Feed aggregator

Sam Walton: Putting the protest back in Protestant

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Fri, 08/17/2018 - 7:46am

From the Peace and Disarmament Programme Manger for British Friends comes a plea for us not to be afraid of going back to Quaker roots and challenge the abuse of power.

Society’s values are so often in opposition to God’s purposes. Slavery used to be legal. Love between two people of the same sex was illegal in our lifetimes. Our economic system is based on greed and pays no heed to God’s creation. Nation states exist and act for their own enrichment rather than loyalties lying with the Kingdom of Heaven and working for the enrichment of all humanity. When being loyal to God’s purposes runs counter to what society expects it can get pretty rough. There may be persecution, though it varies a lot: from tutting, telling you off for being vegetarian, being given white feathers, right through to imprisonment, jails and the lions of the Colosseum.

Putting the protest back in Protestant — Greenbelt

A blog from Sam Walton of our associate Quakers in Britain As a person of faith, my first…

Categories: Blogs

A New Creation Story

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Thu, 08/16/2018 - 8:02pm

A nice piece on Philadelphia Friend O:

For O., a member of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, carrying this query for pastoral ministry awakens joy in her heart. It raises important questions: Are we transformed by the power of love, during our biological conception as human beings? Might our lives be a measureless love story about creation?

It’s hard to capture O’s personality in ASCII characters. She’s been in a few QuakerSpeak videos.

A New Creation Story: Embracing Love — Philadelphia Yearly Meeting

As Friends, we understand that scripture uses stories about the natural world to describe the spiritual life. But, do…

Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Categories: Blogs

Becoming a Quaker Minister

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Thu, 08/16/2018 - 8:01pm

I love the gentle, deliberate way Stephanie talks in her QuakerSpeak videos. In this week’s she talks about Quake ministry:

Joining up in that includes making my particular gifts and skills available and not needing it to be about me or accomplishment, but about seeking to really be a part of what God is trying to make happen with and through me and others, and to rejoice in that.

Becoming a Quaker Minister

Stephanie Crumley-Effinger was “recorded” as a minister in Indiana Yearly Meeting in 1982. We talked with her about…

Categories: Blogs

“I Guess I’ll Read My Bible Elsewhere”

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Thu, 08/16/2018 - 7:59pm

Mike Bevel with a funny/sad account of a kind of pathetic series of incidents.

The help we want to give — the showy, busy, selfless work — is rarely the help that is needed. And the help that is needed is often boring, with no glamour to it. So, what is to be done? I don’t know. I want to continue my spiritual journey towards/with God; however, I am worried that maybe the Quakers aren’t the home for me that I want.

The post’s title is a response Mike gave in which he channeled his mother’s voice. It’s so spot-on that I can almost hear her say it (I have never met Mike or any of his family but have friends who could deliver that kind of a line with such under-the-radar nuance that more clueless listeners might miss the acres of shade in the tone.

“I Guess I’ll Read My Bible Elsewhere”

A few weeks ago, at the Meeting House in Bethesda, Zach was breathing too loudly while he was…

Small | Wire
Categories: Blogs

Spike Lee vs the Klan; and When (Many) Quakers also Loved the Klan

A Friendly Letter (Chuck Fager) - Wed, 08/15/2018 - 11:12pm

Watching Spike Lee’s new film BlackkKlansman yesterday, it was evident that the director/provocateur has skillfully exploited a current of widespread cultural anxiety, which the Klan once embodied on a mass scale. The cinematic result is a timely, skillful and often gripping entertainment.

As a call to social action, however, I think it largely misfires. In organizational terms, the KKK in 2018 is not that big a threat: groups are small, and they dissipate much energy in infighting. In December, 2016, for instance, a Klan “victory  rally” was  announced for North Carolina (the “victory” being the outcome of the 2016 presidential election) . The event was dogged by militant protesters and dissolved in confusion before it even started. Yet there was one casualty: a Klan “leader,” Richard Dillon, said he was beaten and stabbed, by two other Klan “leaders” at a post-rally “meeting” that  devolved into a brawl. The attackers were arrested.

Such atomized, quarrelsome hate groups are dangerous, but not exactly a threat to overthrow the government (which, for that matter, they currently don’t want to do anyway). The slide from last year’s torchlit march and fatal mayhem in Charlottesville to the  resounding fizzle of the “Unite the Right” White House rally a few days ago is another indicator.

The more likely hazard from their ranks and hangers on is more  incidents of terrorism, such as the killing of 9  in a Charleston SC black church by a professed white supremacist; or the 2016 anti-gay massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Florida (though that shooter had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State, not the Klan). Or, for that matter,  the cross-burnings and attacks planned by a local Klan chapter in Blackkklansman, which was based on actual police work to foil real, if unmemorable Klan crimes in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Rather than “the organization” (as Lee’s  Klansmen call their group), it’s the spirit of the Klan that’s now resurgent, and is still very much alive and active in American society. It rarely shows up in the old robes, and  its best disciples have switched to politics has found more sophisticated (and effective) means of manifestation, especially via politics.

But I’m not complaining. If Spike Lee had turned overtly earnest and didactic, Blackkklansman would have lost much of its verve. Better for the audience that I was kept far from the project.

Still, as long as the Klan is back in the news, it’s worth mentioning that there’s a  major chapter in Ku Klux Klan history that involves many Quakers. This one is real, nonfiction, solid, and verified — yet Quaker historians have been almost totally silent about it:

Say Hello to Friend Daisy Douglass Barr, popular Quaker pastor, and “Queen” of the Indiana Women’s Ku Klux Klan in the early 1920s.

(If thee is tempted to snicker, don’t. The Klan was a very big deal in the 1920s; it made Barr famous and rich. Not to mention its racism and violence, which she evidently ignored, or went along with.)

There’s a fine substantial article about Friend Barr and her eye-popping career online here, by a Hoosier historian, Steven Taylor. Don’t miss it.

I’ve borrowed some info and old photos from it. And another scholar, Leonard J. Moore, has added substantially to what we know in his book, Citizen Klansmen: The Ku Klux Klan in Indiana, 1921-1928.  

Moore builds on the fact that the membership list of the Indiana Klan was preserved (most others were lost or destroyed); and the Hoosier Klan was the nation’s biggest and most powerful in its 1920s heyday.

Moore’s analysis of the KKK list for Wayne County — home of the city of Richmond, numerous Quakers, and the Quaker  Earlham College — offers a startling (to modern  Friends) disclosure:

The religious affiliations of the Klans­men also closely approximated the city’s Protestant spectrum . .  . . The large, traditionally evangelical de­nominations (Methodist, Baptist, Disciples of Christ, and Presbyte­rian) were strongly represented, but so too were the equally con­sequential German (Lutheran and United Brethren) and Quaker churches. (Emphasis added.)

That is, Indiana Quakers were just as likely to join the 1920s Indiana Klan as members of other churches; and many did.

Daisy Douglass Barr was their star.  She served as pastor in at least five prominent Friends churches, and preached in many more, over many years.

Daisy Douglass Barr in a 1922 newsclip (her maiden name was spelled Douglass, not Douglas, as here.)

She also used her notoriety and her Klan office to make money. The profit came mainly from selling Klan women’s robes and other paraphernalia. When the Indiana Klan could boast several hundred thousand members, and draw tens of thousands to its (white) family-friendly mass rallies, the paraphernalia business was good; nay, it was a goldmine.

By and large, according to Moore, the 1920s Indiana Klan, while committed to white supremacy, was not much into the racial terrorism of the group’s original Reconstruction-era incarnation.

Well, “not much” is a relative term. On August 7, 1930, one of the iconic lynchings of the era occurred in Marion, Indiana, near Daisy Barr’s birthplace. Two black men, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, were dragged from jail and left hanging from a tree, surrounded by a festive mob numbered at 5000, unashamed of the camera’s eye.  Despite the thousands of eyewitnesses, no one was ever prosecuted for the lynchings; a grand jury refused to issue any indictments.

Lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, Marion Indiana 1930.

Did I mention that Marion was home then to a large Friends Church? Still is.

Despite such savage incidents, it is still fair to say that even more than race, the Klan’s main “theme” was “Americanism.” That’s what its Indiana Grand Dragon, D.C. Stephenson, who was a political kingmaker for several years, droned on about ad nauseam in his speeches. For that matter, it was even stressed above race in the Klan’s “Kreed”:

The KKK “Kreed” from a 1916 Handbook.

Further, its “Qualifying Interrogatories for new applicants,” #5 asked:
“Do you esteem the United states of America and its institutions above any other government, civil, political or ecclesiastical, in the whole world?”

Quaker Daisy  Barr was all in on this. To quote historian Taylor:

In July 1923, Barr — the only woman on the program — addressed the assembled Grand Dragons of the Klan in Asheville, North Carolina, where she read a poem she’d written.  Starting out in first-person, Barr spoke about my “all-seeing” eye and revelations and “the love of Christ.”  Chillingly, it becomes clear that the “I” of the poem is “the Spirit of Righteousness”: 

“They call me the Ku Klux Klan.
I am more than the uncouth robe and hood
With which I am clothed.

Hostility to “new” immigrants (those not from northern, Protestant Europe, along with anti-semitism) was integral to this “Americanism.” It is a cry that echoes to this day.

So while no one should overlook the racial, religious and ethnic aspects here, there is yet another which is central to both “Americanism”  and to KKK history, namely: making money. For the KKK, when it had a mass membership, took in truckloads of money; and its officials seemed unable to stop quarreling over it,  or accusing each other of stealing it.

Daisy Barr wasn’t accused of theft; just good old-fashioned American profiteering. Which there seems little doubt she actively engaged in.

The Greenfield Reporter (at left) put the question baldly, and the answer was more or less yes, though exact figures are not available.

For several years in the 1920s, the Klan and head man, D.C. Stephenson, ran Indiana, and lived high on the hog. But then in 1925 Stephenson, 34, who had an eye for younger women, was arrested and tried for the rape and murder of Madge Oberholtzer, age 28. He was convicted, spent years in jail, and with his fall, down went the Indiana Klan as a major organization.

Daisy Barr went on til 1938, when she was killed in a car wreck. Her name was still on the list of recognized ministers of Indiana Yearly Meeting, and she was prominent in interdenominational and patriotic women’s groups. Her funeral was, unsurprisingly, held in a Friends meeting.

Funeral notice for Daisy Barr, April 1938, Fairmount (Indiana) News.

The rise and fall of the 1920s Klan in Indiana  (and in the rest of the U.S.) is an epic and gripping story, well worth reading more about.  [And shoutout to Spike Lee or other ambitious filmmakers; this is a mother lode of exciting cinematic material!] Yet it’s not so much my subject here. Instead I see it more as a parable that has all too much current resonance. For, whether in white robes or (more likely) not; whether put through the Klan’s laughably ridiculous initiation rites (or more likely not), the Klan agenda of unremitting hostility to new immigrants, especially of color; plus its devotion to the post-Obama-era of repackaged and “sanitized” white supremacy; and its focus on one political party, all are very much still with us.

And that is not all. There remains a big chunk of unfinished business for American Quakers: how and why did so many Indiana Friends, custodians of some of the most honored shrines of antislavery witness, and many of whom had relatives lost or wounded in the Civil War to end slavery, get drawn into this openly racist, anti-immigrant group?  And what do we need to learn now from this dreadful history then?

We won’t learn much from Quaker historians; they are still essentially silent about it. The most detailed treatment I’ve yet seen of this episode was  a novel for teenage readers, called Mim and the Klan, by Cynthia Stanley Russell. In it a young Quaker girl stumbles across the fact that her aged grandparents were part of it, and starts digging out why. In one (fictional, but likely “authentic”) passage, her grandmother sums it up:

“It was a social activity to belong to the Klan in Indiana. There were picnics and rallies for America.

The subtitle: “A Hoosier Quaker Farm Family’s Story.”

We had just come out of World War I when everybody needed to be highly patriotic to weather the war together. And the Klan preached Americanism–put the flag on your window and so forth. And some people didn’t see the dark side of the Klan because they didn’t want to.”

Another way to put this is: these Indiana Quaker Klan members were not aliens or monsters; they were otherwise respectable, even “good”  people; and they are our spiritual forebears (as well as many living Quakers’ relatives).

Some may prefer to send all this down the memory hole, and pretend it did not happen. But it did, with echoes that still reverberate. These stories, even that of Daisy Douglass Barr, are connected to ours. How? And what do they mean?

And we need no “Anonymous” hackers collective to bring it to light; merely an end to denial.

Build a wall to keep out immigrants? Not a new idea: A pro-KKK cartoon from 1928. The caricatured “immigrants” above are , from left to right: Catholic, Jewish & eastern European (or any “radicals”).

Besides a chance to face some of Friends’ hidden history, the resurgence of “Klanism” is also a summons to grapple with the movement’s key themes, because they have much current echoes and resonance in our public life.

I researched these themes and the images in the summer of 2017. And a key to their resilience came in an obscure editorial in one of the few Indiana newspapers to challenge the Klan. In 1925 when the order was riding high in the state, an unnamed, beleaguered editor in South Bend, prophetically wrote:

“Klanism”; it’s a clumsy term, but then the Klan specialized in ungainly verbiage. And the editor was right: the Indiana Klan, followed by other Klan groups, collapsed from internal corruption and scandal by the late 1920s. Yet the attitudes evoked in these images and its standard rhetoric not only survived, they have assumed other guises and continued to flourish in Indiana and national politics.

After all, even in the 1920s many Klan sympathizers were prevented from officially joining by work rules or other constraints. But this didn’t prevent them from sharing the Klan’s signature issues — or from sticking with them when the Klan itself receded.

At its height, the 1920s Klan attracted hundreds of thousands of “respectable” folks: professionals, successful business people, prominent matrons, church leaders. (In fact, Klan leaders made special efforts to recruit ministers and pastors, waiving fees and other requirements, and not shrinking from offering outright bribes.)

One such beneficiary was the famously pugilistic evangelist Billy Sunday (1862-1935), one of whose mottoes was “fighting the devil & sin.”

Billy Sunday, ready to rumble. One of his more memorable quotes was: “A sinner can always repent, but stupid is forever.” Amen.

Once in 1922, Sunday was about to launch into a sermon in Richmond, Indiana (home of Earlham, a Quaker college, and many Quaker Klan members) when, according to the Indianapolis Times, a dozen Klansmen came marching in, “clad in white robes  and attended with much mystery.” They presented  Sunday with a fifty dollar, um, contribution, and a letter of endorsement. (Unlike the devil, Sunday did not fight them off.)

This was no isolated incident; I have found records of the same thing happening in least two midwestern Friends churches, along with many others.

The cross, the flag & especially “America” — these were the 1920s Klan’s main symbols and platform. The common image of the group as being above all obsessed with race hatred directed at blacks misses most of their priorities. Sure, they wanted to keep down African Americans; but in the 1920s, particularly in Indiana, they hardly bothered to talk about that.

The flag, the Liberty Bell, the hovering image of George Washington, the Bible & the cross: The 1920s Klan was all about “Americanism.”

My guess is that this reflected a period that was a low point of civil rights agitation; so the Klan turned to its other targets, of which it had many: immigrants (Europeans and Asian); Catholics, Jews, and anyone  who opposed Prohibition.  There was some violence, but it was subdued and often clandestine. In its frequent public events the Klan emphasized a respectable-sounding, “positive” message, which centered on, as we have seen, “100% Americanism,” casting itself as its premier defender. (And many female members were strong supporters of women’s new right to vote.)

The Klan’s largest ever public rally was held in Kokomo, Indiana on July 4, 1923. Estimates of attendance range to 200,000 and beyond. Credible accounts paint it as a kind of patriotic segregated Woodstock, a family-oriented, day-long affair, with games and picnics, a parade, and many bands.

The climax was a long, tedious address by one D.C. Stephenson, the “Grand Dragon of the Indiana Realm of the Knights of the Invisible Empire of the Ku Klux Klan,” who arrived in his own airplane. His topic was not about repressing people of color; it was “Back to the Constitution.”

The occasion’s symbolic climax was the burning of a cross said to be sixty-feet high, accompanied by hymn-singing and fireworks. Numerous other huge Klan rallies were held across the state in those years.

“All in all,” wrote one historian without irony, “there was scarcely a phrase in the speech that would embarrass a major party candidate today.” 

Stephenson was riding high in 1923. He and his Klan had taken over the Indiana Republican party, and seemed to be controlling the state. He  was said to be looking to run for the U.S. Senate and then the presidency, aiming to land in the White House with Klan support as his launching pad.

But instead, his career soon crashed and burned. Despite the order’s much-trumpeted reverence for Prohibition and strict “family values,” Stephenson himself was a notorious drinker and had a charismatic predator’s taste for grabbing young women, consent being optional.

In 1925, a young woman he had kidnapped and raped took poison and left a long, damning deathbed affidavit, made public after her death.  Stephenson was tried and convicted of second-degree murder. He served many years in prison.

The resulting scandals rocked the state Republican leadership, and sent the Klan organization into a terminal tailspin, not only in its onetime national stronghold, but across the country. Respectable people stampeded out the door, and into what I call the Ku Klux Kloset.

The secret character of the Klan now became the cover for its embarrassed members; a vow of silence spread across families and whole communities. In a state where perhaps a third of the adult white Protestant population had been part of the Klan, it quickly became a generation’s shared family secret, one that’s been kept remarkably well.

The vow still persists. How sturdy the Ku Klux Kloset‘s construction could be was shown by a 1995 incident in Noblesville, Indiana. An old trunk turned up in an abandoned barn and was opened — and in it was the membership list of 1920s Klan members in Noblesville and the surrounding area. On it was just about every Protestant white male, and many women.

The list was turned over to the Hamilton County Historical Society. A local historian began retyping the list to preserve it, and was soon shocked to find his father’s name on the list. And soon all hell broke loose. As the New York Times told it:

The historical society, after some debate, voted to accept the Klan list, but to restrict access to it.

“It would be embarrassing to some families” to publish the list, Mr. [David] Heighway [the society’s director] said, adding that threats of boycotts of merchants by the Klan also had to be considered. “There’s an ethical question here, too, since we don’t know how many people were forced to join the Klan.”

The last living person on the list died several months ago, but the roster will still be made available only for scholastic or genealogical purposes. The Historical Society said it would require researchers to gain the consent of all descendants before publishing the name of any Klansman, a requirement that would seem virtually impossible to meet.

The local NAACP objected to this concealment; their protest was ignored.

A similar example occurred among Indiana Quakers. With the Klan’s political collapse, Daisy Barr quit pastoring and faded from the public eye; but she was still quietly prominent in the WCTU and other white women’s organizations. When she died in 1938, sizable obituaries ran in several major papers around the state, some on the front page. Yet not one of the half-dozen I found said a single word about her Klan career. Neither did the memorial notice in the records of the Indiana Yearly Meeting of Quakers, of which she was still a member in good standing at her death.

The point here is that, as politics in Indiana have often showed since, in many corners of the state, Klan attitudes persist; but in this Kloseted fashion. No doubt many Hoosiers who uncovered these links in their family histories today would be as shocked as the Noblesville historian: none of their relatives had paraded in a white robe in their lifetimes. Yet in Indiana, the continuity of attitudes, the long shadow of Klanism, is not hard to identify. It is shown in a recent governor’s attempt to ban immigration by Syrian refugees; a vicious anti-LGBT law, and numerous other measures.

So despite the tightly-sealed doors of the Ku Klux Kloset, there are many telltale signs of what is inside. There the Klan’s “brand” survives. Many of the same “platform planks” persist, long after the old robes have moldered, or been forgotten in an abandoned barn. The speakers today can ritualistically denounce the Klan, especially in its minor, often clownish current guise. But the echoes, and more than echoes, ring from a time when it was a major force in U.S. politics, a time when “Klanism” seems to be rising yet again.

By the way, a word about the 1920s sketches posted here. They come from an unexpected source: the Pillar of Fire Church, a group which had its headquarters. including a college and a clinic, not in Indiana but in Zarephath, New Jersey, a hamlet smack between the two academic powerhouses of Princeton and Rutgers. The church’s founder and bishop, one  Alma Bridwell White, was both a feminist and an ardent adherent of the Klan.

In the 1920s she published a series of three widely-read books, extolling the Klan as the savior of America, and even a redeemer figure foretold in biblical prophecy.  The books were heavily illustrated by Branford E. Clarke.

That was 93 years ago. But the editor was right. 100 percent. And my hope for Spike Lee’s Blackkklansman is that the film will push many toward the overdue reckoning with our Quaker and national Kan history, and resolve to follow its implications with action.

An illustration from”Klansmen: Guardians of Liberty,” 1926.

PS. For some additional reading, look into these titles:

Leonard J. Moore, Citizen Klansmen: The Ku Klux Klan in Indiana, 1921-1928 (1991); Shawn Lay, ed., The Invisible Empire in the West: Toward a New Historical Appraisal of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s (1992); Stanley Coben, Rebellion Against Victorianism: The Impetus for Cultural Change in 1920s America (1991); Kathleen Blee, Women of the Klan: Race and Gender in the 1920s (1991); Nancy MacLean, Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan (1994).

And a 1916 Klan Handbook is reproduced in full online here. 

If you fund this post helpful, please pass it on.



The post Spike Lee vs the Klan; and When (Many) Quakers also Loved the Klan appeared first on A Friendly Letter.

Categories: Blogs

Civility Can Be Dangerous

American Friends Service Committee - Wed, 08/15/2018 - 1:14pm
Friends Journal logo Photo: AFSC/ News Source: Friends Journal
Categories: Articles & News

Civility Can Be Dangerous

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Wed, 08/15/2018 - 12:07pm

From the AFSC’s Lucy Duncan, a look back at Henry Cadbury’s now-infamous 1934 speech to American rabbis and a look at the civility debate in modern America.

Standing up for peace means standing on the side of the oppressed, not throwing them into the lion’s mouth in the name of civility. And interrupting racist violence takes more than civil discourse: active disruption is needed in order for racism to be revealed and dismantled. What good is ineffective pacifism? My commitment to nonviolence is about saving lives.

I gave my take on Cadbury’s speech back in June. I was a little easier on Cadbury, mostly because I think we need to understand the Quaker worldview out of which he was speaking. It’s never good to lecture the oppressed on their oppression, but the classic Quaker idea of speaking truth to all sides still holds value and is something I think we miss sometimes nowadays.

Civility Can Be Dangerous

In 1934, AFSC co-founder Henry Cadbury advised Jewish rabbis to be gentler on Hitler. Is civility a substitute…

Friends Journal
Categories: Blogs

What gifts of the Spirit are we marginalizing?

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Wed, 08/15/2018 - 7:49am

Powerful warnings from Adria Gulizia about what happens when a faith community doesn’t exercise all of its gifts :

Even worse, when we routinely marginalize certain gifts, we begin to see their exercise as dysfunctional and their absence as normative, rather than the reverse. When the prophet challenges us with uncomfortable truths, rather than using our discomfort as an opportunity for reflection and discernment, we tell her to tone it down, complain that she is “unwelcoming” and, if she doesn’t get the message, we run her off.

Welcoming the Gifts God Sends Us

In order to remain healthy and faithful, we must nurture all spiritual gifts, not just the ones that…

In the Shadow of Babylon
Categories: Blogs

Civility Can Be Dangerous

Friends Journal - Wed, 08/15/2018 - 12:39am

Henry Cadbury in 1932. Photo courtesy of AFSC Archives.

A Quaker perspective on Henry Cadbury’s 1934 remarks on resisting fascism

This June, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, because she works for President Trump. In the ensuing debate about “civility,” historian Angus Johnston drew attention in a tweet and follow-up op-ed to a June 14, 1934, New York Times article about a talk by Henry Cadbury, a Quaker founder of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). In the article, Cadbury called on a conference of rabbis to be civil in the face of fascism.

As a Quaker who works for AFSC, I was struck when I saw Cadbury’s words resurface, and I feel the need to reckon with them.

“By hating Hitler and trying to fight back,” Cadbury said, “Jews are only increasing the severity of his policies against them.” He went on: “If Jews throughout the world try to instill into the minds of Hitler and his supporters recognition of the ideals for which the race stands, and if Jews appeal to the German sense of justice and the German national conscience, I am sure the problem will be solved more effectively and earlier than otherwise.” Cadbury added, “Boycotts are simply war without bloodshed, and war in any form is not the way to right the wrongs being inflicted on the Jewish people.”

The rabbis published a response the next day condemning Cadbury’s remarks. Rabbi Samuel Shuelman, one signee, said, “If we do not resist evil, we go along with it.”

Cadbury had influence, and his words set a standard for many who would, despite the objection of the rabbis, follow his lead in what they considered effective resistance. Of course, the rise of fascism and the Jewish Holocaust demonstrated the limitations of Cadbury’s stance.

Cadbury was a smart man, and he did many things worthy of admiration. In 1947 on behalf of Quakers worldwide, he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for refugee relief work and support of the kindertransport during World War II, as well as for resistance to Japanese internment. Despite these important initiatives, his interpretation of pacifism and his call for civility was harmful, and his position did not actively support those most impacted by fascism’s rise.

All of our resistance work should be led and informed by those most impacted by injustice. If Cadbury had been guided by this principle in 1934, he would never have offered such remarks, as they countered the will of the Jewish audience to whom he spoke and intended (albeit patronizingly) to give support.

Standing up for peace means standing on the side of the oppressed…

When one’s very existence is questioned by an oppressive state, and survival depends on resistance, actions are not constrained by public perception and conceptions of civil discourse. Moral courage becomes a necessity of daily life.

Civility is no substitute for morality. Belief in peace doesn’t mean naively expecting everyone to get along. Being quiet and polite is often all that’s needed to perpetuate white supremacy.

Standing up for peace means standing on the side of the oppressed, not throwing them into the lion’s mouth in the name of civility. And interrupting racist violence takes more than civil discourse: active disruption is needed in order for racism to be revealed and dismantled. What good is ineffective pacifism? My commitment to nonviolence is about saving lives.

So, when the owner of the Red Hen restaurant asked Sanders to leave because of the actions she has taken on behalf of the president, this action interrupted what had been normalized. When people videotape and call out white folks who call the police on African Americans who are barbecuing or selling water, that action interrupts the normal pattern of prejudiced behavior.


Author Lucy Duncan leading bystander intervention training session in New York. Photo: Lori Fernald Khamala / AFSC.

I teach bystander intervention through AFSC, so that more and more people know how to stand up for those harassed or targeted by state violence. Sometimes the interventions are simple, but often real disruption is needed in order to stand in the way of oppression.

Confusing nonviolence with passivity is a huge mistake. Nonviolent communication should stop violence, not quietly reinforce it. Confronting oppression isn’t violence; letting oppression progress is.

Boycotts, too, are an active form of nonviolence. AFSC has taken stands to support economic resistance against oppression, from apartheid in South Africa and occupied Palestine to the profiting of private prison and detention companies that feed mass incarceration and immigrant detention. Refusing to support systems of oppression economically is not warfare but active resistance to it.

With the wisdom of hindsight, it is easy to see how inadequate and offensive Cadbury’s words were to the millions who lost their lives in the Holocaust. We have the benefit of history to teach us about the depth of intervention needed today. As a Quaker who lives life from the understanding that all are equal and have inherent dignity, I am committed to disrupting oppression; it is a central spiritual commitment. I hope many more will find the moral courage to actively disrupt state violence and white supremacy, rather than quietly reinforce it.

I don’t want to politely object, as Cadbury proposed. I choose to actively stand in the way of human rights abuses. I envision a world in which all people of conscience understand themselves as co-creators of justice and are willing to do what’s needed to make it a reality.

The post Civility Can Be Dangerous appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

Is this what people want?

Quaker Ranter (Martin Kelly) - Mon, 08/13/2018 - 9:05am

Don McCormick is back with this week’s Friends Journal feature. His February article, “Can Quakerism Survive,” sparked all sorts of conversations and is now at 110 comments. Now he’s back with specific suggestions for Quaker growth, inspired by megachurch church growth research and models.

When I read this, I asked myself if we Quakers are providing the equivalent of this type of spiritual guidance. Do newcomers and others see us as meeting their spiritual needs? If they do, do they see this right away, or does it take a while? To answer these questions, I had to learn more about the “clear pathway” that the Reveal literature described. Although Quakerism has great wisdom in the area of spiritual guidance, at first it seemed that it was inconsistent with the spiritual guidance described in the survey.

When I’ve taught Quakerism 101 classes, I’ve try to explain the branches of Friends—and the schisms—not just as theological or cultural phenomenon but as problem-solving preferences. What tools do we reach for in crisis? Do we go inward and recommit ourselves to distinctive practices that we’ve been slacking off on? Do we start reading groups and spiritual friendship programs to train each member to carry the work? Do we blame our Quaker oddities and start using the language and liturgical models of the more successful churches near us? Do we set up committees and produce curricula to support local efforts? Do we look to experts and craft nationwide programs and hire staff and problem solve? I’m not sure these tools need to be mutually exclusive, but in practice I see most Quaker bodies tend to reach for only one or two of these tools. And of course, the tools we chose largely determine both the problems we solve and the unintended ones we create.

What People Really Want from Church and Quaker Meeting

Looking at successful church growth models for ideas to grow our fellowship.

Friends Journal
Categories: Blogs

Sparking a Quakerish Epidemic

Friends Journal - Mon, 08/13/2018 - 12:40am

Those of us who’ve been blessed yet deeply disappointed in the Quaker endeavor often wish it were more widespread. Still, we realize that whatever we’re doing, the present form we’ve created isn’t very contagious.

What is it that we do? In most of the United States, Friends sit together an hour each Sunday, without talking among ourselves—speaking if and only if God has given us a message for the group. (We understand and say this in different ways, but find rough agreement on how it applies.)

We try to avoid having too many messages in a meeting; why is that? Shouldn’t we want messages from God? Well, yes, but we also get messages from other people. How clear can anyone be as to which is which? Can we be certain a message wasn’t from God?

In the winter of 1651, George Fox himself took off his shoes and walked through the cold streets crying with a loud voice, “Woe to the bloody city of Lichfield!” and never had a satisfactory reason why the Lord would move him to do so. If we heard such a message today, many Friends would wonder about it, yet Fox was certain of its origin.


Friends in worship aren’t supposed to be just thinking (although we can be); we aren’t supposed to be meditating (although we can be); and we aren’t sure whether what we do should be called praying.

There’s an old Quaker saying: “Maybe it wasn’t addressed to you.” When something we hear doesn’t apply, we needn’t dwell on it. Another person, however, may find it clearly intended for them. A whole class may all need to learn certain things, but where God is the teacher, each student can start with whatever he knows, and still have an appropriate lesson.

Sometimes a meeting just sits there … all hour. There are people who strongly prefer such meetings. If we can’t say what happened, maybe we were really deep. “Heavy, man!” as we used to put it in my day.

Friends in worship aren’t supposed to be just thinking (although we can be); we aren’t supposed to be meditating (although we can be); and we aren’t sure whether what we do should be called praying. Very seldom have I heard anyone in our meetings explicitly pray aloud.

We aren’t supposed to sleep, though (like meditators) we may nod out, then jerk abruptly upright, knowing we’ve been mentally away constructing something painstakingly senseless. Sometimes we’ll find ourselves intensely awake, yet empty of thought. And sometimes we approach the kind of dream in which messages came to Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, the Magi, and many others.

Whatever it is we do, couldn’t we do it alone? Certainly, but Quakers tend to agree there’s more happening in worship than people sitting alone in the same place. Sometimes we feel it, sometimes not, but when we do it’s quite palpable.

Isn’t that merely subjective? My wife, Anne, and I were sitting in meeting once while a young autistic woman, the daughter of a recently deceased Friend, rode her bicycle around in the parking lot outside. She’d often done the same when her father was alive, but this week she was to leave and go live with relatives elsewhere. Anne and I had both been wishing (I asked Anne about it later), that this one time she’d sit with the group. That was when she came in and sat down beside us. Is that proof of anything? No, but Spirit connects, and when you’ve seen it happen often enough, there’s little point trying to prove or disprove why or how.

There’s also little point trying to make it happen. As Jesus is quoted as saying: “I, of my own self, can do nothing.” That sums up the drawbacks of trying to make Spirit fulfill even your best personal hopes. This isn’t science, and it isn’t magic either. So far as we’re meeting for worship, we can’t force Spirit’s participation. I’ve been struck by that condition every time I’ve started a worship group, every time I’ve invited a friend to meeting.

Black, white, poor, or prosperous, people may love the idea of Quaker worship, but for one reason or another, the actuality may not move them at first. In 1961, when my best friend invited me, I found it a valuable practice, but being an atheist at the time, I didn’t feel I could honestly continue in it. I fairly soon encountered God through the hippie awakening of the time, but returned to Friends seldom, only briefly over the next several decades.

If we’re going to see a more widespread use of Quakerish modes of worship, more of the people we bring or find among us would need to find a reason to stay. Working against that, Friends have a confused sense of who we are, what we’re called to do, and what we’re intended to be.


I visited another meeting in the ’70s, saw their bulletin boards, and heard their announcements: it was all about good works members were doing and worthy causes in need of donations.

Fox was clear on where he thought we fit in. The church Jesus founded, as depicted in several books of the Christian New Testament, had sometime later been corrupted into a spiritual tyranny centered in Rome. Fox, like many among his Puritan contemporaries, had searched the New Testament for clues toward reviving the original form of Christianity, as he thought it had been “before the apostasy.” Friends meetings and the various Protestant churches embody different answers to that challenge.

Early Friends shared a dominant paradigm of Fox’s time: that people are born sinners, misguided and prone to evil ways except for Christ’s intervention within us. Almost everyone agreed that Christ could save us from condemnation and punishment for sin, but to insist, in Fox’s day, that Christ could stop us from sinning at all was risky. Opponents would ask Quaker preachers, “Do you think you are free of sin?” and blasphemy charges would soon follow. But Friends did insist that lives without sin were possible and hoped their own lives would serve as evidence.

Lapses by Friends could be repented and forgiven, but perfection was the expectation. Hence there is a sense, persisting to this day, that Friends belong to something like a spiritual elite. Other churches can invite sinners to join and be saved, but Friends meetings only want new members who’ll fit in and be a credit to us.

I visited another meeting in the ’70s, saw their bulletin boards, and heard their announcements: it was all about good works members were doing and worthy causes in need of donations. From these, for whatever reason, I concluded: “These people can’t bring me any closer to God. I’m no good with people; I’m not a workaholic; and I don’t have money to give them. I’m no use to them either.” So I left. Was that how the group felt about potential new members? Almost certainly not!

What these things do show is our idea of what it means to be a good Quaker. We’re supposed to be educated; professionally employed; and either generous donors or, at least, vicarious activists. That’s our collective self-image, but what do members most typically want? Aren’t Friends in this lonesome secular age looking to meet good people, who are respectably liberal, with the right political belief system and loyalties? Isn’t that what makes the word “community” so popular?

Affiliation is a historical function of churches, synagogues, and religious organizations. If we happen to be mystics or zealots concerned with the practices and beliefs associated with the Quaker movement, then it’s all too natural to miss the importance of that purely social function. A mystic’s specific lonesomeness is the need to find others touched by spiritual grace, but that isn’t the main motive bringing new people to Quaker meetings.

A quest for agreeable company won’t drive Friends to seek strange new members among African Americans, immigrants, or people struggling with poverty. Christianity and Quaker values should move us to help anyone suffering injustice and oppression, but a testimony of equality and a doctrine of “that of God in everyone” might not even help us like each other much. When poor people actually come to our meetings, Friends make a sincere effort to welcome them, but somehow there are usually barriers.

The fact is that Quakers overwhelmingly come from a class insulated from the viewpoints, experiences, and sufferings that most human beings live with. George Fox knew his gospel was intended for everyone, while Friends today, if we’re pressed to think about seeking new members, propose posting notices at the nearest college.


Why do I think we’ve been doing it wrong? Because my own concept has been faulty: it’s been like yoga without a teacher.

That’s not like the way Jesus chose his disciples; neither does it sound like an orientation likely to go viral. Individually, all of the Friends I’ve known have been warm-hearted and conscientious, often amazingly so, but as a group, we disappoint anyone who’d hoped to see a movement of heroes and miracle workers.

We and our critics share mistaken ideas of perfection as if human beings had been created to follow Advices and Queries, rather than the other way around. That’s an obstacle between us and God, an obstacle between us and other people. It makes people strive to achieve results that aren’t in our power, and fail to achieve things we otherwise could.

Do Friends have a way to see through illusions and learn what God truly wants? Of course. The technical term for this practice is “prayer,” and we’re already doing it. It’s what’s supposed to happen in meeting for worship, and it doesn’t require any formal education. It’s a practice that really could go viral, and make all the difference in the world!

Why do I think we’ve been doing it wrong? Because my own concept has been faulty: it’s been like yoga without a teacher. Trying to force myself into better posture somehow locked me more firmly into the same lifelong bookworm curl I’d started with, but the teacher in a free class could immediately see my mistake and suggest a better approach.


That is not the way to pray, merely a way. But it gives me permission to just think with God.

God is our teacher, everybody’s teacher, though people don’t always recognize where those lessons keep coming from. The most recent attitude adjustment for me was a quote from Roberta C. Bondi: “God is besotted with us.”

That was a hint I had to follow up! Bondi has written extensively on prayer, as a scholar of early Christian monastic writings and as a suffering human being who’s found the monastics’ insights profoundly liberating in her own life. Her writing can be too much in a preacherly style for my taste, but each book of hers I’ve found to help me re-examine what I’m doing when I sit with God.

Nobody wants to be around someone whom you relate to only in terms of duty. I’m willing to relate to people that way some of the time, but don’t expect me to want to do it … for the monastic teachers of the early church, with whom I’ve spent a lot of time, a relationship with God is one of desire and delight. This is really a different basis for prayer. religion-online.org/article/learning-to-pray-an-interview-with-roberta-c-bondi/

There must have been a million preachers by now, encouraging people to converse with God. It doesn’t feel natural; there’s that power imbalance, and besides, God finishes my sentences. But Bondi says:

[In] the ancient monastic materials I work on, prayer is really an entire relationship, and the verbal part is only one element. A lot of what we learn when we pray is to be quiet. We need to stop thinking that a relationship is constituted only by language. The closer we get to other people, and the better our friendships are, the more silence these relationships contain. The people we talk to all the time are probably the people we don’t know terribly well and whom we don’t trust. The issue is not so much “Does God talk back and if so how?” but whether we can learn just to be in God’s presence.

Bondi talks about “kitchen table prayer,” like sitting around a table with people we just like being with. She doesn’t make silence a duty, an ideal, or an ordeal.

For students who are afraid of God, who have emphasized God’s righteousness and their sinfulness, God’s bigness and their wormlikeness, I suggest that they find something that doesn’t occupy their minds but is pleasant to do, like handiwork, or doing a crossword puzzle, or even reading a detective novel, and to just sit in God’s presence. That is a way to begin to learn that God is trustworthy and that God isn’t that person they’re afraid of, but somebody else.

That is not the way to pray, merely a way. But it gives me permission to just think with God when I want to think about some trivial thing and let go of trivial things when I don’t.

It’s about deepening a friendship, that big scary friendship that is our life, and there’s no method to friendship, except for doing things we know will bring us closer, and not letting fear get in the way. For the sake of friendship, God needs us to say what we want. Whether we get it or not is a different matter. You don’t always get what you ask for from your friend—maybe most of the time you don’t get it—but you need to say what it is you need and want.

Sometimes (as I’ve also found) Bondi has had to confront her worst fears about God, and ask “Is this really true?”

A society of Friends ought to be a natural for friendship with God, but it takes something other than what we’ve been doing. For the Desert Fathers, perfectionism was not a virtue but a sin. We should think about that, and pray about it. Above all, we need Bondi’s reminder that God doesn’t see us the same way we see ourselves but “through much gentler eyes.”

The post Sparking a Quakerish Epidemic appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News
Syndicate content