Friends on Giving

The new issue of Friends Journal is available online. This month looks at Giving and Philanthropy. There's some good reflections from Friends on why they give to the causes and institutions they do. There's also a nice piece from Quaker fundraiser Henry Freeman on the "language of Quaker values." If you're trying to unpack what it means to be Quaker, this on-the-ground perspective is one way to parse out the reality of Quaker testimonies.

Hey who am I to decide anything

Over on Non­the­ist Friends web­site, there’s an arti­cle look­ing back at ten years of FGC Gath­er­ing work­shops on their con­cern. There was also a post some­where on the blo­gos­phere (sor­ry I don’t remem­ber where) by a Pagan Friend excit­ed that this year’s Gath­er­ing would have a work­shop focused on their concerns.

It’s kind of inter­est­ing to look at the process by which new the­olo­gies are being added into Lib­er­al Quak­erism at an ever-increasing rate.

  • Mem­ber­ship of indi­vid­u­als in meet­ings. There are hun­dreds of meet­ings in lib­er­al Quak­erism that range all over the the­o­log­i­cal map. Add to that the wide­spread agree­ment that the­o­log­i­cal uni­ty with the meet­ing is not required and just about any­one believ­ing any­thing could be admit­ted some­where (or “grand­fa­thered in” as a birthright member).
  • A work­shop at the Friends Gen­er­al Con­fer­ence Gath­er­ing and espe­cial­ly a reg­u­lar work­shop at suc­ces­sive Gath­er­ings. Yet as the very informed com­ments on a post a few years ago showed, the­ol­o­gy is not some­thing the plan­ning work­shop com­mit­tee is allowed to look at and at least one pro­po­nent of a new the­ol­o­gy has got­ten them­selves on the decid­ing com­mit­tee. The Gath­er­ing is essen­tial­ly built on the non­de­nom­i­na­tion­al Chau­taqua mod­el and FGC is per­fect­ly hap­py to spon­sor work­shops that are in appar­ent con­flict with its own mis­sion statement.
  • An arti­cle pub­lished in Friends Jour­nal. When the the Quak­er Sweat Lodge was strug­gling to claim legit­i­ma­cy it all but changed its name to the “Quak­er Sweat Lodge as fea­tured in the Feb­ru­ary 2002 Friends Jour­nal.” It’s a good magazine’s job to pub­lish arti­cles that make peo­ple think and a smart mag­a­zine will know that arti­cles that pro­voke a lit­tle con­tro­ver­sy is good for cir­cu­la­tion. I very much doubt the edi­to­r­i­al team at the Jour­nal con­sid­ers its agree­ment to pub­lish to be an inoc­u­la­tion against critique.
  • A web­site and list­serv. Fif­teen dol­lars at GoDad​dy​.com and you’ve got the web address of your dreams. Yahoo Group is free.

There are prob­a­bly oth­er mech­a­nisms of legit­i­ma­cy. My point is not to give com­pre­hen­sive guide­lines to would-be cam­paign­ers. I sim­ply want to note that none of the actors in these deci­sions is con­scious­ly think­ing “hey, I think I’ll expand the def­i­n­i­tion of lib­er­al Quak­er the­ol­o­gy today.” In fact I expect they’re most­ly pass­ing the buck, think­ing “hey, who am I to decide any­thing like that.”

None of these decision-making process­es are meant to serve as tools to dis­miss oppo­si­tion. The orga­ni­za­tions involved are not hand­ing out Impri­maturs and would be quite hor­ri­fied if they real­ized their agree­ments were being seen that way. Amy Clark, a com­menter on my last post, on this summer’s reunion and camp for the once-young mem­bers of Young Friends North Amer­i­ca, had a very inter­est­ing comment:

I agree that YFNA has become FGC: those pre­vi­ous­ly involved in YFNA have tak­en lead­er­ship with FGC … with both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive results. Well … now we have a chance to look at the lega­cy we are cre­at­ing: do we like it?

I have the feel­ing that the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of lib­er­al Quak­er lead­er­ship doesn’t quite believe it’s lead­ing lib­er­al Quak­erism. By “lead­er­ship” I don’t mean the small skim of the pro­fes­sion­al Quak­er bureau­cra­cy (whose mem­bers can get _too_ self-inflated on the lead­er­ship issue) but the com­mit­tees, clerks and vol­un­teers that get most of the work done from the local to nation­al lev­els. We are the inher­i­tors of a proud and some­times fool­ish tra­di­tion and our actions are shap­ing its future but I don’t think we real­ly know that. I have no clever solu­tion to the issues I’ve out­lined here but I think becom­ing con­scious that we’re cre­at­ing our own lega­cy is an impor­tant first step.

Friendship even when cutting edges don’t overlap

C Wess Daniels has a good “post fol­low­ing up the Quak­er Her­itage Day events”: last week­end in Berke­ley. The fea­tured speak­er was Bri­an Dray­ton, a New Eng­land Friend in the lib­er­al unpro­grammed tra­di­tion who’s been doing a lot of good work around reclaim­ing traditionally-minded Quak­er min­istry (at least that’s how _I’d_ pigeon-hole him from afar, I’ve nev­er actu­al­ly met him!).

Con­tin­ue read­ing

Of Floods and Prophets

The tragedies were reflec­tions not on the pow­er of nature but on the pow­er of our human dis­re­gard for one another. 
When the ram­parts of New Orleans burst and flood­ed its streets and homes, I was at a hos­pi­tal prepar­ing to wel­come a child. As my part­ner and I cel­e­brat­ed new life we saw images of peo­ple trapped in attics, heard tales of loved ones swept away as they sought to pro­tect their chil­dren. We watched oth­er new par­ents and their vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren caught with­out food, water or ser­vices in a city sud­den­ly unable to operate.
The tragedies show our human dis­re­gard. The trapped were almost all African Amer­i­can. They were almost all poor. Sto­ries on the news – shot-at heli­copters, mass vio­lence in the Con­ven­tion cen­ter – reflect­ed America’s racist imag­i­na­tion more than real­i­ty. The lev­ees failed because our polit­i­cal lead­ers ignored the rec­om­men­da­tions of gov­ern­ment engi­neers and sci­en­tists and slashed spend­ing on storm pro­tec­tion. Even the hur­ri­cane itself was super­charged by a cen­tu­ry of burn­ing fos­sil fuels, our dis­re­gard for nature and our stonewalling over the real­i­ty of glob­al warming.
A favorite image of paci­fists comes from a line in the Book of Isa­iah, that part in that talks about beat­ing the swords into plow­shares. But sur­round­ing pas­sages have been echo­ing in my ears late­ly. Like this one:
bq. Bring no more vain obla­tions; incense is an abom­i­na­tion unto me; the new moons and sab­baths, the call­ing of assem­blies, I can­not away with; it is iniq­ui­ty, even the solemn meet­ing. Your new moons and your appoint­ed feasts my soul hat­est; they are a trou­ble unto me; I am weary to bear them.… Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings before mine eyes; cease to do evil. Learn to do well; seek judge­ment, relieve the oppressed, judge the father­less, please for the wid­ow. Isa­iah 1:13 – 17.
The right­eous indi­ga­tion that fol­lowed the images from New Orleans is fad­ing. Life is return­ing to nor­mal in Wash­ing­ton DC and the high costs of recov­ery (and the con­tin­u­ing costs of Bush’s wars) will be shift­ed to the poor. We can­not stay silent to the vain obla­tions of our gov­ern­ment. It is time to do well and pro­tect the poor. It is time to relieve the oppressed and demand jus­tice for the human deci­sions that led to bro­ken levees.
This isn’t all finger-pointing: we each need to seek a self-judgement about our Amer­i­can lifestyles that have fuelled glob­al warm­ing with its con­sumeris­tic dis­re­gard for con­se­quences. We need to depend upon each oth­er more, seek a com­mu­ni­ty deep­er and more inter­laced than that offered by Wal­mart and McDon­alds. We are all part of one anoth­er, part of the earth and brethren to our human fam­i­ly. We need to gath­er togeth­er as a peo­ple who know that gov­ern­ment and con­sumerism alone can nev­er address our society’s deep­est needs and that vain obla­tions alone will do noth­ing to put away the evil of our doings. We need to get angry and sing a song of change. We need more Isaiahs.

Plain Dress – Some Reflections

A guest piece by “Melyn­da Huskey”
When I was a kid, I yearned for plain dress like the kids in Obadiah’s fam­i­ly wore. I loved the idea of a Quak­er uni­form and couldn’t imag­ine why we didn’t still have one… And now, at near­ly 40, after 35 years of bal­anc­ing my con­vic­tions and my world, I’m still han­ker­ing after a tru­ly dis­tinc­tive and Quak­er­ly plainness.

Con­tin­ue read­ing