Letters - 13 November 2020

From Transformation is possible to Gift Aid

Transformation is possible

In the Friend of 30 October we heard about different strands of campaigning for climate change. I sometimes wonder why some actions are more effective than others. One of the many things I learn from early Quakers is that their actions flowed from their beliefs. Every act of witness sprang from the waiting and discernment in the presence of God. Each person who stepped out did so with mind, body and spirit as one, in the belief that the all-encompassing loving spirit would guide and care for them, so that the world could be transformed. I think love still holds the key to our actions.

Too many people shut their eyes and ears to what I have been campaigning on. I sit still and wait. Different emotions rise to the surface. I listen to the voices in me that are angry, frightened, frustrated or disappointed. I watch these voices wear themselves out and sometimes I feel a universal sadness washing over me. I take all of this in my arms and comfort myself. Then I find I can reflect more constructively. I acknowledge that most of us must be feeling all these difficult emotions. What if we were to listen with love to the cry from everyone, those with power and those seemingly with no power? Might we find a place to meet, from which we can move forward together?

It is important to be prophets, helping to lead the way; it is also important to connect with people where they truly are, in all of their fear, bewilderment and horror. Between fight and flight is a place of flow where we meet the other. Quakers know a lot about this; we have so many skills to offer. We know about listening, respect, empathy, equality, truth and all those values that lead us to the core of each person. I believe this is our starting place for campaigning. I am not sure we will ever succeed unless we do this. It is where transformation becomes a possibility.

Ruth Tod

Moving beyond

In her Thought for the Week (23 October) Kate McNally raised interesting perspectives. For instance: ‘In the same way that early Christians grew from their Jewish roots into something different, Quakers take their Christian roots and grow into something different.’ 

One day our daughter, when aged seven, quizzically asked my wife: ‘Mummy, did Jesus think the earth was flat?’ We know so much more about the world, the universe and sub-atomic particles than our biblical ancestors did. We no longer think of a three-tiered universe, within which Jesus would rise upwards to heaven. Many social norms are radically challenged too. For example, the Bible seems to accept slavery, albeit treating slaves with compassion.

I spent four years in South Africa in apartheid days in the 1970s, eventually falling foul of the security police. Many Christians opposed apartheid. But Acts 17:26 was possibly the most important text for apartheid theologians. ‘From our one ancestor God made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the time of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live.’ Those who accepted what this text said were obeying God, and those who did not were opposing God.

There are many other examples of outdated biblical norms. In the same way that Jesus moved beyond large parts of the culture which had informed his life, as Kate McNally writes, we need to follow his example by probing the mores of 2,000 and years ago.

Howard Grace

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