Power up your laptops and sharpen your pencils! The next Friends Journal themes are posted to our website. Extended descriptions, deadlines, and general writing guidelines can be found at Friendsjournal.org/submissions.
October 2017: Conscience
November 2017: Quaker Libraries
December 2017: Conflict and Controversy
January 2018: Quaker Lifestyles
February 2018: No theme
March 2018: Quakers and the Holy Land
April 2018: Healing
May 2018: What Are Quaker Values Anyway?
June/July 2018: Creativity and the Arts
August 2018: Going Viral with Quakerism
September 2018: No theme
October 2018: Meetings and Money
November 2018: Books That Have Changed Us
December: 2018 Quakerism and Christianity
A full year of Trump?!?
I have to comment on the upcoming 2017 Student Voices Project, particularly as the mother of two adolescents. I do not think you should be encouraging young people to envision a full year of Donald Trump in the White House. The atrocious situation in which we find ourselves as a nation after just a few weeks of Mr. Trump at the helm only points all the more clearly to the conclusion that so many Americans are reaching. The man is proving himself to be as incompetent and dangerous as many had suspected, and it’s likely that he will be impeached.
I do agree that it is important for youth to consider the situation, and perhaps they may even influence it. If Mr. Trump were less dangerous or less incompetent, perhaps this project would be an appropriate means for young people to reconcile their feelings about the situation. But given the level of chaos in which the nation finds itself, I think we need to be frank with our young people, not in order to promote particular political beliefs but simply in recognition of rapidly growing international denunciation of this administration.
University Park, Md.
Stumbling Forward toward Racial Justice among Friends
I find this article (FJ March) by Noah White and Lucy Duncan to be so meaningful to me, particularly the lessons or messages they were taught in childhood and older formative years, and how these lessons affected them later in life. Their stories remind me of the book Learning to be White: Money, Race, and God in America by Thandeka. Sometime in our childhood or in our second decade of life, we receive deep psychological wounds from our families or friends, wounds that unconsciously tell us how to interact with and view other people. If we accept these wounds, we remain as part of our immediate and larger family, but we are psychologically scarred for the rest of our life, and so find that we are unable to relate easily to everyone and even refrain from relating to those who are unlike us. If we reject these wounds and rebel, we become outcasts to our immediate and larger family. Only by recognizing and acknowledging these wounds can we return to wholeness in our relationships to others. It is time for all Quakers to recognize and acknowledge the deep psychological wounds that we received when we were young and how these wounds have kept us separated from many others in our society whose lives and histories are different from ours. If we can do this as a religious society in the twenty-first century, then we will no longer stumble, but rather forcefully walk toward racial justice within our faith community.
I would like to see George Lakey’s type of course taught on every college campus, and even every high school, so that young people are educated in alternative ways for our country to promote peace (“Can There Be a Nonviolent Response to Terrorism?” QuakerSpeak.com interview with George Lakey, Apr. 2016). If we start with the young adults now and lay the groundwork, perhaps in 20 years they may remember there is a better way to live than sacrificing their children in the misguided tragedy of war.
Chester Springs, Pa.
There are no terrorist people, only terrified people all over the world. Terrorists are individuals or groups that manipulate people for their self-centered agendas. No nation has escaped from such kinds of plots. No political system has been immunized from such plots of manipulation. I think people need a new global order of political and economic integration, in which all kinds of selfish extremism will be under control.
Maybe we should get back to trying to install a Department of Peace in the United States. It would be led by a cabinet member who would suggest nonviolent solutions to violence in our world. The person would act as an adviser to the President and attempt to counterbalance the “war is the answer” that comes automatically from the military-industrial complex advisers that sit in the President’s cabinet.
This is in response to some of the letters to the editor under the heading, “Nations Turning the Other Cheek” (“Forum,” FJ Jan.). First, there is at least one nation attempting a nonviolent solution to radical extremism within its borders. (See “A way home for jihadis: Denmark’s radical approach to Islamic extremism” in The Guardian or NPR’s “How A Danish Town Helped Young Muslims Turn Away From ISIS.”) Second, as both the gospels and Paul remind us, there are systemic forces beyond the control not only of individuals but also of nations, that blind them to nonviolent approaches to individual and institutional violence.
As a follower of Christ, I am coming to believe that we, as the living church, need to move beyond thinking we can reform political systems to a more realistic approach of providing an alternative system that serves as a witness against the fallen political systems within which we live, move, and have our being. (See Eph. 3:10 where Paul talks about the Church’s purpose as a witness against the fallen powers.) The basic assumption behind most reformation projects is the idea that a specific nation is a Christian nation that needs to return to its roots, but it is not Christian (Luke 4). We need to think not in terms of reform but of influence. This more closely approximates the leavening approach mentioned by Jesus, Paul, and Peter.
Friend without a meeting
I became interested in Quakerism before having attended a meeting (“Are Quakers Christian, Non-Christian, or Both?” by Anthony Manousos, FJ Feb. 2013). The words of Fox, Woolman, and others “spoke to my condition.” When I did attend a few meetings (an East Coast meeting in Massachusetts) I met some Christian Quakers but also Buddhist Quakers, Wiccan Quakers, and atheist Quakers. I even met one Friend who didn’t know who George Fox was. “Not important,” another Friend told me. Jesus wasn’t mentioned at meeting, and God, if mentioned at all, was referred to in nebulous, all-inclusive ways that would make a Unitarian proud. Much of the meeting’s focus was on social issues and concerns—a traditional Quaker focus to be sure but one that was an expression of Quaker faith, never an end in and of itself. The Bible (not my first source for guidance, that being the Spirit) was quoted, when touching on social concerns. I’m a Friend who’s too socially liberal for—and geographically distant from—the Wilburites, but too conservative and traditional for the more liberal Quaker groups that are around me. My life goes on—in endless song—but in a solitary manner, at this point. I identify as a Friend, but am a Friend without a meeting.
Thanks to Kathleen Wooten for stating the fifth advice in “7 Advices for Online Gospel Ministry” (FJ Nov. 2016) the one that reads “Know how the overall vision and message is supported by everything you post.” There’s a temptation to ask that of whomever’s doing a meeting’s social media. I’ve been asked, “Should we really be having all these posts on Facebook?” Perhaps the question was about simply leaving the page inactive between major events, and then using it for event promotion only.
I’ve heard Friends express concern that any attempt at outreach can too easily slide into an annoying, pushy, street-evangelism style of proselytizing. We need to recognize that there’s a wide spectrum between being overbearing in our outreach and not doing it at all.
Silver Spring, Md.
Disinvesting from taxes
Around the same time that I read the December Friends Journal, I also picked up a neighbor’s winter copy of the Unitarian Universalist UU World, which revealed a troubling irony. The author, Chuck Collins, noted that tax deductible charitable giving can widen the gap between rich and poor! Deducting taxes for large gifts to charities such as schools, hospitals, and the arts reduces federal and state dollars. Lost taxes mean the loss of funding for civic infrastructure projects like water, bridges, public health, and public education. Tax dollars are needed for public spending on Medicare and SNAP (food stamps). When philanthropists opt out of taxes by using huge charitable tax deductions, they disinvest from investment in the public good, and worsen existing inequality.
Finding time to nurture ministry
I was very moved by the perspective that we in the meeting can seek out the gifts of our members, who might not easily see for themselves the gifts of ministry they have (“How Quaker Meetings Support Ministry,” QuakerSpeak.com, Dec. 2016). We at Hanover (N.H.) Meeting have a combined Ministry and Counsel Committee, which must spend considerable time on membership matters and clearness issues. We rarely have enough time to devote to nurturing ministry, whether in worship or in released ministry. This QuakerSpeak inspires me to ask that we make time to discern these gifts and nurture them.
White River Junction, Vt.
Language is not just rhetoric
Thank you for your thought-provoking piece, “A Ministry of Presence” by Joan Dyer Liversidge (FJ Oct. 2016). I admired Baltimore Yearly Meeting for their commitment to putting Quaker ideals into practice by pursuing peaceful engagement with Kenyan Quakers across a serious difference of beliefs about homosexuality and same-sex partnerships. But I did wonder: is the ministry of presence omitting important context for the Friends United Meeting policy? Is the language that excludes gay people from participating as equals in FUM tied to a broader East African cultural shift of intense anti-gay rhetoric and action?
State-sponsored violence against gay people across East Africa is growing and is tied to evangelical faith traditions in the region. This month, Tanzania, one of the poorest East African countries, wracked by the HIV crisis, rejected significant funding from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The Tanzanian Minister of Health announced that this was to examine and possibly eliminate programs that perform HIV-AIDS outreach to vulnerable populations, such as gay men. Fearing for their physical safety, many gay men avoid local public hospitals for HIV diagnosis and treatment. Meanwhile, in Kenya, the country’s highest court upheld “anal tests” as a way to determine if people are gay.
As a medical student in Gaborone, Botswana, and a pediatrics resident in Mwanza, Tanzania, I witnessed, but still can’t quite wrap my head around, the destruction wrought by the plague that is HIV. I am not alone in fearing that without ongoing support to reach vulnerable populations, HIV infections will increase quickly and that gay communities will be further victimized.
Baltimore Yearly meeting’s commitment to intervisitation and loving engagement across difference is critical—what hopeful work so wonderfully devoid of the name-calling overtaking the profound disagreements about diversity and inclusivity in the United States. Where will loving engagement lead them, and by proxy, us? Yet I also worry: I cannot reconcile the FUM policy with my Quaker faith and practice. We must acknowledge that gay men and women in East Africa are not only excluded from being worship-sharing leaders. They face violence and denial of essential healthcare services. Quaker commitments to community and peace motivate the careful work of Baltimore Friends. How do commitments to justice and equality inform our understanding, problem framing, and actions?
Kudos to QuakerSpeak
I attend a small meeting—usually no more than a half dozen in attendance. I hear more messages in one session of QuakerSpeak than I might hear in a year at my meeting, and they come from such a variety of people with a variety of voices. This program has become an essential spiritual practice for me. Thank you.
QuakerSpeak knits Friends together with these shared dialogues. I’ve been educated, enriched, and entertained. Our meeting has used select QuakerSpeak videos for both internal education and outreach. Top notch content and quality.