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The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded on December 10 every year, and it’s an event I always pay attention to. Sometimes the choice of award winner leaves me scratching my head, but more often, the winner’s story is an affirmation of the possibility of reconciliation and peaceful resolution of strife. The award in 1947 is especially meaningful to me – that was the year the American Friends Service Committee and British Friends Service Council were recognized for their work among German civilians after “World War II” ended. These “enemies” were struggling to survive in their societies from which wealth had been extracted to fund Hitler’s war, and their cities were bombed and burned by the Allies. Friends worked with them to rebuild their homes, infrastructure, and industry. Also, Friends were committed to “humanize” Germans in the eyes of the world, and to ensure that Germans would not be thought of as “enemy” and “other”. The Nobel Committee rightly acknowledged that these actions build peace.

This is one of the stories that, for me, goes to the heart of what Quakerism is about. Every person is a beloved child of God, and God isn’t going to take one beloved child’s side against another. If there are “sides” at all, it’s because we’ve failed at loving each other the way we’re supposed to. If we do God’s will, we’ll reconcile and find out how to live peacefully together.

In similar fashion, when we discern God’s will for our Quaker Meeting on some issue or other, we should expect of ourselves that we resist the temptation to take sides on an issue, or to attribute bad motives to each other. We should assume that if there are “sides” in a discussion, that is a fairly good indication that the Meeting has not yet arrived at God’s will. It is also a fairly safe assumption that neither “side” reflects God’s will for the Meeting. God’s will is to be found where there is unity (not that reaching unity is a guarantee that the group has discerned God’s will).

So, how do we operationalize this theology? What are the characteristics of a conversation that follows this ideal?

1. Refrain from characterizing other Friends’ positions or attributing motives. (Examples of phrases to avoid: “Those who want restrictions on sex offenders’ participation are afraid and irrational.” “Those who welcome a sex offender without restrictions don’t care about the wellbeing of my children.”)
2. Refrain from claiming your position is morally superior. (Examples of phrases to avoid: “I want the sex offender to attend without restrictions, because that is inclusive, and Quakers are inclusive.” “Quakers care for those who are vulnerable, so there must be restrictions on the sex offender’s participation.”) 
3. Avoid personalizing. (Examples of phrases to avoid: “I have become convinced that it is safe for him to attend without restrictions. If you trust me, you will follow my advice.” “If you let him attend without restrictions, you’ve just said you don’t care about (named) survivor of sexual assault.”)
4. Refrain from making threats. (Examples of phrases to avoid: “Inclusion is so important to me that if he can’t attend without restrictions, I will leave the Meeting.” “If the sex offender attends without any restrictions, I will leave the Meeting.)
5. Avoid weighing some people as more important than others. Examples of phrases to avoid: “If survivors of sexual assault don’t feel safe worshiping with a sex offender and decide to leave – well, that’s their choice. Let them go.” “I wish the sex offender would just go away.”
 
And here are some thoughs about how the clerk or participating Friend might respond if those kinds of statements are made:
1. We are all on the same side – God’s side. Let us unite in seeking the best way forward for the Meeting.
2. All of us support inclusion and care for the vulnerable. We may have different ideas of what exactly that looks like in this situation. Let us seek answers together. 
3. I know we all care deeply about the people in this situation. However, we are drafting a minute – not with us or these individuals in mind – but a minute that could be used when none of us is present. Can we take a few moments to expand our considerations to go beyond those of us in the room and the people we care about here?
4. We do our best in discerning God’s will when we can operate in trust, without fear. Let us go into silent worship, and remind ourselves of God’s ability to care for all of us. Let us continue our discernment at our next meeting.
5. Let us trust that God can provide a way forward that meets everyone’s needs, even if we may be called upon to give something up for the sake of the community we love. There is a solution that encompasses all of us and we can’t settle for a solution that would mean someone has to leave. 
 

Query for prayerful consideration: What verbal practices do you propose to help build peace in our Meetings, especially in matters where emotions can run very high?

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Because the topic of forgiveness is so sensitive, and has so often been used to bludgeon, silence or guilt those who have suffered an injustice, I want to start off with a few caveats. I don’t think anyone has the right to demand that another person should forgive, or forgive on a certain time line. In my mind, God can give us anger at an injustice as a powerful force to drive personal and societal change. Forgiveness isn’t a more “worthy” or morally correct feeling than anger. Each emotion has its appropriate time and place. Please accept the following thoughts not as a general promotion of forgiveness, but theological reflections on forgiveness in its proper time and place.

My father-in-law Ray was the victim of medical malpractice when he was in his 60s, and the family believes his quality of life could have been better in his remaining years if things had been done right early on. Ray could probably have successfully sued his doctor – and since Ray is a lawyer, he could probably have done it without much cost to himself. But Ray chose not to, saying that he just didn’t want to spend his remaining years in the courtroom. He’d rather enjoy whatever time he had left with his family.

Ray’s decision came to mind after I heard the Norwegian Labour Youth Party’s response to the terrorist who killed 77 people, most of them teenagers, on July 22 this year. Eskil Pedersen, the leader of the Youth party, later said at the party’s official memorial gathering, “We have been changed and marked by what has happened. We will always be known as the July 22 generation. And that gives us power. Because we have the power to decide what the future will be.”

Neither one of these vignettes is about forgiveness per se, but my curiosity was awakened. What, exactly, does the famous Matthew 18 say about forgiveness? Matthew 18 contains the scene where Peter asks whether 7 is the correct number of times to forgive, and Jesus responds, “Not seven times, but seventy-seven times”. Now, Jesus may simply have been saying, “Peter, you dolt, this isn’t something you can quantify. This is about soul and internal transformation, not a set of rules.” However, if he was saying something more generalisable, what could that be?

I started, as usual, by looking at the context. What is going on in the story before and after this particular scene?

The story with Peter is in a collection of parables and incidents that take place just before Jesus goes to Jerusalem and is killed. In terms of relative importance, we are close to the core of what Jesus’ wanted his disciples to know, the heart of what he wanted to accomplish in his life. Immediately before Peter’s question is the parable of the lost sheep, in which Jesus explains that each sheep (person) is too beloved and precious for God to allow him or her to be lost. Before that, the disciples bicker about who is greatest, and Jesus tells them that the greatest is s/he who is most like a child. Immediately after Peter’s question comes the parable of the unmerciful servant, who is forgiven a huge debt he owes his master, but follows up by refusing to forgive a smaller debt that is owed him, and harshly punishes the debtor. The master’s response is to withdraw the forgiveness he had previously granted. Jesus moves on to address divorce, essentially saying that a man can’t just divorce his wife because he feels like it. Then Jesus returns to the topic of children, saying that heaven belongs to children and those who are like children.

In looking at all these stories together, it looks to me like Jesus is addressing generosity, broadly speaking. What they all have in common is that the initiator of the parable is trying to impose some sort of judgment on others, dividing people into categories of greater/lesser or worthy/unworthy.  It is about turning away children, someone who owes money, or a wife one is no longer infatuated with. In each situation, it is the person with relative power in the relationship who rejects the one who has less worldly power. Jesus teaches the person who would judge or dismiss someone who comes to them that they should respond generously and with welcome.

What – the question of forgiveness belongs in the larger picture of generosity and welcome?!

I have always thought of forgiveness in the framework of justice, as an ultimate goal in a journey that involves the victim feeling healed, the perpetrator repenting, making amends, and choosing a better path. Maybe that’s why I could never articulate a theology of forgiveness?! As long as I looked at forgiveness in the context of justice, it seemed to tie the victim to the perpetrator in a relationship of sorts, and the humanly impossible feat of feeling peace about what had happened. It never felt right.

But what if forgiveness instead is about acts of generosity and welcome? Perhaps that is why my father-in-law Ray and the Norwegian Labor Youth’s actions made me want to read Matthew 18. Now, I can’t say anything about how any of them feel – that is not for me to say. They may feel badly done by, angry, and still hungering for an apology,  restoration, or wanting never to have anything to do with the perpetrator ever again. All of those would be very natural feelings. Perhaps they feel peace about it? I don’t know and I don’t think I’m entitled to know, and it belongs in their inner world and their relationship with God.

I do think I am permitted to reflect on other people’s acts. My father-in-law decided not to invest any more of his energy in the doctor and did not sue him. Instead he devoted himself to his wife and family and causes he believed in, creating a better life for all. The Labor Youth likewise decided to more or less ignore the killer. They have decided to put their energy into shaping the future. Their generosity and welcome of Muslims were the policies that got them into the crosshairs of the killer. After the killings, the surviving youth redicated themselves to that vision. Furthermore, they discerned that building social trust – creating a society that allows people’s spiritual, emotional, and physical needs to be met – is the best defense against violence. In other words, they are being welcoming and generous to all, in the hopes it might prevent future killings.  

That looks like forgiveness to me, the kind we read about in Matthew 18. Then we can leave feelings of anger, peace, despair or contentment where they belong, in the private conversations in the heart between the individual and God. 

Query for prayerful reflection: What stirs in you when you think of forgiveness within the framework of generosity and welcome? What do you think of the idea of distinguishing between feelings and acts when considering forgiveness?

When my husband Doug read my previous blog post, he displayed all the signs I’m used to seeing when he wants to say something but is concerned he may hurt my feelings. He read my blog post as an expression of “Liberal White Guilt”. Yes, I was experiencing Liberal White Guilt, but that’s not something I’m ashamed of. Instead, I think Liberal White Guilt is a good thing and is closely related to Early Quakers’ Peace Testimony.

Doug reminded me that during the Civil Rights struggle, many Blacks* were skeptical of Whites* who wanted to get involved with the cause. The skeptics wanted only people who were working for their own liberation to participate in the struggle. They didn’t want Whites, whom they suspected might be joining the struggle out of pity or guilt or some other self-centered emotional need. The skeptics feared that White participation would perpetuate the pattern of putting Whites’ needs, priorities, and thoughts at the center of the movement. They wanted the agenda to be set by Blacks and the movement to be run by Blacks. These are all very valid and important points.

The same discussion also took place in South Africa within the different branches of the anti-apartheid movement. Could/should the liberation movement include Whites? The answer to this question was one of the distinctions between the ANC (African National Congress) and the PAC (Pan Africanist Congress) – ANC included Whites in their movement, PAC did not. 

Those who read my previous post will have seen that I suffered from guilt and shame as a White child in Southern Africa during the apartheid years. I didn’t suffer material deprivation compared to those around me, although our standard of living would be considered well under US or Norwegian poverty lines. My suffering was spiritual: I watched Blacks suffer from the effects of poverty, knowing that the authors of that suffering were White, like me. It was painful to me that my skin color associated me with apartheid. 

I say these things not in a bid for your pity and certainly not to claim that I suffered terribly. My point is theological:  I’m going to suggest that Liberal White Guilt is just a modern psychological expression of the same phenomenon that the early Quakers were addressing in the variety of peace testimonies (e.g. Peace Testimony, 1660).

The Peace Testimony of 1660 is a claim by Early Friends that they were “harmless and innocent”. They had political motives (didn’t want to be associated with the 5th Monarchymen Movement), but also wanted to be seen as morally pure, worthy of being followers of Jesus. The original texts actually don’t address the impact of physical violence on its victims. Instead, the writers say they are willing to accept physical suffering if that is the consequence of refusing to engage in violent actions that would make them morally guilty. Many of them did endure physical significant suffering for their beliefs.

As Paul points out in Galatians 5, those who live by the Spirit will experience the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But those who follow the “sinful nature” will do/experience all manner of unpleasant things, among them hatred, jealousy, fits of rage, envy and they “will not inherit the Kingdom”. In my mind, “Liberal White Guilt” is the natural spiritual consequence of being White and privileged in a society with structural and physical violence. I experienced guilt, shame, and identity issues as a child in apartheid-era Botswana. My Liberal White Guilt flared up again in September this year when a pastor in Florida wanted to burn the Qu’ran and people protested the building of an Islamic Social Center near “Ground Zero” in New York.

This is as it should be from the White perspective: if I and/or the group I am associated with are engaging in “acts of the sinful nature”, I am glad I do feel awful and that feeling awful spurs me into action. In this way, my own White salvation is tied in with Black liberation. It is in my own self interest to pursue a society where all humans, regardless of skin color, wealth, geographic location etc, can be respected as a beloved child of God.

Query for prayerful consideration: What is your experience of the cost to perpetrators of violence and injustice? Why do you think the Peace Testimony doesn’t mention victims of violence? How do you feel about that? 

* I use the terms “Black” and “White” both because that is the terminology I am familiar with from Southern Africa and because I believe the larger issue in terms of race and ethnicity is, in fact, about skin color, not geography. E.g. I am half African and live in the USA, yet I don’t experience racial discrimination because I look White. Ethiopians are technically Aryan or “White”, but they aren’t exempt from racial discrimination because they look Black.

As a child growing up in Botswana in the early 70s, I knew that White people like myself were bad. Not that anyone ever said such a thing, but living in the shadow of apartheid South Africa as we did, it didn’t need to be said. For two of my school years, I was one of two White children in a school of 500. I was painfully aware of my unnatural skin color, and the hardest part was the assumptions I thought people were making about Whites like me: rich, superior, lacking concern for those less well off. I wished I could wear a sign that said “I’m not like that!”

With God’s help, I was eventually able to embrace myself as a White person. Painful as my identity issues were, I came to be grateful for them. That’s where my passion for justice was born. My search for a place where I belonged led me into the arms of a Loving God.

Yesterday I startled myself by telling my husband that I’m considering converting to Islam. Really, I am? 

Now, my natural instinct after growing up in Botswana has always been to be interested in other cultures, religions and beliefs. After September 11, 2001, I decided to educate myself about Islam and the Qu’ran, and I liked what I found. I like the focus on doing one’s duty, submitting to God ritually in prayer, the importance of charity, modest dress, the habit of expressing gratitude, and acknowledging the uncertainty of life. In recent weeks, I’ve delved more deeply into Islam because of an interfaith event I’m planning at the hospital, and yesterday I watched numerous interviews with Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, in which he talked about his conversion to Islam.

And then I found myself saying I want to convert to Islam. Really?

Kinda. But no, not really.

No, I don’t want to convert to Islam. What I want is to wear a “hijab”, a Muslim head covering.

Just like when I was a kid in Botswana and wanted to wear a sign that declared my belief in the equal worth of all human beings and my compassion for those who suffer, I feel the need now to distance myself from those who “accuse” Obama of being a Muslim, not being born in Hawai’i, those who protest against the social center/mosque near “Ground Zero”, plan to burn the Qu’ran, etc. Sadly, many of these shameful utterances are portrayed as natural expressions of Christian faith.

I don’t think it’s wrong to be a Christian, any more than I think it’s wrong to be White, but I feel a strong need to express my Christian love and my belief that all humans are of equal value. What better way to do that than by wearing a hijab?

Query for prayerful consideration:

What does Love require of you when a group with which you identify does things that are abhorrent to you?

Dear reader,

I spent a large portion of the day yesterday (Saturday May 31) at a neighborhood meeting where we discussed the plans for some surplus military land that hopefully will be turned over to the city of Seattle. One of the federal requirements is that this land be used in part to serve the needs of the homeless. Many of my well-to-do neighbors in Seattle are not pleased with the prospect of having some 300 new units of housing added, about 30% of them subsidized/affordable, and I have felt called as a Quaker to be a pastoral presence in the discussions. In this hostile environment, I feel called to be 

  • a calm, loving, and non-anxious presence to my neighbors to let them know that we have nothing to fear
  • an affirming and encouraging presence to the facilitators and presenters when they are met with hostility from my neighbors
  • someone who encourages listening, discussion, and persuasion (as opposed to hostility and name-calling)
  • someone who speaks about the beloved-of-God nature of the men, women, and children who are at a financial disadvantage

And I CAN do and be all these things, and I can do it effectively, but I have discovered over the years that it comes at a high personal cost. It’s not so much that I feel hurt by being called names and being yelled at. The part that does damage to me is that I seem to soak in the energy of the room, and my mind gets tangled up in trying to figure out how people so casually can put others down, call them names, twist, and distort their intentions, and actively try to make another person look bad. I don’t sleep well, I become sad and my thoughts about the interactions and the situation race on at uncomfortable speeds. My world as a Quaker, chaplain and spiritual director is lived in environments where most people commit to seeking to hear, acknowledge, affirm, and respect the validity of another’s perspective. I don’t have much exposure to adversarial environments. I know in general that I am not called to participate in those kinds of adversarial political processes – the personal cost to me is too high – but since I bear the Quaker mark, this is my neighborhood, and no-one else from the neighborhood seems to be willing/able to take on this role now, it falls to me to do it.

So I ask for your prayers for my spiritual safety and protection at these meetings, dear reader. 

The next neighborhood meetings are scheduled for

  • Monday June 2, 6.30 pm – 8.30 pm Pacific Daylight time (GMT + 9 hrs)
  • Monday June 16, 6.30 – 8.30 pm
  • Saturday June 21, 9.00 am – 1.00 pm
  • Saturday July 12, 9.00 am – 1.00 pm
  • Saturday July 19, 9.00 am – 1.00 pm

My Meeting is already holding me and my neighbors in prayer, and I ask you to join in and hold us in the Light.

Query for prayerful consideration:

What does prayer mean in this context?

I arrived late, so I may have missed it. It is possible the presenters talked about it and I just didn’t arrive in time to hear it. But I don’t think so, because the Quaker presenters on building peace talked about how easily peacemakers can become discouraged and then they led us into an activity designed to generate hope and joy. The source to which they led us to find joy and hope was our own accomplishments.

Sigh. I could get discouraged.

Friends, I agree that we often do wonderful things. And the presenters to whom I am referring gave a good presentation, and I found myself stirred to join in their efforts at the Air Force base an hour or so down the road – after spending an hour by myself in the woods to re-find my hope and joy following their presentation. So there is lots of good stuff happening. I do not wish to complain. And yet I have to ask, what happened to the joy of faith?

When I look back at my blogging and other writing and speaking during the past 6 months, I discover that I have started preaching. Me – preaching? I feel like I owe my liberal friends an apology: “Honestly, I swear, I didn’t mean to become a preacher of the joy I find in God. It just … happened.”

But seriously, here is the anatomy of my transformation to becoming a preacher of the Good News of faith in God:

The first movement was God lifting me out of the deep trough of depression in 1994. I had been passively suicidal for months following the end of an abusive relationship. And suddenly, after daring to yell angrily at God in a private prayer time, God filled me with love. I began to know the power of God for good, and I began to talk about God as our source of hope, just a little bit. But I still looked to prophetic, righteous anger as our source of energy for transforming the world. 

The second movement was attending worship at West Hills Quaker church whenever I was in Portland to visit my in-laws. I had Ffriends there from my seminary days. What I noticed was how little time attenders at the church spent expressing righteous anger over the shortcomings of the world around them and how much time they spent doing things like cooking meals together for homeless people.

The next step was in the days after September 11, 2001, when mental health counselors suggested that we limit our intake of bad news. In the run-up to the Iraq invasion in 2003, when depression began to set in again at the hopelessness of everything, I heeded their advice for the first time. I took a few weeks off from intense reading of newspapers and only took in enough to be informed about the big picture. To my amazement, I found an upsurge of energy to be engaged in resisting the war!

At some point after becoming a Good News Associate in the summer of 2003, I noticed how joyful I usually feel after being with my fellow Associates, most of them evangelical Quakers, and how joyless liberal Quakers often seem to be.

While teaching Ignatian spirituality last fall to men and women in recovery from addictions, many of whom are homeless and have lost their jobs and family relationships as a result of their substance abuse, I noticed that many of them nonetheless expressed gratitude, time and time again. They were grateful for things like waking up in the morning; for being free from the dehumanizing effects of their addictions; for God’s love; for the kindness others showed them. Their gratitude stood in stark contrast to the fears, worries, and cautious planning I would hear at Quaker Meeting from all those of us who have houses, food, and family life.

My next step was a simple decision to be more joyful. I felt embarrassed to be spending time worrying and fretting about the stuff in my life when women and men who have nothing can be so grateful, generous, and compassionate. It was clearer to me than ever before that joy does not arise out of having a sufficiency – if that were the case, homeless people would be unhappy and liberal Quakers would be happy. My AHA! was that joy comes from entrusting one’s future to God. So yes, it is as easy as deciding to be joyful.

So, Friends, I decided to be joyful. I prayed to God that I would feel gratitude for all the amazingly wonderful things and people that surround me. I prayed that my worries and sadness about the problems of the world would simply fade away. I decided to tell people about my discoveries, and my early blog entries (look at October, November,and December entries) give more details about my journey to joy. It began to feel burdensome to listen to comfortably-off people worry and be sad.

Since deciding to be grateful, I keep discovering more and more reasons to be joyful. It is no longer merely a decision now. More and more, I feel it rising up within me. I still work in a hospital where I see death and illness, and I still work with homeless men and women whose material futures seem bleak, and I still read of conflict and troubles in the world. Suffering is still real. What’s different is that I now know hope and joy are not waiting for us on the other side of attaining world peace, eliminating physical pain, or eradicating poverty. Peace of mind is not waiting for us on the other side of securing the future for our children or securing work or our own retirement. Hope is not based on seeing the exact route to the happy ending at the end of the story. Trust in the future is not based on seeing the societal developments that will lead to a peaceful settlement between conflicting sides.

I can no longer keep myself from telling everyone who wants to listen that hope, joy, peace, and feeling safe arise out of being in the hands of a God who promises to be with us in whatever we encounter. How can I keep from proclaiming what I know to be true – that this God of ours has plans of peace for us? That God is actively at work, using even the bad things that happen for good.

The mystery of it all is that as I allow this joy and gratitude to bubble up within me, I can hardly keep myself from throwing myself into work for peace and justice. The more I trust God, the more I also see God at work in societal developments, too. It looks like peace, abundance, and safety are just waiting to be birthed into the world, and I want to be part of it!

Query for prayerful consideration:

What is the source of hope in my life?

As a companion piece to my recent post here on liberal Quaker heresies, I wrote about my understanding of the Quaker Peace Testimony on my other blog that doesn’t presume knowledge of Quakerism. If you’d like to check it out, here it is: The Quaker Peace Testimony

One of the reasons I am proud of being a Quaker – indeed, an important reason why I became a Quaker – is our history of asserting the equality of all persons, our work to attain peace, prison reform, compassionate care of people with mental illness and disabilities, ending slavery, and gaining voting rights for all adults.

I have a poor memory for Quaker history – my interest as a Quaker has always been care of the soul and how our faith community helps or hinders care for the soul – so I talk about our history with some trepidation, and I welcome corrections and clarifications when I delve into the past for insights into how we live out our faith, as I intend to do now.

Although the dignity of each person as the bearer of the Divine Spark was always the foundation for Quaker engagement, I learned from John Punshon that the spiritual core (as opposed to the practical desire to avoid being confused with the treasonous 5th Monarchymen) of the Peace testimony was as follows: concern for the soul of the person who committed violence. Fox and Margaret Fell (who wrote an earlier version of the testimony) believed it is wrong to use violence, and that a person who does so will harm his or her relationship with God. They thought of our actions in this world as having an impact on the battle between Light and Darkness in the spiritual realm, and the use of violence would strengthen the forces that oppose the Light. In this Lamb’s War way of thinking, the potential death or injury of the victim of violence were not the main concern. In the 1650s, of course, illness, maiming, and premature death were not uncommon occurrences, and many Quakers voluntarily undertook faith-based actions that resulted in severe physical suffering. Fox’s chosen method was to try to talk people out of using violence, out of concern for their soul, and I’m not aware that he spent much time ministering to victims of violence or demanding restitution for them.

When John Woolman set off to end slavery, his chosen method was to visit with slave owners and try to persuade them that their immortal souls were endangered by denying slaves their full humanity and dignity. He didn’t accept food, drink, or a bed in the homes of slave-owning Quakers, because he was worried for his soul if he were to derive any physical comfort from the “fruits” of slave labor. To the best of my knowledge, Woolman did not spend much time being with slaves or encouraging them to rise up against their owners to end the injustices under which they were suffering.

There is also a long tradition of Quakers being present with and ministering to those in prison (Elizabeth Fry) or mental health institutions, and as a chaplain and spiritual director, I identify strongly with that strain of Quaker activism. But in the case of working for peace and ending slavery, being present and ministering to the victims of injustice don’t seem to have been the chosen mode. As someone who walks alongside people who are suffering in a variety of ways, I confess to feeling a bit uncomfortable with the seeming lack of attention given to those who suffered under the injustices Fox and Woolman were seeking to abolish.

I wonder, would a slave working in a field, watching John Woolman walk past on his way into the big house, have any reason to trust Woolman or believe that he was sincere? Perhaps he or she might have thought something along the lines of “Woolman, if you really cared and wanted to ease my burden, you’d come and take my hoe and do some of my work”. And that seems like a perfectly natural thought to me. If it had been safe for the slave to do so, I can even picture him or her angrily denouncing Woolman’s approach.

At the same time, I see the success of Woolman’s method, and I have been deeply moved when I read the accounts of Quakers defusing potentially violent situations by expressing concern for the person about to commit violence against them. Fox and Woolman are among our heroes, the ones many of us try to model our lives after and aspire to be like.

Query for prayerful consideration:

Does God call me to be present with and minister among victims of injustice? Or to be with those who are doing wrong, gently and firmly calling them to be in right relationship with God? Am I sometimes called to do one, sometimes another? How do I support the leadings of those who are called to respond to injustice in a different fashion than I am?