*Afterthought #57 – Hopeful Resources

Earlier this month in my post, Doing Hope, I described how “The Work That Reconnects” workshop transformed my despair about climate change and the outcome of the 2016 election. As a follow-up, the workshop sponsors sent information about organizations and activities that support active hope; I’ve added a few others that I turn to, as well as a QuakerSpeak video about some of the roots of activism among Friends. These are all good companions on the journey.

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“We Were Made for This Moment” – http://eileenflanagan.com/we-were-made-for-this-moment/, an online course by author, teacher, and activist Eileen Flanagan to help participants work for a more just and loving world. The course will blend three types of teaching—social change theory, spiritual discernment, and personal empowerment. Classes meet online the five Mondays of January (January 2 to January 30) from 7:30 until 9:00 pm EST. Registration: $50 for five weeks, $30 if you register by December 6 or if you recruit a friend to take the course with you.

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On Being –  http://www.onbeing.org, is a public radio conversation and podcast, a website and online exploration, a publisher and public event convener. On Being opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live?

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YES! Magazine – http://www.yesmagazine.org, reframes the biggest problems of our time in terms of their solutions. Online and in print, we outline a path forward with in-depth analysis, tools for citizen engagement, and stories about real people working for a better world.

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Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) – https://www.fcnl.org, a nonpartisan organization founded in 1943 by members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) that follows values of integrity, simplicity, and peace to build relationships across political divides that will move policies forward.

 

25760-copy-qvs-banner2Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS) – www.Quakervoluntaryservice.org, fosters dynamic relationships of service, witness, and worship in a living Quaker faith. In a world oppressed by the powers of violence, domination, exclusion and fear, QVS empowers transformative partnerships in the work of liberation and justice.

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http://songsforthegreatturning.net – Gretchen Sleicher is a singer, songpasser, songwriter and facilitator of The Work That Reconnects. She created the Songs For the Great Turning website to help spread songs that bring us together and sing us into a new life-sustaining society.

 

 

A Quaker Vision for Political Activism

 

*“Afterthoughts” are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, maybe even bumper stickers.

*Afterthought #55 – Listening Across Lines

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Parker Palmer

Alongside reading wisdom from early Quakers in A Language for the Inward Landscape by Brian Drayton and William P. Taber, Jr., I recently listened to the wise words of a contemporary Quaker, Parker Palmer. An educator, author, and activist, Parker participated in a conference call organized by Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) on the subject of talking across ideological lines. The call was recorded, and you can listen to it at this link: http://fcnl.org/events/call_with_parker_j_palmer/.

I’m distressed by the polarization in our country and feel at a loss about how to engage in meaningful civil discourse. Parker’s opening comments about his orientation to talking across ideological lines heartened me, and throughout the call he succinctly described some strategies. Here are a couple that especially spoke to me:

  • Drawing on David Whyte’s poem “Start Close In”, search for someone you perceive is within reach and with whom you have a relationship. Begin with sincere questions to learn that person’s story.
  • Stand and act in the “tragic gap.” The gap will never close, but act out of faithfulness, rather than concern for effectiveness.

In the coming days and weeks, I’m open to opportunities to “start close in,” listening to stories of those with differing ideas. I believe Parker’s closing assessment: “No matter who wins this election, civil discourse will be needed more than ever.” Now is the time to become more skillful at bridging ideological divides.

*“Afterthoughts” are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, maybe even bumper stickers.

Hopeful for Justice

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It’s rare that a mailed appeal from an organization brings me to tears, but a recent one from Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) did just that. Here’s how FCNL Executive Director Diane Randall began the letter:

I have some great news to share with you. We just had our biggest Spring Lobby Weekend ever with a fantastic turnout, infectious energy, and intensive lobbying on criminal justice sentencing reform. It was tremendously encouraging to see the passion for social justice that young adults brought to Washington!

lobbydayI reached for the Kleenex box and continued to read about the 400+ young advocates from 36 states who went to Washington to DC March 12-15 to lobby Congress. Over four days, students and young adults learned about mass incarceration, sentencing reform, and lobbying. Then, they met with their senators and representatives to add their voices to the thousands of others who, with the help of FCNL, have contacted Congress to call for a more just criminal justice system.

I confess my voice hadn’t been among those urging sentencing reform legislation. I’d succumbed to feelings of hopelessness over these sobering statistics about mass incarceration:

  • The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons or jails. Most of this increase is due to changes in state and federal sentencing laws, not increases in crime.
  • These laws, as applied, unequally burden people of color. Black men are still disproportionately arrested, convicted and sentenced; one in three will be incarcerated at some point in his life.
  • Five decades after the Civil Rights movement, more black men are imprisoned in the U.S. than were enslaved in 1850.

But, as I read Diane’s letter and looked at photographs from Spring Lobby Weekend, I realized my tears were of hope, rather than despair. Amelia Kegan, an FCNL Legislative Director, believes that the voices of those young adults and others who have spoken up have helped turn the tide on the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015. Introduced by Senator Grassley (IA) and eleven bi-partisan co-sponsors, this bill will help restore judging authority to judges, reduce mandatory minimum sentences, and lower federal prisons population.

Amelia reports that right now, members of Congress seem particularly open to changes in federal sentencing laws. Some see it as a way to cut costs, others as a moral imperative. She reminds me, though, that we’re not there yet – and the window to change sentencing laws this year is closing fast.

So. I crumpled my damp tissue and went to the FCNL action alert page to ask my senators and representative to send sentencing reform to the President’s desk.

You can do it, too. It just might bring you to tears—of hope.

 

fcnl logo

FCNL gets to the root of problems by

changing the systems and policies that drive them.

“We believe that Congress has immense power to effect positive change.

It’s our job to make sure they use it.

The world we seek is a prophetic vision of hope and renewal for our democracy.

Our work is concrete and pragmatic, moving Congress to action in that direction.

*Afterthought #49 Going Back for More

QEarlier this month I wrote about my first time at Quaker meeting and how that experience nearly thirty-five years ago felt like coming home. That was enough to keep me going back for more, even though I left that silent worship with many questions. I didn’t know if that time of worship was typical or if it would be different on another day. I wasn’t sure if I’d broken any “rules” about where to sit or what to wear. And I wondered what the other hundred or so folks were “doing” during that hour of silence.

Over the years I’ve learned the answers to those and many other questions through reading, discussions, and by attending many meetings across the U.S. and in Latin America. And still, I never tire of hearing how people prepare for and are touched by this form of worship. Whether you’ve never attended a Quaker meeting or you are, as we say, a “seasoned Friend,” you might enjoy these two short QuakerSpeak videos: What to Expect in Quaker Meeting for Worship and What Do Quakers Do in Silent Worship?.

 

Big thanks to: Friends Journal for supporting this project; QuakerSpeak project director Jon Watts; and project partners Friends Committee on National Legislation, American Friends Service Committee, and Friends World Committee on Consultation.

 

*“Afterthoughts” are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, maybe even bumper stickers.