Friends Journal’s Student Voices Project is up to its eighth year. This year FGC is co-hosting an online writing workshop for Quaker students wanting to participate. This is a really cool opportunity. If you’re a Quaker high schooler or know one, you can sign up here.
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.
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.
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:
Update: The Boston Globe.
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).
From the U.S./Canadian association of Liberal Friends, an election-season guide on nonviolence. It has extensive links on nonviolence direct action resources and strategies before, during, and after the election.
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.