Thursday, October 27, 2011

Quaker support for the Occupy Movement

A couple of weeks ago our Quaker meeting approved a minute in support for “Occupy Portland.”

It reads:

We, Multnomah Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), support social and economic justice. We oppose subservience to powerful financial interests. We support Occupy Portland and other current non-violent protests seeking justice.

So the question is: What next? What, exactly, does it mean to support Occupy Portland?

I’m not being glib here. Occupy Portland folks seem to ask the same question every day. Meanwhile, there’s food to be ladled out, dishes to be washed, disagreements to be resolved, anxieties to be calmed and trash to be collected.

And that’s just a partial listing of "household" chores

In the domestic details of protest, the cause can be lost.

Is the “Occupy” movement beginning to look like a lost cause?

As long as that cause is “social and economic justice,” we, as a nation dedicated to it, can’t afford to lose.

The problem is that we need to know what is to be gained. Here’s where Quakers can help.

Those in the movement already are versed in and practicing the tried-and-true Quaker decision-making process that is built around consensus. What the activists don’t know are Quaker testimonies and values. They are why so many Quakers support this vibrant movement. The movement, in turn, has produced the energy to carry these values forward to the society at large.

So what are we talking about when we refer to the values of the Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers?

Here there are, couched in the context of “social and economic justice” circa 2011.

The starting point is that there is that of the Spirit in everyone. Some would substitute for “Spirit” the word “God,” “The Divine,” “the Light,” “the manifest” or “the beyond within.”

Frankly, the words don’t matter. If you are alive to an inner life and Light, you know what I’m talking about.

The Spirit is alive in the 99%, and, yes, in the 1% — however faintly. Its omnipresence is our hope.

The actual testimonies number five.

Simplicity. Simplify our lives. Know that the accumulation of objects impoverishes the soul and leads to injustice. Consider that less is indeed more — more for all.

Peace. Our souls are as impoverished by war and strife as much as they are by excess, materialism and greed. As we seek peace and justice, we must do so non-violently. Unless our movement is grounded in peace, it will destroy us — physically and spiritually.

Integrity. It is not enough to espouse what we believe; we must live it.

Community. We act for the greater good of community knowing that acting solely for ourselves is spiritually bankrupt.

Equality. We are equal and one in Spirit. We see and feel ourselves present in each other. We don't just treat each others as equals. We are equals.

Conveniently, the testimonies form the acronym S-P-I-C-E. If you add divine spiritual love to it, you get “SPLICE.” Together they are what Quakers, in support for the protest, bring to the this liberating, dynamic movement for social and economic justice.

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Blogger Tom said...

What next is to keep it peaceful and find a way to maintain respectful dialog between sharply differing people. By providing peace keeping volunteers you can eliminate the need for police and avoid bad publicity.

We have had an Occupy St. Petersburg General Assembly for the past 3 weeks and find it difficult to please everyone but very rewarding. Much debate happens on facebook and in working groups.

The city has been very cooperative and the police leave us alone. Some are frustrated by the absence of conflict and demand that we provoke arrests by camping overnight in our meeting place, a city park that closes at night. Most want to instead build public support and very few have the time for a 24 hour occupation.

After some debate we decided to accept an offer from the Friends Meeting and move the GA to an annual Quaker event called Circus McGurkis. This outdoor festival began 40 years ago as an anti war protest and found a loyal following. We enjoyed music, fellowship, interesting displays, and networking in addition to talking politics.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

These arrests got a lot of comments. Not all positive

I can't tell why they wanted to be arrested or why the police wanted to put them on facebook.

This draws a lot of attention but I hope in a way to help you grow the movement.

8:16 PM  

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