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From Twelfth Month, 2011

A Hard Saying

There are those who in their very first seeking of it are nearer to the Kingdom of Heaven than many who have for years believed themselves of it.

In the former there is more of the mind of Jesus, and when He calls them they recognize Him at once and go after him; while the others examine Him from head to foot, and finding Him not sufficiently like the Jesus of their conception, turn their backs and go to church or chapel or chamber to kneel before a vague form mingled of tradition and fancy.

—George MacDonald,
from Unspoken Sermons, Third Series, "The Inheritance,"
in George MacDonald: an anthology,
edited by C.S. Lewis [entry 306]

Over 15% of all Americans are now living in poverty which is the highest percentage in nearly two decades. Translated into raw numbers that means 46.2 [million] Americans are now officially poor. This is the largest number of people in poverty in America in 52 years. Simply astounding. And it is America's shame.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the standard for poverty in America is living on less than $22,314 for a family of four....So what does that mean?

It means kids are going hungry. Homes will not be heated this winter. Kids won't be able to keep up in schools because of no supplies or learning disabilities because of malnutrition. The poverty rate for children under 18 is at 22% meaning one out of every five children in America is now living in total poverty and 16 million children are going to bed each night hungry.

Live from Hell's Kitchen..., September 14, 2011
blog of David Mixner, author, political strategist,
civil rights activist and public affairs advisor

From Eleventh Month, 2011

The State of Palestine, by Tony Klug, Tikkun Fall 2011 Issue

Out of Touch

When people have learned to de-sanctify each other, to treat each other as means to our own ends, to not feel the pain of those who are suffering, we end up creating a world in which...terrible acts of violence become more common.

This is a world out of touch with itself, filled with people who have forgotten how to recognize and respond to the sacred in each other because we are so used to looking at others from the standpoint of what they can do for us, how we can use them toward our own ends.

Rabbi Michael Lerner on 11-02-2011,
quoted on inward/outward from Tikkun magazine


"The Arab Awakening and the Israeli-Palestinian Connection"
by Tony Klug, in the Fall 2001 issue of
Tikkun magazine

The Arab Spring has opened new possibilities for peace in Israel/Palestine—possibilities that the Israeli leadership has yet to fully understand.

From Tenth Month, 2011

Mexican immigrants

When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the stranger. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you.

You shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

I am the Lord your God.

—Leviticus 19:33-34

If Friends have suggestions of other links relevant to Immigration Rights, please send them to Mike Shell. Thanks.

From Ninth Month, 2011

Diversity of Souls

Every one of us is something that the other is not, and therefore knows something—it may be without knowing that he knows it—which no one else knows: is everone's business, as one of the kingdom of light and inheritor in it all, to give his portion to the rest.

—George MacDonald,
from Unspoken Sermons, Third Series, "The Inheritance,"
in George MacDonald: an anthology, edited by C.S. Lewis [entry 255]

George MacDonald (1824-1905) was born in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Briefly a clergyman, then a professor of English literature at Bedford and King's College in London, he was a popular lecturer and published poetry, stories, novels, and fairy tales.This is a collection by C. S. Lewis of 365 selections from MacDonald's writings. C. S. Lewis wrote the following about George Macdonald, "I know hardly any other writer who seems to be closer, or more continually close, to the Spirit of Christ Himself!"

From Eighth Month, 2011

Pentecost, by Miranda Hassett

We need another road, a road with which we are all familiar.

The Bible tells us about it. It happened on the day of Pentacost. The book of Acts say that the devout people from every nation under heaven were gathered. Now that's biblical code language for every religion under heaven.

They were all gathered in one place, and the separating effects of Babel were still upon them, each one speaking, but no one understanding. What did the Spirit do in that moment? It filled those people to such a degree that whenever anyone spoke, no matter the language, everyone else understood. Everyone else got it. All were amazed and said, "What does this mean?"

We know what it means. It means that we were meant to understand one another. Not just those in our family, in our trive, in our nation, or in our faith, but everyone. God meant for there to be no barriers to caring for everyone, for us to speak to everyone, for us to listen to everyone, and for us to be with everyone.

Think of that: the first activity of the Spirit of the Church was to make everyone a Universalist.

—Phil H. Gulley, "The Meaning of Universalism,"
Friends Journal, January 2011, p.14

Phil H. Gulley is pastor of Fairfield Friends Meeting in Camby, IN. This FJ article is an edited version of the Elizabeth Watson lecture, sponsored by the Quaker Universalist Fellowship, which he gave at Friends General Conference Gather in Bowling Green, OH, on July 6, 2010.

From Seventh Month, 2011

Today we have no brave leaders on either side, so I am turning to a new generation, the Tahrir Square and Facebook generation.... We need to emulate Tunisia. My goal is to have 100,000 people working on Yala on joint projects that will lock our leaders into making peace.

—Uri Savir, president of the Peres Center for Peace
and founder of YaLa-Young Leaders,
in "Virtual Bridge Allows Strangers in Mideast to Seem Less Strange,"
by Ethan Bronner, New York Times (7/10/2011)

A cellphone camera in use at an antigovernment protest in Sanaa, Yemen. Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

Image by Ahmed Jadallah (Reuters), from " Social media: Did Twitter and Facebook really build a global revolution?", by Jena Moore, Christian Science Monitor (6/30/2011)

"Over the past month, [] has surprised those involved by the enthusiasm it has generated [among Palestinian and Israeli young people], suggesting that the Facebook-driven revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt may offer guidance for coexistence efforts as well.

"Mr. Savir was a chief peace negotiator for Israel in the 1990s as well as the director general of its Foreign Ministry and a member of Parliament. But he said he had never been more excited about a project.

"The YL in the site’s name stands for young leaders (Yala means “let’s go” in Arabic), and Mr. Savir said he saw the page as a place where the next generation of regional innovators could meet. It helps that he has a few connections. The page has welcome messages from Shimon Peres, Israel’s president, and Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority...." [from the NY Times article]

From Sixth Month, 2011

It was not unusual for my colleagues [from Homa Bay Children's Home in Kenya] to travel for two or three hours by foot, bicycle, and bus to visit one child... I returned home each evening and was welcomed by crowds of children who were gathered at my family's homestead, eagerly awaiting my return....

One afternoon, I received the painful news that one of our babies had died. The child's mother and older sibling had already died, leaving the young father all alone. I was overcome with grief.... I sat at the side of my grandmother's kitchen and began to draw figures on the ground with a short stick.

One of our village children came over, sat down next to me, and asked me what was the matter. He had never seen me look so sad. I told him that one of my babies had died. He remained quiet beside me. Imitating me, he picked up a stick and drew figures on the ground.

Another child ran toward us and, in the usual style of greeting me, began to sing my name. The first child said, "Shhhhh! Her baby died." The second child also sat quetly beside me.

One by one, other children heard the news and came to sit quietly beside me. Within minutes, a crowd of children had gathered to attend to me in my grief and to do so in the ony way they knew how.

It later dawned on me that they were all too familiar with death. All of them were orphans.

—Elizabeth J. A. Siwo-Okundi, "Listening to the Small Voice,"
Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Spring/Summer 2009 (33-34)

Homa Bay Orphans


Elizabeth J. A. Siwo-Okundi is a Kenyan resident of the United States. She has a ThM degree from Harvard Divinity School, an MDiv from Boston University School of Theology, and an MSW from Boston University School of Social Work, and she is completing PhD studies at Boston University School of Theology. She is founder and president of Orphan Wisdom, Inc., a nonprofit organization that supports orphans in Kenya.

She writes in her 2009 HDB aticle: "There are more than 140 million orphans in 93 countries around the world [figures from "Children on the Brink 2004"]....The HIV/AIDS pandemic alone has had a devastating impact. According to ["Africa's Orphaned and Vulnerable Generations," 2003] 8 out of every 10 children who have lost parents to HIV/AIDS live in sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya alone, by the year 2010, the total number of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS is expected to more than double, increasing the number of orphans ther to 2.2 million." (34-35)

From Fifth Month, 2011

This cycle in the war of the weak against the strong is an old one. The strong can afford traditions of warfare which prize decisive combat between military forces. They are genuinely shocked and horrified when their opponents find ways to shoot them in the back or massacre their loved ones. Yet the strong somehow do not see the great suffering they inflict, whether through violence or the kinds of mass slow death that capitalism specialises in for those enmeshed in its lower rungs....

This was the stalemate between the local and the global that bin Laden sought to bust open with his spectacular attacks on the US. With the greatest armed propaganda operation in world history he sought to generate a revolt that did not respect sovereign borders.... But bin Laden lacked a politics with which to capitalise on his armed success. His brand of Islam divided rather than unified even those who shared the faith, and had no appeal for those outside it no matter how much they suffered from Western power....

In essence, 9/11 was like a brilliant guerrilla raid that exhilarates young fighters and gives them the taste of a victory they can never achieve. Its immediate effect is to call forth legions of imperial storm troopers on missions of reprisal, missions that wreck the rebellion and inflict suffering on those it sought to liberate.... Like bad schoolboys, bin Laden's followers never quite learned the lesson....

[Meanwhile, in] the long arc of the decline of empires and great powers, the main consequence of 9/11 and the wars that followed is to hasten the decline of the US. Precious resources needed to regenerate the US have been spent on wars of reprisal as well as the fantastically corrupt arrangements for economic reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan. Having allowed business to feed so well at the public trough for a decade, US politicians now deny their own people desperately needed funds for healthcare, education, and modernisation.

—Tarak Barkawi, "Breaking Bread with Terrorists,"
Al Jazeera English Online, May 3, 2011

Note: The quoting of Tarak Barkawi's work is not meant as an endorsement of all of his opinions. His analysis is a troubling yet important one for Friends to consider.

Tarak Barkawi is Senior Lecturer, Centre of International Studies, University of Cambridge. He specializes in the study of war, armed forces and society with a focus on conflict between the West and the global South in historical and contemporary perspective. He is author of Globalisation and War, as well as many scholarly articles.

From Fourth Month, 2011

Conflict warms us up. It makes available things that otherwise are very hard to achieve. I think that's one reason why Quakers in the 17th century found it so very useful to make trouble.

Theocracies are hard to overthrow, right...? The Puritans had their theocracy in Massachusetts, and it didn't take Quakers long to do it in.... I don't know how you end a theocracy that fast, but I think Quakers did it because things got very hot very quickly. They engaged in conflict, and conflict made something happen. Conflict made justice happen in Puritan Massachusetts. And conflict can make things happen whenever we choose to use it.

[In response to those who condemned his having been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. King said,] "When we come to your town, we're not bringing violence. The violence is already here, unfolding day by day through discrimination. What we're doing through our nonviolence action is raising the violence to the surface because people usually defend discrimination violently. We raise it to the surface so you can look at the truth and ask yourself, 'Do you want this in your town? Do you want this in your state...?' "

Once we look at what climate change is doing, once we look at what the dysfunctional healthcare system in this country is doing, once we look at these truths, then we can make a choice. If we deny the reality, it is easy to understand why people prefer the comfort of not changing.

What Dr. King saw himself doing was being on the side of truth. That was also the Quaker rationale, back in the 17th century, for invading Massachusetts. Quakers came a very long way to mess with another people's lifestyle and political system. I would call that intrusive, possibly impolite. Who asked them...?

Quakers went to see John regard to the nuclear arms race, specifically about the need to have an agreement to end atmospheric nuclear testing,...[in order to] stop poisoning our babies with Strontium-90..... And Kennedy said, "I would appreciate it if you Quakers would go out and create a movement that would force me to do that, because I would like to do that."

That story reminds me of a delegation of social reform advocates that went to Franklin Roosevelt in the early '30s and said to him, "You need to do this and that—" things like social security and so on, which were off the radar screen in the early part of the administration. And Roosevelt listened very carefully and then said, " much wish you would go out and create a movement that would be so strong and so turbulent and so forceful that I would have to deliver on those points...."

I was in Canada a year and a half ago, working with the largest Canadian labor union,...and one of the leaders of the union, an aboriginal woman, comes over, takes her stance, stares me stright in the eye, and says, "George, why have your people abandoned your President?" I had nothing to say, because we had, in fact. We had elected Obama and then headed for the door, refusing to create movements that would "force" him to do what he wants to do. We went into dependency mode like six-year-olds who say, "Please, Daddy, do this and that for us," instead of being the young adults and the teenagers and the full adults who can demand things through nonviolent struggle.

What a big price we pay for conflict aversion, that we will even abandon a President whom we put in office. She was right. That's how we are looked at in some countries; as people who will put someone like Obama in office, and then run out the door, instead of kicking and screaming until he is able to do the things that he needs to do....

The legacy of nonviolent direct action that was essential and integral to early Friends was what Jesus was about. Talk about troublemakers—early Christians were in trouble all the time. So were early Friends.... That embracing of conflict theme has run through this Religious Society of Friends.

But that legacy, [those of us who founded the Earth Quaker Action Team] realized, was dying out among us. We weren't finding people with that skill set and that orientation to conflict. We thought, before it's too late we need to recover that legacy. This country can't manage many more decades without grownups, without people willing to do what is necessary in order to establish justice, tell the truth, and accomplish healing.

—George Lakey,
"The Value of Conflict,"
in Friends Journal, November 2010 (8-15)

From Third Month, 2011:

by Francisco X. Alarcón



I want a god
as my accomplice
who spends nights
in houses
of ill repute
and gets up late
on Saturdays

a god
who whistles
through the streets
and trembles
before the lips
of his lover

a god
who waits in line
at the entrance
of movie houses
and likes to drink
café au lait

a god
who spits
blood from
tuberculosis and
doesn’t even have
enough for bus fare

a god
by the billy club
of a policeman
at a demonstration

a god
who pisses
out of fear
before the flaring
of torture

a god
who hurts
to the last
bone and
bites the air
in pain

a jobless god
a striking god
a hungry god
a fugitive god
an exiled god
an enraged god

a god
who longs
from jail
for a change
in the order
of things

I want a
more godlike

Poets Responding to SB 1070

Rose Marie Berger writes:

I heard Francisco Alarcón at the Associated Writing Programs conference in D.C. in February. He’s working on a great Facebook project called Poets Respond to SB 1070 (that’s Arizona’s terrible new immigration law). For me, his poetry is like drinking living water.


—Francisco X. Alarcón,
translated by Francisco Aragón,
in From the Other Side of Night/Del otro lado de la noche

From Second Month, 2011:

Three monks knelt in the chapel in the dark morning hours before dawn. The first thought he saw the figure of Jesus come down from the cross and rest before him in midair. Finallly, he said to himself, I know what contemplation is.

The second felt himself rise out of his place in the choir. He soared over his brother monks and surveyed the timber-vaulted ceiling of the church, and then landed back in his place in the choir. I've been blessed, he thought, with a minor miracle, but in humility I must keep it to myself.

The third felt his knees growing sore and his legs tired. His mind wandered until it came to a stop on the image of a luscious hamburger laden with onions and pickles.

"No matter how hard I try," said the deveil's helper to his master, "I can't seem to tempt this third monk." (48)

— Thomas Moore,
Meditations: On the Monk Who Dwells in Daily Life

From First Month, 2011:

Here we touch one of the greatest dangers that face peacemakers: that peacemakers themselves become the victims of the evil forces they are trying to overcome. The same fear of "the enemy" that leads warmakers to war can begin to affect the peacemaker who sees the warmaker as "the enemy."

Words of anger and hostility can gradually enter into the language of the peacemaker. Even the sense of urgency and emergency that motivates the arms race can become the driving force behind the peacemaker. Then indeed the strategy of war and the strategy of peace have become the same, and peacemaking has lost its heart.

One of the reasons why so many people have developed strong reservations about the peace movement is precisely that they do not see the peace they seek in the peacemakers themselves. Often what they see are fearful and angry people trying to convince others of the urgency of their protest. The tragedy is that peacemakers often reveal more of the demons they are fighting than of the peace they want to bring about.

The words of Jesus go right to the heart of our struggle: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly" (Lk 6: 27-28). The more I reflect on these words, the more I consider them to be the test for peacemakers.

What my enemies deserve is not my anger, rejection, resentment, or disdain, but my love. Spiritual guides throughout history have said that love for the enemy is the cornerstone of the message of Jesus and the core of holiness.

— Henri J. M. Nouwen,
Peacework: Prayer + Resistance + Community