I recently finished Philip Gulley’s book Living the Quaker Way. Quakers attempt to live lives guided by the virtues of simplicity, peace, integrity, community and equality. He concludes the book with a summary of what living the Quaker way has meant to his life.
In times of moral confusion, living the Quaker way has provided clarity and direction.
When I have been tempted to believe that material gain will bring me joy, its clarion call for simple and centered living has cheered my heart.
When I have thought violence and war appropriate solutions to evil and injustice, the Quaker way has reminded me of the power of love and reconciliation.
When I have played fast and loose with the truth, it has taught me to walk the straight line.
When I have been selfish, it has made joys of community all the more real to me and saved me from self-absorption.
When I have treated some people as lesser, the Quaker way has reminded me of the deep esteem God holds for all people and has empowered me to work for the good of everyone.
It has reminded me that God speaks to all and through all.
It has taught me to listen more, speak less, and seek the happiness and well-being of others insofar as I am able.
Living the Quaker way has, in every sense, made my life a deep and present joy.
That seems to me to be a good way to live.
John Woolman was a Quaker whose example is relevant to my post yesterday about boycotts. He opposed slavery, so he wouldn’t wear clothing made of slave-produced cotton. He refused to buy clothes with dyes after he learned about the effects the dyes had on workers in clothing factories. He refused to ride stagecoaches to avoid being complicit in cruelty to horses. He practiced these and many other personal boycotts as a way of living out his beliefs. He believed that to be true to his values, he must attempt to enact them in his economic life.
John Woolman died in 1772. His boycotts didn’t end slavery, or animal cruelty, or unsafe factory working conditions. But neither did his conduct buttress and support such things. He refused to just accept that slave-based commerce was the way of the world, and that one person’s buying decisions don’t make a difference. He left an example–a Quaker way– that is worthy, I believe, of imitating.