Articles & News

Top Ten Quaker Bestsellers 2018

Friends Journal - Sat, 09/01/2018 - 1:05am
From the 2018 FGC Gathering at University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio

© Marta Rusek

1. The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear

By William J. Barber II, with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Beacon Press, 2016. 138 pages. $16/paperback. (Hardcover reviewed in FJ Oct. 2016.)

2. Primitive Quakerism Revived: Living as Friends in the Twenty-first Century

By Paul Buckley. Inner Light Books, 2018. 164 pages. $25/hardcover; $15/paperback; $10/eBook. (Review in FJ forthcoming.)

3. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

By Robin Wall Kimmerer. Milkweed Editions, 2013. 384 pages. $18/paperback or eBook. (Reviewed in FJ Nov. 2014.)

4. Seeds That Change The World: Essays on Quakerism, Spirituality, Faith, and Culture

By Debbie L. Humphries. QuakerPress of FGC, 2017. 143 pages. $14.95/paperback; $9.95/eBook. (Reviewed in FJ June/July 2018.)

5. Life Lessons from a Bad Quaker: A Humble Stumble Toward Simplicity and Grace

By J. Brent Bill. Abingdon Press, 2015. 208 pages. $16.99/paperback; $9.99/eBook. (Reviewed in FJ Aug. 2016.)

6. Modern Psalms in Search of Peace and Justice

By Dwight L. Wilson, illustrated by Nancy Marstaller. Friends United Press, 2017. 218 pages. $16/paperback. (Review in FJ forthcoming.)

7. Finding the Light in You: Bright Silent Worship with Young Friends

By Marjorie McKelvey Isaacs, photography by Eugenia M. Mills. Self-published, 2016. 54 pages. $25/paperback.

8. Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation

By William J. Barber II, with Barbara Zelter. Chalice Press, 2014. 192 pages. $19.99/paperback or eBook.

9. Hiking Naked: A Quaker Woman’s Search for Balance

By Iris Graville. Homebound Publications, 2017. 260 pages. $17.95/paperback; $2.99/eBook. (Reviewed in FJ Nov. 2017.)

10. Primitive Christianity Revived

By William Penn, translated into Modern English by Paul Buckley. Inner Light Books, 2018. 115 pages. $25/hardcover; $15/paperback; $10/eBook. (Review in FJ forthcoming.)

Previous FGC Gathering bestseller lists

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Categories: Articles & News

News, September 2018

Friends Journal - Sat, 09/01/2018 - 1:00am

Alan Price. Photo courtesy of Earlham College.

Alan Price resigns as Earlham College President

On June 27, Alan C. Price announced he will be resigning as the president of Earlham College after serving for one year. Avis Stewart, an administrator at Earlham over the last 38 years, will serve as interim president until a new president is selected.

“After careful deliberation, I have decided that this is the best way forward at this time,” said Price. “I would like to express my profound gratitude to the entire community for supporting me and generating an atmosphere of positive collaboration over this last year. Earlham will always hold a special place in my heart.”

Earlham College—a Quaker liberal arts college in Richmond, Ind., that includes the Earlham School of Religion—has faced recent enrollment and budget concerns. Deborah Miller Hull, as chair of the Earlham Board of Trustees in a June memo addressed to the Earlham College community, wrote, “We are calling for the College to develop an operating expense budget for the 2019–20 academic year of $42 million, effectively reducing expenses by $8 million. This action is intended to improve the net cash flow of the College, which at present is not sustainable. The College has been running substantial operating deficits since the financial crisis of 2007-08.”

Interim president Stewart notes that Earlham’s “challenges are the same as what is out there for higher education in general and specifically for liberal arts colleges. We need to refocus and use our resources carefully in order to meet the challenges of a shrinking demographic and the rising costs of quality higher education.” Stewart is not seeking the presidency of the college beyond his interim role.

Some Earlham alumni have expressed concern with Price’s resignation. Five alumni—Stefan Einarson (Earlham class of 1985), Stephen Gasteyer (1987), Ian Jipp (1987), Catherine Kemp (1987), and Loran Lybarger (1986)—developed a Facebook group called “Concerned Earlham Community” and delivered a petition with over 1,000 signatures to the Board of Trustees “calling for a return to shared governance, improved communication and transparency with regard to Earlham’s budget and endowment, and reconsideration of the resignation of Alan Price by the full Board of Trustees.”

Robert Bresler, a 1959 Earlham graduate and head of Alumni Council and board member 2006–2010, noted that “for Quakers, the survival of this college is essential. There aren’t other colleges that have Earlham’s vision and commitment to the world of Friends.”

Price, a 1988 Earlham graduate was the first person of color to head the college. Before heading Earlham, he earned a law degree from Harvard University and served as associate director of management for the Peace Corps.


Baltimore Yearly Meeting approves minute on transgender rights

Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) approved a minute on “the Civil and Human Rights of Transgender People” at its June 9 interim meeting in Frederick, Md. It represents the first minute on transgender rights approved by a yearly meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. BYM consists of approximately 50 local meetings and 4,500 members in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, and West Virginia.

The minute reads in part, “Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) rejoices in the presence of transgender people in our midst.… We commit ourselves to support the civil and human rights of our transgender members and all transgender people.”

The full text of the minute is available at BYM’s website,

Marcy Baker Seitel, clerk of interim meeting for the yearly meeting, clerked the discussion of the minute at the June meeting. “I went into the meeting with the expectation that Friends would not be ready to pass this minute,” she said. “I realized that the topic of transgender issues had not come up in our business process before. But this expectation of the minute being difficult was wrong. In a time of worship following the discussion of the minute, I felt deeply how much those gathered felt a leading, a desire, to approve this minute.”

The minute grew out of a concern brought forward by some Adelphi Friends. The monthly meeting in Adelphi, Md., had supported a member and her family as she transitioned and had approved a “Minute Welcoming Transgender Persons” in 2013. But in July 2017 when “Trump tweeted out that he was going to ban transgender people from the military, a bunch of people at Adelphi were concerned and wanted to do something more,” said Diane McHale, the Adelphi attender who presented the minute for the yearly meeting’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee.

Friends from Adelphi brought the concern to the yearly meeting Peace and Social Concerns Committee, and they were encouraged to address broader concerns than just the military. Eventually the background to the minute presented at the June interim meeting read, “The Trump administration has taken numerous steps weakening protection for transgender people in such areas as military service, prison assignment, healthcare, employment, schooling, and policing.”

The minute is to be distributed to other yearly meetings. McHale hopes this minute will lead “Quakers to stand up for the civil and human rights of people … lobbying, making contributions and doing volunteer work.” But she also hopes it will lead to “Quakers talking and learning about the issue.”


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Categories: Articles & News

The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys

Friends Journal - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 11:30pm
Edited by Eddie Moore Jr., Ali Michael, and Marguerite W. Penick-Parks. Corwin, 2018. 472 pages. $27.95/paperback or eBook.

Some years ago, an elderly couple in my family visited New Mexico. When I asked the man about the trip, he said, “Good trip; the people were especially interesting. They were about a third Indian, about a third Mexican, and about a third … um … you know … regular people.”

Regular people? It didn’t sound right, but at that time I didn’t understand that whites typically see themselves as the norm and their culture as the one that other groups should aspire to. White teachers’ awareness that their culture is only one option rather than the right one is given the highest importance in The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys.

This book is a collection of essays. Among the editors is Dr. Eddie Moore, founder of the annual White Privilege Conference that many Friends have attended.

Why white women? Why only black boys? Because 82 percent of elementary and secondary teachers in U.S. public schools are white, and 76 percent are female, and the four-year graduation rate for black males is only 59 percent, compared to 80 percent for white males. A tragic number of black boys never connect with school, but rather, get caught up in the “school-to-prison pipeline.” Furthermore, many of the innovations a teacher would make to better serve black boys would be beneficial to all children.

So why is an awareness of whiteness so important for white teachers (and white Friends)? For one thing, whites see themselves as individuals above all. Therefore, they don’t find racial identification to be of significance. Because the school curricula and the media mostly reflect the same cultural references, preferences, and biases, they see them as normal and superior. Other groups, because they are oppressed based on their racial identity and because there are differences between their ways and dominant white ways, do see themselves as distinct groups. Unfortunately, white teachers typically perceive black life as a deficit; as a result, they approach teaching with a “savior” mentality. With more awareness that whiteness is just one of the options, teachers are better able to appreciate the richness of the cultures of children of color and to notice the brilliance and giftedness among children they teach.

Black boys get the message early that they are not intelligent, that they are scary, that they will likely go to prison, that they may not live to be 20. I once overheard an 11-year-old boy ask his friend if he was going to get married when he grew up. The boy said, “No, not me. When I grow up, here I go, off to jail!” Teachers must actively counter this narrative and offer them a counternarrative. Preserving the dignity of black boys is of the utmost importance.

People of color talk about race all the time at home and in other protected spaces. White teachers are often uncomfortable discussing race at all, but they need to talk openly about different racial groups and elicit the experiences of their students. This not only enriches the understanding of students and teachers alike, it also shows respect for all students.

I remember an English lesson I conducted with a class of mostly black fifth graders. My students were arguing with me about the word “ain’t,” and I decided to veer from my lesson plan and ask them to tell me some ways kids in their neighborhood talk that is different from their white classmates. They were totally engaged as we talked about “woofing,” which I learned means a stylized, aggressive boasting that I had frequently observed but never acknowledged. Were I teaching today, I would do a lot more drawing out of my students. We all grew that day in understanding of and respect for one another. Teachers must create “identity safe” classrooms in which they help students see their social identity as an asset, not a barrier to their academic success, a place where children of all backgrounds are valued.

Because textbooks are usually written from a white point of view, teachers must help kids notice what is missing. Is slavery presented honestly with more than a passing mention? Here is a place where the white teacher needs to have moved beyond embarrassment and shame in talking about race.

Are black scientists and writers included in the curriculum? Teachers will have to search out resources other than textbooks. Black students need to see black role models. In particular, gay, trans, and disabled black boys need to see successful role models like them.

The book emphasizes the importance of getting to know more about black boys, both individually and as a group. The teacher should keep in close touch with parents, phoning them to report successes as well as misbehavior. She should listen to parents as well as report to them, asking, “How can I better help your child develop his gifts?” She must understand that black parents love their kids as much as white parents. And she will have to earn the trust of parents.

To understand the neighborhood, some articles suggest visiting homes, churches, and other gathering places. Get comfortable in these settings. Get a feel for them.

I wish I had had this resource as a teacher.

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Categories: Articles & News

A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History

Friends Journal - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 11:25pm
By Jeanne Theoharis. Beacon Press, 2018. 288 pages. $27.95/hardcover; $18/paperback (available in Jan. 2019); $24.99/eBook.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, and 50 years later there is much attention being paid to the legacy of King and the movement he helmed. Jeanne Theoharis’s book A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History contextualizes the lives of civil rights icons, such as King and Rosa Parks, as well as the Civil Rights Movement as a whole. The book distinguishes between the fable that persists about the Civil Rights Movement and the reality of the difficulties faced by King, Parks, and the many people whose names we don’t know and who struggled for years before the “movement” began. Theoharis shines a light on the gaps between the real history and the popularized version of the history and explains, “As a nation, we need fuller histories—uncomfortable, sobering histories—that hold a mirror to the nation’s past and offer far-reaching lessons for seeing the injustices of our current moment and the task of justice today.” In addition to Theoharis’s thoughtful analysis and explicit connections to current events, the book is well grounded in statistics and quotations, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions about how to apply the lessons of the past.

The book highlights people and lessons of the Civil Rights Movement that are often left out of the popular narrative we learn. Theoharis focuses on the true intersectionality of the movement, including the significance of youth and women. The book also features civil rights struggles that are less well known, such as the efforts to desegregate schools in New York, Boston, Detroit, and Los Angeles. Regarding California’s voting patterns in the 1960s, Theoharis notes, “The message from the majority of white voters was stark: civil rights were good, as long as they didn’t come home;” even today nine of the top ten most segregated cities in the United States are in the North, and the Los Angeles Police Department has the most officer-involved killings in the country. The book illustrates how “by making racism only about bombing, blocking, and spitting, the nation gets off easy,” and notes the role the media played in developing too narrow a view of the Civil Rights Movement and the oppression the movement attempted to dismantle. The book makes it clear that people were either part of the problem or part of the solution—there is no neutrality in the face of injustice.

Throughout the book, Theoharis illustrates the connections between the Civil Rights Movement and movements today, particularly Black Lives Matter. Sometimes she notes similarities in the movements themselves, such as how both movements began to coalesce as people reached a breaking point with injustice they had been fighting for years, both are “leader-full” and pushed forward by young people, and both movements came to develop a more international focus, including solidarity with Palestine. She also notes common challenges, such as being viewed as troublemakers, dangerous, and “identity extremists.” And the media continues to struggle to adequately cover nonviolent activism for justice, too often only focusing on injustice when those ignored have turned to riots, which Dr. King referred to as “the language of the unheard.” The book’s focus on student activism is also reminiscent of students today leading the efforts on gun safety. There is a quote from a student in 1968, “We waited a long time for those folks to do something to improve our schools, but they let us down and so we have decided to do the job ourselves,” which could just as easily be the words of a student in 2018.

The book invites readers to be reflective about how they use history to shape their own narrative and how history will remember their role in the current movements for justice. When Theoharis describes the way that history has “become the necessary glue that binds and justifies current public policy and national identity” and how “Rosa Parks’s courageous bus stand had become America’s stand,” I think of the pride that Quakers take in our history of standing on the side of justice. Do we ever rely on our history in a way that lets ourselves off the hook for the present? Do we ever make the mistake of thinking of racism as “personal, matters of the heart rather than enduring matters of legislation and structure,” and fail to take the institutional deep dives required to make the structural changes necessary to disrupt the status quo? As Theoharis says, now more than ever this terrible and beautiful “history demands our political imagination and action, a history for a better world.”

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Categories: Articles & News

This Child of Faith: Raising a Spiritual Child in a Secular World

Friends Journal - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 11:20pm
By Sophfronia Scott and Tain Gregory. Paraclete Press, 2017. 196 pages. $16.99/paperback; $11.99/eBook.

How timely that this deeply personal memoir by a mother and her young son was released for the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Tain Gregory was present in his third grade class on that notorious day in December 2012 and experienced more personal loss than any child should have to endure at such a tender age. His ability to process the events of that day and grapple with profound questions of faith in such a knowing way revealed a solid inner strength that emanated from his own deeply held beliefs and sustained experience with a faith community that was able to be truly present to community and individual needs in times of both darkness and light.

This book traces the spiritual journey of an adoring mother and her thoughtful son. It reveals the way in which they came to a place of deep knowing and acceptance of the mystery that life includes both great joy as well as sorrow and loss. Sophfronia Scott details her own quest for a spiritual and religious life beginning as the child of a large Baptist family in Ohio. Taking the lead from her young son, she was able to lay the ground for his own spiritual awakening by listening and responding to his insightful questions and thoughtful queries. She shares the specific details of their expedition and refinement of a faith that was able to hold them up through the crashing waves and stormy seas of great tragedy and personal loss.

Many parents grapple with similar issues of faith and personal belief, wondering how best to impart such values and provide meaning to their children. Although the author does not claim to have all the answers, she deftly models a way that may serve as a guide for others. In its simplest form, she listened intently and was able to perceive her son’s readiness to begin his own spiritual journey, which in turn informed her own. She intentionally provided experiences for the family that nurtured such need and blossomed into a faith and practice that sustained them all through harrowing times and led to their own discovery of meaning and purpose.

As an educator of children for many years, I know that children learn best from modeling and doing for themselves. Our work, as the adults in their lives, is to be the guide and to live the questions ourselves. We serve children best when we provide the right environment to allow them the freedom to form their own questions and find answers on their own. Spiritual development is no different, as illustrated by this timely book.

In the wake of our most recent events of gun violence in our schools, we have all witnessed a growing response by the young people themselves to seek and demand answers to complex and confusing questions that go to the very heart of society. We are poised to learn important lessons from the youth of today, if we dare to listen and respond.

As Quakers, we believe in the inner light and the innate goodness that resides within us all. If we are authentic to ourselves, to our beliefs as Quakers, and to the inner spirit of the child, we will achieve a lasting and positive experience with children as we endeavor to nurture their spiritual well-being in our meetings and our families. Nurturing those values and deeply held beliefs is the work of families and faith communities everywhere.

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Categories: Articles & News

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

Friends Journal - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 11:15pm
By Robin DiAngelo. Beacon Press, 2018. 192 pages. $16/paperback; $12.99/eBook.

Robin DiAngelo, the white woman who wrote this book, has been teaching about racial justice for over 20 years. She writes, “When I talk to white people about racism, their responses are so predictable I sometimes feel as though we are all reciting lines from a shared script. And on some level, we are, because we are actors in a shared culture.” White Fragility is largely her examination of that script and the shared culture that helps write it.

She observes that white people have opinions about race and racism they think are objective even though they are heavily influenced by how they have been socialized as white people. She explores that socialization—noting, for example, that race has historically been presented as a biological reality, but is really a social construct. That construct is a crucial element in creating a system of oppression favoring those who are white as well as supporting the belief that the dominant white culture, rules, and people are normal and good.

That system of oppression has adapted to changed conditions such as the outlawing of racial discrimination and the shaming of people who overtly assert the inferiority of people of color. One of those adaptations is what she calls “color-blind ideology,” which disguises discrimination that occurs because of conscious, unconscious, and institutional biases. That ideology permits white people to disguise their own motivations and judgments, so they can talk, for example, about good schools or neighborhoods when by “good” they really mean “white.”

Another adaptation is racial segregation, which permits white people to benefit from discrimination without being aware of it or feeling responsible for it. Law enforcement practices and level of government service can vary by neighborhood without those differences being attributed to race.

The author identifies the cultural shift to viewing overt racial discrimination as immoral and adaptations to that shift—such as color-blind ideology and segregation—as root causes of what she terms “white fragility.” She uses this term to describe the sense of discomfort white people feel about racial issues and their defensive responses when their behavior is questioned.

Because the culture usually protects white people from having to think about race, many become upset when that protection does not work. Because racial discrimination is now considered shameful, white people often deny discriminatory behavior rather than change it.

The author identifies “patterns of white fragility.” These include assuming our experience is available to everyone, unwillingness to listen to people of color who share their experiences, needing to look good, and wanting to jump to “solutions” rather than do the hard, personal work.

As a white person, I recognized this last pattern in myself. When I first heard the author at a workshop list “focusing on solutions” as a pattern of white fragility, I was puzzled. Why shouldn’t we want solutions?

In the book’s conclusion, she explains:

When I give a talk or workshop, the number one question I get from white participants is, “How do I tell so-and-so about their racism without triggering white fragility?” My first response to this question is, “How would I tell you about your racism without triggering your white fragility?” With this response I am trying to point out the unspoken assumption that the person asking the question is not part of the problem.

She has learned to welcome feedback from people of color. She assumes she will never be completely free of racism. If she does not receive such feedback, she worries—just as worried as she would be if a doctor were about to discuss her test results and was called away before doing so.

While encouraging people of color to tell me when I get it wrong seems daunting, I find it helpful to think about language learning. The reasons I make mistakes trying to speak a new language are like the reasons I sometimes engage in racially oppressive behavior. I was not raised in an environment that taught me what I need to know. Because I do not regard mistakes I make in a new language as a moral failing, it is easier to respond to correction with equanimity and gratitude rather than denial. I need to take the same approach to feedback about racial missteps.

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Categories: Articles & News

Presence and Process: A Path Toward Transformative Faith and Inclusive Community

Friends Journal - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 11:10pm
By Daniel P. Coleman. Barclay Press, 2017. 232 pages. $20/paperback; $6.99/eBook. Buy from QuakerBooks

At the end of his remarkable book, Daniel Coleman speaks of a “profoundly clarifying moment” during his research when he visited the Christian Meditation Center in Neptune Beach, Fla., near Jacksonville. The center is in an otherwise undistinguished business park with insurance and real estate agents, massage therapists, and a yoga studio. Although the center is based on the writings of the Benedictine monk John Main, it is nondenominational, run by volunteers, and supported by donations. Group meditations are offered several times of day, and the meditators come from a variety of backgrounds, from Catholic to Buddhist, although Coleman seems to have been the first Quaker to have visited there. What Coleman found there was a “vibrant and worshipful community,” “a working alternative (or adjunct) to traditional church, without pastor or pulpit or denominational affiliation or doctrinal statement.”

Coleman is a true seeker, who left his evangelical church after 20 years and started a house church, where he hoped to find “a greater depth of Christian spirituality.” He is an avid reader (as is clear from his very well-researched book) and stumbled upon Quaker writings, which led him to join an evangelical Quaker church and eventually to Earlham School of Religion. There he studied the contemplative writings and practices of Quaker, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox mystics. While at Earlham, he discovered Buddhist vipassana (mindfulness or insight) meditation, which enriched his spiritually Christian beliefs. The first fruits of his journey are in this book, a rich amalgam of Christian, Buddhist, and Quaker contemplative practices as well as a beautifully concise chapter on process theology, which “offers a bridge for interfaith dialogue between religions, and even a potential path for ‘double-belonging’ to more than one faith.”

“Apophatic prayer” is not part of Quaker vocabulary, but maybe that will now change, for apophatic prayer is silent prayer, which in earlier times was very much part of Quaker tradition. “Apophatic” is from a Greek word meaning “unsaying.” “In apophatic prayer—the via negativa, the way of silence, the way of darkness, the way of unknowing—one surrenders, forgets, empties oneself of cognition and self-reference, seeking instead to simply be in the present moment in an undifferentiated manner.” There is a very rich tradition of apophatic mysticism in many of the world’s religions, and Coleman lays out its various histories, characteristics, and practices with great erudition and clarity. He also makes clear how vibrant this form of prayer, meditation, and contemplation is today.

Centering prayer is the most familiar form of apophatic prayer today, especially through the writings of Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, and Cynthia Bourgeault. Based on the fourteenth-century The Cloud of Unknowing, it is a simple practice of letting go of one’s thoughts during meditation or contemplation by focusing on a sacred word that is “an expression of one’s intention” and helps bring you back to your awareness of God within (or the Inner Teacher). One also “uses attention to the breath as a sacred symbol.” The purpose of centering prayer is “inner transformation,” and, in Keating’s words, centering prayer “is a way of awakening to the reality in which we are immersed.”

Coleman’s discussion of Christian meditation and the teachings of John Main, Christian Zen (Merton as well as contemporary writers such as Paul Knitter and Kim Boykin), and Buddhist-Christian interpenetration (the work of Marcus Borg, among others) underscores his call for “faith-mixes,” where “people will tolerate, maybe even appreciate and celebrate, one another’s spiritual mosaics.”

If there is a shortcoming in this otherwise thought-provoking and insightful book, it is the all too brief chapter called “Meditation and Quakers.” While George Fox, William Penn, Thomas Kelly, and David Johnson are mentioned in passing, Coleman’s main focus is on Teruyasu Tamura’s Pendle Hill pamphlet, A Zen Buddhist Encounters Quakerism. Tamura’s suggestion that “in their daily devotion, [Friends] should keep regular practice of complete inner silence, say for an hour or half an hour” is certainly valid. Yet Coleman makes no mention of A Guide to True Peace, or the Excellency of Inward and Spiritual Prayer, compiled anonymously by two Quakers from the writings of three eighteenth-century mystics (Fénelon, Guyon, and Molinos). According to Howard Brinton, the pocket-sized devotional went through at least 12 editions and reprintings from 1813 to 1877, and was reprinted by Pendle Hill in 1946 and 1979. It is a fount of Quaker apophatic mysticism.

Coleman, however, is completely correct in concluding that it is time for Quakers to acknowledge their apophatic heritage: “Quakers could have a role in facilitating the adoption of apophatic contemplative/meditative practices in twenty-first-century North American culture, but only if Friends first reclaim private apophatic practices for themselves and find creatively authentic ways to engage the culture at large with their unique approach to active, prophetic mysticism.”

This is a book that deserves a wide audience among Friends and seekers of all faiths.

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Categories: Articles & News

Immersed in Prayer: Stories from Lives of Prayer

Friends Journal - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 11:05pm
Edited by Michael Resman. What Canst Thou Say?, 2017. 172 pages. $9.95/paperback.

Immersed in Prayer: Stories from Lives of Prayer is intended to provide support and companionship for those seeking to enrich their relationship with God. Contributors tell of struggles and blessings encountered on the journey toward a prayer-based life. With a swimmer’s innate sense of rhythm, 26 Friends express varied experiences with the Holy One. Prayerful words splash by, literally just about out of nowhere. The “just about” is where the beauty lies. Brief responses convey myriad depth experiences, like a prayer-focused print version of Friends Publishing Corporation’s QuakerSpeak video series.

Reading these pages was like seeing swimmers flash past in lanes marked with queries. What prompted you to decide to undertake a life of prayer? What happens when you pray? Whom do you encounter when you pray? How have your prayers changed over time? What impediments to prayer have you experienced? What ways did you find to work-around your impediments to prayer? What are some of the signs of growth you notice in your prayer life?

Chapter six took me deeper: Do you have nicknames for yourself or the Other? Michael Resman’s introduction speaks to this: Nicknames “indicate an intimacy and level of familiarity … offer a glimpse into the speaker’s relationship with the one being named.” Friends’ names for God include Divine Companion, Protector, Holy Spirit, Mother, Sweet Comforter, the Light, Goddum, Teacher, the Source, the Name, Holy Sophia. Resman quotes Japanese author Shomei Yoh: “The life of each of you is a shining wavelet flowing forth from the source of the great being,” a saturating image of oneness in which contemplative Quakers may want to soak. “We are all ‘God-Drops’ in the ocean of God.”

What does prayer mean to the Religious Society of Friends? Immersed in Prayer includes respondents who plunge into engulfing depths. Some writers use a straightforward journal form; others turn to poetic language to convey intimacy with the Sacred. What does prayerfulness mean to you? Friends from Alaska to Bolivia offer a buoyant environment for readers who yearn for greater intimacy with Sacred Presence.

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Categories: Articles & News

Vintage Saints and Sinners: 25 Christians Who Transformed My Faith

Friends Journal - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 11:00pm
By Karen Wright Marsh. IVP Books, 2017. 224 pages. $20/hardcover; $16/paperback; $15.99/eBook.

Vintage Saints and Sinners: 25 Christians Who Transformed My Faith, by Karen Wright Marsh, is a gracefully written and deeply reflective set of personal essays, each focusing on the life and writings of a different “sinner-saint.” Marsh uses that hyphenated term to prompt her readers to dispel overly pious notions of who qualifies to be a saint. She posits this definition: “[A] saint is a sinner too—but is someone who, by God’s grace, goes through life in the spirit of Christ.” All of the Christians covered in her book had something of the sinner in them. In different measures and degrees, each of these 25 saintly men and women succumbed to temptations, faced existential doubts and fears, and felt alienated from God. Yet, by the grace of God, the spirit of Christ ultimately prevailed within them. As Marsh observes, “Apparently blind alleys and bypasses are part of the pilgrimage. Moments of joy and revelations of grace follow frustrated hopes and inward pains.” Marsh’s fine book shows that by having a direct encounter with these all-too-human saints—through study, prayer, and meditation—we can draw wisdom and encouragement for our own spiritual pilgrimage.

The author’s 25 transformative Christians are a diverse lot—they include philosophers (Saint Augustine, Soren Kierkegaard), founders of Christian denominations (John Wesley, Martin Luther), writers (Flannery O’Connor), monastics (Brother Lawrence, Thomas Merton, Julian of Norwich), and social justice leaders (Dorothy Day, Fannie Lou Hamer, Howard Thurman).

Marsh, whose academic training is in philosophy and linguistics, is executive director of Theological Horizons, a Christian ministry established in 1990, with a center located near the campus of the University of Virginia. The ministry came into being because she and her husband, Charles Marsh, a professor of religious studies, felt that “vibrant theological scholarship and authentic Christian community were needed inside the university.” In a podcast interview, Marsh explained that the essays comprising her book grew out of spiritual support gatherings with university students at her home. Her essays clearly show her loving commitment to these young people and her gratitude for their presence in her life. She recognizes that these students see her as mentor, teacher, and nurturer. These demanding roles—and the personal and spiritual toll that they can exact—are occasional themes of her essays.

One of Marsh’s most honest and soul-searching essays is a meditation on the private struggles of the courageous German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the Nazis for his participation in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. It deserves mention that she and Charles named their home the Bonhoeffer House for how it resembles the home that Bonhoeffer once lived in in Germany. Charles is also the author of a critically admired biography of Bonhoeffer.

Marsh provides an illuminating biographical sketch for each of the 25 Christians. She clearly demonstrates a scholar’s command of their lives and key writings. But she does not impart this learning in a “teacherly” way. Rather, she relates their life stories as compelling spiritual journeys that support her in her own spiritual journey.

After reading Marsh’s book, you may find yourself wondering: Who would be on my personal list of faith-transforming figures? In fact, you may even feel inspired (as I myself now do) to imitate Marsh’s approach: to prayerfully immerse yourself in the life and writings of one “sinner-saint,” and to reflect on what that individual’s spiritual struggles and strivings reveal about your own. I encourage Friends to read Vintage Saints and Sinners, either as an aid to solitary devotion or for use in a book discussion series for Quaker teens and adults.

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Categories: Articles & News

Vincent Paul Buscemi

Friends Journal - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 10:20pm
Buscemi—Vincent Paul Buscemi, 89, on March 11, 2017, at home in New York City. Vince was born on May 18, 1927, in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Sicilian immigrants Rosa Giacconi and Santos Buscemi. He graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and earned a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering at Pratt University on the GI Bill and a master’s in engineering management at Drexel University. He worked in Pittsburgh and New York City, including at Westinghouse (where he recorded two patents), Consolidated Edison
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Georgana Falb Foster

Friends Journal - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 10:15pm
Foster—Georgana Falb Foster, 89, on July 2, 2017, in Greenfield, Mass. Gee was born on May 15, 1928, in Elgin, Iowa, to Myrtle Marie Kerr and George Henry Falb. She grew up as a Methodist, taking part in the Methodist Student Movement in college and spending time in India with Methodist missionaries, influenced by the women’s feminist sisterhood. Also in India she met her life’s spiritual partner and lover, John Foster. They married under the care of Providence (R.I.) Meeting in 1954, and she became a Friend soon after
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Donald Paul Irish

Friends Journal - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 10:10pm

IrishDonald Paul Irish, 97, on April 14, 2017, in Saint Paul, Minn. Don was born on July 31, 1919, in Oak Park, Ill., the second of Stella Putnam and Willis Irish’s four children. He grew up in Glen Ellyn, Ill., as a Methodist and began to follow Gandhi’s teachings in college, earning degrees from University of Colorado and George Williams College and a doctorate from University of Washington. He studied the sociology of war, anti-Japanese-American sentiment during World War II, culture and race differences in the United States, death and dying, and Latin American sociology. In 1940, he joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Registered as a conscientious objector, he was never called to serve, but he worked with youth in Chicago and at an American Youth Hostel Camp in New Hampshire.

In 1942 he married another active Methodist, Betty Osborn. They encountered Friends when they visited Northeast American Friends Service Committee offices and Seattle (Wash.) Meeting. He said, “We found the Quaker milieu more stimulating, more committed for action regarding their deep concerns, more adventurous.” They belonged to Seattle Meeting from 1952 until they moved to North Carolina in 1959 and transferred membership to Chapel Hill (N.C.) Meeting. In 1963 they moved to Saint Paul, Minn., where he taught sociology at Hamline University, and he and Betty joined Twin Cities Meeting in Saint Paul. A voice of conscience in the meeting, he served as clerk and was an enthusiastic member of the Peace and Social Action Committee.

In 1976 he gave the Rufus Jones Lecture in Chapel Hill on the topic “Awareness of Death: Preparation for Living.” He encouraged peace actions, including war tax resistance, for which he drafted a minute that Twin Cities and Minneapolis (Minn.) Meetings approved in 1983. Betty died in 1985, and he retired from Hamline. He was a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, served in 1987 with Peace Brigades International in Guatemala and Witness for Peace in Nicaragua, and observed elections in Nicaragua in 1990.

He married Marjorie Sibley in 1990. In the mid-1990s, he helped the Friends School of Minnesota Committee find and acquire its present location, contributing financially, helping paint the building, and naming the school’s Gandhi Library. He supported the school in many quiet, essential ways, speaking to the older students about what it means to be a Quaker and showing a special concern for the families of children facing death, donating to the school his books on Quakers and on death and dying. It was fitting that his memorial meeting was held at Friends School.

In his last lecture given at Hamline University in 2009, he encouraged commitment, living our values, and not giving up hope, saying “Let’s get the peace bus and parade back on the right fork in the road!” He walked for miles and was often seen in different parts of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, catching a bus. He never stopped sending his many friends weekly packets of newspaper clippings about relevant political issues, often with notes of friendship and good wishes.

Don was widowed by Betty Osborn Irish in 1985 and by Marjorie Sibley in 2003. He is survived by his children, Terry Irish, Gail Irish (Steven Budas), and Sharon Irish (Reed Larson); Marjorie’s children, Muriel Sibley and Martin Sibley (Ilona Popper); and three grandchildren.


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John Noble Phillips

Friends Journal - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 10:05pm

PhillipsJohn Noble Phillips, 97, on November 17, 2017, in Minneapolis, Minn. Jack was born on March 24, 1920, in Evanston, Ill., the eldest of five children of Elizabeth and John Phillips. He graduated from Evanston High School and Northwestern University, where he developed ideas opposing war. During World War II he served as a conscientious objector in workcamps in the Midwest and as a subject of a starvation and rehabilitation study at University of Minnesota that aimed at effective famine relief.

While in Minnesota, he met Mary Peterson of north Minneapolis at Quaker worship, and they married in 1946. Quaker missionary work took them to Tennessee (where they taught in a one-room school) and then to California. In 1949, they joined Orange Grove Meeting in Pasadena, Calif. Jack earned a master’s degree in philosophy at University of Southern California and a doctorate at University of North Carolina and taught philosophy at the Universities of North Carolina, Georgia, and Arkansas in the early 1950s. From the mid-1950s to 1962 he taught at University of Connecticut and in 1962–1983 at St. Cloud State University, in later years doing some teaching of environmental studies. His insatiable curiosity about people and the universe endeared him to students and all those around him. In St. Cloud, Minn., Jack and Mary organized gatherings for worship and potlucks.

In retirement they moved to Minneapolis and joined Twin Cities Meeting in Saint Paul. In 1987 he helped to found Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW) (then Friends Committee on Unity with Nature, or FCUN) and was the first editor of QEW’s newsletter, BeFriending Creation. He also wrote the popular and influential FCUN booklet Walking Gently on the Earth. Active in QEW’s committee work and attending Steering Committee meetings into the late 1990s, he was a generous financial supporter. He had diverse interests; loved learning, nature, music, travel; enjoyed thinking and writing about the cosmos; and delighted in his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Peterson. He leaves behind two children, Ellen Frohnmayer and Craig Phillips; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.


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Accreditation for Friends Theological College!

Friends United Meeting - Thu, 08/30/2018 - 2:48pm

Friends Theological College received notice earlier this month that it has been granted full accreditation with the Association for Christian Theological Education in Africa (ACTEA). FTC is now one of just 14 accredited post-secondary theological colleges in Africa. This process has taken many years, and involved intensive self-study and improvement by the entire college community. Principal Robert Wafula remarked, “We have worked so hard on this process and are filled with joy at this news.” In celebration of this significant achievement, the college named the next calf to be born to the dairy herd “ACTEA”!

This new international recognition gives the college confidence in the quality of its educational offerings, and allows FTC students to continue on to graduate level work with a solid and reputable preparation. From FTC’s website, “The hundreds of men and women who have graduated from FTC’s certificate, diploma, and degree programmes are serving in a variety of ministries, including pastoral ministry, church leadership, missions, chaplaincy, social work, counseling, development, education, civil service, government, and business. Some FTC graduates, including the current FTC principal, Robert Wafula, have gone on from FTC to complete masters and doctoral degrees, qualifying them for teaching and administration at the college and university level.”

We could not be more proud of Robert Wafula’s faithfulness and wisdom in leading this work. He has been present throughout this process organizing and encouraging Friends. Please help us keep him in the field, serving God and the beloved community of Friends! You can support his ministry by choosing from the drop-down list on our donation page.

Categories: Articles & News

It’s What I Do

Friends Journal - Mon, 08/27/2018 - 1:04am

© Sergii Moscaliuk

Oh God, I tend to grasp,
control, hold on, as if I
could heave a lasso and pull
You close, corral or snatch,
tether You like a filly on a lead
while I stand front and center
directing you in circles and
threatening the wildness out of You.
I do this to myself. Then what do
I possess? An awkward inflatable
that drapes across a basement floor,
airless. Forgive me. It’s what I do,
when I feel the loss of You.

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Categories: Articles & News

Planning for a Trending #Quakers

Friends Journal - Mon, 08/27/2018 - 12:30am

Emma Gonzalez speaks at the March for Our Lives. Photo: Mobilus In Mobili via Wikimedia.

On February 13, 2018, Emma Gonzalez was a typical high school senior: she was president of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s (MSD) Gay Straight Alliance, loved creative writing and science, and had about 200 Twitter followers. On February 14, a shooter entered her school in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people. Three days later, Gonzalez spoke at a rally in Ft. Lauderdale, and her now-famous 11-minute “We call B.S.” speech about lax gun laws went viral, broadcast live by attendees at the rally via Facebook and Twitter. That speech was the beginning of a movement that has rallied thousands of children and adults in school walkouts, precipitated the Washington March for Our Lives a month after the shooting, and started voter-registration drives across the United States.

In the weeks following the shooting, Gonzalez and many of her classmates developed the #NeverAgain movement, growing a worldwide social media following. This includes celebrities supportive of their cause who offered large donations to fund the march in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of marches across the country were planned concurrently in support of sensible gun legislation.

As Gonzalez and her friends saw their Twitter followers increase, they used the platform to tweet invitations to perform in Washington to entertainers like Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, and Jennifer Hudson. They connected via Twitter to students in Chicago and Washington, D.C., where gun violence happens with regularity, and the Parkland students made sure that the speakers at the Washington event included African American and Latina voices, underscoring the cross-sectional impact guns have on all neighborhoods. Without social media, the students would not have connected so easily to advocates around the country who could lend support, funding, and influence in the movement’s formation.

In the weeks that followed, Gonzalez and her classmates kept the conversation going on social media, launching a boycott of Fox News’ Laura Ingraham for her derogatory comments about Marjory Stoneman Douglas student David Hogg. MSD students started an Instagram account that pokes fun at the clear backpacks MSD students are now required to use, interjecting student-generated content with memes reminding 18-year-olds to register to vote. Within two months of the shooting, Gonzalez alone had 1.5 million Twitter followers, and many of her classmates had hundreds of thousands. It is a platform they now use almost solely to grow the #NeverAgain movement by engaging an audience larger than any major newspaper or cable television provider in the country.

As Friends wrestle with questions surrounding our growth, relevance, and legacy, the work of 18-year-olds like Emma Gonzalez is a blueprint that Quakers need to examine. For Friends who see social media as frivolous or who are risk-averse in light of the recent Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, it’s important to reflect on the spaces where Jesus found himself most comfortable and where he made the greatest spiritual impact: among regular folks, including outcasts and nonbelievers.

Whether we embrace social media platforms or not, they have become our town squares: equalizing access to everyone, providing a platform for the marginalized and a library for seekers. We need to be there. Of the 2.2 billion Facebook users and 330 million Twitter followers worldwide, how do those who may be receptive to what we believe find out that we even exist?

A website is not enough, and frankly, many Quaker websites do not provide the content that would draw in potential attenders. Here’s an exercise: do an Internet search for “Quakers, (any location).” When you click on the website for your first search result, does the first thing you see tell you anything about what Quakers believe? My guess is that what you’re reading tells you what they’re not: no fixed creed, no ministers, no doctrine. People who are researching faith communities really do want to understand the congregation’s beliefs.

If discerning beliefs for an entire meeting is too difficult, could we profile those who are comfortable sharing specifics about their faith in videos or photos? Part of the reason our digital footprint is so vague is our never having taken the time to go through the process critical to our survival: strategic planning.

Almost every organization that we work or volunteer for engages in planning. The process usually starts by developing a vision, creating long- and short-term goals, and evaluating results in a spirit of continuous improvement. While Friends may resist a process that is associated with corporations and making profits, a thoughtful, careful discussion of who we are and what we want our meeting to become can be done in the spirit of worship. For Quaker meetings, how might that look?

Establishing the Vision

Quakers love committees. Most meetings have lots of them, but if each committee isn’t working to support the meeting’s vision, they are limiting the meeting’s ability to do its best work. A meeting’s vision might be “To Build the Beloved Community” or “To Live in Right Relationship With All Creation,” but whatever it is, it needs to be developed by the entire community, not just conveners, committee representatives, or by the Friends who usually attend meeting for worship with attention to business.

The visioning process might start with a number of worship-sharing exercises as a meeting, followed by some small group discussions where Friends consider queries that may arise from the large-group sessions. The emerging vision needs to be ambitious enough to challenge Friends to bring their best selves to their faith community, yet broad enough for Friends to experience success and fulfillment in their work and worship.

Create Long-term Goals

Once a vision is discerned, what does that mean for a meeting’s growth for the next five years? If the vision is “To Build a Beloved Community,” does a meeting need to attract members whose age, ethnicity, or life experience aren’t currently sitting on the benches? What are specific goals a meeting would need to achieve to make that happen? They may be things like “Increase attendance by persons of color by 15 percent within five years,” “Establish a prison ministry within two years,” or even “Provide $500 per year in sustaining support to Malcolm X Middle School’s conflict resolution program.”

Develop Short-term Goals

This is where committees come in. Once a meeting’s specific long-term goals are discerned, Friends should discuss whether they have the appropriate committees in place and how each committee might work toward those goals. If a long-term goal is to “Increase attendance by persons of color by 15 percent within five years,” a meeting’s Property Committee might set a short-term goal of selling or renting out an existing meetinghouse in order to relocate to a neighborhood where those potential new Friends may live. The First-day School Committee may consider planning service projects with Sunday schools or after school programs in that neighborhood. The Ministry Committee might plan to partner with another faith community and use Latasha Morrison’s “Be the Bridge” curriculum to begin dialogue about racial unity. Each committee should have the opportunity to identify how their work can contribute to the meeting’s long-term goals and whether they may need additional committee members or ministerial support in order to do their best work.

Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA)

A meeting’s planning process is continuous: developing a plan to test the change, carrying out the test (do), studying the results, and determining what modifications should be made to the test (act). The PDSA cycle also offers accountability and a framework for dialogue that may shine a spotlight on committees that aren’t regularly heard from.

While a meeting may just be grateful that someone has offered to oversee hospitality for the year, that committee’s work now supports a goal for increased membership. Friends on the Hospitality Committee may now be able to go beyond making coffee each First Day to developing surveys to learn more about what Friends like to eat, whether there are enough child-friendly options, and whether the seating area is comfortable and conducive to fellowship.

All of this good work is the germ for a flourishing digital footprint, rich with images and video of long-term members and brand-new attenders working toward realizing God’s Kingdom. It is the basis for queries arising from worship that can be tweeted and tagged with handles from Friends in Great Britain (@BritishQuakers), New England (@QuakersofNE), and Indiana (@richmondfriends) to explore understanding together in a way that only digital outreach can provide.

Digital ministry is what has drawn together disparate Friends into the Friends of Jesus Fellowship (on Facebook: @Friends.of.Jesus.Fellowship), what has helped non-Quakers learn who Friends are through the QuakerSpeak video series, and what has engaged Friends worldwide in conversations about improving ministry, welcoming newcomers, and developing a First-day school curriculum that grows our membership.

Social media is being used effectively by faith communities like @TheSlateProject, who host regularly scheduled Twitter gatherings that begin with a query or reflection that encourages engagement. Hashtags like #NationalDayofPrayer are a tool used to discover non-Quaker thought leaders like James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ), or Rev. Dr. William J. Barber (@RevDrBarber). The more than 400 tweets about theologian Yolanda Norton’s #BeyonceMass at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco encourage a conversation about womanist biblical interpretation and how pop culture can encourage accessibility to experiential spirituality. Social media provides endless opportunities for outreach, ministry, and learning, yet most meetings are exploring none of them.

In order for the Religious Society of Friends to flourish, it is imperative that we embrace a call to create engaging websites and social platforms that are visually appealing and mobile friendly with clear communication of our beliefs and vision. If we recognize the importance of growing our membership, we need to recognize that just as Jesus encouraged his followers to leave behind their 99 sheep to bring back the one who was lost, we may find today’s lost sheep scrolling through a Twitter feed on their iPhone in hopes of finding a spiritual connection they’ve drifted from or possibly never encountered. Let’s get #Quakers trending.

Strategic Planning Tips Visioning Phase
  • Consider asking a visiting Friend to lead these sessions so that the entire meeting can be fully engaged. At the conclusion of your process, identify Friends within the meeting who are willing to offer the same ministry to other meetings with a desire to do the same.
  • See how simply the meeting can communicate the vision. Share it widely: on signage, letterhead, digital media, and in interactions with community members.
Long-term Planning Phase
  • Make sure to engage young Friends in this process. The goal is for them to be around to help carry out the plans!
  • If the meeting is having difficulty reaching consensus on a particular goal, consider setting it aside in order not to delay the next phase. A meeting committed to PDSA planning will be continually evaluating whether the goals set are achieved, which goals need to be revised, and what additional ones are relevant now but may not have been a year ago.
Short-term Planning Phase
  • Remind Friends that just because each committee should find ways to support each of the meeting’s goals doesn’t mean that committees have more work. It just may be different work than before.
  • This phase is an opportunity to reconsider a meeting’s current committee structure, challenge Friends to consider how Friends are introduced to committee work, and how members of a meeting can see their gifts used to their greatest potential.
Continuous Improvement Phase
  • Find a way to incorporate the PDSA review process as a regular part of the meeting’s business on a quarterly basis.

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Categories: Articles & News

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

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.

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