Letters - 03 March 2017

From the cause of peace to the Leaveners

The cause of peace

I must confess to a rising sense of despair whenever I turn to the letters page of the Friend and see the words ‘Israel/Palestine’.

Regrettably, we too often hear viewpoints which clearly favour one side, and push that side’s agenda (I do not refer to any individual correspondent, but merely to the tone of the debate).

People in power on both sides have given orders of which they should be thoroughly ashamed. There has been no shortage of people willing to carry these orders out. And, as usual, those who have least – on both sides – have suffered most.

However, we should remember that people rarely commit violent acts out of simple sadistic pleasure. More often, it is because their upbringing and life experiences have brought them to a place where carrying out the act of violence seems the lesser of two evils, given that the other side is clearly attempting to destroy all they hold dear.

If we foreigners actually wish to help then we would do well to put ourselves in other people’s shoes, remembering that no one is inherently evil. Is there not something of God in everyone?

To pick sides is to risk becoming what Ludwig von Mises called a ‘useful innocent’. It is unlikely to raise any further sympathy abroad, and may expose the person (and any organisation they work for) to accusations of bias and foreign meddling from the other side. Such a situation can hardly advance the cause of peace.

James Yeoman

When is Worship not-worship?

In his reflection (3 February), Alex Thomson notes: ‘It seems to me that God does not want to be worshipped…’

My sober side is prompted to enquire, what do you mean by worship? And, since I often pose this question to myself, what do you think is happening in Meeting for Worship or, even more puzzling, in Meeting for Worship for Business?

Guided by the wise and refreshingly brief words of Howard H Brinton, I am reminded that: ‘Worshippers are like spokes in a wheel. The nearer they come to the centre of all Life the nearer they are to each other. Having reached the centre, they become united in a single life through the creative love of God’ (Quaker faith & practice 21.35).

Not yet quite content, my more playful side wants to enquire, from those who have similar doubts about worship to Alex, should an alternative title for our key community gathering be on a ‘potential’ revision agenda? To get the ball rolling, may I suggest Meeting for Opinion-sharing or Meeting for Personal Growth and, surely a winner, Meeting for Spirituality.

For myself, encouraged by the unshackled exuberance of Isaiah’s devotion, on occasion I am guided to minister locally: ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are full of thy glory, Glory be to thee O Lord Most High’.

Is any Quaker renewal possible that lacks comparable devotion expressed in worship, inextinguishably springing from heart-soul-mind-love of God though always affirmed distinctively in care for neighbour?

Geoffrey Johnson

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