Forum, January 2017

Normalizing violence

Thank you for publishing Greyson Acquaviva’s “Violent Video Games and Quaker Teens” (FJ Nov. 2016). I feel that mass video and Internet violence does far more damage to society than sexual pornography. It normalizes violence and glorifies killing. We’ve just had all the parades and celebrations of the military virtues that we have every year on the anniversary of the end of “the war to end wars.” It takes courage to make an issue of it or even let it pass by, and in my country (Wales) it gets worse every year. I was in the North of Ireland a quarter of a century ago, at the height of the troubles, and I’ve seen the army in action. It is not fun and games!

Patrick Dobbs
Brecon Beacons, Wales

I am the mother of three children, including two sons who are into violent video games; they are now adults. If I could only go back and not ever buy that first gaming system I would.

Kerri Gallion
Sumner, Ill.


Non-college outreach?

I have watched this phenomenon of Junior Friends (as they and we called them in my former yearly meeting) connecting on various social media platforms and wondered where it might lead (“Organizing Young Adult Friends Online” by Greg Woods, FJ Nov. 2016). It is also worthwhile to gather young people who don’t attend college or university, though perhaps this group is more challenging to gather than college/university students. As one who became a convinced Friend in her early young adult life—and is now one of the elders—I commend you and will hold your ministry in the Light, while trusting Spirit will raise up someone with the call to gather those young adults not in college.

Lesley Laing
McMinnville, Ore., and Monteverde, Costa Rica.


Watching out for the too-compelling storyteller

A reflection on Jay W. Marshall’s “The Companionship of Philanthropy and Spirituality” (FJ Dec. 2016): When the person soliciting money is a Friend, the chances are the money will go for a good cause. However, we Quakers must be aware of the scams out there for we are vulnerable. There is a place for talk about mission, values, and program, for charts and graphs. If we want to make the most of our philanthropy we need to listen carefully to the mission, what values and programs our money will buy. We need to study with careful attention those charts and graphs. What is our money actually going to buy or is it lining the pockets of someone who has hired a compelling storyteller with a story that sounds worth telling?

Harriet Heath
Winter Harbor, Maine


Voting takes sides

As a young Friend, I do not support war, but I can’t not vote for fear that it’ll result in more conflict between nations (“Why Quakers Stopped Voting” by Paul Buckley, FJ Oct. 2016). Voting takes sides, but if one considers a vote to increase peace, which is one of the five main testimonies, then voting is not a bad thing.

Boston, Mass.

There are many more things that Congress and the president do than “wage war.” Our votes place individuals who pass and enforce laws regulating commerce, health, and the environment, for example. Our votes directly influence these policies. To not vote is to diminish our influence.

Paul Stuart
Pittsford, N.Y.

I’m a Friend who’s felt personally called to lay down voting. I can’t, in any case, vote for any candidate empowered to authorize the use of lethal violence against anyone, or I become a killer by proxy, thereby unfit to be a member of Christ. But I vote every day for God to remain the world’s almighty ruler when I pray “Thy kingdom come.” It’s not just a figure of speech. Please think about that, Friends.

John Jeremiah Edminster
Richmond, Ind.

An Episcopalian, I am seriously thinking of joining the Friends. Mainline Protestant churches today are entrenched in politics, whether of the right or left. No one seems to notice that this is really allegiance to a duopoly, which interferes globally on their own behalf and to the detriment of most Americans and poor powerless citizens of the world. As followers of Christ, I feel we should not attach ourselves to either side, and thus it has always been, and always will be. Otherwise, we are building our houses on sand. Re the reference to Obama and change, put not your trust in princes. No race, ethnicity, or gender has a lock on integrity or goodness.

Alexa Miller
Palm Desert, Calif.

When politicians act on an issue it seems rare that the credit goes to the higher power. I think people are yielding too much power to and leaning more and more on the secular good. One simply cannot serve two masters.

If a community comes together under state actions rather than church actions, then I believe it diminishes the connection to religious avenues. Often I see people from the religious community taking up causes to bring civility and sensibility to government officials, often for cases that are long overdue. I’m actually saddened when I read that there is only one way to get something done; there are many ways to work on an issue. In many ways it seems as if a large segment of society has almost adopted the state as a religion, overlooking so many of the bad deeds.

Nashville, Tenn.


Friends in politics

Does Friends Committee on National Legislation offer training (or even advice!) in how to be publicly engaged on social media (“Why Friends Are Needed in Politics” by Diane Randall, FJ Jan. 2016)? I am interested in an illness-related issue for which an international day of protest will include visits and letters to members of Congress. The approach of many protesters on Twitter and Facebook is “go for the jugular.” I would like to participate in the protest but feel uncomfortable, too—as if I’m standing in a mob with torches and pitchforks saying, “Hey, I’m just here to protest peacefully.” Any resources any Friends have to offer would be greatly appreciated.

Stacy Moore
Albuquerque, N.M.


Nations turning the other cheek

How does George Lakey’s tools relate to the beatitudes (“Can There Be a Nonviolent Response to Terrorism?”, Apr. 2016)? I think turning the other cheek and going the extra mile are intrinsic to peace. Unfortunately, we have to accept that in doing so lives will be lost, but lives are lost resorting to violence anyway. I think the real problem is that nations can’t afford to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile, because that would undermine their very existence.

Jim Schultz
Ronkonkoma, N.Y.

When I first came to Friends I was a political and idealistic SPICES sort of Quaker (a belief centered in the testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and equality). That changed while on team with Christian Peacemaker Teams; I had my “day of visitation” where Christ stood beside me (although several Muslims argue it was the angel Gabriel) and showed me that all things are indeed new.

After the visitation, I now no longer know fear (worry is something else). Hope begins to spring eternal, and healing becomes a constant process. These are the tools and gifts we are given in Paul’s letter to Corinthians, and his letter to Galatians reminds that fear is not of the Spirit. For me, the testimony of trust has replaced SPICES, which no longer make sense to me: they sound like individual, intellectually separated testimonies.

So yes, one of the answers to terrorism is not being terrorised by the fallen powers. For most humans that is easier said than done, but for those who are willing to conquer fear, it means sacrifice. That might mean for some picking up our crosses and walking humbly to Golgotha. For others, they will be given the spiritual gifts to move out of their comfort zones and help de-ideologize, because the oppressors (often states/political structures) are made up of oppressed individuals who use idealism to inspire fear or use the legal tools of power over violence.

I am also minded to agree that armed resistance is often a poor person’s response. How many of us Friends are complicit in this oppression; have we checked our belongings to see if the seeds of war and injustice are found there?

Christopher Hatton
Hamburg, Germany

Nations can and do turn the other cheek all the time, and to the degree they do, they generate world peace. Certainly Sweden’s practice of giving convicts positive regard in many ways instead of punishment is an example of this and gets better results: less recidivism than the U.S. version. Nations are wrong to believe that they can’t make such a choice, but it is a very entrenched way of thinking. Everything can change, as those involved stop thinking it will never work and become willing to try what they believe in. The American people, for one, respond very, very well to those doing exactly what they believe in and following their ideals. It can change the entire landscape.


Another political reality the Pentagon didn’t mention to Professor Lakey is that a non-military response forecloses the opportunity for war profiteering. Given the supersized role defense contractors and lobbyists play in the D.C. oligarchy, a military approach will always be favored (until we have a political revolution and restore our democracy).

Erica Etelson
Berkeley, Calif.

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