Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Summary - period ending 1.15.2007

Dear Quaker Friends and those in the News Media,

(revised for clarity 2/3/2007)

I humbly draw attention to a concern which is expressed ‘in the news’ that no doubt other Friends, sometimes called ‘Quakers’ also feel and have felt over the recent few years.

The ‘Quaker’ association with vocal and intemperate opposition to the war in Iraq is evident in January 2007. This opposition to the war appears contentious, or ‘in the face’ of those who as equally stridently support the war, and again the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) has organized a protest at Rockefeller Center in New York City which was covered and distributed to 100 news journals by the Associated Press. The above referenced news story labeles AFSC a ‘Quaker-led’ organization. The AFSC has again leveraged the reputation of historic Quakers - a people of integrity and of peace - as a defense in the face of ‘patriotic’ or conservative criticism of its political activities. Many articles in the press report on those who refer to the AFSC and Quakers as ‘leftists’ who lack support, or have no consideration, for American troops in Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world.

The AFSC, originally founded by Friends, or Quakers, as appears in this news story, has become - along with modern Quaker membership decline - an organization which has apparently strayed from the Friends’ original mission of volunteer, face-to-face service. The AFSC has been openly (in the news) and privately unapologetic of late to this change in its mission to one of paid-only organization of political action.

I wonder what percentage of the AFSC’s operating and capital funding is from Quakers today? This is an aside, however it is potentially critical to this change in its mission.

I have come over time to feel that if the AFSC is to continue to utilize the ‘Quaker’ association, it should heed external data that have been collected. It might also heed those Friends who remain, including those of younger generations now coming forth, which will form the future of Quakerism. This awareness will hopefully bring the AFSC back into what it was originally set up to accomplish.

Many believe that peace is not the central Friends Testimony. It is one Friends Testimony of many - that Friends hopefully express themselves and also espouse to the wider world. Some Friends might realistically fear that the AFSC focuses less today on face-to-face humanitarian assistance which tends to bring people together - in lieu of vocal political pronouncement and agitation in the widening political polarization of our world society – especially in its concern over this one war. Please see AFSC.

Normally I feel less criticism of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) however, this period FCNL has been reported involved a vocal confrontation with the American Enterprise Institute, a well-known right-wing think tank in Washington, DC. Please see FCNL.

There is ‘good news’ that Friends, what few remain, continue to support and even generate themselves is evident if one chooses to look for it.

In Friendship,
The Editor

For an up-to-the-moment snapshot of the face of modern Friends, please click on the following links:

Religious Faith / Diversity
Quaker Schools
Quaker House (NC)
Quaker History
Politics and Economics
Peace Activities
Humanitarian Assistance
Friends Journal
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Book Review
American Friends Service Committee

Previous Digests:

12/15/2006 News Summary

12/01/2006 News Summary

11/15/2006 News Summary

11/1/2006 News Summary

10/15/2006 News Summary


At 1/21/2007 9:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The news story doesn't support some
of QiN's Editor's statements to me; I didn't see anything about a "vocal confrontation" - no doubt did a lot of chanting
(something I don't really go far either) but there was no indication I saw of "confrontation" or even incivility. Did I miss something?

Are you upset with FNCL/AFSC protesting *at all*? With associating with MoveOn? What is the concern here? It is not plain to me.


At 2/16/2007 9:15 AM, Blogger Andy said...

I think it is impossible to judge what's in someone's soul by reading news accounts of their public presentations. We should all be hesitant to try.

A vocal, confrontational protest may be in the Spirit of Love, while a lackadaisical quiet and un-upsetting protest may lack any Spirit at all, or even betray a calling to witness. Of course, just as often a rude display is a rude display and a quiet one is respectful.

George Fox surely had Christ's love in his heart when incessantly disrupting Church of England and Puritan worship services and when shouting in town squares, all in terms that were generally considered blasphemous, traitorous and/or offensive. Meanwhile, Friends in the "Quietist" era have been criticized more than Friends of almost any other time, for their blandness and appeasement which failed to uphold the power of the Quaker message.

Perhaps, however, even such time-tested conclusions as those are wrong, or at least unfair to those being judged.

I come out thinking that we would do better to attend our own "glass houses" than to worry too much about who deserves stones thrown.


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