[saymaListserv] Re: [Sayma] AFSC and the Religious Society of Friends

William Kelly Morris morriskk at mindspring.com
Wed May 3 01:56:51 JEST 2000

Thank you, Larry for your thoughtfulness and for telling your story in this
most personal way. I can resonate with the populist thinnking from my work
on personal racism, - that is, I must first change myself with the support
of the Spirit and others. Then, with others, I can work to bring about
institutional change, but through the leading and guiding of personal
experience and always with the constant assistance of the Divine Presence.
Sometimes I think it is hard to separate this way of working from the idea
of the "do-gooder" mentality, the thinking that was more prevalent in
decades past and often guided activist groups (from my experience,anyway).
My sense from reading and listening is that the AFSC has become more
conscious of these distinctions in recent years and is more actively seeking
to "serve" by working "with" and not "for"  groups. I'd lke to hear more
about this from those who have had direct exerience.
Karen Morris
343 Adams Street
Decatur, GA  30030

----- Original Message -----
From: Larry Ingle <lingle at bellsouth.net>
To: Michael Shell <BrightCrow at infoave.net>; <sayma at kitenet.net>
Sent: Thursday, April 27, 2000 9:45 AM
Subject: Re: [Sayma] AFSC and the Religious Society of Friends

> I appreciate Michael Shell's comments, particularly because they mostly
> out of his experience with AFSC.  I might disagree with some of his
> generalizations--his use of the word "Spirit" without any modifier at all,
> for example--but they still represent his legitimate experience.
> I too have had an experience with AFSC, one that has grown more and more
> disillusioned with it as I have learned more and seen more, and I think I
> can hightlight the reason for that.
> When I became a member of SERO's Executive Committee in 1976, I regarded
> as a very exciting undertaking.  Mostly liberal, I wanted to help other
> people and find ways to indentify with their hurts, pains, and
> As the years went by (I served on the Committee for six years), I came to
> realize that AFSC's approach mostly mirrored that of the Religious Society
> of Friends as a whole, i.e., it was liberal in an upper class kind of way
> that it presumed that those who were hurting and feeling pain were mostly
> incapable of dealing with their problems without assistance from outside,
> from those who knew better than they what their problems were and how they
> might be solved.  This approach was not grounded in the concrete realities
> of those on the receiving end of AFSC's ministrations.
> In short, I had been radicalized to see that what was needed was a
> "populistic" approach to social problems, one that grew out of the need
> hurts of the people and did not originate from outside.  I had known and
> identified with this populistic approach in an academic fashion long
> drawing on my region's and my family's populism in North Carolina, but it
> remained pretty much academic until I ran up against those who were
> promoting AFSC's work and I realized the consequences of their actions.
> More and more, I am coming to a position that regards social and economic
> class as the most important single thing about most modern "liberal"
> Friends, and I am struggling with this issue all the time.
> Someone once said that a "liberal is one who sympathizes with the hurts of
> other people; a radical is one who knows from experience what hurting is."
> This definition speaks to me and my criticisms of AFSC, as well as the
> Society of Friends.  The reality of social and economic class is something
> that we have not struggled with nearly enough, especially given our
> history as a people, in the 1650s.  I don't know yet where it is all
> leading, but I anxiously await the outcome.
> Larry Ingle
> Chattanooga
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