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Beyond Enemy Thinking

I want to start by distancing myself from the concept of objectivity, as any good feminist would – that is, I want to start by naming my point of view. I choose to focus on certain themes, movements, and social actors because I come from a working class background in the United States. I began developing an anarchist, anti-capitalist philosophy at an early age. I now identify as queer, though I have not always felt welcome in LGBT spaces due to my sense of “not being gay enough.” I have many friends and associates who are transgender, and I consider myself gender-fluid.

On Expansion (May 2018)

Faith and Discernment in Times of Crisis

When our lives and organizations go according to plan, decisions flow naturally from our commitments. We experience little controversy. Our friends and families don’t question the direction we are headed. We don’t spend our days agonizing over choices.

On Mixture (November 2018)

Faith, Fear, and Our Future (abridged)

So. Faith, fear, and our future. You guys don’t mess around with topics for keynote speakers!

On Neighbors (September 2019)

On Art

I love to quote Frank Zappa on this, “Your life is a ribbon of time that you get to decorate.” Early Friends were rightly wary of decoration. They dissented from “high church” practices of pomp and circumstance, oratory and argumentation, frankincense and anointing oils. They were rightly wary of self-proclaimed prophets, state-funded theocrats, and peddlers of political revolutions and snake oil. In probably the first written expression of Quaker faith and practice, the Elders at Balby advised, “[As] any are moved of the Lord to speak the Word of the Lord . . . [it should] be done in faithfulness, without adding or diminishing.” (1656) Then just a few decades later, London Yearly Meeting extended this idea further and gave their “tender and Christian advice that Friends take care to keep to truth and plainness, in language, habit, deportment and behavior . . . and to avoid . . . all vain and superfluous fashions of the world.” (1691)

On Art (March 2020)

On Vision

As Kenneth Boulding summarized in 1979, certain “Quaker distinctives” have held steady from the beginning: 1) faith in the presence of a universal call to perfectibility in all Life, 2) a profound unwillingness to use threat, even for supposedly good ends, 3) a passion for veracity, even in minute particulars of language, and 4) a sense of being upheld by grace, a thing not under human control, but responsive to human need. Boulding especially underlined the importance of veracity, “It is the utter abandonment of deceit in any form which lies at the very heart of the Quaker way of life.” (However, he also added, “[Veracity] does not necessarily imply not being in error.”)

On Vision (January 2021)

The Quaker Spa

I’m no expert on Quaker history, but I’m familiar with the basic outlines. One general observation I can make about Quaker history is this: Early Friends started by getting imprisoned often for breaking the rules, and then they continued as rule-breakers throughout the centuries. Quakers have broken both government laws and cultural conventions. This pattern of rule-breaking emerges from the same source as our testimonies do: Quaker worship.

On Relevance (March 2021)

Two Quakers Living with the Military

We are two Quaker women who raised our families in towns dominated by the U.S. military. Rather than shun the military and look away, we have lived our witness amidst strong military presences. One thing about being in a military town is that you can’t look away from how big a machine the military is. Each of us found that it was hard to raise a Quaker family in a community with a tiny Quaker presence and a huge military presence. It was hard for our children to find peer support with so few Friends in town. [pullquote]The military has certainly created plenty of occasions for us to talk about our testimonies and our practices in the face of headwinds.[/pullquote] Both of us have found that our situations have actually helped strengthen our faith, since we often have to live our witness when sustained by faith alone.

On Place (May 2022)

Quaker Culture: The Tragic Gap

The insight at the heart of nonviolence is that we live in a tragic gap – a gap between the way things are and the way we know they might be. It is a gap that never has been and never will be closed. If we want to live nonviolent lives, we must learn to stand in the tragic gap, faithfully holding the tension between reality and possibility in hopes of being opened to a third way.

On Place (May 2022)

Gandhi’s Smile

So, if you are anything at all like me, you might have to admit that, underneath it all, you are angry – and angry most, if not all, of the time. I know I am. This is not the world I bargained for. This is not the economic system I bargained for, the political system I bargained for, the system of education I bargained for. I never signed up for global racism, for worldwide environmental collapse, for overpowering patriarchal institutions that devalue more than half the world’s population, for a cloud of nuclear war hanging over my head.

On Normality (July 2022)