Quaker Universalist Conversations

Jewish universalism & nationalism in Vichy & post-war France

Reading Sarah Hammerschlag’s “Truth for Children”

“Truth for children” is a phrase from a radio address by Emmanuel Levinas in September 1945, shortly after his release from a German prisoner of war camp set aside for Jews. The Geneva conventions had protected Jewish prisoners of war from the worst atrocities of the Holocaust, yet death was a constant threat. It was a time of Jewish awakening for many. As Hammerschlag writes, quoting Levinas (p.54):

“’The Jew lent his own significance to the sadness that he shared with his non-Jewish comrades, a consciousness of Judaism acute as a spasm.’ Within this context, the biblical accounts of the Jewish people took on a new significance. ‘After so many detours,’ Levinas suggested that the stories of the patriarchs, of God and Pharaoh, became true ‘in their elementary truth, in their truth for children, in their vulgar truth.’”

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“The Church, the Draft Board, and Me”

Sharing the memoir of George Amoss, Jr.

“The Church, the Draft Board, and Me” recounts my conflicts with the Catholic Church, whose ethics were called into question by the war in Vietnam, and the U.S. Selective Service System, which refused to honor my conscientious objection to participation in war.

In telling that story, it sketches my evolution, despite encounters with predatory priests and a vindictive draft board, from youthful candidate for the Catholic priesthood to adult a-theistic Quaker who still asserts that “God is love.”

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A Quakerly Dance Form

Reprinted from Western Friend

During the Contact Improvisation class at Intermountain Yearly Meeting 2018, we explored ways to connect and move through the language of touch, how to vary pressure to create stability or momentum, how to touch reassuringly to communicate trustworthiness.

We explored ways of giving and taking weight, and generating three-dimensional aspects to dancing. People rolled onto the floor and onto each other’s bodies. All this was done through deep listening, responsiveness to others’ physical invitations, and checking in with one’s own essential self for boundary making.

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We cannot live outside of history

From the Editor’s Desk of Western Friend

Dear Friends: Our bodies cannot live outside of history, nor can we live outside of history’s cruelty, its “mixing memory and desire.” Rowing our boats with our backs toward the future, we despair at the carnage we watch flowing out from our wakes—oceans choked by our poisons, lives crushed by our bigotry, truth and kindness twisted by our greed. Some bits of beauty bob along, too. But it’s easy to view the whole scene as basically grim.

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“Talking About God at Buchenwald”

On reading & sharing Richard Beck’s blog post

“After touring the grounds of Buchenwald and going through the crematorium, where we viewed the ovens used to burn the corpses, I walked the group over to a shady spot, the zoo built for the entertainment of the SS officers. And there I tried to talk about God.” —Richard Beck

We humans put a human face on God. Then we blame and barter with that God, having projected onto God the capacity for human action, human courage and compassion, human intervention. We ask, “Why does God allow this?”

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“33 Years of Resistance”

A post on war tax from Pedals and Seeds

How can I remove myself from the war economy? Jesus’ message is to drop the sword and find wholeness. Can I embody Truth — to become a clear bell — to offer concrete love? I need to take my money out of the US federal bank account. On Tax Day, April 17, 2018, I will not voluntarily pay a nickel for war.

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“Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis”

On reading Linda Villarosa’s New York Times article

Linda Villarosa reports that not only are infant mortality rates for black infants more than double that for white infants, but that this situation is worse than in 1850. She writes that a college-educated black mother is more likely to die related to childbirth than a white mother with an 8th grade education, and points to systemic racism as being a likely root cause.

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