There has been some very interesting and helpful discussion about queries on the unofficial Facebook page related to Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). It has been especially helpful for me to hear about pushing versus pulling, with pushing being the idea of being pressured to have certain responses. The significance of that is both our natural reaction against being pressured and that the point is to search for what the Spirit is leading us to do, not other influences.
So I can see the query I suggested, “Do we spend time in a diversity of communities, especially those experiencing injustice?” is pushing, and would be better if phrased in a pulling way.
Pushing tends to keep people from even considering the intended idea.
But before getting to that, I would like to step back to the larger questions of our lives and actions and the role of queries.
One of the keys of Quakerism has always been our faith is not limited to Sunday services. That we strive to live every moment of our lives faithfully. That relates to the concept of putting our faith into action. The actions are how we live our own lives. This is also related to the ideas above about pushing and pulling. Rather than pushing our beliefs on others, we try to live our own lives in such a manner as to pull others into living the truth we try to model by our lives. For example, George Fox said, “I told them I knew from whence all wars arose … and that I lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars, that I was come into the covenant of Peace which was before all war and strife.”
I’ve often written about the example of Quakers who could not participate in war, or the Selective Service System that conscripted men into the military. Their action was their inability to register for the draft, or enter military service. That is a powerful example of pulling. Those examples have been felt far beyond the communities and times those men and those supporting them lived in.
They may also have participated in peace vigils, lobbied their representatives, written letters to the editor, etc, as other witnesses to these beliefs. Those actions seem to be moving in the direction of pushing, perhaps. But they are rooted in their own examples of faithfulness, and intended to create dialog, to invite others to examine their own lives.
So I retract my initial clumsy attempts to suggest new queries that push for action, and look forward to more suggestions along the lines of those intended to pull.
But this does lead me to reflect on what I have seen as my failure to get Friends and others to stop using fossil fuels. I know I was lead to live without a car, and have written about the many unexpected blessings that occurred in my life as a result. What puzzles and disappoints me is I had thought my example of living without a car would influence others, but it has not. I have also engaged in pushing related to that, but after wise counsel from Friends, I tried to stop doing so.
The result, in any case, is we have severely damaged Mother Earth, to the point some of us believe is beyond repair. What could we have done to prevent this?
Many of us have similar concerns in other areas, such as Friends and racial justice.
Would better queries have been, and are they now the answer? When I talk about action, I’m referring to the action of the spirit on our own lives. Can we create queries that pull, that will help us with these things now?