Watering down integrity
While I share Richard House’s desire to see to the core of people and value their humanity (or see “that of God in them” as is said in the Quaker community), I fear that the idea of “not judging people” will get translated into a watering down of the tradition’s emphasis on living with integrity (“Quaker Points Game,” FJ Nov. 2014).
If you are asking me to not judge someone for driving a fancy car, does that mean I shouldn’t feeling anger and grief about that choice? That is a decision that has real impacts on the planet and our fellow living beings, including those most vulnerable to climate change, such as the people who live on island nations being drowned by climate disruption. Maybe I can let go of my “judgments” of the person and see whatever their needs are: transportation, comfort, beauty and aesthetics, etc.
But there are ways to meet these needs that have a much less painful impact on the world, such as bicycles, buses, and fuel efficient vehicles. So I hope that in being asked not to judge folks for choosing to drive a certain car, I’m not being asked to condone it or to forget why we would judge these things in the first place: legitimate concerns for their impact on the planet.
Capitalism also has real impacts on the planet. While I think business owners can strive for integrity and sometimes do quite a good job, ultimately I don’t think the capitalist model can support a life-enhancing culture. I see making money within it as a holdover measure while working to create something different.
Resting feet, resting minds
“Bringing Children to Worship” (Kathleen Karhnak-Glasby, FJ Aug. 2013) is a wonderful essay! It was lovely imagining Kathleen’s family while reading it, and her suggestions are terrific. Another I might add comes from the first monthly meeting I attended. We sat in folding chairs at that meeting. Interspersed in the circle were a few small chairs, just right for a pre-schooler. Scattered around the circle were homemade foot rests, so little legs had a place to rest and so that they would not have to swing from the adult chairs, as a way to keep the blood flowing. Those Friends taught me that our physical bodies need rest so that our minds can rest and pray. They showed another example of how we can love and nourish our children. Thanks for the many ways you show how we can love and nourish the children in the meeting and their parents, too.
Eating and spirituality
Though my eating disorder predates my introduction and later commitment to Quakerism, the two have been intertwined. At times, my eating disorder has tried to twist and use my Quakerism against me, as Madeline Schaefer alludes to in “Silent Bodies” (FJ Mar.). Quakerism has been a major aspect of my journey in recovery. Reclaiming my Quaker practice as embodied and allowing my relationship with food and my body to bolster activism in regard to eating disorders, body image, and mental health more generally has become an important part of how I let my life speak. I have also channeled my Quakerism to inform my food choices in a healthy and positive way. I became vegan in recovery (was previously vegetarian), and my Quakerism is a huge part of why I felt called to this. It has been the primary motivating factor to practice veganism in a healthy, spiritual, and self-affirming way, rather than in an eating-disordered or restrictive way.
I recently started attending a new meeting. Due to some events in a nearby community, I was moved to speak about suicide and mental health in last Sunday’s meeting for worship, and I was extraordinarily touched—and, honestly, somewhat surprised—about how receptive the meeting was, both to the topic of mental health in general and also to my tears and emotions that surfaced after I spoke. It was one of those meetings in which I truly felt wrapped in the warmth of gentle Quaker love and acceptance at its best. It also caused me to start thinking about how open I do and do not want to be about my own eating disorder and recovery journey in my Quaker community. And then I happened to feel moved to check out the Friends Journal website over breakfast this morning, and your post is the first thing that I see. Talk about being called by the Light!
Trans-Pacific Partnership concerns
In response to “Human Trafficking: We Cannot Keep Silent” (Jack Ciancio, FJ Mar.), I would like to make Friends Journal readers aware of a currently urgent situation with ramifications for forced labor. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a multilateral trade deal that, as of publication date, has not been concluded. Please be vocal in your opposition to it. Many articles available online argue that the TPP will hurt U.S. dwellers. All true, but for a reading that addresses the impact of a similar agreement (NAFTA), you can read the second chapter of This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. Trade agreements like these give obscene power to multinational corporations. Their ability to set up shop in poor countries puts those people in dangerous sweatshop conditions that dig them deeper in poverty. It also allows corporations to profit in ways that damage the environment, which belongs to us all, but which unfettered corporations pollute for free. TPP will give such corporations even more power. I urge Friends Journal readers to vocally oppose it.
Fixing the justice system
I admire Joseph Olejak for his willingness to stand by his principles and for the humanity he brought to a very tough circumstance (“26 Weekends at Columbia County Jail,” FJ Mar.). I’m looking forward to part two of the article. The for-profit prison system has made a penal system which has turned the idea of justice into a wretched joke. The same for-profit social services like schools are destroying the very idea of any kind of economic justice and turning this nation into a police state with oligarchy as its political base.
One question I have is whether Olejak was in a section of the jail for weekenders, so that his fellow inmates weren’t the same as in the general population. They may have been violated and have been in the general population, but the power structure and culture are quite different. The general issue of the for-profit supposed justice system is one we are required to deal with if we have any hope of fixing what is so badly broken in this nation.