I learned recently that Quakers in Great Britain issued a statement expressing their support for the ideals of the Occupy movement. My first reaction was, “well, it’s about time!” On further investigation, however, I realized that Britain Yearly Meeting issued their statement back in November. A pretty rapid response from a national religious denomination!
I am grateful for the willingness of Friends in Britain to embrace the message of economic justice that has been trumpeted by occupiers across the globe. This should be a no-brainer for us as Friends. Quakers have a long track record of at least paying lip service to the need for a more equitable economic system, and making a statement of support for the ideals of Occupy is a fairly small ideological leap.
The greater challenge is actually doing something about it. We Quakers talk a good game about peace, equality and economic justice, but we often lead lives that are fairly typical of the middle class of our respective nations. Many of us are well-informed, responsible citizens within the safe confines of bourgeois respectability; fewer of us have found ways to live into the more radical modes of engagement that our spiritual forebears have modeled for us.
I applaud Friends in Britian for publically minuting their support for the ideals of the Occupy movement. That is more than most Friends bodies have done. Yet, it is easy to write minutes and issue statements. Words come easily, but concrete commitments are more challenging.
What are ways that we as the Religious Society of Friends can move beyond words, committing ourselves to the radical social justice message of Jesus? How can we move beyond the mere affirmation of ideals and get our hands dirty in the messy business of the gospel? Expressing our ideals is important, but putting our faith into action requires much greater bravery. As we open ourselves to the Spirit that inspires all courage, we will receive strength to change our lives, putting flesh and bone on this vision of justice that we have talked about for so long.