from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

A"Message" from Meeting 

In Quaker Meeting for worship, one only rises to speak if one truly believes one has a message of importance to deliver. The standard by which one judges is not intellectual. In fact, the term “Quaker” comes from the very real sense, which I have experienced, that one cannot do ought but rise to speak - one is impelled by something, or someone, call it God if you will.

This morning I rose, about 20 minutes into the hour. There were several themes that had been percolating in my consciousness. One was the inquiry at www.streetprophets.com about how one’s religion informed one’s politics, or the reverse. Also part of my pondering was that this is the time of college exploration - I am representing my alma mater at college fairs, tonight being the 3rd in a series of 5 in 14 days. And I am writing letters of recommendations for students I have taught.

I cannot here recapitulate exactly what I said. When I moved to rise and speak in meeting, while I am the speaker, and it is usually from my experience and insight that the message arises, in a sense the message is not mine. I am surrendered to the message, and thus cannot claim that I can remember all that I said.

I do note that I remarked on StreetProphets that it was a chicken-egg kind of situation, that I could not really separate the two. About the college work, I noted that I was trying very hard to make my alma mater known, and for the students, to present them in the best light possible. And that such is a very human process, for ourselves and those or that about which we care, to present it as positively as possible.

But I also noted that at college fairs I had to listen, to hear what potential applicants had to say about themselves to know HOW to present Haverford. And that in writing letters of recommendation, I was trying to make a connection between what mattered for the post-secondary institution and what was important about the applicant. And that in all of the interchanges what was important was listening.

George Fox told the early Quakers to walk gladly upon the earth answering that of God in each person we encountered. We expect in that which we express to be listened to, that those to whom we present our thoughts and beliefs will receive them with the presumption that we offer them with integrity. Part of the message that I delivered today was that Fox’s message reminds us that we must operate on the same presumption for others. Certainly we may feel passionately about issues, but if we are not willing to listen for that of God in what others, with whom we may disagree strongly, offer us, we thereby lose the opportunity for that most human of connections. Certainly in politics we must acknowledge the necessity of finding common ground, which is impossible unless we first operate on the basis of the presumption that there is that of God in what someone else offers. We can affirm that, we can respond to that without reacting against the tangential material that may rightly be classified as other, not “that of God.”

I am posting this in several places. For those at StreetProphets, my terminology will not be especially upsetting or challenging. At dailykos and myleftwing, the explicit reference to God may bother some. Please do not let your visceral reaction to certain expressions deafen you to a deeper message.

This posting is not especially profound. What I had to say in Meeting for worship was far more precise, effective, and full of meaning. This recapitulation is but a pale shadow of what I said shortly after 10 this morning.

I concluded the message by noting that my expression on StreetProphets was not in fact accurate. If I am following what I believe as a Quaker, there can be no divide between how I operate in the political sphere and the religious sphere. By this I do not claim that my religion requires a particular political expression. Rather, in both places I am required to be absolutely honest, to listen to others with the intent of discerning “that of God” in what they offer me, even if they don’t think or express using such terminology. To be whole, to be integrated, means that there are no separate compartments, that here I can allowed a little shading of the truth because it is only politics.

Quaker believe in speaking truth to power. That particular expression may well be derived from Islam, which many do not realize. Bayard Rustin was the Quaker who popularized the expression in this country. Speaking truth to power of necessity exposes one to retribution from those who do not wish to be confronted by truth. And yet to do less is to ignore that of God in the one whom you address. Each person is entitled to the truth, to the presumption that s/he can hear and understand truth, that s/he may be expressing that of God even when being venal or manipulative.

Lincoln told us that even as he would not be a slave, neither would he be a slaveowner. My form of that is that I wish to hear truth and honesty, then I have no choice but to operate in a similar fashion.

I do not know if this rambling message is of value to anyone who may read it. In Quaker Meeting I know I am supposed to rise and speak because my knees are knocking and I cannot sit still -- when I rise my voice is assured, and when I sit down and feel relieved, as if a huge weight has been lifted from me. That feeling is confirmed by the responses of others. I do not know how to judge whether the impulse to post this message can have a similar standard of evaluation. Nevertheless I feel compelled to offer it. Do with it what you will.Comments, suggestions and even rude remarks are welcomed!
Email accepted at "kber at earthlink dot net"
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