First Sunday Reading for October 2021
Friends’ responsibility toward civic authority requires integrity and discernment. When government acts as a coercive agency, especially when resorting to violence, it may violate Quaker principles. On the other hand, the state commands respect and cooperation when it acts to maintain an orderly society with justice under law for all and to meet human needs.
Friends participate in civic life in a variety of ways. Through the ballot, public witness, legislative advocacy, or holding public office, Friends may contribute to an enlightened and vigorous public life and help shape policies and institutions that are in keeping with Quaker testimonies. Participating in volunteer and non-profit organizations can be other opportunities to bring Quaker values to bear in our local communities.
When obedience to the state appears to be contrary to divine law, Friends take prayerful counsel to find the right way forward. This involves testing our resistance to the state through discernment in the meeting community, possibly through a clearness or support committee. When the decision is to refuse obedience, we act openly and make the reasons for our actions clear. If the decision involves incurring legal penalties, Friends generally have suffered willingly and fearlessly for the sake of their convictions. If we are not personally involved in an action of civil disobedience, we strengthen the meeting community by supporting our fellow members with spiritual encouragement and, when necessary, with material aid.
We must come from a spirit of love and compassion to help our leaders and many of our fellow citizens come to see that if we truly love God then we must make a drastic change of direction in the course of our country. The only way we will gain respect is by showing it to others, even those we disagree with. The only way we will gain love is by giving it to others, even those we disagree with. Love of country must always be subordinate to love of God. Love of country alone sets us on a course towards the disasters that have befallen other countries over the centuries. Charting a new course must begin now before it is too late.
Tom Fox, 2005
We value the part we have in shaping the laws of our country. It is our task to see that these laws speak to and answer that of God, which we believe is in every person. Our aim is the building of a social order that works toward the expression of divine love. Our first allegiance remains with God.
Advices & Queries – Civic Responsibility
If, by divine leading, our attention is focused on a law contrary to divine law, we must proceed with care. Before making a decision to oppose a law, we pray for further divine guidance; we consult with others who might be affected by our decision. When we reach clearness, we act with conviction.
When our decision involves disobedience to the law, we make the grounds of our action clear to all concerned. If there are penalties, we suffer them without evasion.
We care for those who suffer for conscience’s sake.
- How are we working for change in government when change is needed?
- How do we discern between meeting our obligations to the state and society and opposing those contrary to Quaker principles?
- What are we doing to uphold those acting under a concern aligned with Quaker belief?
- In what ways do we care for those who are vulnerable or are in poverty in our communities?