Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer?

It is keeping peace and good relations between people,

as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.

- Prophet Mohammed


Day 3

My day off yesterday was great. I didn't do much of anything and it was just what I wanted to do. I had tried to get a few things stirring with friends, but it turned out that I was the only one who had the day off. As I mentioned, yesterday was election day here in Korea. The past month has been wild with election mania as candidates blanketed the streets with fliers and obnoxious ditties. Luckily, I don't live in a residential area, so things were little quieter for me. I did get the chance to have several political discussions with some of my students though and, as odd as it may sound considering my political leanings in the US, I find myself agreeing more with what could be called the conservative party rather than the liberal option. To me --an outsider and a foreigner-- the "conservative" party seems much more level-headed and --wait for it-- progressive.

So, how do I account for this duality within the party and myself? In order to be a liberal, you must seek progress rather than conserve what the past might have been. The American conservatives are holding on to a past that they not only don't remember accurately, but never actually experienced. "Take our country back" they say. Well, from who and to where? Making political decisions based on nostalgia is a dangerous road to walk. And it's downright crazy to base it on the nostalgia of others.

CPR The Canadian interior of dome car
They remember the one above, but not the one below.

Gee whiz, the diners of the 1950s sure were swell.

Nostalgia can be dangerous. Longing for a time of simplicity only reveals its complexity.

In Korea, the "liberal" party does not want to discuss progress. They want to hold on to a romanticized version of how Korea used to be BEFORE American intervention and BEFORE globalization and BEFORE McDonaldization. Sounds innocent enough, but if you want to go to that time then you must also live in a Korea BEFORE democracy and BEFORE women's rights and BEFORE technology. The warm-fuzzies of yesteryear are warm and fuzzy because it's easier to forget the negative when all you focus on is the positive. They are already nostalgic for the last politician who killed himself after being proven a shady pol.

Old people are usually the most guilty of this behavior and sometimes take that extra step and demonize the youth for "ruining the country".

To them, I ask, "Why did you work so hard for your family?"

There are a variety of answers that might be offered in the US, but in Korea it's usually, "So they could have an easier life than I had."

Of course, everyone wants that for their children, but once we give them a better and easier life, there are going to be consequences for that and we need to be prepared to accept that responsibility. Maybe they don't work as hard or maybe they don't appreciate the same things the older generation did. Well, that's what you wanted! You worked hard so they could have a better life. Better sometimes translates to easier which, in turn, might make the younger generation appear "lazy" or "ungrateful". Still, you can't get angry at them for it. That's the same as building a snowman and then complaining that your hands got cold. It's unfair. Progress is a natural thing. That's the very spirit of nature. 

Enter Quakers.

One might assume that Quakers are very devout and traditional people and you'd be right. However, that image is in contrast to the fundamental ideals of social justice and equality that Quakers espouse. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Quakers fought hard for ending the slave trade and protecting Native American grounds. They were the first. Before then, however, Quakers typically didn't participate in such endeavors because they hadn't been confronted with them yet. Now, hundreds of years later, they're recognizing gay marriages and have become "Britain’s first mainstream religious group to approve marriages for homosexuals." They didn't have a creed or rules about gay marriage two hundred years ago because they had yet to cross that bridge.
Every generation has felt the need for revision; the present [book of faith and practice] is the tenth edition. Pressure for revision has always come from the generality of Friends, but each revision has met with resistance from some who had lived with the old words and had found them entirely satisfying. Nevertheless, it has been the experience of Britain Yearly Meeting that necessary change has, despite occasions of great tension, been effected in love and unity.
Remaining static in a changing world is a detriment to yourself and all of society. Traditions are the reflections of a specific era. People, society and culture do not wait for traditions to catch up; they make their own.

A blogger in Korea was recently discussing this cultural issue.
 [The older generation complains] because the culture's moving in a direction [they] didn't set.
I agree with him (which is rare). I happen to like my parents generation and I'm pretty sure they're okay with mine, but if I go too far back, I know that I'm going to step into some unpleasant stuff. Same goes for the Quakers. American Quaker  and founder George Fox probably  wouldn't be so open to the idea of tolerating gay marriage, but that doesn't matter. He's long dead and while many people cherish his ideals and his history, Quakers have moved on and adjusted to the ever-changing environment.

In essence, Quakerism is alive. It's free to grow at its own pace, but understands that evolution is at work. It can learn new things and adjust to others. It has opinions and reacts to what is best for itself. It is not frozen in old texts or wisdom, nor does it always get it right. One might ask how it does this. How can a religion change? Isn't that a little too convenient for its followers?

It might appear that way on the surface to some, but to truly understand how Quakers live and why they appear to be on the forefront of many social issues is actually quite simple. Quakers believe in a oneness with God. Inside each of us, something of God exists and because of that, all creatures on earth have value and must be treated with respect. Culture is  created by people and all people have God within them, therefore culture also has elements of God within and must be treated as such.


  1. I like the idea of being on the forefront of many social issues and the oneness with God.

    I also am so anxious to hear more about your Quaker phone call and the dog TV interview.

    I am learning a lot so thank you for doing the research!

  2. One of my colleagues who attends Friends meetings here in Knoxville says that the Quakers you describe above are the ones she follows and meets with, but that there is a more fundamentalist strain. I forget the name she gave them, but they tend to me more hung up on scripture and less so on social justice and promoting peace.

  3. The oneness with God is really interesting and somewhat Buddhist. It's that reason they tend to treasure equality because you can't be unfair to God.

    Uncle John,

    The Conservative Friends are part of the Iowa, Ohio and North Carolina Yearly Meeting. They speak and dress more plainly. Quaker Jane is part of the Ohio Yearly Meeting.