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On Conflict

As Friends, it matters to us that we try to listen. Those times when we are forced to admit that, in fact, we actually have not been paying attention . . . well, we want to fix it. The impulse to repair misunderstandings is commonplace. But the ability to follow through on such repair often takes more patience and humility than a person can muster on a given day.

On Conflict (January 2023)

Community v. Crisis

Recently, I had an opportunity to learn about the  fragility of our country’s current health care system and its social safety net. At the same time, I renewed my appreciation for my community and my Friends meeting.

On Conflict (January 2023)

The Commodification of Quakers

Quakers of the early 1800s would not have approved of the flamboyant lifestyle of the poet Lord Byron. But they might have approved of his poem “To a Beautiful Quaker” (1806), in which he associates Quakers with the attributes of peace and virtue. And although Harriet Beecher Stowe’s best-selling anti-slavery book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), was written in a genre not approved by Friends – a novel – Friends would not have objected to Stowe’s portrayal of heroic efforts by Quakers to help their fellow man. When Quakers are portrayed by others as positive role models, depending on the circumstances, such portrayals might deserve praise, sufferance, or condemnation.

On Perception (March 2023)

What I’ve Been Trying to Say

I believe that we may – likely do – have new Friends, especially young Friends and Friends who live isolated or far away, schooled by the pandemic years, who have never attended a Quaker meeting for worship in person, but only online. Rather than simply rejoice that they found us at all, we need to invite such newcomers to attend meeting for worship somewhere, sometime, in person.

On Loss (May 2023)

My Slaves

Many listeners get the wrong idea from hearing me talk about the fact that so many of us in 2023 own child slaves in the Congo, children who are mining cobalt for our electric vehicles and coltan for our cellphones, computers, and other electronic contraptions. Upon hearing this, most American slaveholders (like me) tend to think of cruel and evil plantation masters, sole proprietors who use their slaves to enhance their personal wealth. Such ideas are based on the way cotton was raised in the South before the Civil War, then sold to mills in the North and to England. Merchants would personally buy and sell human chattel when opportunities arose or when personal economic setbacks forced them. Ancillary enterprises also benefitted, of course, like the production of manacles and chains. Slave catchers had a healthy business, too.

On Loss (May 2023)

Necessary Questions

Dear Friends: The fearlessness in Quaker tradition (including the pamphleteer) is speaking truth to power. As a Quaker, I am reminded of the words of Mary Dyer, who said, “We came not to cause discord, but to live in peace.”

On Dignity (July 2023)

Nuclear Waste and States Rights

On March 17, 2023, the last evening of the state’s legislative session this year, the New Mexico House passed Senate Bill 53 (SB 53), sponsored by State Senator Jeff Steinborn and State Representative Matthew McQueen. This bill concerns state oversight of a private company – Holtec – and prevents state agencies from issuing permits for a “temporary” nuclear-waste storage facility in southeast New Mexico, a facility that Holtec wants to build to hold all the nation’s high-level nuclear waste, even though zero nuclear energy plants are sited in New Mexico.

On Dignity (July 2023)