From Replace heat with light to a Spiritually healthier view
Replace heat with light
How refreshing to read Oliver Műller’s letter (21 August) calling on Friends to accept the challenge of discussing views which they do not find immediately appealing. It brings to mind John Stuart Mill’s assertion that: ‘He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion.’
In the disturbingly polarised political and moral landscape in which we currently find ourselves, I believe that our Quaker history and testimonies provide Friends with a huge opportunity to encourage people with different beliefs and values to find ways of living together harmoniously.
But to be credible as honest brokers we need to be able to approach people with views we find challenging with an openness to understanding and respecting them – something which we should feel confident we can achieve without compromising our own values or integrity.
When issues have become polarised a great deal of energy tends to be focused on the questions ‘Who is right?’ (generally post-hoc rationalisation of an initial emotional response) and ‘How do I put these people right?’ (which appeared to be the chosen role of many Friends in the Brexit debate, including some contributions to this letters page).
I believe that Friends are extraordinarily well positioned to help replace some of the heat with light by encouraging adversaries to take a few steps back from partisan issues and reflect on how much more they undeniably have in common than there is which divides them.
Harrogate Quaker Meeting has just started to move back into its Meeting house. However, allowing for social distancing, we can’t have everyone together in the building yet.
We also have Friends who need to remain away from people at present. As a result, we are continuing to hold the longstanding Zoom Meeting for those who would prefer (or need) to worship in this way and are linking the Meeting house to it using a mobile phone.
This is obviously not perfect in any way, but it allows spoken ministry from each place to be heard by the others and gives more of a sense of community.
Harrogate Friends would welcome ideas from other Meetings for how you are allowing the spirit to flourish in these different times.
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