Sunday, February 16, 2014

Should We Stand On the Peace Testimony?

There’s a conversation going on over at that is important, and that led me to this question.  It’s called “A Hermeneutics of Non-Violence "  Randy Oftedahl asks us, among other questions:  

 “Should Quakers seek to promote, to use the phrase of Adam Erickson of the Raven Foundation, ‘a hermeneutics of non-violence,’ in keeping with our Peace Testimony and historic witness, as our collective role and presence and purpose in the church of Christ in the world today?

Should this include a willingness on the part of each one of us to examine and speak out against ALL forms of violence, in ourselves, in others, in our S/society, in our country, and in our world, whether inter-personal violence or cultural violence, whether in the form of militarism, or racism, or sexism, or classism, or economic exploitation, or religious prejudice, or any other form, whether historical by our ancestors or in ourselves today, whether blatant, or latent, or actively denied?”

This is in keeping with the questions I’ve been asking about being a non-violent entrepreneur.  Should I examine myself for the seeds of non-violence and take up a stand about it in the world today?  It’s a huge question.

In my own Meeting, and in many Meetings, I observe that what we do is take stands for the issues where we see violence, not take stands on the testimonies. There’s a big difference.  Perhaps we need to examine whether as the Religious Society of Friends our stand would have more impact if we stand together on our Testimony of Peace and stand together.  We are seeing the power of the people standing together for the rights of all people to marry.  This to me, has at least the same impact and import.

When we start with genuine compassion and honesty for ourselves, to look inward and examine the places where we fall short of a genuine unity with the peace testimony in our daily lives, we begin to approximate what it will take to reach unity as a Society and become a strong voice again for peace in our world. 

We have often become weak in our daily lives, sufficing to live by the mission of the workplace we are employed under, rather than asking, “Does this mission statement meet the testimonies I have come to believe and stand under in my religion?”  How many of us ask, “Does my investment portfolio have investments that have their roots in violence or damage to others?” Do we endeavor to teach our children the roots of violence in our everyday actions?

Do we call on others in our Meetings, and in the World, to do the same? How much do we teach, discuss and worship over the roots of our faith that form the Peace Testimony.  Do we give lip service to the thing called the Peace Testimony or do we search out and teach the Biblical and historical roots that gave rise to people testifying in the name of peace? 

As I read it, the people spoken of in John Woolman’s “Plea for the Poor, Part X” were not too far from what we view in the world now.  Woolman was cautioning the world that many were so far from the vision of Christ’s religion as to be hid from it, and these people were able to participate in war with no sense of their sin.  He goes on to caution those with property and wealth that this is contrary to universal righteousness, and he asks them to examine if they are declaring against war that they must examine their motives for holding great estates.  He calls on the poor to come forward and take the stand for peace for they are without hidden motive. 

This is a strong indictment and one that no doubt many people in our Society would react against today.  But does it have bearing on our self-examination?  Is there merit to examining the roots of our investments, our possessions and our motives and gaining self-understanding before we stand against war and violence?  In gaining self-understanding might we gain the inner strength we need to bond together as a Society and prove that there is a place for non-violent resistance?  Might we show that there is a place for economic and entrepreneurial resistance as well? 

It is my thesis that in our honest and straightforward approach to our dealings with others we have been met over the centuries with respect and reconciliation, and we of the Religious Society of Friends have a tradition that is deeply rooted in Biblical and history:  It is time for the Society of Friends to lead by standing firm on the Testimony of Peace.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What Is Non-Violent Entrepreneurship?

For us, peace is not just ending war
or violence, but nurturing the capacity of
individuals, communities, and societies to
sustain harmonious relationships based on
mutual respect and caring for the welfare of
all. We seek to reconcile enemies and serve
the needs of all sides torn by violent strife.

This simple paragraph was taken from American Friends’ Service Committee’s pamphlet on the Quaker testimonies.  It is their statement about their position on the peace testimony in their own work. I chose to reprint it here precisely because it is so simple. 

What if as a business, YOU chose to nurture the capacity of individuals, communities and society to sustain harmonious relationships based on mutual respect and caring for the welfare of all?
What would that look like?  Would there be any practices in your business that you practice right now that would be limited by your making this statement? How do you feel about that?

My guess is that for a fair amount of businesses, this is not so hard.  We are in a feel good kind of era with business these days, and harmonious relationships is what it’s all about.  So chances are I haven’t lost a whole lot of you yet.  We can do SEO (search engine optimization), keyword searches, keep our whole standard approach and move on from here, right?

Okay then…

As a business, we NOW seek to reconcile our enemies and serve the needs of all sides torn by violent strife.  How’s that striking YOU? This is what AFSC has committed to as a business, really. Do you understand what this means?  That instead of adopting the winner takes all competitive blast them away attitude, you seek to resolve differences and reconcile with enemies and then, yes, serve the needs of all sides. 

Let’s look at how this is a wise business strategy. 
Instead of destroying business competitors and leaving them in the wake, one strives to keep business people as partners and customers, and to resolve differences wherever possible so that there is not the same kind of competition that makes enemies or strife.  Does this mean there won’t be strife?  Probably not.  It just means committing to not be a party to it and doing whatever is possible to resolve conflicts wherever possible…good Quaker business practice.

Friends, this is Slow Business. 
It takes dealing with businesses on a person to person level.  It does not involve ignoring modern business practices but it also does not mean ignoring time-tested practices for the new. Non-violence is not new business either.  People like to be dealt with gently.  They like to be treated kindly. These practices are the things that are forgotten when we begin to push for the sale.

Begin to think of whether in your heart, you are a Non-Violent Entrepreneur.

Monday, February 3, 2014


I’m filled with grief over the loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman, or rather what his loss represents in this generation of beautiful souls who, like so many in my own generation of the 1970s, seem hell-bent on taking themselves out too soon, barely discovering their own genius and putting it to use for their people.
I am reading Christine Feldman's book Compassion and in it today I found the quote

"Each moment you bolt from the reality or even the anticipation of the painful, you are building yet another fence that makes your world just a little smaller.  You are telling yourself that your demons and the demons you meet in others are mightier than the vastness of your heart."


"You can take your meditation, your willingness to be still, into your life.  You can learn to pause in the moments when you are prone to flee, to soften in the moments when you feel your heart hardening with resistance and blame. Cultivating tolerance is like opening the door to your heart."

Well, you know!  I wish I could teach this lesson to so many who are so fearful and so lost.  I wish to say to them, just breathe, and now breathe again and again, it will pass, this feeling you are feeling. Let us into your heart!  This quote was so helpful to me in dealing with Philip Seymour Hoffman's death and what it represented to me about how many people are fleeing life and living their lives daily on life's terms. It resonated to me about my friend who daily copes, or resists coping, with anxiety and depression and who is barely clinging to life. Not all who cope with crack or heroin or oxycodone are rich and famous. Most are you or me, living a too fast-paced life for their DNA and wondering how to get off the merry-go-round but thinking all their friends are doing so much better than themselves.

Clue 1:  They are not living better than you, and if they are it is due to a solitary thing:  THE QUALITY OF THEIR SPIRITUAL LIFE.

What is this thing we call a “spiritual life?”  It is not, as the Christian Right is wont to say, a life born again into the blood of the lamb.  Oh no.  It is perhaps that for some people, but it is oh so much more and so much less than that.  It does not have to be any of that if you do not want it to be.  

Clue 2:  Spiritual Life does have to have some of the elements that hopefully born again people find in that life, but that are found through many spiritual paths and hopefully found most through open observation of self and others:

·         COMPASSION for one’s self and others
·        TOLERANCE
·        PATIENCE
The capacity to feel these things lies within your heart and the heart opens to the exploration of each of these with the power of observation and meditation.

Clue 3:  The more you try to escape life, the more inevitably it traps you.  You can’t escape so the sooner you turn and face your demons the more likely you are to avoid the inevitable demise of people like your friends who have passed or Philip Seymour Hoffman.

This is sobering.  Whenever I am faced with a sudden death of a genius spirit like Philip’s or my friend Alison’s (she was shot by an ex-lover while living a ‘passionate life on the edge’, another amazing genius taken from us at an early age), I am filled with grief from some depth I forgot I had.  I know so many people like this in the rooms of the twelve step programs.  They are brilliant stars, yet they keep dancing so close to the flame, one wonders when they will snuff out.
No amount of talk can reel these comets in.  They hover near safety then spark off to some other danger.  Those of us on a path of more spiritual direction pray for their souls, yet we have witnessed all too often what happens when they rumble too near a meteor or a black hole.  We’re used to celebrating their memorials, crying the tears, saying, “There but for the Grace of God, go I…”

Peace lies only within.  A higher power is of one’s own making – this is true.  We have limitless spiritual and non-spiritual traditions that others may draw on, yet what of those who choose to draw on none?  We must always go within and face our own demons, yet some I fear will always find their demons too scarey.   
I want to tell them that the demon is only wearing a mask.