Forum, June/July 2018

A fragile but strong vision

The starter vision in Donald W. McCormick’s “Can Quakerism Survive?” (FJ Feb.) is beautiful, challenging, and achievable. Being new to Quakerism, his vision strikes me as fragile and strong at the same time: challenged by an aging population yet aided by practical, universal testimonies that create many points of entry for attracting newcomers.

While outreach can take many forms, the best of these would meet seekers where they are while demonstrating what Quakerism is in an accessible way. Larger programs are certain to be part of the solution, but featuring a book with equality as a topic at your existing book club or having conversations about stewardship with coworkers over lunch could lead to a simple spark of interest. Notice that interest. Maybe that is the opening for an invitation to attend a Quaker family games night (or the like) and eventually worship one Sunday.

For those who want Quaker communities to survive, let us discuss and act upon our testimonies daily, that those Quakers-who-don’t-yet-know-they-are-Quakers may find their way to their spiritual home via an experiential path and a Friend.

Amy Connelly
Lambertville, N.J.

So Quakers squirm and struggle with terms like mission, vision statements, and the “E word”—evangelism—which simply means ’’good news.” Often we talk about what we don’t believe, which makes outreach rather difficult. Some Quakers choose not to engage in the dialogue, saying that our beliefs are private things we need not discuss. Yes, Quakers do not have a creed. No single statement of religious doctrine is accepted by all.

Like some in the early Christian church, except for Robert Barclay, the early Quakers were not systematic theologians. Their theology was experiential. What I have learned from these early seekers is what we claim and experience about God is beyond the power of words. Each definition or description, even the most beautiful and eloquent, is in one way or another a limitation which falls short of the real thing.

The good news I think we Quakers can offer new seekers is that God is working in us in ways that we do not yet understand. As we continue to listen, worship, pray, love, and serve, it will gradually become clearer to us. Words are just that. What is more important is the reality and fruits behind the words.

Paul Ricketts
Fort Wayne, Ind.

Crossing religious boundaries

After watching the QuakerSpeak video about Muslims and the Quran (“Reading the Qur’an as a Quaker,” April 2018), I happened to have a Muslim taxi driver. I asked him what passage in the Quran was most important to him. We shared a fascinating conversation for about 20 minutes and parted with much gratitude, blessing one another. I’m a changed person after listening to QuakerSpeak and being encouraged to cross religious boundaries. Thank you!

Annapolis, Md.

Quakers and Israel?

One can sympathize with the strident tone of Tabitha Mustafa and Sandra Tamari’s article (“Palestine and Israel,” FJ Mar.). The Palestinian people have been displaced by the founding of Israel in 1948 and continue to be oppressed and displaced. But one can also be sympathetic to the Jewish people who were displaced from the area now Israel and Palestine by the Romans, and then repeatedly displaced from nations where they resettled—Russia, Poland, Germany, France, Spain, England, and in more recent time, Muslim countries in Africa and the Near East. It is no wonder Palestinians want their villages and homes back and no wonder Israelis want a national home where Jews will be in charge and not threatened with displacement.

To seek justice before peace in such situations is to ask for the moon. Justice for the Palestinians (giving back their land in what is now Israel) conflicts with justice for the Israelis, who would be driven out of their only homeland, and by no stretch of the imagination returned to their “settlers” lives in Europe—not only would the current Europeans not give up the land they took, but there is no more resurrection for the millions of Jews murdered in the Holocaust than resurrection for the Palestinians who have died in conflict with Israel.

Voltaire’s aphorism, Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien (“the perfect is the enemy of the good”), applies to the Palestinian–Israeli conflict. When the perfect is unattainable, it is more humane to settle for the good than to continue bloodshed and threats.

Maida Follini
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Please reconsider the extremist and unbalanced views on Zionism that were presented in the recent issue of Friends Journal, “Quakers and the Holy Land.”

Is there not one Quaker voice today that will speak for Zionism as the anti-colonialist, national liberation movement of the historically oppressed and persecuted Jewish people? That will recognize that Zionism at long last has given Jews a life of dignity, sovereignty, and agency in their own homeland following two millennia of homelessness? Calling Zionism “white supremacy,” “apartheid,” “settler colonialism,” and the like will not advance the cause of peace. It will provoke an equally extremist reaction and thus further the endless cycle of violence and counter-violence. Please never stoop so low again.

Perhaps Quakers can better direct their efforts by encouraging Arabs and Muslims to end their century-long war on Israel and find it in their hearts to share. Only under those conditions will Palestinians attain the justice they seek and deserve.

Rabbi David Osachy
Jacksonville, Fla.

More Bible

Many of your writers are very intelligent and write interesting stories. However, most of their content is heavy with secular topics. I attended Westminster Seminary in 1972, a Bible-centered school with a basis founded in the Word of God. Jesus had powerful magnetism and his 12 disciples never went home to their families in the new relationships with Jesus. If you want a deeper, lasting relationship with the power of the Holy Spirit flowing into your readers, you must have more Bible references. Then the power of God flows into the souls of the readers.

Paul Riley
Philadelphia, Pa.

More veggies or fewer people?

I have two concerns about Lynn Fitz-Hugh’s “Being Vegetarian Is a Climate Issue” (FJ Jan.). The first is that, although avoiding meat is good for the environment and for the climate, it is not a good way to slow climate change. Having fewer children (or none at all!) is the most effective action that an individual can take. The other is a medical issue. Because no vegetables have a substantial amount of the essential vitamin B12, it is necessary for all vegetarians to take B12 supplements and have their levels tested.

Richard Grossman
Bayfield, Colo.

Perhaps we should be more concerned about the increase in world human population, which is the main cause of our rapid climate change. Our resources are finite and can only support a given number. It took thousands of years for the earth’s population to reach one billion, but from 1900 to 2000 it went from 1.6 to 6.1 billion. Current projections show the global population will hit 8 billion by 2024 and around 9 billion by 2042. Such continued increases are not sustainable. It seems pertinent to fund family planning in areas where it isn’t affordable.

The author states, ”We could feed 2.9 billion more people if meat were not produced.” Then what? American Farmland Trust says that 40 acres of U.S. farm and ranch land are lost every hour. The more people on this earth, the more farmland will be lost. At what point will we run out of land because of overpopulation?

Janet Thompson
Constableville, N.Y.

Steady and faithful hospitality

Marcelle Martin’s “Releasing One Another for Faithfulness” (FJ Jan.) is one of the most inspiring Friends Journal articles I’ve ever read. Friend Marcelle has managed to speak to my condition while reflecting on her own experiences in a lovingly written piece.

The balance between looking back at what worked and looking forward with prophetic eyes as she lives into her calling toward a faithful service has offered me a glimpse at the beloved kin-dom we have been building as Friends for so long. I’m grateful for Marcelle’s personal reflections and parts of her story shared so that others may join the conversation.

The call to live faithfully and forward has helped me reframe the fear that, as a millennial, I will never be able to consider home ownership or a place to offer steady hospitality. Thinking about how to offer steady and faithful hospitality within the act of living this faithful spirituality is not something I would have come up with on my own. Considering other avenues, opening myself up to discern the workings of Spirit, and voicing my needs to my community to hear if others are on the same page with the same needs are all things I would not have considered.

Suzanne W. Cole
New Orleans, La.

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