Thursday, May 26, 2011

A message for Quaker non-Quakers

I have many friends whom I consider to be Quaker non-Quakers. By that I mean they hold the values of Quakers without knowing it.

There’s part of me that would like to whisper, “Pssst. You are a Quaker non-Quaker.”

There’s another part that tells me to let it be.

First what are the values we share? Quakers call them “testimonies” and they are usually listed as Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community and Equality. They happen to create the acronym “SPICE." Some add Stewardship or Sustainability to the list. Make that “SPICES.”

In these times, each deserves long, deep contemplation and consideration. We need to consider whether we, Quakers and non-Quakers, truly live by these testimonies.

But for me, as a Quaker, there’s more. Quakers add a spiritual dimension to the testimonies. We believe we are “spirit-led” to these values and that the spirit will lead us to incorporate them into our lives.

So while I share the Quaker testimonies with many non-Quaker friends, I also want to explore the spiritual dimension with them as well.

Our secular culture does not invite such exploration. To push into matters of the spirit smacks of unseemly proselytizing. I hear the voice again, “Let it be” (The voice, by the way, sounds suspiciously like John Lennon’s.)

Quaker author Robert Lawrence Smith “speaks my mind” (as Quakers say) when he writes in the introduction to his illuminating and highly accessible book, “A Quaker Book of Wisdom”:

"It is my ever-growing conviction that the compassionate Quaker message badly needs to be heard in today’s complex, materialistic, often unjust, and discriminatory society. Every day brings new public debate over issues Quaker have always addressed: war and peace, social justice, education, health care, poverty, business ethics, public service, the use of world resources. The list goes on....”

Later he says, gently touching on the timeless leadings of the spirit, “To me, Quaker values of simplicity and silent contemplation, truth and conscience, seem more important now than ever before....the basic humanistic Quaker precepts of valuing racial and gender equality, promoting social justice and nonviolence — and, yes sometimes civil disobedience —seem to me to me so modern, so relevant to today’s society, that when I thought about writing this book I was suddenly surprised that no one had written one like it. What particularly struck me is that the Quaker ideals formulated in the Seventeenth Century remain contemporary in every sense, and the basic injunction to ‘let your life speak,’ to live each day in accordance with these beliefs, seems totally untarnished by the passage of time.”

That is exactly the message I want to share with you, Quaker non-Quakers.

For more, much more, on Quakers, go to

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Blogger john M. Daniel said...

Rick, I consider it a significant coincidence that I heard you list the five Testimonies in person only a couple of hours before I read this post. Coincidences often are not coincidental so much as emphasizers. I have a feeling I'll remember SPICE for a long time, and I think you for teaching it to me twice today. I would be proud to be worthy of the term "Quaker non-Quaker."


5:47 PM  
Blogger frumdebar said...

Thank you for this post - you've given me something I really need to contemplate.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Mackenzie said...

When I learned about Quakerism, I thought "oh! I can go with that!" A Friend later said after Meeting one day that I was already a Quaker, I just didn't know it til I started reading about it.

6:59 PM  

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