Newletters & Updates
- American Friends Service Committee
- Friends Committee for National Legislation
- The World in Action
- Christian Alliance for Progress
- for veterans of Iraq & Afghanistan
- Annenberg Political Fact Check
- Faith in Public Life
- National Directory of Faith Groups for Justice & the Common Good
- Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice
- Peaceful means to social change
- Help microfinance small businesses
- Coalition of U.S.-based NGOs focused on the world’s poor and vulnerable
- Lambda Legal
- Civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV
- Military Religious Freedom Foundation
- Interview with Michael Weinstein
- National Religious Campaign Against Torture
- Ending U.S.-sponsored torture, & cruel, inhuman & degrading treatment
- Network of Spritual Progressives
- New Sanctuary Movement
- To protect immigrant workers and families from unjust deportation
- Quaker Bolivia Link
- A Quaker Response to Poverty
- Quaker Earthcare Witness - Conscientious protection of our planet
- RSVP Listening Project
- Communication, understanding, and the empowerment of people and communities
- St. Augustine-Baracoa Friendship Association
- Friendship with the people of Baracoa, Cuba
- SEVA Foundation
- Health, cultural survival & sustainable communities
- Sew Much Comfort
- Adaptive clothing for injured service members
- Vision of Humanity
- Global peace index and sustainability
- Women, Faith, and Development Alliance
- Reducing poverty by investing in & empowering women and girls
From Twelfth Month, 2006:
But this shall be the covenant that I will make
with the house of Israel:
After those days, says the Lord,
I will put my law in their inward parts,
and write it in their hearts,
and will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
And they shall teach no more every one his neighbor,
and every one his brother,
saying, Know the Lord;
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them unto the greatest of them,
says the Lord;
for I will forgive their iniquity,
and I will remember their sin no more.
From Eleventh Month, 2006:
Another characteristic of the Light is its bestowal on each man “in a measure.” This does not mean that the whole Truth is not accessible to every person, but rather the obvious fact that some persons apprehend more of the Truth than do others.
Returning to Fox’s letters as our primary source, we find such expressions as the following:
Mind the pure Life of God in you according to your measures to guide you up to God.
All Friends wait in the measure of the Spirit of God to guide you up to God.
Friends in the measure of the Life of God wait to guide your minds up to the Father of Life where there is no shadow or changing.
Wait in the measure of the Life of God, in it to grow up in Love, in Virtue and in Immortality, in that which doth not fade, which joins and unites your hearts together.
Dwell in the measure which God hath given you of himself, in which is no Strife but unity.
Let no Friends go beyond their own measure given them of God, nor rejoice in another man’s line made ready to their hands.
If we are faithful to our measure of Light, we shall be guided up toward God, and up to a greater measure of the Truth. To go beyond our measure and imitate persons who have a greater measure than we have, is to be deceitful and to represent ourselves as something more than we are.
To take a specific example of the use of the conception, the Quakers have all along considered participation in war to be unchristian. Nevertheless, if a man feels that his conscience urges him to fight, he must be faithful to the measure of Light he has, however small this may be.
If he is really faithful and if he waits upon the Lord so as to sensitize himself to the reception of more Light, a greater measure will be given to him. He will eventually come to see the error of all fighting.
In his first state he would be a coward if he did not fight; in his second state he would be a coward if he did fight. [emphasis added]
Howard H. Brinton,
Friends for 300 Years
(Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill Publications, 1952, pp.27-28)
Editor’s Note: I use the original version of this book, Friends for 300 Years, published in 1952.
In 2002, Pendle Hill published Friends for 350 Years, with historical update and notes by Margaret Hope Bacon.
I have not seen the new version but note that there has been much controversy about it. Without entering into the debate myself, I suggest that readers might find it interesting to compare two opposite commentaries.
- Chuck Fager published a negative review in Quaker Theology, Issue #7, Autumn 2002.
- In contrast, Simon St.Laurent, in his blog Light and Silence: Reflections on Quakerism, recently published an interesting piece in which he describes the Brinton text and Margaret Hope Bacon’s forward, updates and notes as being in dialog with each other. The comments added by readers of St. Laurent’s blog are worth reading as well, if one wants to learn more about the depth, richness and complexity of American Quakerism.
From Tenth Month, 2006:
God is personal, but never private. And the Bible reveals a very public God. But in an age of private spiritualities,
the voice of a public God can scarcely be heard. Private religion avoids the public consequences of faith. In particular, affluent countries and churches
breed private disciples, perhaps because the applications of faith to public life could become quickly challenging and troubling. Can the devotees of
private religion even understand the politics of God?
So is there a politics of God? Many of our politicians give a lot of lip service to God these days, but do they really understand the public implications of belief in God? We don't typically hear much about the politics of God, even from our pulpits. Powerful forces would keep God private, or under control, or as an endorser of ideological agendas, or of the political status quo, or (worse yet) of fund-raising activities. Today, religion usually serves more to silence the politics of God than to announce it to the nations.
In the face of suicide bombers who utter the name of God with easy blasphemy, television evangelists who claim God has made them (and could make you) prosperous, and those who use religious institutions to hide hideous crimes, many search today, almost desperately, for true religion and good faith.
Dare we search for the politics of God? It's much easier to just use God to justify our politics. Yet, if we look into our biblical and other holy texts, we find a God who speaks about "politics" all the time, about what believing in God means in this world (not just the next one), about faith and "public life" (not just private piety), about our responsibilities for the common good (not just for our own religious experience). And here's the big news: the politics of God call all the rest of our politics into question.
The place to begin to understand the politics of God is with the prophets, the ancient moral articulators in the Scriptures who claimed to speak in "the name of the Lord." What were their subjects? Quite secular topics reallyland, labor, capital, wages, debt, taxes, equity, fairness, courts, prisons, immigrants, other races and peoples, economic divisions, social justice, war, and peacethe stuff of politics.
Whom were the prophets often speaking to? Usually to rulers, kings, judges, employers, landlords, owners of property and wealth, and even religious leaders. They spoke to "the nations," and it was the powerful who were most often the prophets' target audience; those in charge of things were the ones called to greatest accountability. And whom were the prophets usually speaking for? Most often, the dispossessed, widows and orphans (read: poor single moms), the hungry, the homeless, the helpless, the least, last, and lost. Is God into class warfare? No, God wants the "common good," but speaking for the common good can get one accused of calling for class warfareusually by the elites who control the political discussion and do not want too much conversation about what God thinks of our political priorities. (32)
Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It
(San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 2005)
From Ninth Month, 2006:
From the midst of great suffering and unfairness, from the land of destruction and death, voices of hope and love still emerge. These are the voices of reason and humanity that the world will always need and cherish.
Be sure love and peace will always win and finally reign. We need to work harder to make this happen....
The East West cultural gap needs to be bridged. Scholars and academicians have to work harder than politicians to find the way forward.
There is an emerging Arab populace that is dissatisfied with the double standards of the west and with their leaders who have embraced the "unfair" west. Only logical and peaceful solutions can be accepted.
There should be no more suppression and no more bullying. Lebanon and Gaza continue to pay the price for that. The destruction and death that has befallen these two peoples is colossal. Their reaction, if coupled with extremist Islamic groups, is world threatening.
We need to remedy that through help, real help, practical and comprehensive.
Israel has to understand that brutality cannot and will not curb Arab enthusiasm. She needs to be more compassionate and attractive to her Arab neighbors.
Brummana Monthly Meeting,
from FWCC letter, "MEYM Cancelled"
From Eighth Month, 2006:
To the Political and Church Leaders of the Religious Right
We must tell you now that you do not speak for us, or for our politics. We say "No" to the ways
you are using the name and language of Christianity to advance what we see as external political
We do not support your agenda to erode the separation of church and state, to blur the vital
distinction between your interpretation of Christianity and our shared democratic institutions.
Moreover, we do not accept what seems to be your understanding of Christian values. We reject
a Christianity co-opted by any government and used as a tool to ostracize, to subjugate, or to
condone bigotry, greed and injustice.
If your politics flow from your faith, then we do not know the Jesus you claim to follow.
We cannot imagine a Jesus who would say:
"You are strong and powerful; your ideals are noble.
Make war to spread those ideals."
"The end is nearso it doesn't matter what you do to my Father's creation."
"Heal the sickprovided they can pay."
"All are welcome at the tableas long as they are the same as we are."
"Follow meand help me form a government to force others to follow."
Do you believe such statements truly reflect Christian or American values? Do these views
follow what Jesus taught? Do you think it is genuinely American to steer our country toward a
Christian theocracy? Is it Christian to foster intolerance? Is this the path to which Jesus
We say "No." Instead, we say "Yes" to values Jesus plainly and passionately practiced.
Listen to his words:
"I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you
should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples,if you have love
for one another."John 13:34-35
We hold up to all fellow Americans the heart of Jesus' teaching: his unwavering commitment
to justice, compassion, responsibility, equality, and care "for the least of these." These are
values Jesus taught, and they also serve among America's finest traditional values. Our political
views flow from these values.
The Jacksonville Declaration,
on the website of
The Christian Alliance for Progress
From Seventh Month, 2006:
I hear no voices on high questioning that the end of American foreign policy is to maintain the power of the United States. There are such voices, but they are not in positions of authority, either in government or in the media. Wherever they are, I propose to add my voice to theirs. I want to question the premise of Machiavelli, that one must trust the prince, that the all-important thing is national power, and the only issue is how best to augment it.
Thus, I suggest...that we think about questions other than the goals of states and statesmen. I want to go beyond Machiavellian obedience and discuss dissent and resistance to foreign policies aiming only at national power....
I argue against the idea that violence and aggression are inborn, and insist they are determined by culture and indoctrination. I claim that it is possible for people to overcome that indoctrination and act with compassion toward fellow human beings....
I ask that history be more than a cold recitation of facts about the past, that it serve a purpose in shaping the future. Traveling the country [during 2002], speaking against the drive to war on Iraq, I suggested that history might be useful in showing the futility of war as a solution for fundamental problems in international relations. Studying the past, I believe, would reveal the persistence of governmental deceit in luring the nation into armed conflict.
I argue against the idea of a "just war." This concept was given powerful credence by the struggle against fascism in World War II. But I believe it is no longer morally acceptable given the technology of modern warfare, in which horrific means are used to achieve uncertain ends....
I question whether obedience to law is morally acceptable when the law protects injustice....
I want people to have "second thoughts" on the First Amendment,... because we grow up naively thinking that the First Amendment guarantees our freedom of speech. I suggest that free speech does not become a reality until people insist on it, struggle for it, practice it, because corporate wealth, governmental power, judicial decisions all limit that right. This is especially true in wartime, and today, the Bush Administration, with the complicity of the Democratic Party, is using the "war on terrorism" as an excuse to pry into the correspondence, the reading habits, the private life of every American.
I use...the experience of black Americans to show the limitations of representative government, of faith in that much over-praised "right to vote" to assure us of the equal rights promised in the Declaration of Independence. The skepticism I express...has been enhanced by the experience of the last decade, in which the Democratic Party came to resemble the Republican Party more and more. The "choice" in elections became meaningless as we moved toward the one-party system we have always derided in other countries, and the claim of "free elections" became ludicrous as the major parties depended more and more on the funds provdied by wealthy corporations....
Nevertheless, I conclude that we should not be overwhelmed by the power of the Establishment or our own apparent weakness in challenging it. That feeling of powerlessness is always there at the start of a movement for change. We have enough examplesin the history of our own country and that of othersthat show it is possible for organized citizens to resist and overcome what seem like hopeless odds. The power of determined people armed with a moral cause is, I believe, "the ultimate power" (xiv-xvi).
Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States,
in his Preface to Passionate Declarations: Essays on War and Justice,
(New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2003)
From Sixth Month, 2006:
Congratulations to the poor in spirit!
Heaven's domain belongs to them.
Congratulations to those who grieve!
They will be consoled.
Congratulations to the gentle!
They will inherit the earth.
Congratulations to those who hunger and thirst for justice!
They will have a feast.
Congratulations to the merciful!
They will receive mercy.
Congratulations to those with undefiled hearts!
They will see God.
Congratulations to those who work for peace!
They will be known as God's children.
Congratulations to those who have suffered persecution for the sake of justice!
Heaven's domain belongs to them.
in The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholars Version,
Robert J. Miller, editor.
(Santa Rosa, Ca.:Polebridge Press, 1994)
(Barnes & Noble)
Note: See auxiliary information related to this translation at the Jesus Seminar Forum.
From Fifth Month, 2006:
First, Havel insists on the ordinary needs of life in the localized here and now. Activist struggle “must pose questions, as it were, ad hoc, out of a concrete consideration of the authentic needs of life.” It consists of “a real, everyday struggle for a better life ‘here and now’ ” (1978: 89).
Because of its emphasis on the negative, he keeps the word dissident in quotation marks, but “an essential part of the ‘dissident’ attitude is that it comes out of the reality of the human ‘here and now.’ It places more importance on the often repeated and consistent concrete action—even though it may be inadequate and though it may ease only insignificantly the suffering of a single insignificant citizen—than it does in some abstract ‘fundamental solution’ in an uncertain future” (1978: 99).
Second, there is the question of violent action to achieve those day-to-day, here-and-now objectives of living within the truth of ordinary life. [Havel] argues, “Generally, the ‘dissident’ attitude can only accept violence as a necessary evil in extreme situations, when direct violence can only be met by violence" (1978: 92). More fully,
This [“dissident”] attitude is and must be fundamentally hostile toward the notion of violent change—simply because it places its faith in violence....
An attitude that turns away from abstract political visions of the future toward concrete human beings and ways of defending them effectively in the here and now is quite naturally accompanied by an intensified antipathy to all forms of violence carried out in the name of a “better future” and by a profound belief that a future secured by violence might actually be worse than what exists now; in other words, the future would be fatally stigmatized by the very means used to secure it....
The “dissident movements” do not shy away from the idea of violent political overthrow because the idea seems too radical, but on the contrary, because it does not seem radical enough. (1978: 92-93)
That neither advocates pure pacifism in all cases nor accepts violence as perfectly normal in all instances. It simply recognizes that violence should always be the last, not the first, option and that it is ultimately the last enemy.
cited by John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L.Reed,
in The Search for Paul: How Jesus's Apostle
Opposed Rome's Empire with God's Kingdom
HarperSanFrancisco, 2004, pp. 410-11
Václav Havel quotes are from the essay "The Power of the Powerless" (October 1978), in the collection Living the Truth: 22 Essays Published on the Occasion of the Award of the Erasmus Prize to Vaclav Havel, ed. by Jan Vladislav. London: Faber & Faber, 1987.
From Fourth Month, 2006:
God calls out to us in the voice of every suffering person on this globe who is in need of a good Samaritan ....
[For] the Earth's ecosystem to work, people on the whole planet need to consume on average no more than something like half of what the average person in the United States currently consumes....
One simple action we might consider taking is to adopt a plan to cut our consumption by 10 percent of its current level for each of the next five years....
[This plan] does not ask you to reduce your income. In fact, for people at some points in life it may be appropriate for them to significantly increase their income. The aim is to reduce consumptionthe part of our income we spend on goods and services that we consume for ourselves and our immediate family....
Part of the idea of the proposal is to set a goal that is doable enough for the average family to make progress on, in a period of time that is short enough (five years) in order to start moving us rapidly to the levels of consumption that would be equitable globally and sustainable ecologically.
But another key point is that with the other 50 percent of our income, instead of doing harm through consumption, we can help resolve global problemsif we use our income effectively. We can do three kinds of important things:
1) we can give our income to projects that directly help poor people, through the American Friends Service Committee, Right Sharing of World Resources, or Oxfam, for example;
2) we can invest our money in socially responsible enterprises that work to restore ecosystems and human communities, e.g., through the South Shore Bank of Chicago, Pax World Fund, or local businesses and government bonds whose benefits and integrity we are directly familiar with; or
3) we can work for a different political future by supporting candidates and campaigns and then lobbying them through effective groups like Friends Committee on National Legislation.
"Meeting God Halfway:
One Way to Engage in a Quaker Witness
on Economic Justice and Ecological Concern,"
May 2005, v.51, n.5,
Editor's Note: I encourage you to read this entire article and use it as a starting point for discussion, within your own families and within your Meetings and communities.
From Third Month, 2006:
After the events of September 11, 2001, I spent some months traveling through the
Middle East and North Africa trying to get a sense of how Muslims in the region felt about the terrorist attacks....
"America is an island," said an Arabic instructor in Cairo. "It is completely unaware of what is happening here.
Bush thinks he is starting a war. He is only entering a war that we have been fighting for years...."
[The] true conflict in the region is not between Islam and the West, but within Islam itself. There is a battle raging
in the Muslim world, a fitnah, or civil war, between the vast majority of moderate Muslims who seek to reconcile
their faith and values with the realities of the modern world and those small groups of extremists and puritans who react
to those realities by reverting, sometimes violently, to the "fundamentals" of their faith.
The attacks of September 11
were, in the eyes of many in the region, a means for extremists to drag the West into this internal conflict and thus
galvanize support for their cause. But the West is merely a secondary target for these extremists: "the far-away enemy" as
it is sometimes called. The "close enemy" is other Muslims. The real jihad is against those who do not share their
puritanical ideology. The real war is being fought over nothing less than the future of the faith. The real conflict is
over the outcome of the "Islamic Reformation" that is taking place throughout the Muslim world. (37)
"Islam's Long War Within,"
Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Autumn 2005
v.33, n.2, pp.37-40
Editor's Note: This is an excellent article in its entirety. It is followed by another equally important one: "Judaist Israel, Islamist Palestine," by Jack Miles (42-53).
Miles argues that the U.S. is in error in trying to mediate a conflict based on religious rationales from a formally secular stance, since neither Judaists nor Islamists trust that stance. He offers in-depth analysis of the history of conflicting claims to "the Land," the irredentism of both parties, and his proposal for an alternative approach.
These articles are not available online, but they can be obtained by contacting Chris Bower at 617.496.1813. Current and back issues are also available for purchase, for $8 an issue.
From Second Month, 2006:
We have a lot of work to do in our common struggle against bigotry and discrimination. I say 'common struggle,' because I believe very strongly that all forms of bigotry & discrimination are equally wrong and should be opposed by right-thinking Americans everywhere. Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental human right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from racial, religious, gender, or ethnic discrimination.
Coretta Scott King
Opening Plenary Session, 13th annual Creating Change Conference
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Atlanta, Georgia, November 9, 2000
From First Month, 2006:
One day a rabbi, in a frenzy of religious passion, rushed in before the ark, fell to his knees, and started beating his breast, crying, "I'm nobody! I'm nobody!"
The cantor of the synagogue, impressed by his example of spiritual humility, joined the rabbi on his knees. "I'm nobody! I'm nobody!"
The 'shamus' (custodian), watching from the corner, couldn't restrain himself, either. He joined the other two on his knees, calling out, "I'm nobody! I'm nobody!"
At which point the rabbi, nudging the cantor with his elbow, pointed at the custodian and said, "Look who thinks he's nobody!"
Ram Dass and Paul Gorman,
How Can I Help?: Stories and Reflections on Service
(New York: Knopf, 1985, reprinted 2003)