“Are you working to bring about a just and compassionate society which allows everyone to develop their capacities and fosters the desire to serve?”
Most unprogrammed Quakers are left wing, and BYM Advices and Queries 33 fits that beautifully. The desire to serve, within a reconciled, harmonious society. I am relieved at the election of Mr Biden, and on Saturday I was not in favour of reconciliation, but overcoming. Republicans are still lying, and will lie until they are driven out. For example, Rand Paul lying about masks. He tweeted,
the only published randomized clinical study of cloth masks shows 97% penetration of particles & higher infection rate than control. But never mind, it’s all about submission…
Masks are useless, he claims. The NYT article explains why this is untrue, and why the evidence he cites does not bear it out. For Paul, “the desire to serve” is submission, or servitude. His rugged individualism goes so far as to refuse the basic decency or courtesy of wearing a mask, and distorting the facts about it.
Angered about the liars lying about “the transgender agenda”, claiming trans people want to force children to hormones and surgery rather than let them grow out of their gender confusion, I was in no mood to tolerate Senator Paul. I was moved to quote 1738 Dialogue II (The Defence of Satire):
Ask you what provocation I have had?
The strong antipathy of Good to Bad.
Other people may attempt dialogue with Senator Paul and those who think like him. There is a range of opinions between his hard Right and my Left, and someone closer to him might be more able to persuade him to moderate his views. God has more hands than mine, and not all God’s work falls to me. The gay Evangelical who believes Christ calls gay men to be celibate might have a better chance of convincing an Evangelical who thinks gay men should seek a cure, and conform to masculine stereotypes, than I would. I think the celibate gay man is wrong, but he has enough common ground to gain a hearing. To quote John Major, I might “condemn a little more, and understand a little less”: I might strengthen people’s convictions against the false claims, and reassure trans people worried by the false jibes, rather than bother engaging with the right wing extremist.
Advices and Queries 33 is one of my favourites. In 2001 I wanted to transition but was terrified. I went to meeting in Chester, and a Friend read that paragraph, and when she got to “Bear witness to the humanity of all people, including those who break society’s conventions or its laws” I broke down in tears. That rugged individualism, or self-reliance, can be a virtue, though can be taken too far. 17th century Quakers when travelling in the ministry took no payment for it.
Complete self-reliance is impossible. We all depend on society. And we cannot live with only a desire to serve, for we all have needs. The two virtues are interdependent. If we are to be “involved in the work of reconciliation” as enjoined by A&Q 32, we have to see the virtue in others. The peaceable kingdom will include us all, and God does not necessarily demand that others change far enough to make me feel comfortable- or that I change, or deny my discomfort.