Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Some Quaker questions for our times

In this time of greed-driven elitist wealth, of grinding, widespread poverty, of massive consumer and governmental debt, of foreclosures, of advertising chicanery, of layoffs, of homelessness, of the fast buck, I recently came across this “query” from our Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

Quaker queries invite us to test our beliefs against the ways we live our lives. This particular set of questions was about money, wealth and poverty. How at odds the questions are with those pushed to the fore by “The American Dream” and our acquisitive culture.

Are we mindful, careful, and Spirit-led in our relationship to wealth and resources?

Is our use of wealth consistent with Friends’ testimonies of integrity, equality, social order, peace, right sharing of resources, and care for the earth?

If we have resources, do we share them generously, with humility and care for others? Do we give with grace? Do we give wisely?

If we do not have resources, do we accept with grace what others share? In times of our lives when we choose poverty, are we able to do so without envy or obsession?

Do we take care not to judge others, or ourselves, by the world’s criteria of wealth and status? How do we answer that of God in those who have less than we do? In those who have more than we do?

Do we keep to moderation and simplicity in our daily lives?

How do our choices around money, time, and energy reflect the working of the Spirit in our lives and in the world?

Are we clear, as a community and as individuals, that we are stewards and not owners of the property and resources in our care?

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Blogger Gil George said...

What is/are your source(s) on the queries you have given?

9:14 AM  
Blogger Mark Wutka said...

It looks like it came from a draft of the North Pacific YM F&P in a section on Right Relationship to Wealth (this links to, it is also in the 2007 F&P Draft at

10:13 AM  
Blogger Rick Seifert said...

The query is taken from a draft for the new (or revised) Faith and Practice being worked on by a committee of the North Pacific Yearly Meeting.

From the institutional Quaker perspective, it hasn't "seasoned" or been approved, and, for Quaker readers, I should have said that. Still, I thought the query was worth sharing with the Red Electric's broader audience. The query has certainly helped me in these troubling times.

Search NPYM and then go to "Faith and Practice" to get a sense of the revision committee's work. I'm sure they would appreciate any comments about the query or their other work.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Gil George said...

Thanks, I appreciate the queries. The only one that I would struggle with is the bit about choosing poverty. For so many it is not a choice, maybe a less connotative word would be "experience". So it would read "In times of our lives when we experience poverty, are we able to do so without envy or obsession?"

11:20 AM  
Blogger Rick Seifert said...

I agree, Gil.

And yet there are those who do choose poverty.

Jesus, St. Francis and Gandhi come immediately to mind.

We might consider poverty and wealth and our attitudes towards them in light of these historic examples.

12:00 PM  
Blogger Clark said...

Your commentary about the current(and probably historically prevalent) of American accumulating and acquiring more and more goods, and needing more and more service leading to greed and empoverishment and other negative life attriburtes speaks to me.

Participating in NEYM Spirtual Transformation Program facilitated by John Humphries & Brian Drayton, I am aware of general Quaker and my own complicity in the "oppression" as John Woolman phrased it of these mindlesse, everincrementing expenditure of resources, human & natural.
Simply put, it is important to be cognizant of right-thinking and right-living one's life and faithful activities in daily activities, to hold the mirror to oneself as well for others to see.
This conclusion has been apparent to me only since my forced occupational retirement and thus simplying my lifestyle and releasing of the oppression to spend my energies on making dollars to expend them.
So often Quaker testimony is heard merely by those kindred, but sometimes the "choir" must be reminded and re-awakened.
And I thank you for this.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Chris M. said...

Thank you, Rick.

At a session with Vanessa Julye last Sunday at San Francisco Meeting, we wondered, when Quakers in a hundred years look back at us today, what are we doing that they will they be surprised and sad about? One Friend suggested that it will be the vast disparities that we tolerate, especially in levels of privilege of all kinds.

I also found this article to be of interest in this context:
The Biggest Shift from North to South: 'Time to De-Grow'

-- Chris Mohr

1:12 PM  

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