I am a Quaker. In case of emergency, please be quiet.
-
Bumper Sticker

When I write about Quakerism, or act on my beliefs,
you must know that all Quakers are not like me.
We are not like the Catholic Church, with one central
figure and doctrine; we are an international network
of meetings with no true hierarchy. We are Christian
based, drawing originally from the teachings of Jesus,
the Prince of Peace, but Quakers do not focus on
Christ as savior or redeemer. Quakers are seekers, and
committed to an unfolding spiritual practice where the
Divine Truth is revealed through turning within,
reflecting, and our “Faith and Practice” in action.

The five tenets of Quakerism:

Equality - there is that of God in Everyone
Simplicity
Peace/Nonviolence
Integrity/Honesty – seeking and speaking the Truth
Faith in Action



Equality, our belief in ‘that of God in everyone’ led early
Quakers to oppose slavery and Quaker houses were safe
havens on the Underground Railroad during slavery
days. Levi Coffin rowed hundreds of escaping slaves
across the Ohio River in the 1850s. My father’s
grandparents had a hidden room behind a bookcase where
fleeing slaves could hide.

That of God in everyone is often called ‘the Light
Within.’ Early Quakers defied the church by saying no
minister or priest was needed to connect to the
Divine, and practiced silent worship in meeting
houses, exactly the way it is still practiced today.
Any member of the meeting could rise and speak, if
s/he was so moved, and from the early days (1600s)
there have been women prominent in the Quaker church
as well as men.

Early Quakers were imprisoned, branded and persecuted
for their belief in Equality.

Simplicity means that we should live simply that
others may simply live. Be kind to the Earth, don’t
use too many resources, give away what you don’t need,
be moderate. Our worship is also very spare and
simple. Our meeting houses are unadorned, because all
the stained glass, incense and statues are unnecessary
to connect to the divine.

Peace and Nonviolence have made us one of the Peace
Churches known throughout the world. Quakers refuse
to fight in wars, and have served their country and
humanity in other ways. Quakers helped rebuild Europe
and Japan after WWII. We helped train Conscientious
Objectors (C.O.) in WWII and the Vietnam War, and
continue this work today (in my meeting, TCFM!) A
C.O. has the courage to say

“No I will not fight for you. No I will not kill for
you. No I will not die for you.”

During the Vietnam era, when I was a child in TCFM,
Quaker boys were drafted and practiced nonviolent
opposition to the draft by going to jail or serving in
non-combat roles.

Integrity/Honesty: Quakers are seekers, always looking
within, trying to discern the will of God. Quakers
don’t claim to own the Truth. And yet we try to
practice it, by always telling the truth and seeking
out the truth. American Indians had a positive
relationship with the early Quakers during Colonial
days. They refused to sign Treaties unless Quakers
were there as witnesses to ensure that the Whites were
telling the truth. Quakers refused to break these
treaties, and walked out of the legislature in
Pennsylvania, rather than be a part of a legal body
whose majority voted to go to war against the Indians
and break their treaties.

Faith in Action: Quakers believe in following the
Light and speaking ‘Truth to Power,’ even going so far
as to defy the law nonviolently if that is what our
consciences demand from us. (Like Jesus!) Quakers
also believe in service to the community, charity and
doing good deeds simply in everyday life. There are
no sins to be forgiven on Sunday you simply must
practice what you preach, and do your best. The
challenge to modern Quakers is to speak Truth to Power
now – to oppose the War in Iraq, and all U.S. military
aggression, to resist in all sorts of ways, to be the
little voice, the conscience of our nation, as we have
been before. Wife Swap seemed like a possible venue
for this little voice. I hope and pray that more
people will reflect on our peace message and get more
access to the information they need to stand up and
resist the cruel and destructive policies which are
making enemies abroad faster than we can kill them.
Godspeed!