‘Now, if ever, is a time for us to witness to our ancient testimony.’

John Lampen has truth ache in the 'Thought for the week'

‘But now the voting is over, what can we do?’ | Photo: Joël de Vriend / Unsplash.

We have no current Yearly Meeting programme focused on the Quaker testimony to Truth. Yet we live in an era of ‘post-truth’, ‘fake news’ and promises which won’t be kept. Advertising, either vacuous or misleading, stimulates the greed that is destroying our home planet. Financial misreporting appears to be common. Social media provide platforms for rampant bigotry with vicious and hurtful personal attacks on school children, people in various ethnic and gender groupings, and those in public and political life.

Now, if ever, is a time for us to witness to our ancient testimony. Jessica Metheringham wrote recently in the Friend (13 December 2019) that Friends are ‘not the kind of people who look at someone running for office on shameless misinformation and soul-deep falsehood and think, yes, that’s what we need.’ But now the voting is over, what can we do? It seems to me that we are not ready as a Yearly Meeting, or individually, to say. I know that I cannot. I believe our lack of a focused programme reflects a failure of discernment.

So we need to consider together what our options are; and I think we should start at the personal level.

John Woolman counselled us to weed out the seeds of war from our lives, but what about the seeds of deceit? A corporate Quaker programme is more likely to emerge if thousands of British Friends are consciously witnessing to Truth in their daily lives. Many probably do so, but how can we pool the resulting experience and insights? There is some helpful material already in the Quaker Quest booklet Twelve Quakers and Truth. This also raises the issue whether there is one Truth or many truths – or is that the wrong question to ask?

I can imagine Meeting for Sufferings setting up a working party to explore how British Quakers can live our Truth testimony. The result might be a leaflet for enquirers, together with a booklet that expands its ideas and gives inspiring examples. I hope it would include clear thinking on how a Local Meeting can witness corporately to the Truth. There might also be some suggestions for action at a national Quaker level.

Why would I like the working group to be set up by one of our central bodies? Firstly, this would mark the outcome as the corporate position of the Yearly Meeting. Secondly, they are best placed to see that the group is broadly based and knowledgeable. And, lastly, they can draw on the skills of the Britain Yearly Meeting communications department to publish and disseminate the results.

To adapt John Woolman, we don’t want to come so close to the culture of falsehood that the distinction [of Friends] would be little more than the name of a truthful people.

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