Quaker Impact on the World

An article review by Mike Soika

One reason I began thinking about becoming a Quaker was because of the group’s reputation for action on social justice.  It wasn’t until I became steeped in Quaker practice that I understood how our work for justice emanates directly from our dedication to contemplation.  And, how the movement of the Spirit in our hearts leads us to become the heart and hands and voice of the Divine in the world.  This Quaker sense of integrating contemplation and social action is the focus of a book and an article, reviewed below.

Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest and a leader at the Center for Action and Contemplation.  In his  February 8, 2020 daily meditation (1)  Rohr provides an observation about the outsized social justice impact that our relatively small group of Quakers has had over time.

Rohr relates how  “ (Quaker) actions—grounded in contemplation—have had a profound impact, helping to abolish slavery, promote gender equity, and reform prisons and other institutions. “

In this reflection, Rohr goes on to quote from a book by author, Stephan Schwartz (2)

“How could this small group of people create movements that ultimately involve millions, tens of millions? This is a tiny group whose beingness is so powerful that enough people personally change their choices so that the desired change becomes society’s new norm. In studying the histories of these great social transformations, eight laws…begin to emerge. . . . Taken together, they reveal how individual choice linked in consensus becomes the strategy of beingness that creates change. Adherence to these Eight Laws is not the unique domain of Quakers, of course. But in their efforts, it can be clearly seen. “

Here are the laws: 

First Law. The individuals, individually, and the group, collectively, must share a common intention. 

Second Law. The individuals and the group may have goals, but they may not have cherished outcomes. 

Third Law. The individuals in the group must accept that their goals may not be reached in their lifetimes and be okay with this. 

Fourth Law. The individuals in the group must accept that they may not get either credit or acknowledgment for what they have done and be authentically okay with this. 

Fifth Law. Each person in the group, regardless of gender, religion, race, or culture, must enjoy fundamental equality, even as the various roles in the hierarchy of the effort are respected. 

Sixth Law. The individuals in the group must foreswear violence in word, act, or thought. 

Seventh Law. The individuals in the group and the group itself must make their private selves consistent with their public postures. 

Eighth Law. The individuals in the group and the group collectively must always act from the beingness of life-affirming integrity.

 I surmise that many of my Quaker Friends would bristle at the idea of following 8 laws to achieve social justice in society.  We aren’t a people accustomed to adhering to rote disciplines.  At the same time, every one of my Quaker Friends would embrace the idea that our inward journey and our outward actions must align, and that often, our leadings bring us to a place of change that is both welcomed and uncomfortable. 

Listening to the voice of the Divine in our hearts and walking with integrity in the world while working for social justice is something – quite frankly – we could use more of today.  And so, my dear Friends, please let us continue to let our lives speak.

(1) Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation – From the Center for Action and Contemplation – Summary:  Week Five – Alternate Orthodoxy, February 2 – February 8, 2020. Practice: Eight Laws of Change

 (2)Stephan A. Schwartz, The 8 Laws of Change: How to Be an Agent of Personal and Social Transformation (Inner Traditions/Bear & Company: 2015), 17-18.