Quaker meetings often include the practice of using a series of questions (queries) to guide the discussion of spiritual beliefs and practices. Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) has twelve sets of queries, so usually, one set of queries is considered each month of the year.
This month my Quaker meeting will be considering the queries on social and economic justice.
These past three years of involvement with Des Moines Mutual Aid have brought into focus my lifelong concerns about our capitalist economic system. Being on the front lines each weekend, distributing food donated to our food giveaway, I see cars of adults and children who don’t have enough money for food.
The capitalist economic system only works if you have money. It’s so frustrating to me that I can’t make my White friends, Quaker friends see how incredibly unjust this is. They don’t see a problem with capitalism because they have a source of income.
I call capitalism a form of economic slavery. I use that term hoping it might cause some people to stop and think about racial enslavement. Economic slavery can have almost as much of a devastating impact on people as racial slavery did.
My F/friend Jed Walsh recently eloquently expressed what I’ve been feeling about Quakers, White supremacy, and capitalism. I share his grief around thinking about moving away from Quakerism.
For me, there’s a lot of grief around thinking about moving away from Quakerism, as Quakers have really significantly shaped the person I try to be and the ways I want to be part of social movements. But my fear/pessimism right now has been telling me for some time that Quakers as a whole can’t let go of our collective attachments to white supremacy and capitalism. I’m tired of being in the margins of a Quakerism that’s clinging to the status quo, and hoping to find other places to practice faith and spirituality where I can feel more aligned with others.
Mutual Aid is a moral alternative to capitalism and White supremacy.
11. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE
“For when I was hungry you gave me food, when thirsty you gave me drink, when I was a stranger you took me into your home, when naked you clothed me, when in prison you visited me.” Matthew 25:35‑36
We are part of an economic system characterized by inequality and exploitation. Such a society is defended and perpetuated by entrenched power.
Friends can help relieve social and economic oppression and injustice by first seeking spiritual guidance in our own lives. We envision a system of social and economic justice that ensures the right of every individual to be loved and cared for; to receive a sound education; to find useful employment; to receive appropriate health care; to secure adequate housing; to obtain redress through the legal system; and to live and die in dignity. Friends maintain historic concern for the fair and humane treatment of persons in penal and mental institutions.
Wide disparities in economic and social conditions exist among groups in our society and among nations of the world. While most of us are able to be responsible for our own economic circumstances, we must not overlook the effects of unequal opportunities among people. Friends’ belief in the Divine within everyone leads us to support institutions which meet human needs and to seek to change institutions which fail to meet human needs. We strengthen community when we work with others to help promote justice for all.
- How are we beneficiaries of inequity and exploitation? How are we victims of inequity and exploitation? In what ways can we address these problems?
- What can we do to improve the conditions in our correctional institutions and to address the mental and social problems of those confined there?
- How can we improve our understanding of those who are driven to violence by subjection to racial, economic or political injustice? In what ways do we oppose prejudice and injustice based on gender, sexual orientation, class, race, age, and physical, mental and emotional conditions? How would individuals benefit from a society that values everyone? How would society benefit?
Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) Faith and Practice
The advice says “We are part of an economic system characterized by inequality and exploitation. Such a society is defended and perpetuated by entrenched power.” And yet few Friends talk about, or do anything about living in and benefiting from such injustice.
I’ve had many conversations with my Indigenous friends about Quakers, colonialism, White supremacy, and capitalism.
“I don’t know what you can do. The church is the church’s past, which is its future. It continues to see my people as obstacles in its endless conquest.
To be blunt, there is too much damage that the church profits from and needs to protect to have any future there.
I wish you the best. I imagine it’s a hard struggle.”
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