Archive for the ‘Testimonies’ Category

The Friends’ Testimony of Harmless Speech

February 12, 2016

If my people, the Quakers, could make themselves famous for one thing, I wish it could be abstinence from hurtful speech. They already have a reputation for non-violence, and a reputation for truth-telling: why not put these together as the Friends’ Testimony of Harmless Speech and preach it on the street and the Internet, in the bus queue and the laundromat?

Well, I think I already know one reason why not: and that’s that “harmlessness” sounds wimpy. We’ve been infected by the mainstream culture of the World, which teaches that you’ve got to project toughness, and be a little scary, to be worth anything. The slogan “Speak truth to power,” popular among some Friends, suggests an adversarial standoff in which Quaker rightness wilts Establishment wrongness, and the once-mighty grovel and slink off into nothingness. But this is not loving, this does not encourage repentance and reconciliation, but enshrines unforgiveness. It is an evil fantasy, and can only retard the owning of our own shadow on which our personal healing depends.

Think again about harmlessness: Jesus Christ was harmless, and taught a gospel of harmlessness: “love your enemies… if your enemy compel you to go with him a mile, go with him twain.” So did the Buddha; so did this nation’s own saints William Penn, Sojourner Truth and Martin Luther King, Jr. These were not wimpy people.

There is another reason we don’t embrace a testimony of harmless speech, and that is that we like the gratifications of sarcasm and, let me call it by its right name, cursing our oppressors under our breath. We don’t want to think of doing without it, because it’s one of those things we tell ourselves we have to do for stress relief — like drinking (if we drink) or masturbating (if we masturbate). But do we? It takes only a little more time, and a little more mindfulness, to hold up our anger at our oppressors before God, and pray that they be granted the gift of repentance. This can turn ill-will into good will without even requiring that we stop being righteously angry.

But what about that “natural” hunter-instinct in us that rejoices in the kill and celebrates victories over adversaries?

The Muslims have a custom of saying “Bismillah,” “in God’s name,” whenever they take an animal’s life. I try to ask this of myself when I slap a mosquito, or kill a flea I’ve combed out of the cat’s fur: a tiny moment of giving thanks to the Creator of Life for His/Her permission to take a life, and of prayer that God might somehow bring good effects from my authorized act of destruction. To call on God’s name seems to have a way of taking away whatever malice I might have had toward the offending creature, who was, after all, my Beloved Lord’s creature and may have been dear to Him, who feels the suffering of everything that suffers.

The vow of harmless speech I’m encouraging people to take, and particularly my fellow Quakers, is not a frill, a luxury. The planet is cooking, and the people that might stop this human-made doomsday process aren’t stopping it. I suggest that their powers to do good may be mired in the adversarial processes they’re engaged in – which are everywhere: in the insanely costly electoral competitions now consuming this country, in the sports arena, in the marketplace and in the police station. Did I mention our now-permanent-seeming state of war? Our attention is consumed with efforts to control the behavior of other people by countering their will with ours. And this all starts in the human heart, which thinks to relieve its suffering by generating barbed words, which we’re too heedless to disarm before we let them out the gate.

If everyone agreed that there is a God, and our lips and minds were God’s property, and that no will but God’s ought to be done on earth as it is in heaven, the task of persuading all our brothers and sisters to commit to harmless speech would be a no-brainer. Mouths would be holy, and no longer be seen as places from which both blessing and cursing might come. But we don’t have that agreement to build from. All we can do, each of us, is try to model the world we want to see.

A Personal Mission Statement

March 14, 2014

God is love, and calls us all to forgive all offenses and adopt God’s will as our own.

I’ve also discerned that God calls me to preach and exemplify this call to repentance of our selfish ways, and bear witness to the new life that follows on our being forgiven and healed from estrangement from God, which is this common fear-dominated condition called sin. I experience and understand this new life as a life in Jesus Christ, who lives both in God and among us, guiding, directing, warning, empowering, gathering, healing and perfecting all who will come to Him, whether they call Him by that name or some other.

I’ve discerned that I’m called to serve Jesus Christ, in His name and power, as a teacher of His gospel, persuader, comforter, hearer of confessions, and conveyer of His forgiveness and His healing. As I understand my calling, I’m to do this chiefly, but not exclusively, within the Religious Society of Friends.

I ask the help of a spiritual care committee to help me grow in this ministry, and to correct me if I should stray from it.

An open letter to my congressman’s soul

January 30, 2014

I just wrote the letter that follows, and I intend to deliver it in person to Congressman Crowley’s local office in my neighborhood tomorrow, and also to hand it out at a rally to be held out on the sidewalk in front.  In so doing I will not be identifying myself as a Quaker, but only as a Christian constituent of Rep. Crowley’s.  I mean this as a kindness to my fellow Quakers, who might otherwise see me as an embarrassment to themselves.

This realization cost me some pain.  The Friends I worship with are respectful of my Christian faith, but many don’t share it, and we don’t discuss that much — which I acknowledge as my own failing.  Now I think pretty much everyone loves Jesus the compassionate healer, the wise teacher, the bold protester of injustice; but many, I think, have trouble with the idea of a Christ that grants eternal life to those that come to Him.  Many more, I’d guess, have trouble with the ideas that we are fallen from a better state; that we are  in bondage to sin, and to an evil influence that might fitly be called “the father of lies,” and while in this state cannot free ourselves by our own unaided efforts, but are in need of the free gifts of repentance and salvation; and that if we make no effort to escape this bondage, we are liable to choose — yes, choose — the darkness of damnation over the light of redemption, with painful consequences in the life to come.  “Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to destruction is wide and spacious, and many take it, but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Mt. 7:13-14 – New Jerusalem Bible)

This world-view of mine makes it feel much more important to me to warn an elected official against the consequences of sin than to lobby or bully him into voting the way I want him to.  God does not want him damned (Ez. 33:11, 2 Pet. 3:9); neither must I, if I value my own salvation.  This may put me in the position of looking like a fool in the eyes both of Congressman Crowley and of my fellow opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but that’s to be expected in a world where the norm is adversarial competition and confrontation.  But more important than how Joe Crowley winds up voting on the TPP is the purity of heart with which I approach him, because if my letter to him is a mere pretense of loving concern meant merely to affect its readers on the sidewalk below, then the Divine Witness in Crowley’s heart will feel my hypocrisy and not hear me.  Lord, purify my heart for tomorrow’s meetings with people, and let what happens be in accord with Your will: in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Congressman Crowley,

The peace of Christ be with you. There is talk that you may soon decide to declare support for the fast-tracking of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), or even appear as a Democratic co-sponsor for fast-track legislation. If you could support either the TPP or the fast-tracking of it with a clean conscience in the sight of God, I’d have nothing to say to you except “God bless you and keep your conscience clean forever.”

But you know and I know that the TPP’s an evil thing, and that as you sow, you must reap: give pain, get pain. You may be thinking about some fancied good that might be brought about by the TPP, but good ends will never justify evil means, as your education in Christianity should have taught you (see Romans 3:8). This means that if you sin against your fellow human beings by trashing child labor laws, disabling people’s efforts to exercise good stewardship over the earth, undermining legislation protecting the common rights to wholesome food, water and clean air, castrating collective bargaining for fair working conditions, keeping third-world nations in perpetual debt-slavery, and robbing the sick and the aged of their moral right to affordable generic medicines, you and President Obama and the rest of the TPP’s supporters, Democratic and Republican, will have a whole world full of victims to answer for, and ages and ages of personal suffering to pay in this life and the next. As your brother in Adam who must care for your salvation as he cares for his own, I beg you not to do such a horrible thing to yourself!

Set an example for all the others in Washington! Say “No matter what retaliation I may face from the moneyed interests that put me in office, I’ll answer to God for what I do, and not to them!” We both know that they need someone to be the first to do that!

TESTIMONY OF PROTEST AGAINST PAYING TAXES FOR WEAPONS AND WAR

March 21, 2011

TO BE FILED WITH MY FEDERAL INCOME TAX RETURN FOR 2010

This is to make known that I pay only a part of my taxes willingly, namely the part that serves the common good without inflicting violence. The part that finances arms, armed forces and warfare is taken from me against my will, and comes into the United States Treasury only because the government has the power to compel payment. However, I would cheerfully give an equivalent amount for peaceful purposes. Colonial and later state governments (East New Jersey, Constitution of 1683; State of New York, before 1841), as well as the U.S. Congress during the Civil War, allowed for the redirection toward non-military purposes of “war taxes” collected from Quakers and other conscientious objectors to war. Why can’t the same accommodation to conscience be made today?

I make this protest because, as a Quaker, I count myself a citizen of the peaceable kingdom of Jesus Christ, who said He was come to save people’s lives, not destroy them (Luke 9:56). He taught His people to love their enemies, and not to resist evil (Matthew 5:39, 44) – certainly not by force of arms, but only with spiritual weapons (as His apostle Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, signifying inward weapons of mind and will for the overthrow of “imaginations,” pride, falsehood, distractions from the saving knowledge of God). But this same Jesus, pointing to a coin stamped with Caesar’s image, also bid us render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s (Matthew 22:21), and urged non-resistance to those in power (John 18:36), setting an example by disarming Peter at the occasion of His own arrest, when he warned that those who take the sword would perish by the sword (Matthew 26:52). Paul likewise encouraged a respectful obedience to whoever held the reins of secular government (Romans 13). In fact Jesus even had Peter pay tribute money on his behalf to the Roman occupiers “lest we should offend them” (Matthew 17:27).

The Great Peacemaker Jesus having been so compliant with the armed and aggressive civil authorities of His time, there might be no reason at all for me to bear this witness against paying taxes for weapons and war – not if I were merely a subject of the United States Government in the way that Jesus and His disciples were subjects of the Roman Empire. For then I might just comply without protest, with my heart saddened but my conscience unburdened, so long as the government did not directly ask me to disobey commandments of God myself (Acts 5:29).

But I am also a citizen of a democracy that claims to act in my name, and that makes all the difference. The United States was founded on the assumption that governments derive their “just powers from the consent of the governed” (Declaration of Independence, paragraph 2). I must therefore protest that the United States Government does not have the consent of all its governed, and does not act in my name, when it arms men and women to take human life; and I hereby give notice, as I’ve also done with my tax returns in years past, that I would not and do not choose to have any part of my earnings used for a purpose so contrary to the spirit of my rightful and actual King, Jesus Christ.

I urge all who may read this to consider whether their consciences are telling them to do as I do in this matter.

John Edminster
3/21/2011

Cooking with Simplicity: Not-Refried Pinto Beans

July 6, 2008
cooked beans

Beans 2/3 of the way through this recipe

I want to share some recipes which are simple, as in easy, basic, and not expensive, recipes that are good for us, and good for the planet.

On another day, I will go into more thoughts about cooking and the Testimony of Simplicity. By then, I hope you will have tried this recipe!

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Most Norteamericanos are used to bland, pasty refried beans.  We buy them ready-made into “refried” beans, in cans, if we buy them at all.

But well-made pintos can be delicious, healthy and easy to make.  They don’t even have to take a lot of active preparation.  If you know what you’re doing, a lot of the work can be done while you are up to other things. You can also do steps 1 and 2, and save the beans in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for a longer period, and do step three another day.

I like to make this recipe for “Not refried pinto beans:”

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