excerpt from a message given at Durham Friends Meeting, March 8, 2020
Should we keep politics out of Meeting? Is it something we should leave outside, for another day and another place?
I think we certainly have to acknowledge that Jesus was a political figure. He was “born a king” in a land that already thought it had a different king. And he was executed for treason, for claiming to be a king. (Crucifixion was reserved for punishing treason.) In between he advocated all manner of things that run against the policies of the current government. How can I follow Jesus and exclude politics from this room?
So what to do? I’m still thinking in terms of what do I lay down when I come into this room, and what do I pick up and carry away from it.
When I come into this room, I have to lay down everything, and that includes all my worldly allegiances and commitments. As Paul says in Galatians (3:28), “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Nor is there Red Sox or Yankee. When I come into this room, I’m not a Democrat. I’m not for Bernie or Joe or Elizabeth. I have to lay down my slogans. I have to even lay down my certainties about gun control, climate change and a woman’s right to choose. They may still be there waiting for me to pick them up when Meeting is over, but for the moment I have to lay them down.
I’m only with God. No, that’s not right. I’m also with all of you. We’re all sharing in the work of helping each other settle deeply into worship. We’re making each other welcome. We’re looking at each other expectantly. Perhaps you, or you, or you, will be who channels the voice of God today. I’m not dismissing anyone because of their politics.
We’re making a place for God, and that means we need to be tender with each other.
On the other hand, what do I take from this room?
I have to expect that what I hear in this room, what I take in, will make a difference in every aspect of my life. It will shape my politics. It is here in worship that my most basic commitments are forged, and sometimes re-forged. I have to expect that this is possible.
I have to carry the commitments formed in worship out of this room and let them influence everything I do. My personal relationships. My finances. Everything. Even my politics.
Quakers sometimes say, “Let your life speak.” That goes for politics as well as for everything else. But it’s what we carry out of worship that lets our lives speak, it’s not what we smuggle into worship.