In this September’s issue of Friends Journal, Rev William Barber writes “Quakers, it’s time to get back into the public square. If you believe that there’s life above the snake line, it’s time to get back in the public square.” The Third Reconstruction.
I’ve written two blog posts encouraging Friends to do just that (links below). This is yet another, because I think this is an important time for Friends to speak out in public.
I had another personal experience with this yesterday at our weekly Peace Vigil in downtown Indianapolis. Last year the sign I held there read “Stop Keystone Pipeline”. Lately I’ve been using my new sign, “Quakers – Black Lives Matter”. I think this is an example of what Rev. Barber is asking us to do. In this case, how are people who are saying “Black Lives Matter” going to know we support that idea, if we don’t find ways to say so publicly? Because there is an implied question, which is “do YOU believe Black Lives matter?”
Yesterday that sign caught the attention of Keith Mitchell-Burnett, who has been working on issues of poverty and unemployment for twenty years. He said those he works with in the Black community know these problems cannot be solved by Black people alone, and he has been looking for white allies. So he stopped and we talked for over half an hour about these issues, and his work, and ours. We gave him permission to do a short video interview of us, to be posted on his organization’s website. We exchanged contact information, and will see how things develop.
This is why you need to be on the public square in your community.
This is a low time for social justice in the United States. Conflicts related to racial injustice and human rights, economic injustice, foreign and domestic militarism, environmental injustice, and the infringement on civil liberties meant to protect those who work to address these issues is profoundly discouraging.
Friends recognize how interrelated these things are, and how ineffective it is to try to approach any of those things in an isolated manner.
Friends’ belief that the spirit of God continues to speak to all of us defines our approach. The more we can express that in the world, the more we are able to connect to others working for peace and justice. The more we can answer the spiritual longing felt by so many. The more we can build the Beloved Community to embrace us all. Those who join the Beloved Community naturally work to improve the conditions of everyone, and all of these separate concerns begin to be addressed from this central, spiritual core.
For this to happen, Friends need to find a public voice. We need to practice expressing, by words and actions, how we see the spirit working today in the world, among all beings. And we need to be working side by side with people outside our usual circles of Friends and friends.
It is encouraging to see Friends engage in the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline, for example, by visiting the camps of Native Americans and others protecting our water in North Dakota, joining protests and actions against the pipeline in Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and Indiana, and gathering resources needed by those at the camps.
I hope you will listen to your Inner Light. Are there messages there that should be shared publicly? Is there a still small voice that is encouraging you to speak? Can your meeting find ways to encourage Friends to speak in public, and support each other in doing so? If you don’t hold public peace vigils, might this be one way to start?