Politics is on our minds this week. Marge Abbott and Noah Merrill explore how Friends have been called to engage in the political conversation in the past and offer a vision for the future.
This is a re-release of an earlier video that we did with the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
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- Marge Abbott says that Friends have always had a sense that the Kingdom of God can be realized here on Earth. Do you share that vision? What does it look like personally for you to work towards that?
- Noah Merrill says that Quakers tap into a prophetic power when standing up and engaging with authority—even when they don’t need to. What do you think he means? Have you experienced what he is talking about?
Marge Abbott: Friends have always had this sense that the Kingdom of God can be realized here on Earth, and so for early Friends, sometimes that vision was taken from Isaiah with the image of the lion and the lamb living side by side without doing damage to the other, this sense that we can all share this Earth together if we treat each other with respect.
A Quaker Vision for Political Activism
Noah Merrill: The systems that we create as people, the systems of government and systems of power and the way that we distribute resources are all inhabited by people, and at its most powerful, this prophetic work is about relationships.
Marge Abbott: Friends always been very active in addressing our government and its rule. They had started out in the earliest days having to try and change laws that were affecting them directly. As time went by a century later they were among the most active lobbyists to end slavery, active in women’s suffrage, in temperance movements… many, many places where they were lobbying over the centuries.
Waiting in the Broken Prison
Noah: There’s a story in the Book of Acts that I really love where these two traveling ministers, Paul and Silas, are in this jail…
Marge: Paul in his travels had been thrown in jail and in the middle the night there was an earthquake or something that broke open his jail cell…
Noah: …and everybody’s chains come off. So they’re sitting in this broken prison…
Marge: …and he could have easily walked away, and never been seen again, and never have to deal with the consequences…
Noah: …and the jailer comes in and he starts to kill himself, because he’s afraid to get executed because his prisoners have escaped, and Paul and Silas call out and say, “Don’t harm yourself. We are all still here.”
Marge: He stayed and faced his jailers and said, “You guys are doing it wrong. You can’t be imprisoning me. You’re taking away my rights as a Roman citizen.”
Noah: So that image is really important in terms of understanding what it means for Quakers to be engaged in prophetic work, that we can touch that experience of everybody’s chains coming off and then we stand and we wait in the broken prison and we bring that message to others, and invite others to live in that reality as well.
Marge: And Friends were known for doing things like singing in jail. They were there with joy, knowing that they were being obedient to God. They even convinced some of their jailers to become Quakers, which is something I’ve always loved.
The Power at Work in Every Heart
Noah Merrill: To live in that life and power–as Quakers have said–that takes away the occasion for war. It’s not that we’re setting out to destroy war. It’s that we’re turning our eyes and turning our hearts and the directions of our lives into the channel of love, and knowing it’s that power that arises, the power that holds the planets in place, that we’re responding to.
So we’re a small group. We’re politically insignificant in so many ways, but it’s not our power that we’re bringing to these conversations. We’re being as faithful as we can be to the truth that’s being revealed to us, and we’re trusting that if we follow that through, that that will speak in others as well, you know, that that same power that we’re encountering is also at work in every heart.
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.