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Kate McClellan


What Friends Bring to Politics

A few other Oregon Quakers and I were in an online book group. We read We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible with the Poor People’s Campaign. This book consists of fifty-three essays, each just two or three pages long, each including Scriptural references. It’s by and for people who are working towards more dignity for poor people – by challenging the ways that our institutions keep people in poverty. This book makes one thing clear to me – local government policies and actions have been major drivers of economic inequity throughout the history of our nation, especially in terms of housing inequality. It also seems clear to me that this level of democracy – the local level – is a critical place for us to work to make a positive impact on these issues.

Issue: On Dignity (July 2023)

I Am Sorry Dear Friends: Quakers embrace the inward light to illuminate the dark corners of our own hearts. I have been generous and helpful and empathetic on many occasions. But an underlying selfishness has been sort of hidden there all this time. So, I want to make amends right now and admit to something I failed to do forty years ago.

Issue: On Secrets (July 2020)

Insufficient Awe Dear Friends: I’ve come to think of the phrase “save the planet” as the ultimate in hubris. Do we know what the planet actually is, this roughly spherical celestial object that is 24,000 miles in circumference, spinning at 1,000 miles per hour, orbiting the Sun? The planet we call Earth has a molten layer just below the surface that occasionally comes to the surface in the form of lava that destroys everything in its path as it creates new land masses or erupts suddenly with boulders flung hundreds of feet upward. Huge chunks of land mass are moving around on the surface, creating mountains, sometimes slowly, sometimes suddenly with violent movements that shake everything to the point of collapse. The surface is largely covered by huge bodies of water that are moved by the tremendous force of the Moon’s gravity eight or more feet up and back twice a day. The planet is surrounded by a layer of gases that are the right mix to support our particular life form, but the movements can be so powerful as to blow over trees and hurl water against the land. And then there is the planet’s timescale. At one time dinosaurs lived on the surface of the planet, and then they and most other creatures were entirely wiped out. Sixty-six million years later, here we are, with our “ancient” history three thousand years ago.

Issue: On Mixture (November 2018)

Not So Fast Dear Editor: I want to thank Kat Northrup for her article, “Race and Quakerism,” in May/June 2018 Western Friend. She has articulated very well my own observations and concerns. I was struck by this comment: “[The] uncomfortable feeling of disingenuous tokenism . . . is a hard feeling to avoid, unless one is already familiar with how highly the Quaker community values honesty.” I think in this case, Northrup is letting Quakers off the hook too easily. Valuing honesty is not the same as being honest. My range of Quaker experience is limited, but I have observed many who are quick to find the mote in another’s eye and maybe slower to examine their own (sometimes unconscious) biases and motivations. I wonder sometimes if, when we speak of “diversity,” we mean we want to be with people just like us, only with different color skins. Those of us who have found a spiritual home in a Quaker faith community want to share it. But can we share it with those who do not have the same social and political concerns that we have? Can those of us who identify as Christians, as followers of the teachings of Jesus, feel comfortable talking about our relationship with God and Scripture?

Issue: On Children (September 2018)


Dear Friends: The following excerpt is from the Progressive Christian Voter’s Guide, which is free online at chalicepress.com. [You can find the link to this booklet in Western Friend’s online library.]

Issue: On Politics (July 2017)

We have no one to blame but ourselves. Old white people elected a person who ran on a racist, xenophobic, misogynist platform as president of the United States. That’s us baby boomers. That’s me. How did this happen? Maybe we need to stop pointing fingers and wringing our hands and get honest about how this happened and what we’re going to do to take back our democracy.

Issue: On Flesh (November 2016)

Simple Foods Dear Editor: I appreciate Jane Snyder’s article about simplicity (“Rich People Won’t Eat It,” May/June 2016), and I’m sure living in Portlandia would make anyone suspicious of foodies.  However, I don’t think she is very knowledgeable about the health effects.  Gluten intolerance is a very serious health issue for many people who do not have celiac disease.  And there are people who are lactose intolerant.  If you’re looking to meet the needs of a diverse group, you don’t have to buy gluten-free bread or dairy substitutes.  These tend to be overly processed foods, which is the big problem with our corporate-sponsored food supply.  Plant-based meals such as lentil soup, pea soup, salad with oil and vinegar dressing, potatoes and rice are all options for a meal that feeds a large group while also being healthy and meeting most dietary limitations.  You can put cheeses or other dressings on the side for those who want them.  Buying organic and local may be a little more expensive but has some environmental value.  Just because poor people don’t have as many options and are lured by cheap processed foods (or as Michael Pollan calls them, “edible food-like substances”) doesn’t make it a better diet.

Issue: On Heritage (July 2016)

Monday Morning Quarterbacks Dear Editor: I want to thank Mr. Urner for a very provocative article, “Sticking Out Like Sore Thumbs.” I, too, have often asked myself:  What happened to the progressive movement? I want to focus on what we might have done better, rather than resting on our laurels.

Issue: On Play (September 2015)

Taking Stock In accounting, we perform reconciliations between two representations of the same thing.  For instance, the cash on our books and the cash in our account as the bank reports it.  We expect to find differences, and our task is identify them, determine what action, if any, we need to take on our books, and occasionally tell the bank what they have missed.

Issue: On Reconciliation (January 2015)

Who is this “We”? Dear Editor: Robert Griswold’s article in the July/August 2014 issue of Western Friend discusses ego development without any references and starts off all about “we.” Since he is not referring to any research or current psychological literature, I assume he is sharing his opinion of how ego development worked in his own life.

Issue: On Family (September 2014)

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