George Lakey on going out into the world

A brand new video from Quak­er­S­peak inter­views George Lakey on the Choose Democ­ra­cy project.

There are many Friends involved in Choose Democ­ra­cy but it’s very con­scious­ly not a Quak­er orga­ni­za­tion (the word does­n’t even appear on its web­site). So it’s inter­est­ing to hear George share the way his faith and democ­ra­cy activism intersects:

I’m remind­ed of ear­ly Friends who loved to go to mar­ket squares on busy mar­ket­ing days and stand on a box or stand on some­thing, and preach the gospel as they under­stood it. And they attract­ed many peo­ple to become Quak­ers through doing that, includ­ing peo­ple who ini­tial­ly thought they were talk­ing rub­bish. So it’s that going out, it’s that not expect­ing peo­ple to come to us but instead tak­ing that offen­sive– it’s a mark of the growth of ear­ly Quak­erism and will be a mark of the growth of today’s Quak­erism if we’re will­ing to go out. 

Gone and back

On Friends Jour­nal,  the sto­ry of a Friend who left (dis­tract­ed wor­ship, spir­i­tu­al doubts) but came back when the lock­down closed the church she attend­ed and opened her Quak­er meet­ing via Zoom

But this only tan­gen­tial­ly a COVID sto­ry. The real lessons are the wor­ship: she need­ed more vocal min­istry than her meet­ing was giv­ing her, then need­ed more silence than her new church had pro­vid­ed. Indi­vid­u­als are com­pli­cat­ed and sur­pris­ing. I’m glad Friends were there to wel­come her back and won­der whether the rel­a­tive acces­si­bil­i­ty of online wor­ship 1 allowed a “prodi­gal child” to eas­i­ly slip back in to Quak­er worship.

Choose Democracy project getting more press

George Lakey’s cam­paign to pre­pare non­vi­o­lent activists for a pos­si­ble coup attempt has made New York­er and Buz­zfeed.

In August, Lakey helped form a group called Choose Democ­ra­cy that has been cir­cu­lat­ing a pledge com­mit­ting peo­ple to “non­vi­o­lent­ly take to the streets if a coup is attempt­ed,” which has more than thir­ty thou­sand signatures. 

Lizzie Wid­di­combe’s descrip­tion of George in the New York­er inspired a spit-take from me:

Lakey, who has white hair and bushy white eye­brows, is a Quak­er, and brings a cheer­ful, Sunday-school-style deliv­ery to lessons about over­throw­ing author­i­tar­i­an regimes. 

To get a taste of that deliv­ery, here’s a Quak­er­S­peak inter­view from last year:

I wrote about the Choose Democ­ra­cy project a few weeks ago. Check out their web­site at choosedemoc​ra​cy​.us

Update: The Boston Globe.

Modern-day apocalypticism

Steven Davi­son on modern-day echos of bib­li­cal apoc­a­lyp­tic move­ments:

Yet, times like this pro­vide unusu­al oppor­tu­ni­ty. The ancient Israelites were in fact returned to their home­land, though the redemp­tion was incom­plete and came with a cost. The Mac­cabees won their revolt and threw the Seleu­cids out, though the sys­tem they set up was itself cor­rupt and they were con­quered again a cen­tu­ry lat­er by the Romans. The Chris­tians sur­vived Dio­clet­ian only to betray Jesus’ gospel by estab­lish­ing an impe­r­i­al church. The apoc­a­lyp­tic dream is nev­er ful­ly defeat­ed and nev­er ful­ly real­ized. We lurch for­ward, fall back, lurch for­ward again.

I recent­ly read a book review by Jodi Eichler-Levine on a sim­i­lar sub­ject, Why Chris­t­ian nation­al­ists think Trump is heaven-sent.  The reviewed book’s author, Kather­ine Stew­art, has inter­est­ing obser­va­tions about the psy­cho­log­i­cal world­view of today’s polit­i­cal Evangelicals.

Some of the peo­ple I know who fall into this cat­e­go­ry are very nice, well-meaning peo­ple. Char­i­ta­ble, kind. They’re just try­ing to be good peo­ple. They want to like God, they want to like life. They’re just not con­nect­ing the dots to see how they’re being used to pro­mote an agen­da that’s not at all God­ly. The most inter­est­ing part of the review (and pre­sum­ably Stewart’s book) was the obser­va­tion that the Bible has a very monar­chist world­view that con­tributes to cur­rent Evan­gel­i­cal pol­i­tics. The con­cept of the Old Tes­ta­ment “imper­fect ves­sel” sto­ries lets vot­ers write off atro­cious per­son­al behav­iors (Trump, Brett Kavanaugh).

Union win at Brooklyn Friends

Brook­lyn Paper and Gothamist has the news that Brook­lyn Friends School lead­er­ship is with­draw­ing its peti­tion to decer­ti­fy the teacher/staff union.

When reached by phone Wednes­day night, UAW 2110 Pres­i­dent Mai­da Rosen­stein said work­ers had won a hard-fought vic­to­ry and that Thursday’s strike will not take place. “Strike is over, it’s a total vic­to­ry,” said Rosen­stein. “It’s real­ly great that they’re going to with­draw the peti­tion, peo­ple are very hap­py to be able to go back to their jobs… We’re hop­ing for a new begin­ning here.”

At some lev­el we could shrug and say “who cares?” Like many elite East Coast Friends schools, very few of the stu­dents, teach­ers, staff, or admin­is­tra­tion at BFS are Quak­er. The school stopped being under the for­mal care of a Friends body back in 2010. It gives reports to New York Friends and par­tic­i­pates in Friends Coun­cil on Edu­ca­tion but these are rel­a­tive­ly weak ties.

But Brook­lyn Friends School’s admin­is­tra­tion brought reli­gious free­dom into its bat­tle against the union. Trump’s Nation­al Labor Rela­tions Board has latched on to “reli­gious free­dom” as a union-busting strat­e­gy1, recent­ly over­turn­ing an Obama-era rul­ing that gave reli­gious­ly affil­i­at­ed insti­tu­tions the right to orga­nize. The BFS lead­er­ship and its board lift­ed up their under­stand­ing of Quak­er val­ues and used it to argue their case with the NLRB. For the non-Quaker head of a nom­i­nal­ly Quak­er school to file a reli­gious lib­er­ties legal argu­ment on behalf of Quak­er reli­gious free­dom is quite a reach.

If the BFS head and board had first approached its his­toric Quak­er body — New York Quar­ter­ly Meet­ing — to for­mal­ly minute agree­ment with the BFS under­stand­ing of Quak­er val­ues, then the fil­ing with the NLRB would have had some legit­i­mate mer­it. A hundred-some years ago, Friends were an almost-exclusively White and owning-class body who lim­it­ed the num­ber of African Amer­i­can, Jews, south­ern Euro­peans2, etc., in their schools 3and they would have had lit­tle trou­ble back­ing up BFS’s claim that unions aren’t com­pat­i­ble with Quak­er val­ues. There are cer­tain­ly Friends who con­tin­ue to voice con­cerns about the com­pat­i­bil­i­ty of Quak­er process and orga­nized labor (includ­ing some on the BFS board4) and I don’t want to min­i­mize their voice. But Friends are a far-more diverse body now and there’s lit­tle chance that a rep­re­sen­ta­tive body of New York Friends today would have come to con­sen­sus on an anti-union minute. With today’s news, we’re spared see­ing the Friend­s’s name caught up in a reli­gious free­dom cul­ture war fight not of our choosing.

Pre­vi­ous­ly: Brook­lyn Friends School strike, Union Bust­ing and Quak­erism Col­lide at Brook­lyn Friends