Queries on Our Response
by David Chandler
after the events of 911 (before we attacked Afghanistan) the Visalia
Friends Meeting drafted a list of queries for reflection. The Friends
(Quakers) do not have clergy and do not preach, but rather ask each
person to seek the truth that is within themselves. Greg Seastrom
signed the letter as the clerk of the meeting, at the time, but
the authorship derives from the shared spiritual reflection and
dialogue of the Meeting as a whole. In the end it was accepted as
reflecting "the sense of the Meeting". We sent the letter
out to several hundred churches and other religious groups in Visalia,
Porterville, Springville, and other neighboring communities. Perhaps
your church leaders brought this letter to your attention at the
time; perhaps not. I am reprinting it here as we look back over
the last three years retrospectively.
--David Chandler, progressivewritersbloc.com
We of the Visalia
Friends Meeting (Quakers) send our greetings to you and your religious
community because we believe we share a spiritual bond that transcends
religious labels. We as a nation have been confronted with a crisis
that is as much spiritual as political. If religious teachings are
to be more than a collection of pious platitudes they must apply
when the terror is real and emotions run high. At times like these
we need to draw together with our neighbors, to pause and reflect
on our core values, and to strive for alignment between our beliefs
and our actions.
We have met
together in worship to reflect on these horrific acts and our individual
and national responses to them. Out of that meeting has emerged
a list of queries, a traditional Quaker form of sharing. It is the
tradition of the Religious Society of Friends not to preach, but
rather to call each other to look within and encounter for ourselves
God who dwells within. Queries are a means to that end. The issues
confronted here are so central to our life as a nation that it was
felt that these queries should be shared with the wider community
of faith as well. We offer them to you not in the spirit of argument
or debate, but as a stimulus for reflection and dialogue. We hope
that through them your faith community will join with us in dialogue
and a mutual deepening of our respective faiths. We welcome your
Yours in the
Religious Society of Friends
Q: How can
we as a nation respond to violence and oppression without becoming
violent and oppressive?
Q: How can
we learn to live at peace with the world when we are, and always
will be, vulnerable to terrorism?
Q: Do I really
believe we should love our enemies and respond to evil with good?
Do these teachings apply even when the injury is great? Do they
apply now? Do they apply even if the violence escalates?
Q: Am I careful
to make clear distinctions in my thinking and my speech to avoid
needless escalation of the violence? Do I distinguish between crimes
by individuals and acts of war by nations? Do I distinguish between
the inhabitants of a country and the government that rules over
them and possibly oppresses them?
Q: When I consider
the costs of war, do I take into consideration the human cost on
both sides of the conflict, or only the cost of American lives?
Do I include among the costs the loss of life and livelihood due
to the resultant hunger, deprivation, disease, and economic destruction
as well as the direct loss of life in combat?
Q: To what
extent is support of my country right and proper? Are there limits
to that support? Do I acknowledge that my country, as any country,
is a human institution capable of using its power for either good
or evil? Do I expect my country to respect the rights of other nations
and to work for world peace in cooperation with the United Nations,
the World Court, and other institutions promoting international
Q: Am I willing
to refrain from retribution to break the cycle of violence, where
each new incident becomes the justification for an act of revenge?
Q: Have I sought
to understand the roots of fear and hatred of the United States
expressed in many parts of the world? Do I try to see my country
and its actions through the eyes of those who are most critical
of us? Where those criticisms may be valid, am I willing to commit
myself to work for change?
Q: When someone
mentions "terrorists" do I automatically think of a particular
ethnic or religious group? Do I allow the actions of extremists
to color my attitude toward entire ethnic or religious groups? How
can I show compassion for people from other backgrounds living in
my community who are themselves terrorized by the backlash to recent
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