Sunday, January 10, 2010

Quakers get good press

Nicholas Kristof gave Quakers a shout-out in his Jan. 9 ope-ed piece on religion and women in the New York Times. I like that Kristof recognizes that religion does good in the world as well as bad:

"Yet paradoxically, the churches in Africa that have done the most to empower women have been conservative ones led by evangelicals and especially Pentecostals. In particular, Pentecostals encourage women to take leadership roles, and for many women this is the first time they have been trusted with authority and found their opinions respected. In rural Africa, Pentecostal churches are becoming a significant force to emancipate women.

That’s a glimmer of hope that reminds us that while religion is part of the problem, it can also be part of the solution. The Dalai Lama has taken that step and calls himself a feminist.

Another excellent precedent is slavery. Each of the Abrahamic faiths accepted slavery. Muhammad owned slaves, and St. Paul seems to have condoned slavery. Yet the pioneers of the abolitionist movement were Quakers and evangelicals like William Wilberforce. People of faith ultimately worked ferociously to overthrow an oppressive institution that churches had previously condoned.

Today, when religious institutions exclude women from their hierarchies and rituals, the inevitable implication is that females are inferior. The Elders are right that religious groups should stand up for a simple ethical principle: any person’s human rights should be sacred, and not depend on something as earthly as their genitals."

What do you think? Major faiths started out accepting slavery, then defending it ... then being the most vigorous forces in overthrowing it. And, in Quakerism we have, of all the amazing things, a pre-Enlightenment acceptance of female equality, based not on secularism but on revelation. I throw my lot in with a religion of love (for me, that's Jesus: love your enemy, Sermon on the Mount, Beatitudes, justice will prevail ...) as more powerful than anything else, even the hatred in its own ranks.

If on the balance organized religion is more solution than problem, how to show that? Do you think it's true?


Hystery said...


Very thought provoking. I differentiate between Spirit and the religions that attempt to promote it. The Spirit has always been available to encourage us toward Love as we are capable of receiving it. Religious organizations are social constructs that, depending upon the historical and sociological situations in which they find themselves, have often failed to live up to the possibilities of the spiritual life.

Diane said...

Hi Hystery,

Or have actively opposed that Spirit to support principalities and powers. Yet when a religious organization, even a small one, gets behind the Spirit ... difficult to stop ...

Hystery said...

Yes. I decided that I wanted to be among Friends for that reason. I have thought that perhaps Friends' focus on obedience to the "Light" rather than on insisting on a shared description of it has been a source of great strength.