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Uprooting Racism (abridged)

My son was raised as a Quaker, but he left the meeting and joined an African American mega-church. Both our daughters were raised as Quakers, and they also left. During a retreat I attended this summer, several African American Friends told me they no longer attend their Quaker meetings because they cannot tolerate the racism they experience there on a weekly basis.

On Children (September 2018)

Not So Fast

Dear Editor: I want to thank Kat Northrup for her article, “Race and Quakerism,” in May/June 2018 Western Friend. She has articulated very well my own observations and concerns. I was struck by this comment: “[The] uncomfortable feeling of disingenuous tokenism . . . is a hard feeling to avoid, unless one is already familiar with how highly the Quaker community values honesty.” I think in this case, Northrup is letting Quakers off the hook too easily. Valuing honesty is not the same as being honest. My range of Quaker experience is limited, but I have observed many who are quick to find the mote in another’s eye and maybe slower to examine their own (sometimes unconscious) biases and motivations. I wonder sometimes if, when we speak of “diversity,” we mean we want to be with people just like us, only with different color skins. Those of us who have found a spiritual home in a Quaker faith community want to share it. But can we share it with those who do not have the same social and political concerns that we have? Can those of us who identify as Christians, as followers of the teachings of Jesus, feel comfortable talking about our relationship with God and Scripture?

On Children (September 2018)

Quaker Culture: Children

In the Puritan and Calvinist cultures prevalent in 17th century Britain and America, children were believed to be born corrupted by “original sin”. Quakers rejected this doctrine, and Robert Barclay called it “an invented and unscriptural barbarism”. . . In an age when harsh punishments for children were the norm, Quaker parents rejected corporal punishment and used reason to appeal to their children. Today, the Quaker Peace Centre in South Africa conducts training for teachers on alternatives to corporal punishment in schools.

On Children (September 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)

The Long View

In the mid-1730s, John Bartram, a Quaker living near Philadelphia, wrote the following in his journal: “One day I was very busy in holding my plough (for thee seest I am but a ploughman), and being weary, I ran under the shade of a tree to repose myself. I cast my eyes on a daisy; I plucked it mechanically, and viewed it with more curiosity than common country farmers are wont to do, and observed therein very many distinct parts, some perpendicular, some horizontal. What a shame, said my mind, or something that inspired my mind, that thee shouldst have employed so many years in tilling the earth, and destroying so many flowers and plants, without being acquainted with their structures and their uses!”

On Mixture (November 2018)

#MeToo and Quaker Men

A year ago, when the phrase #MeToo went viral, it created an opening for women to talk about negative patriarchal experiences that they have been forced to put up with for years, and it drew widespread attention to sexual assault and harassment of women in all walks of life. #MeToo actually began in 2006, when social activist and community organizer Tarana Burke created the phrase “Me Too” on the Myspace social network. Her goal was to promote “empowerment through empathy” among women of color who had experienced sexual abuse, particularly within underprivileged communities. Burke was inspired to use the phrase after finding herself unable to respond to a thirteen-year-old girl who had confided in her that she had been sexually assaulted. Burke later wished she had simply told the girl, “Me too.” On October 15, 2017, actress Alyssa Milano made a very public invitation to women everywhere to spread the #MeToo meme on Twitter. She later gave Burke credit for the meme.

On Mixture (November 2018)

A Thousand Times, Come

The room was dimly lit. I was one of fifty dancers standing in a circle, shoulder to shoulder, holding hands. Our leader, Johnathan, stood in the middle of the circle with his guitar. He said he was going to lead us in a practice to experience the aspect of God that existed before time began.

On Mixture (November 2018)

Empire of Guns (review)

How free is your life from war, violence, and oppression? How free is your financial life from these forces? Satia Priya poses these questions as she traces the conflict between the Birmingham Monthly Meeting (BMM) in central England in the 1790s and the Galton family, who were members of the meeting and who made their livelihoods selling guns as England became the leading weapons manufacturer in the world. In fact, Quakers owned or managed over half of the ironworks in operation in England in the last half of the 18th Century, and weapons were a major product of the iron industry, sold to the Ordnance Office of the British Government and on the open market – throughout several decades of war and colonial expansion dominated by the British.

On Weapons (January 2019)

Amor Fati

Paradox defined: “Items and situations that seem mutually exclusive, yet somehow reflect upon each other, often creating a deeper, more nuanced truth, perhaps in dynamic tension, or complementing each other.” Like a Quaker serving in the military. I lived that paradox intermittently for seven years while serving in the reserves during medical school and residency. Then I lived it full-time during four years of active duty, which started when I completed my medical training in 2000. My first year of active duty seemed pretty benign, then 9/11/2001 happened, and my situation instantly became truly “military.” I faced impending deployment to “the sandbox,” the Middle East. 

On Weapons (January 2019)