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The Kendal Sparrow (review)

Bold voices emerge from a nation wracked by years of war, political division and generational change: The origin of Early Friends was always a colorful tale. Barbara Schell Luetke uses Early Friends as a canvas on which to paint a coming-of-age portrait of individual convincement, ministry, and faithful struggle in her historical novel The Kendall Sparrow. The novel explores the seventeenth-century life and circumstances of Elizabeth Fletcher, but the parallels for today’s young Friends are resonant.

On Wealth (May 2020)

The Face Under The Face

When I first went to the Soviet Union in 1984, I expected to meet a hospitable people, if not outgoing. The first thing I learned was that Russians never smile. They look grim. They stare. The women especially would often stare at me and then turn away abruptly. In U.S. culture, this could be interpreted as distancing, judgmental, even hostile. It was definitely uncomfortable.

On Secrets (July 2020)

“That of God” Within

As a practicing Jew who has worshipped with Quakers for the past thirty years, I have deeply appreciated the fundamental belief that every person has “that of God” within. Both Judaism and Quakerism assert that all persons are made in the divine image. Quakers try to see God, or godliness, or goodness, in others, even in the most difficult human interactions. But my most recent reading of the Hebrew Bible has challenged me to discover a new formulation, which I want to explore here.

On Secrets (July 2020)

Resisting Empire (review)

Revelation is probably most the polarizing book of the Bible. Continually refashioned and remixed to support countless views crossing over from religious to political, Revelation is a text that is tempting to avoid confronting directly.

On Secrets (July 2020)

Staying Connected with Our Children

The school year is about to begin. Parents and school districts are making decisions about what is best for children in the midst of a pandemic, anxiously weighing health risks against social and mental health benefits, deciding between distance learning and in-person, socially distanced learning. We are facing these same kinds of decisions in our Quaker meetings, as we yearn for social connection and consider our options. As we consider our adult needs and capacities, let’s also remember to ask ourselves: What are we doing to stay connected with our Quaker children and families? How are we attentive to their spiritual needs?

On Teachers (September 2020)

Liturgies of Empire, Liturgies of Resistance (abridged)

[The following text was drawn from a complete transcript of C. Wess Daniels’s keynote talk, which is published at: https://westernfriend.org/media/liturgies-empire-and-resistance]

On Teachers (September 2020)

An FCNL Education in Civic Engagement

Future generations will likely study the events of this year and scratch their heads. Just considering a global pandemic (and the failure of our leaders to address it) and racial injustice reaching a fever pitch, one can almost envision an entire college course examining the calamities of 2020. Add to that the voter suppression, gun violence, hunger, poverty, wars, and extinctions of plants and animals that were already in play before 2020’s headline events, and it almost sounds like a fiction course.

On Teachers (September 2020)

On Teachers

More than once, I have been humbled by being called racist. My first reaction, however, was not humility. My first reaction was to feel offended and misunderstood. Surely my accuser didn’t know me or my motives or my history. Surely, they were using the term “racist” too broadly – sloppy, really. A more precise definition would be more strategic for The Struggle (You’re welcome!), and would provide the added benefit of keeping me on the right side of history.

On Teachers (September 2020)

On Rules

At the level of an individual family, an abused person can walk away from their abuser; they can start a new life elsewhere. That is also possible in a Quaker meeting or even in the Society of Friends – abused members of our Quaker family can leave, and they do. But it is not possible for abused members of the human family to leave the human family, even when humanity is twisted into morbid cycles of cruelty.

On Rules (November 2020)

Get Out of the Way

Multnomah Monthly Meeting in Portland, Oregon, has a reputation of being one of the “more liberal” Quaker meetings. This is Portland, after all. There’s plenty of action and donations of money in the meeting around climate change, immigrant rights, and many other worthy social-justice causes. But when it comes to action around supporting Black Lives, there seems to be a hesitancy.

On Rules (November 2020)