witness designed to get candidates talking about the issues that really matter.

In “This Age of Insecurity” (p. 23), pastoral counselor Ron McDonald spells out the most common causes of existential anxiety that lead to fear and stress, which can manifest themselves in destructive acts of fighting, corruption, and abuse of power—behavior too many of today’s politicians are guilty of. The antidote is to be self-aware enough that anxiety exists to overcome the fear it produces.

Often in times of fear and struggle, I feel the need to take a step back and consider why we do all this work. Why do Friends consciously spend time, energy, and brainpower holding up basic truths again and again, even against a seemingly ceaseless tide? Maybe it’s so everyone—of every faith, status, and identity—can all coexist peacefully here on this earth together, honoring the free exercise of religion this country was founded on. Peaceful coexistence requires that we keep moving forward, a progress in the direction of love we can achieve by both looking for and seeing that of God in all people.


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