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Transformation Instead of Punishment

Published: June 5, 2020


We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. We know we don’t want to suffer. But then, what are my steps to protect those who suffer at the hands of others who vote and act to form a hurtful, often-violent, and racist culture?

I judge a leader for promoting white supremacy. If I also want him to suffer, I only perpetuate hostility and the culture of hurting one another. Just as we Quakers want diplomatic solutions instead of war, we must seek reconciliation instead of punishment. Punishment is the self-righteous version of wanting someone else to suffer: “They deserve it.” If someone is doing violence (even unintentionally), I want them to be transformed. I want Truth and Peace to reign. I cannot change the distant politician, but I can affect the culture at the grass roots around me.

My own habit is to verbally argue (hey, I was trained as a lawyer!), which rarely leads to transformation. Others experience my arguments as badgering or even bludgeoning. If truth and justice line up on the one side, gentleness and kindness on the other, how do we hold the middle, finding the “both/and” way that incorporates both? I look to Quaker practices to find a gentle way forward to witness to truth.

Actively hearing the other person’s story is the foundation of dialogue. To accomplish gentle reconciliation and transformation of prejudice or implicit bias at the grass roots, we must create a community strong enough so that we will identify our differences, share our stories, and create dialogue to address differences and discern Truth. That is one way to create change at the grass roots level.  

Another way to create change is through legislative and executive advocacy. I received an inspiring email from Riley Robinson of FCNL this week, encouraging us to recognize the progress FCNL is making with Congress and to pursue it further. He said:

We’re seeing conflict. We’re seeing violence. But one doesn’t have to lead to the other. In fact, dealing with conflict well is often just the needed solution for preventing violence. Succeeding at this can take study and skill, but a number of Quakers have managed it well, in different ways. Some have negotiated, some have mediated, some have taught, some have trained, all of it valuable. All of this work can teach us more about possible long-term solutions, and it needs to. Then this learning must be used to improve the structure this nation so that working with conflict is constructive and the occasion for violence is known to be a disadvantage. Friends Committee on National Legislation has 77 years of experience at this.

. . .

As a citizen and a voter, you have a role in all this. Amidst the visible grief and the deliberate distractions, there are ways you can help. Be in touch with your elected officials.

Look here for FCNL’s new resource to help connect you you’re your members of congress.

. . . You can check the FCNL website for the latest on each issue. FCNL knows members of congress who care deeply about integrity and a government that serves the people. We actively partner with them.

Dear Friends, I was encouraged by Riley's letter. Let’s move forward together in our Meetings and churches, with our neighbors, and with FCNL. We have the opportunity to be a part of the solution.

from Diane Pasta, Salmon Bay Meeting (6/3/2020)