Monday, November 26, 2012

The spiritual basis of Quaker lobbying

What I love about Quaker lobbying is that it's Spirit-led and grounded in the conviction that there is "that of God" in everyone.

To make this point clear, FCNL has put together a biblical rationale for Quaker lobbying so that Christ-centered Friends will feel more comfortable with our process and policies. In addition, Marge Abbott, one of the great bridge-builders between Evangelical and liberal Friends, has written a pamphlet explaining the theological basis of Quaker lobbying. Both are excellent resources.

FCNL gives Friends an opportunity to put our faith into practice. This November 325 Quakers came together from throughout the United to take part in Quaker lobby day. We not only received training on how to lobby, Quaker-style, we also heard excellent policy reports from experts. But perhaps most meaningful of all, we had time for worship and worship sharing."

FCNL's website notes that "working from one's spiritual center has been part of the Quaker tradition for hundreds of years." That means being spiritually grounded and coming from a place of love as we go about the business of politics. We are also reminded to listen deeply as well as speak from our (spiritual) center so we can understand the other's point of view and make a real connection with those we dialoguing with. Finally, "it involved looking for that of God in the other person even--especially--when that is difficult." (See

These are the principles behind Quaker lobbying. Following these guidelines isn't easy, especially if one feels strongly about an issue. Being open-hearted and open-minded is especially difficult when the stakes are high. I am glad that FCNL provides training and role modeling so that I can practice such Spirit-led lobbying.

FCNL also provides some well-researched, concrete recommendations for policy change:

1) Cutting the Pentagon budget by a trillion dollars over the next decade.

2) Investing in war prevention, which is 60 times more cost effective than military intervention after a crisis erupts. This means investing in programs such as the Complex Crisis Fund and Civilian Response Corps, as well as diplomatic efforts.

 3) Getting the Senate to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban and downsize our nuclear arsenal. The US and Russia have 19,000 of the 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world. It's up to us to set an example and reduce our weaponry.

 4) Bringing all troops home from Afghanistan by 2014.

 5) Having actual serious face-to-face negotiations with Iran. In the last 30 years high-level US and Iranian officials have met only once in 30 years to have one-on-one diplomatic talks and that conversation in Oct 2009 lasted only 45 minutes. Before going to war, or even threatening war, we need to have a serious talk with Iran....

 FCLN is also calling for comprehensive immigration reform and an end to government subsidies of fossil fuels. Finally, we need a Constitutional amendment to prevent corporate money from deranging our democratic process.

 Much of what FCNL advocates is also supported by other faith-based groups, such as the National Council of Churches and mainstream churches such as the Methodists and Presbyterians, etc. that have lobbyists here in DC that work together on many issues. It is good to remember that the right-wing Christians aren't the only ones pushing a political agenda: liberal Christians are also politically engaged. (And increasingly are working with liberal Jews, Muslims and other faith-based groups.)
During Quaker lobby day I had the opportunity to meet with three local representatives or their adies: Adam Schiff (Pasadena), Brad Sherman (Thousand Oaks area), and Lois Capps (Santa Barbara). Of the three, Lois was the most receptive. She met us in person and was so sympathetic she covered nearly all of our "talking points." She also knew my teacher and mentor, the great Santa Barbara peace activist, Gene Hoffman. I feel that with Lois, we have a Friend on the Hill.
We also met with aides for Schiff and Sherman. They basically support the Democratic line: tax increases for the rich, modest cuts in the Pentagan and social services, and exiting Afghanistan as soon as possible. Schiff has opened admitted there is much waste and misspent funds in the Pentagon budget, hence the need for cuts, especially when it comes to nuclear weaponry.
What elected officials told us is that if we want change, we need to let them know our views loudly and clearly.
While the recent elections did not provide either party with a mandate, the voters generally preferred liberal and Democratic candidates and positions over conservative Republicans. We need to amplify the progressive voice.

I urge you to contact your elected officials to let them know how you feel about these issues. FCNL has a website ( that makes it extremely easy to contact the right official at the right time to say the right thing. (The definition of political wisdom.)

The important thing is to stay engaged. As William Penn wrote in his pamphlet "No Cross, No Crown": “True godliness [i.e. spirituality] does not turn men out of the world, but enables them to live better in it and excites their endeavors to mend it.”

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