Friends Need to Tell the Truth

pacificism

Too often too silent

Truth-telling. It’s hard to say for Quakers today if it matters the way it once did.

That first generation of Friends were honest. Brutally honest. About the crookedness of Church-as-Empire, about the empty strength of the empire itself. Those Quakers were shameless. They preached a God of justice and peace. A God who didn’t. Couldn’t. Wouldn’t tolerate a religion for show nor the vanity of power-schemers. They surrendered their lives to God, and in sweet surrender found themselves dynamically demonstrating the power of God’s Kingdom. On earth as it is in heaven. The early Friends prophesied, subverted society. Convicted by Love, they followed in her footsteps. She shook them, made them quake. And sometimes they danced. Polite society couldn’t understand and didn’t approve. That’s why so many Quakers ended up imprisoned, tortured – or dead.

I want to be that kind of truth-teller.

I want to welcome Light into the world, to expose, to transform, no matter the cost. Those fearless Friends walked in reconciliation. They showed the world Jesus. And the world despised them for it.

I am no prophet. Not many of us Friends are. At least not yet. But I must speak the truth. People are dying, murdered in the streets. This. Is. Not. Right.

Here’s what I know: my fellow citizens are being murdered by the police – those same men and women sworn to serve and protect. Many of the dead are people of color. Here is my reality. I am an Asian-American. Able-bodied. Cis-gender. Man. And I enjoy all the privilege that comes with these realities.

Systemic racism just isn’t blatant in my daily life. I don’t experience the pain. I don’t experience the loss of friends and family. I don’t feel the fear. It’s numbing. I’m numb. It is hard for me to empathize, hard for me to be angry.

But I can see the reality of white supremacy, and I can see the bodies of those who’ve been slain.

Do you see them?

So I call out and come out against the powers and principalities. I name the violence that haunts us because this is not right.

But what can I do?

I seek not to be conformed to the pattern of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of my mind because the truth is that racism has distorted how I think and act. Without meaning to, I have given myself up to the ways of the world. I have accepted the god of this age, who blinds humanity to the Light of the Gospel. I am guilty, too.

We all are.

I have safely ignored others’ pain. I have been irresponsible, unthinking, callous. I have been an active participant in white supremacy. I have benefited from it. And I am absolutely disgusted with myself.

Maybe what we need is repentance. At least as a first step.

It’s what I need. I also need to learn to see, to understand, and to appreciate the constant struggle of others’ daily experience. I need humility and compassion. I need to embrace rage. I need to remember – over and over again – that this person shot, dead, is not a statistic.

This person is a friend, a child, a partner. A person who bears the image of God. A human being with a name.

Eric Garner. John Crawford III. Dontre Hamilton. Michael Brown Jr. Ezell Ford. Dante Parker. Tanisha Anderson. Akai Gurley. Tamir Rice. Rumain Brisbon. Jerame Reid. Tony Robinson. Phillip White. Eric Harris. Walter Scott. Freddie Gray. Terence Crutcher. Keith Lamont Scott.

And so on and so on and so on.

It has always been this way, and we can’t let it remain this way.

I will admit that I am resistant because it hurts. And then I remember that it’s supposed to hurt. That I’m not the only one hurting and in fact, my hurt is small.

I live in and live off a system that steals lives, the same lives that built and continue to build our country.

I need to remind myself of this truth. I need to remind you of this truth.

I have sinned against my sisters and brothers by giving into fear, laziness, and privilege, by remaining silent in the face of suffering. I have been afraid, unloving, indifferent. I have yielded to racism.

I cannot remain complicit. We cannot remain complicit.

I must not. We must not.

Friends, if our Quakerism is not prophetic, if it fails to speak truth to power, then what’s the use of it? If it is not grounded in an apocalyptic vision, a conviction that the Kingdom is at hand, then what do we have to offer the world?

Do we even matter?

Quakerism – just like white supremacy – is in slavery to itself.

Somehow, that band of primitive prophets and preachers is now a polite group of politically sensitive and mostly silent worshipers. People wonder why we aren’t growing. Is it because Quakers are slowly going extinct? Yes, that’s probably true. A lot of people do know about Quakers, though. They know we are the “good kind of religious people.”

That can feel pretty good. But that’s not what Christ called us to be and do in the world.

Good religious people don’t revolt against the system and liberate the oppressed. Good religious people may quietly resist what they see as unfair treatment, but they are too pragmatic to work for real change.

So what about us? Do we have the spiritual and emotional resources to be more than just good? Can we be prophets once again? Are we willing to see what is real and to talk about it and then to do something? Can we proclaim that Black Lives Matter? Can we tell the truth?

Because if we can’t, then we’re no longer good for anything. Those people are right. The Quakers are already extinct.

9 thoughts on “Friends Need to Tell the Truth

  1. kfsaylor says:

    By the grace of Christ’s immanent presence itself in itself, inshining into the conscious and informing the conscience directly and resting in that habitation, we as Quakers own a Living heritage that is not informed or predicated by outward ideological, political, religious, social, and economic, constructs like whiteness, white privilege, racism, black lives matter, etc. These outward forms only serve to nurture the opposite of that which they speak against.

    Today, I give testimony to the personal witness that there is a need for Quakers in Charlotte with the message of the complete sufficiency of the inward Light to guide and rule human life and relationships. This message can offset the destructive outward guidance of the community organizers, social justice warriors, and political agitators that binds people to the spirits of anger, frustration, dis-ease, and hopelessness, infecting their conscious and conscience. Immanent presence of God in the conscious and conscience is inward peace and ease even in the midst of the outward violence nurtured by outward political and religious social agendas.

    There is a need for more Quakers to walk among the political activists and agitators and speak of a different way of human being that is guided directly in and through the inglowing Light itself in itself without regard for or identity with outward political, religious, social, or economic constructs prescribed by professors, ministers, leaders, or teachers, from any persuasion. The inshining immanent presence of Christ in itself is complete in itself to guide and arrange human being and relationships.

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  2. The society we are embedded in has been engaged in slow violence against its black members for a very long time. So far as I know, the Society of Friends has not been knowingly complicit in that. Certainly we’ve been as willing as the local FBI to march in the Martin Luther King Day parade every year.

    You are anguishing because we haven’t usually responded as if this were being inflicted on the people we see every day in the nice, quiet neighborhoods we naturally prefer to live in. Because we’d rather donate to people suffering half a world away than drive a mile of so to directly encounter people forced to live on our streets.

    People feel generally led to do what they know how to do; and while we’ve been eager enough to welcome those black people who do come to us, coming to know them where they live takes us across a very strange border indeed.

    But we aren’t the enemy; we’ve been civilians in all this. We have, overall, been too automatically accepting of public policies that perpetuate the sufferings of the poor overall, black people being religated to more than their share. But we haven’t intended any such thing.

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    • Thanks for your words, Friend. Intentions are great and all, but not always what matters. To not take a stand is to be complicit, is to actively sin. And we, myself included, so so included, must actively combat systemic racism as a/the body of Christ, among our faith community but also in society, in this world. Learning to balance, by grace, the need to wonder and walk in curiosity over simply soaking in outrage, but also the need to be real, honest, and boldly take a stand, siding with the hurting and oppressed, is difficult. I pray I’m getting there.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes . what do we do? How to take a stand.? Today, I spoke to Jehovah’s Witnesses and told them about paradise and hell – both here on earth; compliment the ladies on their white shirts representing purity – and talk of the pollution of our earth etc etc. We are in friendly agreement altho not (yet) on all points.
        I speak to a close friend, an activist of old, who condemns Trump supporters out of hand. I try to reach him to teach him not to blanket judge anyone for this creates the same syndrome in return – the hatred of Trump voters for all smug bastards who are going to vote for more of the same corruption. We could be in agreement here – Trump and Bernie supporters – if we could hear each other. The longing for change and the necessity of it. I dont
        I dont know what to do about the continuing incredible unseemly wicked continuing murder of black people. Duterte had something to say when he said “$%^&*()off America , telling me off for extradjudicial executions of drug dealers! How much due process was given to Iraqis under American bombs? how much due process to Afghanis under American Drone attacks? How much due process to blacks dying at the hands of police in America? “

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  3. kfsaylor says:

    Oh, that we would only turn to immanent Presence itself in itself inflowing into our conscious and conscience rather than outward forms and leadings to de-escalate anger and violence manifested through the outward prescriptions of political and religious social agitators. That is the message I share as I walk among those blinded by the outward prescriptions of outward political, religious, and social, institutional forms; who seek remedy in anger and through infliction upon others. There number is legion who profess outward prescriptions and religious leadings as remedy; there is but a remnant of a remnant crying out from the wilderness of another way that is Remedy in itself by the action of grace.

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    • I think heavily armed policemen trying to maintain their power over a neighborhood in which one of their colleagues has recently shot a man with his hands up… constitutes an outward prescription of the worst sort. “Agitators” no doubt “agitate”, being presumably “agitated — but would have no followers if the people concerned weren’t concerned for the lives of their families and friends.

      The de-escalating of anger and violence is sorely needed; but is it entirely the anger and violence of the powerless you think needs cooling?

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