A visitor to the Facebook page I created, Quakers Welcome Spiritual Seekers, challenged me with the following:
After reading the pinned post and skimming the posts below. I’m left feeling that the stated intent is entirely missed. Or I could be wrong. I get that maybe the posts are showing faith in action but, one could be active in social causes without any spiritual connection. This is an issue I find when I’ve visited Quakers and online as well . I rarely get a glimpse of the Spiritual side just activism. I’m not writing from a negative place just sharing experience and view from where I’m at.
I realize the truth of that. I have been using social justice activities as illustrations of faith in action, but not talking much about the spiritual side.
The main reason for that is because spiritual experiences are so difficult to describe. Many say spiritual experiences are ineffable–incapable of being expressed in words. I remember being asked once, “why do you want to try to put these things into words?” Some people often express that doing so diminishes the experience or feelings.
I was especially struck by “one could be active in social causes without any spiritual connection” from the comment above. I think that is true for many people. But I also think it is really important to have a spiritual basis for your social activism, both to lead you through the often difficult issues and experiences, as well as to sustain you in your work.
This work is always challenging–entering into unknown territory in many ways. And it often seems you get very little progress from a great deal of effort. Although I would suggest that is often because we are using the wrong ways to measure progress, and other times because we are not taking the correct path, which is much more likely if that path does not have a spiritual basis.
I have recently been involved in a program that addresses this very thing, called Quaker Social Change Ministry (QSCM), a new program from American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) with the local Quaker meeting I attend here in Indianapolis, North Meadow Circle of Friends. QSCM has two goals. One is to bring a more intentional focus to the spiritual aspects of our social justice work. The other is to get the meeting engaged with communities that are actually experiencing injustice right now. So I’ll try to talk more about this. For now, here are some references:
I agree that both aspects – faith and works, if you will – are essential and each enriches its counterpart. Two weeks ago, Spring Friends (in North Carolina) had the local president of the NAACP, Barrett Brown, give a message at Meeting for Worship, after which we had some time for open worship. He did a beautiful job, and we left having been spiritually fed.