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Do Quakers Mean Business?

Recently a Methodist church invited me to a book study. They had been reading books on ethically based business, including Deborah Cadbury’s Chocolate Wars, and had grown wildly curious about these peculiar Quakers and their century and a half of confectionary success. The group leader tabulated a list of famous Quaker business leaders – not only in cocoa, but also in ironwork, railways, footwear, chinaware, household goods, pharmaceuticals, and banking. Why, she asked, was the list so long? Why were there so many Friendly industrial innovators? Why so many business names they now recognized as Quaker – from Cadbury chocolates to Barclays bank to Clarks shoes? What was it about this relatively small, seemingly austere, and ethically demanding faith that drove such a disproportionate share of business enterprise?

On Production (May 2014)

Paths of Faith

There are many fine books exploring the relation of science and faith, including excellent texts by Friends who are scientists, theologians, or both. Paths of Faith in the Landscape of Science: Three Quakers Check Their Compass, however, offers something distinctively Quaker. Canadian Friends Strunz, Miller, and Helmuth use their personal life stories – testimonies – to show continuing revelation as involving all truth, whether spiritual or scientific.

On Limits (May 2016)

Wake-up Call to Earthcare

Dear Friends: I believe that the Society of Friends is going through a transition in our relationship with Earthcare. In the mid-1980’s, many Friends felt a strong leading to live their lives in harmony with nature and to work for policies and programs that supported these lifestyles. In addition to thousands of lightbulbs switched to compact fluorescents and light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and generating tons of recycling and home-grown veggies, we also created Quaker institutions that pushed for broader societal change. One of these was Quaker Earthcare Witness, then called “Friends Committee on Unity with Nature,” which was formed in 1987 to connect Friends with an Earthcare leading and to advocate for a sustainable world.

On Expansion (May 2018)

Before “Things”

The language we necessarily use shapes our experience of the everyday world as a world of “things,” objects that we view from the outside. This is the case whether the “things” are apples, worlds, ideas, relationships, plans, or even the entire universe. We view and manipulate “things” as if we face them from a separate, outside position in which we seem to live.

On Beginning (March 2016)

Here Sleep Dragons

As a young man, I joined the Peace Corps and served in Morocco for two and a half years. One day I found myself sitting in a café in Rabat, my mind in a swirl, as I looked at the equally swirling street scene. I was trying and trying to figure things out and just couldn’t. I sat there feeling lost and helpless, with a rising sense of panic. Then I began to laugh at the ridiculousness of my situation. Giving up the thought that I could make sense of it, I plunged back into the chaos of the day, no better off than before.

On Insight (March 2017)

Quaker PopOffsets

Wanna buy baby?” I was eleven years old and traveling with my family in Latin America. We were climbing up a dirt path in the humid heat when we passed a young woman, perhaps only five or six years older than I was. She was holding an infant in her arms.

On Balance (May 2017)

Integrity Investment

Shelley’s Story: Imagine a billion dollars being taken out of fossil fuel development and more than a billion being put into renewable energy. This is exactly what the University of California (UC) did in 2020. What did it take for UC to divest from fossil fuels in such a big way?

On Vision (January 2021)

A Longing for Beauty

On a narrow country road eleven miles north of Santa Barbara, California, you will spot the sign for Chumash Painted Cave State Historical Park. Stop and peer through the protective fencing into the small sandstone grotto by the side of the road, and you will see colorful wheel-like and ladder-like designs painted by native people several hundred to a thousand years ago. The figures may be shamanic designs, or they may be depictions of a solar eclipse that occurred in 1677. Nobody can be sure. To me, a nonexpert, they are striking examples of beauty from long ago, created to be seen.

On Tricks (May 2021)

A Living Universe (excerpt)

[The following text is drawn from a paper that is published online: westernfriend.org/media/living-universe]

On Science (November 2022)

A Case for Yet Another Committee

New technologies have the potential to strengthen our communities.

On Tech (July 2024)