Thursday, October 25, 2007

Is AFSC still a 'Quaker' institution?

A reasonable Friend, as the Editor considers himself to be, in a mirror universe, would be as observant and vocally critical of any Quaker organization if it were polarized to the 'right' and show evidence of corruption. The lack of integrity, we know - is exclusive to no country, nor political party, nor status, nor level of wealth, nor ethnic group. Of late, even the Quaker religious faith, once a politically diverse, growing and thriving church, and a bastion of transparency, simplicity and integrity, has been sullied as it declines in membership, and has become politically polarized - with 'activism' as its reason-to-be.

"As a Jew", according to one journalist with whom the Editor has corresponded, "I’m very aware that political activism is a way of replacing genuine religion with feel-good gestures."

The General Secretary of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, one Quaker church, sometimes jokingly called the Quaker Vatican, has apparently sent an unpublished letter to Quaker members trying to reassure the body that the AFSC headquarters, whith whom Philadelphia Quakers share their offices on Cherry and 15th St., has everything regarding this potential scandal, under control. So the lines are being blurred, and the press doesn't really get it. Its easy for reporters to call the AFSC a 'Quaker' institution when a story or an event needs a unique descriptor.

As hard as the AFSC tries each year, to further finesse its public statement defining itself as 'Quaker' yet also distancing itself from 'Quakers' the more dubious the statement and the organization become.

AFSC's Slogan
AFSC = Quaker Values in Action (from the website)

Aren't values outward expressions of beliefs? Then how can something already expressed, not already be in action? Isn't Quaker Values in Action a sound-byte, in corporate-speak?

AFSC's self definition on many news articles / as is distributed in their press releases:

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.

Do Friends understand AFSC's stance on violence when we look at the photograph published March 7, 2007 in the New York Times? Click on 'enlarge this image' to imagine the 1000 words describing the peace and non-violence that the photograph of
mouths wide open behind the bullhorns shows. (somehow this article does not refer to the AFSC as 'Quaker')

The AFSC seems to do very little face-to-face ‘service’ work - it mainly finances non-Quaker groups, organizes war and immigration protest marches, and maintains a slick website.

Money – in the large budgets, the large trust funds, and small group of wealthy donors to support the large staff of our Quaker 'institutions' - is either a cruel mirror to our own malfeasance of governance, and or it is part of the problem. Consider the example of Major League Baseball, where the modern exponential infusion of advertising and licensing money has sadly made the sport just another part of the entertainment business. This metaphorically might be similar to how AFSC began as part of a humble and volunteer Quaker faith, but is now sadly over-grown to something co-opted by politically larger forces, requiring more money to support more paid employees - but out of the realm of the living but declining Religious Society of Friends.

The AFSC, like a raft adrift is now attempting to tether itself to another free floating raft - large expensive Quaker prep schools - themselves freely adrift off the shore of the Religious Society of Friends’ mainland. The AFSC is attempting this apparently at its Annual Public Gathering Nov. 3, in Philadelphia. There they both possibly might also like to tether to the celebrity status and wealth of Oprah Winfrey.

Please see AFSC.


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