Political discernment using Quaker testimonies
The testimonies are: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community and Equality. (You can remember them with the mnemonic “SPICE”)
Recently I’ve weighed the three major presidential candidates against the testimonies and tried to assign grades to them. ABCDF.
I found it difficult because media reporting on the candidates often fails to provide necessary information to make a judgment on these topics.
Then again, much of the news coverage is relevant and helpful.
I also realized that I first needed to revisit the “SPICE”s for myself, particularly with regard to politics and public life.
It was a humbling experience. The “grade” I gave myself was, at best, a “gentleman’s C.”
Here are some of the questions I pondered.
Do I measure “simplicity” guided by my spirituality or do I surrender to cultural/political norms?
Am I at peace with myself? Am I at peace with paying taxes to support American military involvement (which includes atrocities)? Am I at peace with our system of "justice"?
Do I understand the word “integrity” in all its meanings, “strength” being one of them?
What community, or communities, am I part of? What are my responsibilities to them. What are my responsibilities to other communities beyond my own?
Do I truly believe we are equal? If so, how?
Now to the presidential candidates....
How do the testimonies apply to being president of the United States? It's easier to answer for some ("integrity" for instance) than others ("simplicity"?) Or are the testimonies simply important as measurements of personal character? Should we consider the "personal" and "presidential" as one? Are presidents forced to make decisions they would never want to make as individuals? Decisions about life and death, for instance. What does personal/presidential bifurcation say about "integrity"?
In an earlier draft of this little essay, I actually assigned “testimony” grades to the three leading candidates. Now I realize that my assessment is helpful only to me. It is filtered through my unique experiences, values and discernment.
What’s most important to you is yours.
So have at it. Take your time….