Quakers and working with others part 2

The question of how a meeting feels about working with others will fundamentally determine whether the meeting will be able to participate in justice work with the rest of the community, or not.

There are two possibilities.

One approach feels it is important to not associate with people or organizations that believe and/or act in ways we disagree with.  The feeling is that doing so reflects badly upon us, that our association implies our acceptance of those things.  What that does, though, is separate us from others.  This means we will not see the truth that might exist in other people/organizations.  This forces us to make judgments regarding others, in order to determine if they are acceptable to us, or not.  That will severely limit the people and organizations one works with, which is unfortunate because Friends value experience so much as a way to learn about God and the world.

The second approach is based on the belief that there is that of God in everyone, and that God’s will is continually being revealed to all of us.  We know we don’t have the whole truth, and some truths will be shown to us by others.  By working together we all move closer to the truth, and do God’s work in the process.

Most Friends do feel called to put their faith into action.  Those who believe in the first approach limit their work to their meeting, and perhaps one or more Quaker organizations.

Those who endorse the second approach find themselves working with diverse groups and people.  A term for this is a “fusion” movement.  Coalitions of organizations and people find their areas of common cause, and work together on those things.  It is understood there are many things the people and organizations involved disagree about.  But being open to working on the things all agree on allows something to actually get accomplished.

New groups are continually forming as people become stimulated to get involved in justice work.  These new organizations benefit from the presence of people with experience in social justice work.  This work is most effective when it is faith based.  Friends can contribute a great deal in many ways.

White Friends today are struggling under the burden of the long history of institutionalized racism and economic injustice in this country.  In my experience, I have greatly benefitted by my association with many others outside my Friends circles because injustice cannot be understood intellectually.  It has to be experienced.  Much of the truth we learn in working with others comes from being present with them as they are experiencing injustice, or telling stories of their experiences related to that.

It is clear to me that a meeting cannot become involved with people and organizations outside Friends’ circles as long as the first approach is used.  Others will immediately sense that you are judging them.  That will preclude the development of genuine relationships, and trusting each other to work together.

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