I’ve written before about the Quaker practice of considering queries.
This month’s query is about civic responsibility. My response follows that.
Because Friends believe there is that of God in all people, we strive for a world of freedom, justice and equality for everyone. Believing that progress toward these ideals is advanced by those who devote themselves to the shaping of a just society, we urge Friends to be active and conscientious citizens. This means staying informed on social issues, and on the opinions and activities of our elected representatives and of those seeking office. It is important that Friends speak truth to those in power. We recognize that, in our world, power in government and private sectors lies disproportionately with those of economic means. Speaking out on a personal level in our communities may be difficult, even dangerous, yet by doing so we may encourage others to work for justice.
Our first allegiance is to the Holy Spirit. In general, Friends support the laws of the State; but if those laws directly violate our religious convictions, we may be led to oppose them. When contemplating civil disobedience or unpopular personal testimony, we must carefully consider the spiritual basis for, and honestly face the consequences of our actions.
- What conflicts do we perceive between the laws of the State and our religious convictions? How do we resolve those conflicts in our lives? In what ways do we assume responsibility for the government of our community, state, nation and world?
- How do we share our convictions with others? Do we express our opinions with courage, yet with love, mindful of the Divine Spirit within everyone?
- How do we maintain our integrity when we find ourselves in a position of power? How do we respond when we feel powerless? Do we really respect and help those we seek to serve?
- Are we careful to reach our decisions through prayer and strengthen our actions with worship? Are we open to divine leadings?
The Keystone Pledge of Resistance has been in a waiting mode for some time now, awaiting the President’s decision. That whole effort gave me a good sense of what can be accomplished when a small group of committed individuals work together (outside Quaker circles). Much of that effort has been focused on civic engagement and public education. Working with Derek Glass, we produced a video to explain what the Keystone issue was about, and the role of civil disobedience in public discourse. http://bit.ly/keystoneresistance
Along similar lines, Derek Glass is working with the local environmental community to aggregate the blog articles from the many different environmental groups in one location, to make it easier for those who are interested to find all of this related information. http://content.glasswebprojects.com/ That has stimulated me to write more blog articles. I see this in line with the historical Quaker practice of “publishing the truth”. Because a democracy desperately needs well educated and informed citizens. Unfortunately we are seeing what happens when that isn’t the case, today.
Regarding the separation of Church and State, those lines have been blurred recently. A Kentucky clerk’s refusal to obey the law was promoted as infringing on her religious freedom, when actually she was imposing her religious beliefs on the public she was supposed to serve. A broader problem are the so-called “Religious Freedom Acts” fundamentalists are trying to pass, with similar effects. As a religious society, I think it is important for us to try to educate others about this whole issue of Civic Responsibility, and the separation of Church and State, and what religious freedom is.