November 11, 2017

The push and pull of a query on justice work

As I consider returning to the practice of “slow writing” on The Good Raised Up, I affirm my growing intention to focus on the intersection of well-intended Quakerism and the systemic oppression within this faith tradition. 

Here’s one item I want to explore more deeply already, thanks to my friend and fellow justice-seeker Jeff Kisling. He and I are part of the same yearly meeting; we struggle with similar musings of how to inspire more white, middle class, “comfortable” Quakers to get involved in the business of bringing the Kin-dom of God here, on this dying planet.

Recently, Jeff wrote about the yearly meeting’s queries, which in turn inspired me to do so. Now he’s written a second post, referencing a helpful metaphor from fellow Conservative Friend and former blogger Marshall Massey, who wrote about queries that “push” and have a note of obligation or presumed right answer, or “pull” with an intention of exercising our spirit into greater listening for the Inward Teacher. 

Jeff includes this statement in his recent writing:
I can see the query I suggested [in my my recent piece], “Do we spend time in a diversity of communities, especially those experiencing injustice?” is pushing, and would be better if phrased in a pulling way. Pushing tends to keep people from even considering the intended idea.
For me, though, I believe Jeff’s draft query does have a “pull” quality and the query ought to be built upon, especially when coupled with the relevant Advice, such as on social change, economic and racial justice. I say this because I resonate with the lived experience he and I have had: having close and regular interaction with members of a community different from our own has given us a tiny, temporary bit of access to another worldview, and that in turn has shown us—or at least me—how this faith tradition has got some parts of justice work wrong. 

“Do we spend time in a diversity of communities, especially those experiencing injustice? How do we build connections with people whose life experiences differ from our own? How do we know when we are taking their concerns seriously? Why might it be important to lay aside or decenter our own shared or individual preferences in times of urgent need?”


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