A few days ago, I accepted a friend request from someone I went to high school with. I didn't/don't know him very well; we had a few classes together back then and I remember him being a pretty controversial character. I had received his friend request some time ago, but I hadn't been accepting friend requests of people I didn't know very well. Then, a few days ago, I had a moment of faith, where I said to myself "Jesus wouldn't not be Facebook friends with someone who he might not agree with. I value dialogue. If I'm really embracing my calling to ministry, and if I really believe that I'm living my life authentically (even with all its imperfections) why not accept friend requests from people I don't know well (with the caveat of still excluding obvious spammers), maybe we'll both learn something from each other."
That was my logic. Do I regret it... I'm still trying to figure that out; no, just kidding, I don't. Since then this person has written extensively on my wall messages clouded in Islamaphobia, sexism, homophobia, and heterosexism. Unfortunately his opinions about women, citizenship, immigration, and religion are not foreign to me. I have heard many of these same opinions from settlers in the West Bank, Palestine, Israeli soldiers spraying down protesters (and me!) with sewage and other conservative Orthodox Jewish communities. I've unfortunately also heard similar opinions from people I know from conservative fundamental Christian communities and conservative fundamental Islamic communities. These messages of oppression, hate, and fear are hurtful; it is really sad to see people strip each other of a common humanity and forget that at the core of each of our traditions is peace, justice, and love.
It is a well known fear of some Jewish Israelis that if the birthrate of the Arab population both within Israel and in Palestine continues at its current rate, there will be 5-10x as many Arabs then Jews in the next decade. The fear of political upheaval along ethnic lines has contributed to systems of wide spread oppression of Arab Israelis and Palestinians as well as a economic incentives for Jewish Israeli women to have more children. These incentives are driven harder by a need for people to fill the Israeli army and a other cultural fears of history repeating itself.
There is of course that historical support for this fear, stemming from widespread Antisemitism that while most visible in the Holocaust of WW2, has continued to marginalize and discriminate Jews around the world. Jews by and large experience the privilege of whiteness in America; but still find difficulty advocating for themselves in our American culture of Christian hegemony.
And while the history of the Jewish people as told through the Torah is one of great violence and exceptionalism, there are also so many parts of that same history that have do to with humility, justice, kindness, and love. The Jewish faith is chock full of ritual and theology that values wholeness, caring, and tikkum olam (healing the world). My Jewish friends who do not willingly spout Islamaphobia, sexism, hetersexism, or homophobia, are living out their faith differently than those who do. The same can be said for Christians who act very differently than me. We all have reasons to be angry, righteous, even mean; but is that what the core of our faiths really calls us to be?
The person who wrote on my wall asked what Quakers are doing to solve our dwindling population problem. He wanted to know what Quakers were doing to promote our birth-rate; what were are doing to preserve our people. While there comments begin with a meshing of religion, cultural identity and socially constructed race that is not as present in my own faith community, these questions were innocent enough in asking who are you?
My reply included: "In short my faith is not trying to increase birthrate to increase numbers. We have no interest in keeping the military stocked either nor are we trying to gain political power or social power by sheer numbers. Quakers focus on witness, sustainability of the earth, treating everyone with respect and over all following the promptings of the Spirit."
His response included: "Something that does not propagate itself is challenging to value." Which has made me think and feel quite a bit over today. At first my feelings were of anger, disgust, and sadness. And then, walking back from a Spiritual Caregiving visit with an 87 year woman who is just so alone in the world, I thought: My faith propagates love. Its a love that is often hard and challenging, like these conversations with this high school classmate; conversations that I hope can continue in private- not posted on a Facebook wall for all to see and hurt. Its a love that is living and breathing, that comes from visiting friends and family and strangers who need us to listen, to care, and to be present.
Its a love that interrupted my whole day so that I could pour my heart out over these words and a love that is not exclusive to Quakerism, Christianity, or any particular faith or community. But it is a love that bring some people to my faith- and people to other faith communities who live this love too; it is a love that brings people who are hurting, people who are needing to be seen and heard, and people who have felt rejected by the world, into our doors and into our hearts. We Quakers have a lot to do to grow and expand that love, but at the core we propagate love.
God help me continue to do so.