Quakers and Working with Others

I don’t know where the idea that Quakers shouldn’t work with organizations that believe some things Quakers don’t came from. I tried to research the idea, but didn’t have any luck.

I can only guess some felt it was an extension of the idea of a guarded education. Friends often established their own schools to both teach Quaker history and values, and to counter certain widely held beliefs, such as the acceptability of the use of war in foreign policy. During the formative school years, children are developing the tools and ability to think critically and learn how to express God’s will in their everyday lives.

Upon entering adulthood, Friends move into our diverse society. Friends no longer need to be protected because they now have the tools to evaluate the social, political and cultural ways we live together, and know where to look for answers to their questions, i.e. the inner light and F/friends.

Or, it might be related to the weight Friends often feel for being responsible for their spiritual life, and being careful not to be associated with evil. I believe far too many people are going to be found wanting by God for not doing enough. Judging others just gets in the way of work that desperately needs to be done.  People who are judging will not be able to do the work, anyway, until they are able to stop judging.

My experience, and that of every Friend I know, is that we are led, each in his/her own way, to seek out injustices and work to get rid of them.   A huge number of diverse groups and people are also involved in these issues. These are the very people and organizations we need to be working side by side with. The real work is done in neighborhoods and communities, not committee meetings.

For we simply cannot understand the injustice until we share the experience with those who are subjected to it every minute of every day of their lives. Some of these people and some of the organizations involved may well believe or do things Friends don’t agree with. But that doesn’t taint us. We are responsible for our own actions.

To reject an organization or individual because of something they do or say that you disagree with is simply being judgmental. And who are we to judge, most especially in these very situations where we are learning our way. A very common experience when one does this work is to find your preconceived ideas are actually wrong. So you would have a situation where you refuse to work with an organization based upon impressions that very likely are inaccurate.

This also leads to discrimination—why else judge others in the first place?

But what makes me most irritated by this idea is that I’ve seen it result, time and time again, in Friends not getting engaged with social concerns because of these judgments they make.

More than once I have heard someone say “I’m not good enough to be a Quaker”. I think that is a stinging indictment. We need to be engaged in the world, accepting of all, rather than judging and discriminating.

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