From what you experienced, what was the best part of Quakerism?
Wow! That's really a difficult question. I wan't to say tolerance and progression, but those are too obvious. There were so many different elements of the religion that really worked for me and, to be honest, it was a journey that revealed itself one step at a time. At first, I loved the idea of oneness with God. Since that is the backbone of the religion, it was probably the most inspiring. Viewing people in that fashion makes equality much easier to practice. As the month progressed, I found myself really digging the simplicity of the approach. It was to-the-point and inspiring to practice Christianity in such a raw form. For the first time, I saw Christianity as I believe it was intended to be viewed and used. The whole thing was really great and it's impossible to pinpoint a favorite part.
What improvements, if any, did you witness in yourself?
I think I learned the value of silence during my Buddhist month, so sitting in silence wasn't new. I think Ham Seok-heon really connected the dots for me. He spoke very eloquently about the need for personal honesty and reflection, yet he tied it in so well with how we can use that time to understand the true nature of God. Humans have the power to channel God's wisdom, charity and passion if they only allow themselves to recognize it, however people are so diluted by their own false realities and perceptions of themselves to realize that. I'm really going to try and become more honest with myself.
What was the most annoying aspect of the religion for you?
I had to really think about this one. In my short month, there really wasn't anything that turned me off, but I guess one thing would be the fact that Quakers don't celebrate Christmas. I love Christmas and even though I'm very aware that Jesus wasn't born on December 25th, it's a great time to get together with family and enjoy each others company. It'd be a shame not to have that time.
You went to Meetings, were you comfortable in that setting?
I thought they were going to be very awkward, but I found them to be really warm and welcoming. Three meetings isn't really enough to get the full experience though. Spending time in silence with other Friends is something that can't really be described. It was a deeply enriching opportunity for me and one that I hope to pass on to friends and family.
Are you more proud of your ancestors because of their Quaker past?
Absolutely!!! I can honestly say that I am beyond proud. More than that, I have really started to concern myself with preserving a record for my own descendants. My family is wild for family history and luckily we've been blessed with some great record keepers. I can do my part and hopefully will also make my family proud.
Would you ever consider becoming a Quaker?
Yes. I'd have to gauge the vibe at my local Meeting, but Quakerism is certainly something that I could embrace. It's a wonderful religion.
Any last comments?
Take some time and read Ham Seok-heon. He was truly an amazing man and faced some serious hardships, but never lost sight of what was right. Be honest with yourself first and then you will realize how God's power works. Equality is easy when God dwells within us all.
From what you saw and heard, what was the best part of Quakerism for you?
Are you going to ask me this question every month? If I'm supposed to say that he improved a lot each month, then I guess I can expect an amazing husband at this end of this thing. It's hard to witness marked improvement because some of these religions blend together. I like the fact that he got really into his family roots this month. It made me feel good about his commitment to family and to, well, commitment. He has become more aware of wasting energy, but he talks about his leg muscles too much now. They're not that impressive yet, but when your legs were as small as his were, any improvement is huge.
What was the most annoying aspect of the religion for you?
There wasn't anything annoying for me really. I think, however, that George could get annoying if he started following all the Quaker causes and got to a point where all he would do is talk about social problems and how to change them. My only concern about Quakers is that they get too excited about being in the fringe and since they are a fringe group, they have much less a burden and, therefore, can change their opinion without any real consequences. George thinks this is the best part, but I'm not sure I agree.
What do you think of silent worship?
I think that is great. Some of my favorite times in church have been the silent times. An hour seems long, but we all need time to think about our relationships with God and the world.
Do you think George was biased this month because of his family connection to Quakers?
George is always biased. It's funny to see him get excited about stuff because I know why he's overreacting way before he even realizes it. Of course he got more into it because of his family. I have seen that house in Indiana about forty times this month and each time, a new story gets tacked to it. My concern is that he'll use this family connection to push Quakerism ahead of other religions even though he didn't feel as much a connection.
Would you ever consider becoming a Quaker?
This question never goes away either. I think that Quakerism is pretty interesting and I like the work they do. However, when George and I move to the US and start a family, I'm going to be looking for a community to get involved in. I understand that there might be a Quaker church in the area, but moving to the US is not as easy for me as it is for George. If we were to be Quakers, my pool of friends and experiences would be limited to the one Quaker church in the area. I'm still set on continuing Protestantism for myself, my spirituality and my family. George likes to brush it off, but our family is going to be a little different from others and while uniqueness is a virtue, isolation is not something I want to deal with. At least in the beginning, I cannot see myself joining a Quaker church.
Next month is Jainism. Are you excited?
I have no idea what to expect. George keeps telling me he can't use money, eat food without it being offered and is going back to vegetarianism. Oh, and he told me that he's planning on shaving his head this weekend. It'll be one long month I think.
I know that my friends and family think that I've been in Asia about four years too long --a belief that I simultaneously agree and disagree with. I understand their concern, but I also must do what I know to be right for myself and my wife. I would venture to guess that marrying a "foreigner" for both my wife and I also isn't the most acceptable thing to do in our respective nations. Yet, I made the best decision for myself without being constrained by the norm. Bucking the trend isn't something I've really made a habit of. I have neither been a trend setter nor have I been bent on rejecting it. Maybe I've just kind of sat out on the whole thing.
So, yesterday some Friends were talking about having a religious change of heart and how difficult such a transformation has been for them. They lost friends and many people openly ostracized them in front of other people. For some reason, religious folks see a change of heart as a betrayal rather than an awakening. Ask Yusef Islam (Cat Stevens). He knows all about the pain and suffering one must go through when converting. And while the people around you might have some anger towards you for changing your religion, the real challenge seems to be inside. It's a personal battle within your own mind.
Changing religions every thirty days is downright confusing for my mind, soul and body. I have had some very real moments so far that many people would call an awakening or an epiphany, yet I must be careful not to let myself put everything down and move to the holy land. It's a challenge, but the real challenge is this: what happens if when I finish this whole thing and have decided to choose a religion that bucks the American Protestant/Catholic trend? Is my upbringing and Christian guilt going to allow me to pursue my heart? Is my nation going to let me follow through on one of its founding principles and practice any religion I choose?
A change of heart isn't as simple when it comes to religion. George Fox knew that in the 1600s and my Friends here know that now.
Kim: Well, why did you join this Meeting?
I honestly didn't know what to say. I had thought about my response to this question before, but never really formulated it. I pulled an easy one out for the save.
Me: ...some of my ancestors were Friends in the US, so I guess that kind of tweaked my curiosity.
I've never really had a good body. That never bothered me though. I've always been very comfortable to take my shirt off in any situation. In fact, if you were to ask many of my friends from college (and even Korea) what they thought of when they imagine me shirtless (odd question though), they would say that I have tiny nipples. And they'd be right. My nipples are roughly the same exact size as dimes. These bad-boys are super small. I used that as a deflection from my average and shapeless body. It worked and after changing the story for over a decade, I can honestly say that I am 100% confident with my body no matter its shape or audience. I have my shirt off right now actually.
I guess I should say that Korean coins don't work with my nipple size. It's a shame, but my past time in Korea has been seeing if my chicken legs are as skinny as my moderately sized arms. A few years ago, my wife (then girlfriend) and I were in the zoo at the flamingo exhibit chatting it up when one flamingo walked up to us and just sort of stared. My wife started laughing hysterically and which point I asked her in adorably mispronounced Korea, 왜? (Why?). I already knew what she was laughing at. The damn flamingo was big-timing me right in front of my new girlfriend. It was alright. I was very well aware of my legs' boyish girth.
If you may recall, I decided that I would not ride any form of transportation for the entire month. I tried my best, but had to pick my wife up twice and will have gone to my Meeting four times (three successful) by the end of it, but all other times I managed to bike it. Just a few moments ago I stepped out of the shower to notice that my legs have gotten pretty strong this month. I also realized that hills are no problem for me anymore. So, I reduced my carbon footprint and got some sweet leg muscles in the process. That's what Quakers call win-win.
Seriously though, quitting motorcycles, cars, buses and subways was harder than I thought it would, but I feel really good about it. I am addicted to oil in so many ways and I'm going to be pushing to gets some minutes recorded at tomorrow's Meeting about the current oil spill and ways that I can reduce my intake according to Quaker methods.
As for me, I'd like to share an idea or two.
I know a lot of people are gunning for BP and other oil execs and they deserve to go down for this big time, but my concern is not them. Being overly concerned with those guys amounts to revenge and I'm not about that. What we need to learn from this is that life is more fragile than any amount of technology or money can solve or manage. Two months after the initial explosion, the oil is still spilling and no amount of technology can undo what has been done.
We had the power to create this problem, so we should have to power to solve it then. Quakers want to solve problems so they don't occur again. They seek out the cause. The solution to this problem is not a cap or a temporary moratorium on drilling. No, the solution is that we should force ourselves to suffer a little in order to reduce the suffering of this planet. I'm tired of quick-fixes and the environment and earth--both are sweet gifts to us from God--deserve better.
Both Korea and US play tonight. Win or loss, I'm happy with both of them. Still, I hope both teams win and get to meet in the Quarterfinals.
I think I'll use today as an excuse to share a few thoughts. Sound good?
You know what my dream is?
I'd like to somehow earn enough money on my own so my wife and I would never be tied to a job, city or country. Don't get me wrong, the US is my home and always will be, but I want the freedom to be able to live a life where I can have a say as to how much or how little I work and earn. And after I earn enough money, I'd like to open a summer camp. Three months a year, it would be bustling with kids eager to swim, canoe, climb, sew, chop wood, camp, build fires, mountain bike and learn true respect for each other and the environment.
Simply put, I want simplicity. If Quakerism and Buddhism taught me anything, it was nothing really good can come from abundance. Maybe it's stupid, but a dream is what it is and I see no reason why any of us should be forced into a life that we don't want.
John Lennon said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
Ham Seok-heon said, "Happiness occurs while you're seeking the meaning of life."
I say that "Dreams can't occur unless you allow yourself to dream first."
I don't want to regret my time on Earth and I'm going to make sure I do everything in my power to ensure that when I'm on my deathbed, I can go out not with a smile, but one final and deliberate breath of the very same air that carried me through a fulfilling life.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.Of course, conservative Americans won't "turn back discrimination and prejudice". In fact, they'd probably like to turn back the clock to a time when the LGBT community was harassed and beaten for their sexual orientation. In fact, Montana is already doing their best to remain as backwards and discriminatory as possible.
Each individual's journey through life is unique. Some will make this journey alone, others in loving relationships - maybe in marriage or other forms of commitment. We need to ponder our own choices and try to understand the choices of others. Love has many shapes and colors and is not finite. It cannot be measured or defined in terms of sexual orientation.
In Quaker practice we believe that we all are equally called to ministry, through our worship, our daily lives, our service to others and in the activities and celebrations of our meeting. Lesbian and gay Friends have played and will continue to play a significant part in Quaker life, thought and ministry both locally and nationally. Particular gifts are brought to our religious life from the struggle of gay and lesbian Friends, in the face of oppression, to find and express their faith. We need the spiritual gifts which are unique to each individual's personality and experience. We give thanks for all our gifts and service.
We are now called to welcome publicly and explicitly the participation and service of lesbian and gay Friends; to help one another develop loving and equal adult relationships and friendships; to explore ways in which we can, through worship and cherishing, mark the joys and sorrows of one another's relationships and life circumstances; to seek formal ways of recognizing a variety of commitments, including gay and lesbian partnerships. (Emphasis mine)
We need to ponder our own choices and try to understand the choices of others.
First of all, I guess I should say that I stayed up to watch the 3:30am Korea-Nigeria game yesterday (Wednesday). Watching all Korean games is a must in Korea. People will be talking about it the following day, week or longer and if I only rely on highlights I'm sure to miss out on the source of gripes and pleasure. It was a draw and Korea will move on to the Knockout stage. Good for them. That was their goal in the first place, so from here on out, it'll be bonus fun. The game was over at 5:15 at which time I showered and got ready for my super busy fifteen-hour day.
My day was fine, but I was pretty much exhausted by noon. I pressed on and made it to the US-Algeria game which started about two hours ago. The game was pretty disappointing. Like the Slovenia game, we had a goal disallowed which was proven to have been for no reason at all. I hate that. Lives change and fortunes are made as a result of World Cup goals and for an idiotic referee to take that away for faulty reasoning is just a shame. Luckily the USA pulled what many are already calling a uniquely American story (although being the underdog is pretty pervasive throughout the world) and won the game at the last moment.
I might not be thinking too clearly, but I had a few thoughts on this game. Maybe I'm tired from having watched four games of soccer in 24 hours with a heavy dose of teaching in between, but I picked up two big themes from today. 1) Soccer is like the Catholic Church and 2) soccer players are convenient Catholics who chose to break all the rules (Sin) and only feel bad if and when they get caught (Confession).
Want more late-night absurdity?
Quakerism is like American Football. It has grown, adjusted and not allowed itself to remain static in the face of a changing culture and following. You name it and American Football has adjusted at the same pace as progress.
By denying the use of technology and relying on the refs eyes, players are encouraged to cheat, lie and, overall, conduct themselves in a way that is beyond unsportsmanlike. It's only when they think they're going to get in trouble do they offer help to other players and play like they know they should. Hell, the biggest cheats in games are the Italians and you can't get much more Catholic than them.
I don't know. Maybe I'm just tired, but for the sake of it...USA! USA! USA!
I told you about my friend from Korea because the rest of his email illustrates a good point and one that Ham Seon-heon made in his teachings. If my friend doesn't land a good gig at a university, school or company (which is his goal), he said that he could always pick up his tools and find work in a garage somewhere. It might not be perfect, but it's an option. And while he can get fired from that job for a variety of reasons, the amount of stress from such a position would be much lower than, say, in an office setting.
I'd recommend that everyone takes some time are listen to this talk that Dirty Jobs' Mike Rowe gives on, well, dirty jobs. (Transcript here)
I remember the first time I saw Dirty Jobs. I thought to myself, "Man, those guys have awful lives." That was such flawed thinking. At this point in my life, I can admit that I have been snobby for most of it and I can also admit that that snobbishness was 100% unfounded and has actually made me a less interesting and well-rounded person than I could have been. I quit the Scouts because my Scout Master actually made me do work. In Cub Scouts, my father and I called in a ringer to make my Pinewood Derby car for me because our first-year attempt proved to be embarrassing. I cared only about winning the damn trophy (which I did for "Most Original" ironically). In fact, I used to get my young Korean students to pay closer attention to my lessons by threatening them with the possibility that they will end up as mechanics, bus drivers, firemen or farmers
Now, if I need to earn money, I pretty much have to rely on other people. I have alienated myself from the most basic human trait of self-reliance and by doing so, I can only earn money if other people are willing to pay for my services. This--to me--sounds counter-evolutionary. Ham Seok-heon said the following when asked about work and the rising corporate culture:
Handiwork is better. Maybe it is not possible to get rid entirely of the machine. But you can follow the principle, try to live a simple life.He's right. I need to take myself out of the system. I don't need my family to be reliant on a boss or a whim or a downsize. They need to rely on me and I need to rely on myself. Maybe it's not handiwork at this point, but there are ways that I can always ensure that I will be the master of my own fate. It just takes some time to think and sort out the details and even though I'll be done with Quakerism in about a week, I still have plenty of time to work this out.
The general conversation was on the topic of progress and the direction of the society. In this globalized world, distinguishing one society from the other isn't really necessary. We are all dealing with the same things, it's just that the timing is sometimes a little different. For instance, Korea is just now dealing with teenage criminals whereas the US has been dealing that for decades. Koreans are shocked by the trend and are trying to place the blame on something or someone. Some will blame Western culture while others might say it's because of the Internet, nonetheless many will agree that something is wrong with society. And that was the overall feeling this one American Friend was expressing.
We'll call him 'John' and the other Friend 'Min'. (Min is Korean and both men are in their late-thirties)
John: What's becoming clearer is that society has sort of lost control of itself. I'm not one of those people who believe the past was better, nor do I think running away is the option. I'm just becoming concerned that people are focusing too much on happiness above all else.
Min: I understand where you're coming from. I don't think society is unraveling at its seams, but I can see some distressing signs. I think if we were to look more closely at your concern, we'd run into an obstacle and that would be how to define happiness.
John: Well, define it then. Isn't that the battle?
Min: Teacher Ham said that if we "seek only for happiness, quite naturally the remnant will be dirty."The conversation took some turns here and there, but the ultimate point was that if we focus less on happiness and being servants of people, then the meaning of life will reveal itself more clearly. This confused me a bit because Quakers appear to be extreme servants of people through their advancement of human rights and equality, yet I was missing the point. Quakers follow the words of Jesus and God quite closely--especially in terms of treatment of others--and it's this focus from which their service and dedication to God stems.
Trying to discover the meaning of life is stressful and trying to pursue that meaning seems impossible for most humans. It reminds me of City Slickers where "Curly" kept telling "Mitch" about the "one thing" that makes life worth it and "once you know that one thing, nothing else matters."
If you do manual work, physical fitness quite naturally comes; likewise, if you seek the meaning of life, in the process of seeking, happiness quite naturally comes to us.The process of seeking is what reveals true meaning and happiness. Where to seek then becomes the real question and I think that where religion sets in for most people. For me, I seek true meaning in simplicity.
Human beings create the machine in order to get efficiency and some profit. We can divide people in two kinds: those who use the machine to get some leisure time, and people who do not use the machine and are in a sense exploited because they have no time to seek the meaning of life. Both of these groups of people have lost happiness in the process.Less is more and if we listen to the words of Ham, then we'll at least know where NOT to search for the meaning. Society is created by people. It does not act on its own. People often believe it does so just as the economy is thought to do, but people are driving it and it can't not operate independently of us. We have to power to alter it in anyway we see fit. It seems to me that John would best find true happiness in his personal search towards liberation of himself and only then can he start to worry about "society".
Is there something wrong with that?
Well, according to Joseph Platter (President of FIFA), religious gestures are "a danger" and that "there's no room for religion in soccer". That's odd considering that the majority of teams that dominate the sport of very Catholic. He's not alone though. Korean Buddhists have taken up the same "cause" and called on the government to ban all Christian athletes from making gestures after scoring goals. To me, it seems that public prayer only bothers those who allow it to bother them.
I know this topic teeters on the edge of a much bigger discussion on public prayer, so I'll keep it focused around the Quaker notion of how prayer is conducted. First of all, I should say that I think a separation of church and state is the only way to preserve religious freedom. Without that protection, a state religion is adopted and then the problems start. On the other hand, banning the private prayers of individuals (regardless of their position in society) is just as dangerous.
I must admit that there was a time in my life when praying in public was the most obnoxious thing that religious people could do. I always viewed it as an in-your-face flaunting of moral superiority. I think that's what's going on within the mind of Platter. He has a personal problem with religious people and lets that guide his decisions rather than reason and reality. The Korean Buddhists are totally different. Like America, religion in Korea has become politicized with the Buddhists representing the progressive wing and the Christians on the conservative wing. Both are wrong.
When I was a Buddhist, meditation was very important to me. As a Catholic, following a structured regiment of prayers and rituals were important. As a Quaker, the value of prayer has been upped as I have really found my silent time with myself (and therefore God) very important to maintaining my own mental and physical health. Why in the world would any body or government want to hinder that? I firmly believe that forced prayers (in school especially) are just as dangerous as banning Muslim prayer in airports, but restricting someone's very personal and private relationship with their god is more than wrong.
As you know, Quaker worship is centered around the idea of prayer. Without that, Quakerism as a religion would religion be damaged because they believe that the relationship with God that is made during silent prayer and worship is what defines them. I've met a lot of religious people the past three months and the joy they get from their prayers is amazing. And while prayer is very important to them, they will not take an oath for government positions or in court. (They will affirm.) In fact, some believe that affirmation was added to the Presidential oath because of Quakers. They don't swear because the Bible tells us not to. (Remember what I said, Quakers seem to be the purest of Christians.)
"Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned." James 5:12It's really a shame that some people feel so threatened by spirituality that they seek to ban it for their own personal qualms without every truly asking themselves why. I don't know where I'll end up at the end of this project, but I can tell you that I will never again feel threatened or angered by others praying.
the super bowl pisses on the world cup. i'll take the titans over 11 foreigners any day of the week.
What the hell does that even mean? So, he likes American football more and he believes that the NFL's Tennessee Titans would be more fun to watch than "11 foreigners" or they would beat them in some capacity? Something tells me that this guy has never been a "foreigner' before. If he had, he wouldn't use the word so callously. He's entitled to his opinion, but I get the feeling he is using the World Cup as an excuse to justify his own misconceptions of the sport (or his own superiority complex).
Religion works the same way. Before undertaking this project, I had wildly misinformed ideas of religions. It wasn't until I tried to experience some of them that I realized how wrong I had been. Without experiencing them, I would remain critical. It took experience for me to be able to identify with them. I now see the wonder and beauty of Buddhism, Catholicism and Quakerism, but it took first-hand exposure first.
What could Americans learn from the World Cup? Simple. It's the same that all religions could learn from Quakers.
There's more than one opinion out there and no matter how much we want to believe it, American opinion really doesn't matter to others. If we want to be taken seriously, we need to do a better job of experiencing the rest of the world and practicing tolerance rather than lambasting what we don't know. Being a willfully blind and arrogant person isn't something we should strive for.
I'm a sissy.
Not really, but I have managed to make it to twenty-seven without being in a physical fight or intentionally injuring another person. However, I can't claim to have always hated or been disgusted by the sight of violence. For one reason or another, I liked watching Faces of Death when I was a teenager. Seeing an actual death or extreme violence was so rare for me in real life that I guess something about it aroused curiosity. Then again, all I really remember of Faces of Death at this point is these guys.
Elephantiasis of the balls tends to leave an last impression, no? Look at that shit! To quote Elaine from infamous "Shrinkage" episode, "I don't know how you guys walk around with those things."
I also recall a time in high school when two of my childhood friends were close to getting into a fight and I did nothing to stop it. In fact, I sort of egged it on. I wasn't alone in that effort as everyone sort of gathered around shouting "Fight!", but I probably could have been a voice of reason in all that chaos. I remember their names, too. It was Franz and Andrew. One of them I went to school with for nine years and the other I played basketball with for several seasons. There was nothing to gain from encouraging such a fight and, as it turned out, nothing was gained. They still continued disliking each other afterwards and now, almost fifteen years later, they probably hardly remember the incident.
A couple years ago, I was in an old market district in Seoul looking for some cool straw sandals when a commotion erupted in front of one of the make-shift booths. I was automatically drawn to the action. My wife kept pulling me away, but I wanted to watch. I think I'm a little voyeuristic. By the time I got there, a sizable group had encircled the conflict. I pushed my way through and got a great spot only to discover it was two women clearly over eighty years of age arguing over a measely two-feet of sales space.
They were barking at each other for a few moments before one of them struck the other's shoulder with a handbag she had grabbed from a nearby sales table. Of course, the other women had to retaliate and she opted for a sturdy tug of the hair and a minor face slap. After a few moments, I wasn't sure if I was watching grannies going at it or a inner city high school girl fight. The audience was enthralled for an intense three minutes before anyone even considered stepping in to end the dispute and just as it looked like it was about to fizzle out, the hair-pulling granny pulled a Barry Sanders juke and went head-first into the other woman's chest. Both women went down and stayed there. About fifteen minutes later, an ambulance arrived and they were taken away on stretchers.
In both of those incidents, a clear message of futility was displayed. None of those directly involved gained anything except for injury, embarrassment and anger while those who observed or got caught in the cross-fire suffered from the sight alone. Like the Buddhists, the Quakers are staunchly non-violent. This commitment is totally unbending. No exceptions. The origins of it are unclear though. Some believe that their passivity came from their need to clearly state their intentions during the British Civil War and others think that it was always that way because they chose to live a Jesus Christ did and said and accept all forms of suffering (both physical, legal and financial) inflicted upon you.
In 1661, George Fox told Charles II this about Quakers:
We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretence whatsoever. And this is our testimony to the whole world. The Spirit of Christ, which leads us into all Truth, will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for the kingdoms of this world.There are tons of examples about their stances on anti-violence and peace and to me their message rings true. I firmly believe that violence only occurs when people run out of ideas. Following that logic, Friends appear to have a lot of ideas as they have refused to fight in many wars ranging from the American Revolution and Civil War all the way up to the wars of the past century and beyond. That doesn't mean they can't stand up for what they believe. The Quakers won't fight in wars--the operative word being 'fight'. They have, however, joined the effort in a service capacity; volunteering to be medics and persuading the US government to relax immigration laws for war refugees.
And while they might be peaceful, trouble has certainly followed them. After years of violent persecution in intolerant Puritan Massachusetts, they fled to the South where for years they built communities, started businesses, forged relationships with Native Americans and held (without taking an oath) public office. That relative peace came to an end as many colonists in Pennsylvania and North Carolina started to view them as freeloaders riding on sacrifices of their more militant neighbors and fellow countrymen. In North Carolina and Tennessee, they were the focus of severe distrust as Southern Friends freed all their slaves by the 1800s and rejected the inhumane institution. As a result, many Quakers and blacks made the long trek up through Ohio and into Indiana. I believe my great great grandfather, Enoch Beals, was one of these Friends and it would make sense since he lived on the other side of the Smokies in Greene County (which used to be much bigger), Tennessee and would have been caught up in the later years of that big migration.
Interestingly enough, Quaker passivity was also used as a tool for manipulation. The Quakers played an important role in Native American relations (before, during and after both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War). President Grant adopted a Quaker-submitted plan for dealing with the increasingly hostile conflicts between western settlers and natives. Grant originally wanted to restore the Department of Indian Affairs to the Department of War, but after hearing what the Quakers offered (which was essentially a loose conversion plan in-disguise), he said this:
"Gentlemen, your advice is good. I accept it. Now give me the names of same Friends for Indian agents and I will appoint them. If you can make Quakers out of the Indians it will take the fight out of them. Let us have peace."Sadly, this plan ended up in cultural genocide --something that many Friends are not eager to admit. Personally, I despise such behavior and Grant's comments make the whole thing even more slippery to me. Using Quakerism (or any religion for that matter) as a way to defeat an enemy is disgusting and smacks of conquest, but it at least sounded like a more peaceful solution than violent confrontation.
My brothers! I am happy to meet you. I have long desired this opportunity to talk with you, but my duty to other tribes has prevented my being with you till this day. I call you brothers because we have all one common father. The Great Creator of all made the white man, the red man and the black man equal. He gave to the white man no more natural rights than He gave the to red man; and I claim from you no rights and privileges but such as I extend to you, and you should claim from me no more than you extend to me. I have long waited to have a plain talk with you, and am glad to see so many here today.
—Enoch Hoag, 1869
I could go on and on about this, but I'd just like to say that such an historical and unfettering commitment to non-violence under any circumstances is amazing. And honestly, it's just as the Bible instructed.
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then , , reasonable, and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace What causes wars, and what causes fighting among you? It is not your passions that are at war in your members? You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and wage war.” -James 3:17-4:1Let me ask you a question: How many religions do you know that have won a Nobel Peace Prize?
To be continued tomorrow. By that way, if you want to read a good one on Quakerism and peace, try Walking in the Way of Peace.