They Vowed It Would NEVER Happen! But It DID — Same Sex Marriage Comes to Fayetteville-Fort Bragg, North Carolina

October 13th, 2014

While I lived in Fayetteville, as Director of the longtime peace project Quaker House, we worked hard for change and justice, including for LGBT folks.

It was an uphill slog, with many difficult moments. Here’s one, a video we made in response to an ugly campaign to put a ban on same sex marriage in the NC constitution

The ban passed in Fayetteville by 80 per cent, in 2011.

Yet there were better moments too: When the odious “Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell” policy was repealed, we organized the Local public celebration, memorialized here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGxMbDZ9w-s

I retired from Quaker House in 2012. But I was back in Fayetteville on Monday, October 13, 2014 (known as “Columbus Day” in many places), to join in with the biggest achievement of this equality struggle so far: the Tarheel state’s constitutional ban was dead; and this was the first day when marriage licenses were issued to NC same sex couples.

My friend Katharine “Kat” Royal was also on hand. Kat is a minister, and she and her husband Micah performed several weddings right outside the courthouse in the warm sun.

While I was there, several same sex couples came into the county’s Register of Deeds office. I talked with two of them, one of them proceeded to get married on the spot, and more about this visit is in these seven photos below.

It was a big day.

Register of Deeds Office, Cumberland County NC

Lots of people went in with kids; maybe they were buying houses.

Kathy & Elaine, doing their pre-nup paperwork

Kathy & Elaine, who have been together eleven years, are right behind the blue sign. The paperwork took about half an hour (for everybody). They said the county staff were friendly and professional.

Kathy & Elaine, all smiles!

Here they are, license in hand. Kathy is retired, Elaine is an army veteran, and has a civilian job at Ft. Bragg. They’ve bought a teardrop camper, they said, and look forward to Elaine’s retirement, when they expect to drive around fancy free, wherever they feel like. They’re planning a wedding toward the end of this year.
If you look through the window, upper left, into the Register’s office, you can glimpse another smiling couple, who followed Kathy and Elaine. In the bustle of the day, we didn’t catch their names, alas.

Alishia and Shelbie-On The Way In

Next to come in were Alishia and Shelbie. Alishia, at left, is a Marine, and is proud of having passed the tough Marines training tests. Alishia works at a restaurant. They met through an online dating site, and have been together for a month.

Alishia and Shelbie exchanging vows

Kat Royal, at left, reads the wedding service for this winsome couple, who spoke their vows shyly and stumbling a bit (who of us who’s been through this hasn’t done that??) Personally I think Shelbie’s sneakers are to die for.

Alishia and Shelbie, in the clinch

Kat: “I now pronounce you, wife and wife”; and into the clinch.

Alishia and Shelbie, a post-wedding hug

The happy couple, one of many in North Carolina on October, 13, 2014, Day One of a new era

Quaker Alert! Thunder In Carolina

September 29th, 2014

Quaker Alert! There’s big trouble brewing in North Carolina Yearly Meeting-FUM: talk (and MORE than talk) about purges and schism.

I’ve now uploaded an exclusive hot-off-the-digital-presses report, a Preview from the journal Quaker Theology. The full report is here:

Quaker Theology #26 - Cover

“Survival & Resistance” A Message from 2006 That is Timely Again

September 24th, 2014

 [Note: This essay was originally published in Friends Journal; but it's now behind their paywall. It still seems timely today; maybe more so.]

Quakerism was born in a time of revolutionary upheaval. Yet it learned how to survive when the revolution failed and was followed by decades of persecution.

I sometimes hear Quakers waxing nostalgic about recovering the fire and fervor of “early Friends.”

This longing is understandable. In my view, beyond the fire and fervor, the best things to recover from “early Friends” are the toughness and determination that brought the body through the years of repression.

This communal history looms large today because we are in an increasingly similar plight, facing an all-but established police state, repressive within and truculent without. The grim details are described daily, if ever more faintly, in the remaining dissident media outlets. While many Americans recoil, the majority shrug and submit.

Unlike early Friends, we are not being singled out – but we are not exempt either. The process is more sweeping and sinister now. Its essence was best described fifty years ago, by Friend Milton Mayer, in his masterwork, They Thought They Were Free. Mayer showed in calm, harrowing detail how ordinary, virtuous 1930s Germans were seamlessly reduced from citizens to subjects, cogs in the Nazi machinery.

One of the most telling features of this malevolent transformation was that for most, all it entailed was doing nothing. As Mayer put it: “the rest of the seventy million Germans, apart from the million or so who operated the whole machinery of Nazism, had nothing to do except not to interfere.”

Or as one of his German friends confessed, in abject shame: “Suddenly, it all comes down at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven’t done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing).”

“Doing nothing” does not mean cowering in a corner, but rather, focusing fixedly on daily life: family, job, religion, entertainments, even quiet political hand-wringing. All while being careful “not to interfere.”

By tracking how this tsunami of evil quietly engulfed so many “good people,” Milton Mayer became one of the most truly prophetic Quaker voices of the last century.

This discernment defines the elements of the task now before us. We can also learn of it from the costly but fruitful ordeals that overwhelmed Friends after their first upsurge. The heroes who endured the “sufferings,” and even wrested from them a real measure of freedom–they are our examples.

The watchwords for such a time of trial are two: Survival and Resistance, and they are offered here as a motto for our life and witness today, and for many tomorrows.

“Survival” does not yet mean preserving our physical lives. Rather, it means thwarting the soul-consuming program of compliant denial and submission starkly charted by Milton Mayer. Thus our first duty is to find the courage to banish illusion and face our plight, clear-eyed. This is a daily task.

“Resistance” means being faithful to this undeceived awareness, becoming “wise as serpents and harmless as doves,” persistently refusing “to do nothing”: challenging, undermining, and igniting sparks of liberation in what George Fox called “this thick night.”

Yet this summons to “survival and resistance,” is not simply a call to the barricades, or even to more activism. There will be much of that, still. But the early Friends’ experiences suggest – as does Mayer’s book– that to be enduring, its wellspring will come from within, more than without. Deepening our own personal and communal spiritual roots, making them our “strongholds” – these are the deepest “action” priorities.

There are sound theological reasons for this emphasis, but just as powerful practical ones too: when the new police state (or its enemies) begins to target Friends, and those with whom we are culpably connected, it is these “strongholds” that we will be forced to fall back on. They will become our ultimate redoubt, our basic line of defense, or we will have nothing.

Until recently, Friends’ mainly middle class status has seemed to protect us – not because we are strong, but because the rulers think us weak, gullible, easily intimidated, incapable of interfering. However, they are wrong about us. Quakers, after all, pioneered the making of steel, and in their early crucible, Friends learned steely resolve, doggedness, and courage. With God’s help, we can survive and resist again, and our witness can again have impact.

Indeed, a few of the rulers’ minions have begun to glimpse this subversive potential, as shown by the reports of spying on Quaker witness. There will be more of that. And in due time, if some persist in refusing the demand to do nothing, surveillance can be followed by more stringent measures.

So: Survival and Resistance. That is our call. Early Friends rose to it, and left us models and warnings. Our recent prophets have shown us that such a time of trial could come to us again. And so it has.

To take up this challenge, here are two suggestions: First, Read Milton Mayer’s book. Discuss it at your meeting. Then move to “A Quaker Declaration of War,” at the Quaker House website. Keep reading, keep talking, keep centering. The leadings will come.

Friends, the impending struggle will be long and costly. Let us set to work, then, to make it fruitful as well.   

Related posts online:
Sun Tzu: “The Art of War” for Peacemakers
“A Quaker Declaration of War”
The Wheel of War
The Wheel of Peace

Is A Baptist Style Bust-Up Coming to North Carolina Quakerism?

September 19th, 2014

I’m reading a history of Baptists in Alabama, and it’s tough going. After several days, I’m only as far as 1850. Yet the book is well-written, the story often absorbing; so what’s the trouble?

This: almost every paragraph evokes parallels to current events in North Carolina Yearly Meeting of pastoral Quakers.

More than beliefs or church practice, the parallels involve a persistent phenomenon that doesn’t have a special name. I call it the “Baptists’ Unending Bust-up Break-up Addiction”: BUBBA for short.

Some historians speak diplomatically of schisms. But that term implies a breakdown in the normal order. For these Baptists, though, splits and rumors of splits rapidly became the normal order, as predictable as mosquitoes in summer. And like those bugs, they seemed to arrive in swarms.

The specifics came and went; it’s the repetitive, chronic character that qualifies as addiction, and makes BUBBA a much better terminological fit.

So far in the book, they’ve split (or almost) over having missionaries (even locally, never mind overseas); church roles for women and blacks; foot-washing, and revising the King James Bible.

As for dogma, it had been Calvinist theology versus hyper-Calvinism, both of them trashing Arminianism, not to mention everybody against the Landmarkers; and more.

Keep in mind that this was before they began feuding with Northern Baptists over slavery, war, and all that.

If you don’t recognize many of these squabbles, doesn’t matter much. It’s the pattern that counts. And that’s what looks so similar to the North Carolina pastoral Quaker case. The either/or crusade has started; those who are not with the insurgents are more than wrong, they have to go, NOW.

Which is to say, here comes BUBBA.

North Carolina pastoral Quakerism has been showing increasing symptoms of this malady for years now. But for the most part, they had managed to mobilize a kind of religious immune system and avoid the worst.

Until now.

In antebellum Alabama, BUBBA’s fevers didn’t seem so bad, at least from an inside perspective. Despite the quarrels and separations,

Wayne Flynt: Alabama Baptists, A History

the Baptist flock kept growing, until it dwarfed all others.

For a century after the Civil War, the Baptist State Convention was Alabama’s quasi-established church, with vast political clout as a testament to its religious weight. And its ethos spread across the South, like kudzu and NASCAR.

But in the last couple of decades, as with other long-term addictive behaviors, BUBBA’s progressively debilitating toll has become inescapable: Baptists remain Alabama’s largest church, but the growth years are over; numbers, dollars and all other important trends are sinking, fast.

Same goes for Carolina’s pastoral Quakers. Membership is down at least 40 per cent in the past generation. Reading their plaintive fundraising letters is thoroughly disheartening. And whatever else BUBBA’s arrival brings, it won’t include a church growth plan.

What’s saddest of all about this plague is that a tested vaccine is readily available.

It could be called the GM treatment, and it’s mixed from utterly orthodox and biblical ingredients: a dose of Jesus’ Parable of the Wheat & the Tares in Matthew 13, blended with Paul’s mandate in Galatians to “bear one another’s burdens” (6:2). Repeat daily.

More plainly, it comes down to, “Live and Let live, and let God sort them out.”

But such remedies showed no measurable traction at the NCYM 2014 annual sessions. Alabama had come to the Piedmont; BUBBA was in the house.

The next showdown will come in Eleventh Month (November). What will happen? Count me with the Prophet Yogi Berra, who said, “Predictions are hard, especially about the future.”

But we do know about BUBBA’s impact in Alabama. For more than 150 years, while the denomination’s local influence was unrivaled, it was also a big factor in keeping the state at the bottom of just about every measure of social and civic health there is.

That sobering backstory haunts the history I’m reading, and the saga is ongoing.

So BUBBA may win the day among Carolina pastoral Quakers. But will it produce some kind of great Quaker revival there?

I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it. Heck, not even the ranch dressing.

By the way, I know that some non-Southern denominations also have splitting habits, even so-called “peace churches” (looking at YOU, Mennonites). But BUBBA has a special regional intensity and tenaciousness.

Reading about the Alabama Baptists’ experience with it doesn’t look to get much easier, and it’s a long book.

Dr. Bronner, Magic Soap & Me

September 10th, 2014

All-One Faith! All-One Soap!
Here’s the man behind it all, live from Escondido.

By Chuck Fager – Summer 1976

On March 9, 1945, a man named Fred Walcher got himself crucified. In Chicago, on the framework under an el station, after dark. When the cops found him and pulled him down, bleeding and semi-conscious, he wouldn’t say who had nailed him up there.

“I’m dying for peace,” he gasped. “I’m dying for Dr. Bronner’s Peace Plan.”

Dr. Who? And his what?

The police got the full name out of Walcher: Emil Bronner, a chemist. The cops found Dr. Bronner later that night, making soap at the factory where he was research director.

Dr. Bronner & His Soap

“Are you Bronner?” they demanded.

He admitted it.

“Do you have a peace plan?”

He said he did.

“Come with us.”

He went.

The crucifixion, Bronner said later, was front-page news in the Chicago papers. When the reporters and photographers crowded into Walcher’s hospital room flashbulbs popping and pens scratching, Bronner was there too, with plenty of copies of his peace plan. Walcher still declined to name his assailants; the plan, he insisted, was the thing. It was his reluctance to finger anybody, though, that was news; the peace plan got only passing mention, Bronner recalls, in the Tribune, and was not mentioned at all anywhere else.

That was thirty years ago. Today, [in 1976] people are still dying for a peace plan, and at age 70 Dr. Emil Bronner is still making soap and trying to get someone to pay attention to his ideas. Nowadays, though, the people who usually come to him are not cops but more like hippies, longhaired pilgrims left over from the sixties, or at least alumni of that crazy decade of agitation and celebration of the bizarre.

One of these visitors was me. I got interested in Dr. Bronner, his soap and his message the same way most people do: A friend has a bottle of the stuff in her shower stall. Made with pure peppermint oil, the stuff smelled good, made your skin tingle, and the label was a trip: 1700 words of copy appear on the quart size label, in addition to a list of ten of the 18 ways he says you can use the stuff. (Toothpaste? Mouthwash? Douche? I don’t know about the latter, but the others are for real-tastes like soap, though.)

Chuck Fager Tries Out Dr. Bronner's Soap
Your Humble Correspondent, Doing Field Research

“Thank God,” reads part of the label message, “we ascend up from dust, trained-brave, evolving united-guided by full truth, God’s law, the Moral ABC Hillel taught Jesus to unite all free!”

And what is this Moral ABC? The label goes on: “1st perfect thyself! 2nd work hard! 3rd Win Victory, teach All-One 4 billion & overnight we’re all free, All-One! For once the Moral ABC united the whole human race, East, West, Border, breed & birth, unites all of God’s spaceship Earth in All-One-God-Faith; then & only then no matter how rough the trip, how high the toll, you are the captain of the ship, you are the master of the soul! Win Victory!”

This intrigued me, even if I couldn’t manage to read the whole label in one gulp. My instincts were also stimulated. There’s a story in this stuff and the man who makes it, I figured; maybe more than a story.
I was right, though it took me awhile to get to it. When I finally found Dr. Bronner, it was a hot Friday night and he was sitting on the porch of the Women’s Club Building in Escondido, northeast of San Diego. Surrounded by a circle of friends, employees, and admirers, he had just announced virtual completion of the “final revision” of his soap label for the quart bottle.

“This is a statement that’s going to shake this earth,” he declared. “Now I want you to help me in finalizing a few of these lines. Jenny, read me the part we were talking about.”

A woman on his right, a part time secretary, looked down at a sheet of paper and began to recite. Dr. Bronner leaned in her direction. He was wearing a white laboratory coat and brown corduroy pants. His skin was dark brown, well-cured by several thousand baths in the lambent California sun. He is all but blind, and wears dark glasses covered with pinprick lenses. Square hands, cupped under a pointed chin, seemed too large for his thin arms.

He raised an angular finger to point out the problematic phrase. “Should I take ‘lightning-like’ from where it is and place it farther along?” (By this he meant replacing the word “instantly” in the phrase “instantly united the human race” with “lightning-like.”) A few suggestions were offered, but before the issue was resolved, Bronner moved on to another difficult passage: “A human being grants friend and enemy free speech or that being is not yet human.” My pen could not keep up with his ruminations about possible variant readings.

A Label from Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap

Every Friday night, the All-One-Faith-In-One-God-State-Universal-Life-Church meets thus at the Escondido Women’s Club. This evening about 10 people attended, of whom several were employees and two, myself and a friend, reporters. The turnout, we found, was not usually that many. We also learned that Dr. Bronner had announced the “final” label revision not once but many times before.

For two hours he lectured, speaking nonstop about a jumble of topics: Richard Nixon was the most outrageous president we ever had; the riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago were a production of the Communists, in which the rioters provoked the police into retaliation; after World War II, Communist assassins murdered 66 prominent Americans who were opposed to their plans of conquest. He also mentioned some new uses for his peppermint soap that had recently been discovered: He put it on a night or two earlier when mosquitos were bothering him, and they stayed away; someone also had told him it relieved poison-ivy and poison-oak symptoms.

After the meeting, Dr. Bronner invited us to spend the night at his place, and we followed him home, driving out a series of winding roads to Panorama Crest, where the street sign was topped with a larger plaque directing visitors to the “All-One-Faith-In-One-God-State, Inc.” At the corner, Dr. Bronner hopped out of the station wagon, hung onto the door handle with one hand, and jogged the rest of the way to his house, expertly skimming over the potholes with an assurance that, for a blind man, must have come from long familiarity.

Down the hill from his home, in a plant that is a collection of steel storage sheds around an old stucco ranch house, his soap is bottled and shipped out, as is his instant raw vegetable soup, balanced seasoning, mineral salt and a dozen other health-food products.

“Let me show you how I bathe with the soap,” he insisted when we got inside the house. It was almost midnight, everyone else was asleep, but he led us into a small bathroom, peeled off his shirt and turned on the hot water in the sink. “This saves water as well as giving your body a good massage and cleaning,” he said, squirting a dab of soap into the sink and swishing it around. “You just put in about a quarter ounce, not enough to make it sudsy.”

He dipped a towel into the hot, soapy water, wrung it out, then covered his face with the damp, steaming cloth. Then he wet and wrung it again, massaged his hair, arms, and torso, “always moving toward the heart. Always toward the heart.” And always he was talking, talking. He kept us up for two more hours that night.

How did the different fragments of his life fit together? How did he come to be soapmaker and Essene Rabbi, for openers? Dr. Bronner was undismayed by the apparent discontinuity. In fact, the next morning when we sat down in his living room, he insisted that there were not merely two Dr. Bronners but four. He started enumerating and describing them, each sketch fading into a homily that was a near exact duplication of something from one of his labels or leaflets. By the time we had finished late that afternoon, we had talked not about four Dr. Bronners, but eight, and had only come as far as 1941 in his history.

One of the most recent of these identities is among the most paradoxical: Bronner the counterculture celebrity. His son Jim, who oversees the manufacture of the soap at a plant in Los Angeles, described to me how he and his brother Ralph, who now lives in Milwaukee, tried in the early sixties to come up with a new design for the soap label, something snappy and catchy, something that could get the stuff moving. “We were making about ten gallons of soap a week in 1961,” Jim recalled.

In 1968, though, his father negotiated a deal to give away 100,000 bottles of the soap in Israel, as a way of introducing it to the Holy Land. In anticipation of that venture, Dr. Bronner redesigned the label, changing the colors from gold and black to blue and white, the colors of the Israeli flag.

The Israel deal fell through. But the new soap label stuck, and soon thereafter the soap began catching on-among, of all people, the hippies of Haight-Ashbury. The actual beginnings are lost to history, but no doubt some longhair picked up a bottle, was turned on by the smell and the “No synthetics! None!” declaration on the label. And if just a little stoned, the long-hair undoubtedly found endless profundity in the “All-One” philosophy of the long lines winding around the plastic container.

Anyway, word-of-mouth advertising being the best, one thing led to another-despite the right-wing philosophy expressed on the label. Moreover, the doctor had a seeming antipathy toward just about all that the counterculture was thought to stand for (Absolute cleanliness is godliness!” insists the quart label. “We raise coward-tax-leech-slave, unless we raise all hard-working, military-trained, united, armed brave!”)

Nevertheless, Jim Bronner told me that for awhile after the soap sales took off in 1968 (he now makes about 150,000 gallons a year), his father frequently had a house full of footloose pilgrims from the Love Generation, whom he harangued and plied with samples. That wave has passed now, but the soap is an established artifact of the culture that generation shaped. Probably a million people use it, and the number is growing. Dr. Bronner says he has never advertised it (son Jim is not so sure, saying that perhaps a few tiny ads were placed in health-food publications some years ago). He has no sales force either.

But what of the previous identities Dr. Bronner told me about? He started with four:

1. Bronner the German Jewish boy, born there in 1908. His father was a wealthy soapmaker, owner of three factories. Soap had been the family business for 60 years. (That’s why the label says “Guaranteed since 1848 by Einstein-Heilbronner,” which was the family’s original name.) He was still a boy when he was baptized into the reality of his homeland’s anti-Semitism. This baptism was literal, with a font full of urine, administered by a gang of gentile youths.

2. Bronner the athlete, involved in German and Jewish physical culture groups, hiking, camping out, worshipping the fully-toned body.

3. Bronner the Zionist and student soapmaker. He says he leaped into the campaign for a Jewish homeland and came into conflict with his domineering father, who wanted no talk of politics in his factories.

4. Bronner the Socialist-Idealist-Soapmaker and Master Chemist. “‘Jewish boys are soft; they can’t work with their hands,’ that’s what they said when I was studying to be a soapmaker,” Bronner muttered. As part of the soapmaker’s final examination, a candidate had to pour soap into an open wooden barrel, then seal it up by hand before the soap could leak out. The officials were sure he could never do it; but Bronner showed them. He practiced and practiced, passed the test, and became heir apparent to his father’s business.

But there were Nazis among the workers in the plants, and even some Communists. It seems that Bronner tangled with both of them and, as a result, with his father. “‘If you talk about politics or religion in my plant again, you can get out!’” he says his father told him. “‘We are here to make soap, not politics!’”

He said there were four Bronners when he began his discourse. But he went on without pausing: Bronner No. 5 was the immigrant to America and successful soapmaker here. This Bronner also became a husband, marrying a woman who was a maid for wealthy German family in Milwaukee. His wife, Laura, was the illegitimate daughter of a nun, who later committed suicide and left her to be adopted. Bronner says Laura was more beautiful than her adopted parents’ daughter and was therefore hated. They had three children.

“That was before Hitler and the hate,” he said, “and I could make her happy then.” It was during this period, in 1935, that he invented the peppermint-oil soap, originally as a deodorizing wash for diapers.

Bronner No. 6 was unemployed and desperate. His employers laid him off in 1941; Bronner believes the layoff owed a lot to anti-Semitism. He found another job in a few days, however, as consultant to a soapmaker who was working for the government war effort. This was Bronner No. 7. He didn’t tell his employer he was Jewish. Bronner became No.8, who soon thereafter became research director for a manufacturer in Chicago, turned decidedly anti-rabbinical after watching some bearded rabbis intoning prayers over an empty mixing tank and pretending to make kosher soap.

From here the story became harder to follow, more disrupted by the memorized soliloquies. Eventually, though, several more Bronners were outlined: Bronner the widower, whose wife became suicidal and finally died in a state hospital near Chicago. Bronner the war victim, whose parents were gassed by the Nazis. Before their deaths, his sister sent him telegrams demanding money with which to buy their release. “But I couldn’t do it,” he said. The last thing he heard from them was a six-word postcard from the concentration camp. It read: “You were right. Your loving father.”

Bronner had by this time developed the early versions of his peace plan. It proposed a United States of the World, with a world congress composed of one representative for each million people. He printed up copies and passed them out at meetings and lectures in Chicago, presumably passing into Fred Walcher’s hands.

After Walcher’s crucifixion, Bronner attempted to publicize the plan at the International Center of the University of Chicago. But he got into trouble when he demanded the chance to address the Center’s public meetings. University authorities were not impressed with this outsider, with his poor English and his peace plan.

One afternoon in March, 1946, he was in the center director’s office, trying to get permission to speak, when two policemen came in, said his car was illegally parked and asked him to come with them. “I told them to wait half an hour,” he recalled. “There I was trying to unite the world with a real peace plan and they wanted me to come to the station with them because my car was parked wrong. Holy man! And when we did go outside I could see that my car was parked fine. It was a setup, a trap.”

So it seemed. Bronner was jailed, and, a week later, with his sister’s signature on the papers, was committed to a state hospital. There, he says, he ended up in solitary confinement, sleeping at night tied to a bare concrete slab. He says he was tortured with shock treatments.

This was another identity, Bronner the concentration-camp inmate. In his mind, psychiatrists and their hospitals are one with Nazis and Communist murderers. In recent years he has bought and given away 60,000 copies of a Reader’s Digest article about how innocent people get put away in mental hospitals for no reason.

He was released once; but when he then tried to get his sister’s attorney disbarred, was soon recommitted. During the second stretch, he escaped three times and was caught twice. The third time, in September, 1947, he managed to flee Illinois for California.

Bronner made the rounds of soap companies in Los Angeles without success. “He was known in the industry as a brilliant chemist,” Jim Bronner told me. “But his Chicago stories had preceded him, and nobody would give him a job.” Times were so bad, Dr. Bronner said, he even slept on the roof of a YMCA building. Eventually he managed to start his own business, making and selling his mineral salt to health food stores. He was making his soap then, too, but it wasn’t moving well. He took over the bottom two floors of a wino hotel for the operation and spent as much time distributing his religious pamphlets and literature as he did working.

He stayed in Los Angeles until 1963, when his business had grown enough to enable him to move to Escondido. “Do you know why I picked Escondido?” he asked. I didn’t know. “Because the biggest avocado packing plant in the world is here, and when you eat one with my mineral salt, avocado is almost perfect nutrition.”

Sure enough, the Calavo avocado plant is right across the street from his own. “I wanted them to work together with us, sell the mineral salt with the avocados right on the supermarket shelves. But they wouldn’t do it, I don’t know why.” Dr. Bronner has often had difficulty getting people to work with him.

In 1962 he visited Germany. On the way, he said, he stopped off in New York City and spent a month holed up in a hotel, telephoning every one of the Big Apple’s 600-plus rabbis, questioning them about Hillel’s Moral ABC and asking to speak to their congregations. He got many different versions of Hillel, but only one kind of response to his request for time: 600-plus refusals that varied only in tone and courtesy.

But while in Germany, he did manage to speak at a temple, to a group of young people who were training to spend time on a kibbutz. When he finished, he said, more than ten of then stood up and shouted, “You are our rabbi, you have taught us much!” That is how Emil Bronner became a rabbi.

Today he has become Bronner the boss, with a successful business and troubles with the Internal Revenue Service to prove it. He is also Bronner the increasingly frustrated old man, desperate to gain an audience for his ideas and largely unable to do so outside his soap labels. Perhaps that is why he revises them so often, even holding up shipment of orders while he throws out thousands of already-printed ones, agonizing over the rewording of the tiny print, then exultantly announcing, as he has time and again, that the new one is the final, ultimate version. By the time this article is published the latest version should be off the presses and being glued onto the first set of bottles.

On leaving Escondido the next day, we were loaded down with free samples of soap, soup and salt, along with stacks of literature (one copy was never enough). But that wasn’t the end of our encounter. Two days after I got home, the phone rang. I picked it up, and a woman’s voice said, “Stand by for Dr. Bronner.” Then he came on, talking as fast as ever: “Chuck, there isn’t much time! I want you to go to Modesto. Find Walcher’s house there. It’s on Hatch Road.”

Many Dr. Bronner's Products

After Walcher’s crucifixion, Bronner didn’t see him again until he reached Los Angeles, penniless and with few opportunities. Then, miraculously he believes, he ran into Walcher on the street one day. Walcher loaned him $600, just enough to get started with his mineral salt. Walcher later settled in Modesto, worked as a mason and died sometime during the early sixties. Then in January, 1976, in a conversation with a woman from Modesto who had once refused Walcher’s proposal of marriage, Bronner said he realized in a flash that the Chicago crucifixion was not just a fluke.

“Fred Walcher was the Second Coming of Christ!” he thundered over the long-distance wires. “Holy man! The woman I was talking to didn’t believe it. She said, ‘In my Bible, it says that when Jesus returns it will be as a king, and the earth will shake and the clouds will rise to heaven.’

“But that was it! When Fred Walcher was crucified, the earth shook and the clouds rose to Heaven!” (He wasn’t, it turned out, referring to the clangor of the el trains overhead or the smoke from the Windy City’s factories; he meant the atom bomb, which was first detonated in July, 1945, in New Mexico. The interval and distance from Chicago was of no consequence to his interpretation.)

“I want to buy that house,” he shouted. “I want to buy it and make it a shrine for the All-One-God-Faith. Go to Modesto, Chuck! Find it!”

He didn’t wait for me to reply. “And there’s some other things that should go in your article, that are more important than anything about Bronner. I don’t have much time. They murdered so many of the real peace-loving American patriots, Forrestal, Stettinius, Liebman, and who knows, maybe next is Bronner? But there are six of my inventions that need patent protection. Help me get it, Chuck. I don’t want any money from them– it’s all for the church, for mankind.

“There’s the Essene birth controller” (a device employing citrus juice in a suppository which would, he said, lower the pH in a woman’s vagina to the point where conception would be impossible for 24 hours- or, as he put it, “24 orgasms, whichever comes first.”) “And the instant CO2 firebombers for stopping forest fires.” (His design would adapt carbon dioxide fire extinguishers so they could be built into hundreds of mothballed Air Force bombers and used to stop forest fires; in cities he says helicopters could be loaded with tanks of it dispensed with hoses against smaller blazes.) “And two billion windpower generators to charge 96 billion batteries, which can run all the factories and homes in the country.

“Chuck! America has 6% of the world’s people but it used up 35% of the fuel. No wonder we’re hated around the world. Holy Man! With these windpower plants we can run everything and only use 6% of the fuel. Then we can bring peace and unite this world with the Moral ABC!”

The other “inventions” weren’t really his, except for the mineral salt, which he insists contains the right mineral balance to eliminate tooth decay naturally.

And not only is he short on time, he explained, but the world is too. That’s because Halley’s Comet is due back in 1986. Dr. Bronner was convinced that the comet is a spaceship directed by advanced humane (“that’s not ‘human’”, he insisted, spelling the word to make sure I had it right) beings from the area of either Sirius or Alpha Centauri, who are monitoring our planet’s progress toward “Fulltruth” compliance with God’s laws.

Since we have been breaking these laws rampantly and shamelessly, the comet has been coming closer during each pass since 1682. In 1986, or at the latest in 2062 when it returns another time, Bronner is afraid it will collide with our planet and the resulting “supernova” explosion will be a final sign of God’s judgement on us, visible to the whole watching universe.

“I drove myself blind working to get this message out,” Bronner said. “And maybe I talk too much. But when you know what I know, it’s hard to be quiet.” In another moment, he hung up.

It is hard to get Emil Bronner, Essene Rabbi, Soapmaker and Master Chemist, out of my mind. So what if most of his political judgments are patently fantastic, and his personal style is guaranteed to keep people from taking him seriously? So what if he had to wait for a generation of young people who were determined to explore the irrational before he could even sell his excellent soap?

Withal, it seems undeniable, as his son Jim said, “He’s a brilliant man. Many of his ideas have been way ahead of their time, and maybe some still are.” Moreover, his life story is like a prism, refracting the dark colors of the past half century into a searingly bright spectrum of personal experience. If he had been able to communicate better, if he had been listened to before, he might have been able to contribute more to the world than an unusual soap with an even more unusual label. Much more.

No, Dr. Bronner, I haven’t been to Modesto yet. I don’t know if I could find Fred Walcher’s house. But I’d like to go. Holy man! Yes I would.

[Postscript from 2014: I never got to Modesto. And Dr. Bronner died in 1997, aged 89. His soaps are still available. The official Dr. Bronner site is here.]

Progressive & Liberal American Quakers Face World War One

August 20th, 2014

Progressive Friends - A Continuing Series

Be honest: Could you say “No” to “the war to end wars”?

Turns out that president Woodrow Wilson didn’t coin that phrase, and reportedly only used it in public once.

But it doesn’t matter. The phrase, along with one that Wilson did use, “to make the world safe for democracy,” became key pieces of a pioneering and apparently very successful government propaganda campaign to mobilize U.S. public opinion for joining the war. This despite the fact that Wilson won re-election in 1916 on the slogan, “He kept us out of war.”

Along with sophisticated and pervasive propaganda, Wilson’s Committee on Public Information worked with military intelligence to spy on and manipulate key segments of the U.S. population. Among these, it appears, were prominent Philadelphia Quakers who were publicly maintaining the traditional refusal of war support. Scholar Howell John Harris plausibly suspects that the Committee’s agents also helped mobilize Quaker support for the war, especially among the Hicksites.

They had plenty to work with. Several antiwar declarations were issued by Friends bodies early in the war. But in early 1918, as the U.S. plunged fully into the conflict, more than 200 prominent Friends, representing many of the weightiest family names in the Delaware Valley, signed on to a public statement entitled, “Some Particular Advices for Friends & A Statement of Loyalty for Others, Being the Views of Some Members of the Society of Friends regarding Its Attitude toward the Present Crisis.”

The document was published in a newspaper ad and widely distributed as a leaflet. Among the signers was Joseph W. Swain, the president of Swarthmore College, which alone among the Quaker colleges hosted an army training unit on its campus. Swarthmore is, of course, the college most influenced by Progressive Friends.

Pro-War Poster, World War One

“We believe,” the statement declared, “that the majority of Friends are as earnestly opposed as anyone to the enthrallment of the world by a military caste, to the human slavery and slaughter imposed upon Belgium, Poland, Armenia and other countries, to the wholesale destruction of innocent, non-combatant women and children, to unparalleled atrocities and to the spread of organized barbarism. We think that a decent respect for the opinions of mankind makes it incumbent upon the Society of Friends to make such a statement. The principal thing which George Fox did was to break away bravely from the bondage of traditional dogma and from the slavery of the formal Church Discipline to the Authority Within. . . .

“Believing that it is not enough at this time to be neutral and that the views of the Society of Friends have not been adequately represented by the official statements of its executives nor by the utterances of many of its public speakers we . . . have realized that there are unusual and extra-ordinary circumstances of infrequent occurrence which cannot be rigidly or fully met by any man-made Church Discipline. We therefore deem it consistent with our Quaker faith to act according to the dictates of our own consciences and proclaim a unity with teachings of Jesus Christ and the messages of the President of our country. . . .

“It is perhaps reasonable to believe that God works through human instruments and that He wishes us to be “His Hands” for reward and punishment. This course has, we believe, been patiently and forcibly stated to us by the President of the United States who has shown us that the ‘right is more precious than peace.’ We proclaim our loyalty to the Cause of Civilization, and to the President of the United States, and our willingness to help in all ways that may be opened to us by the Inward Light, which is the foundation of our faith.”

Liberal American Quakers Face World War One — Part Two:

As we saw in Part One, American entry into World War One was in large part the result of a pervasive pro-war propaganda campaign, which even swept up many liberal Quakers.

Another Pro-War poster for World War One

Among the other 200 signers of the 1918 pro-war statement was Philadelphia Progressive Hicksite, Albert G. Thatcher. That is, Thatcher was an active Hicksite and at the same time a frequent participant at annual meetings of the Progressive Friends at Longwood sessions in those years. (By that time, Friends could go back and forth between the groups without any problems.)

Thatcher had already published an article in “Friends Intelligencer,” Seventh Month 21, 1917, “Some Friends’ Attitude Toward War.”

“I can truthfully say, with many others,” he wrote, “that this terrible war has taken much from the joy of living. I had believed that the world had passed beyond the possibility of another great war-especially of a war so full of horror as is this war.” He had supported the Civil War as a young man, “and [my] recollections of it are as vivid as though it were but yesterday. The Friends of 1861 were all, or nearly all, anti-slavery men and enthusiastic supporters of Abraham Lincoln. So when the Civil War broke out, it was but natural that they should support President Lincoln in all ways, even to the bearing of arms by many of their young men, to defend the Union and put down slavery. . . . [I]n the Borough of Darby, where I lived at that time, out of eleven families of Friends having sons of military age, nine of them sent men to the army. This list includes some men like my own father, who served in the State militia when Lee crossed the Potomac in September, 1862.

“These men had the anti-slavery cause so much at heart that it was a vital part of their religion. This being true, they rejoiced at each victory of the Union forces, and were depressed and suffered with every Union defeat . . . .

“I am convinced that no body of people would suffer more in spirit and probably in person than our Friends, should the barbaric German idea of Kultur win the ultimate victory and subdue the world. . . .

“Therefore while the writer, does not wish to see any Friend violate his conscientious scruples as to bearing arms, he still thinks that all Friends should do their utmost to support the Government in all ways short of this–so that the world shall be made “safe for democracy,” and a “safe place for the little nations.”

Reading Thatcher’s lament for the loss of his belief that human progress had made such wars beyond the realm of the possible, I’m grateful that Lucretia Mott was resting in her grave. An intrepid campaigner for peace as well as for women’s rights and an end to slavery, she outlasted her critics and adversaries; but fortunately she did not live to see the bloody collapse of her conviction that “The Divine Law of Progress” was steadily making war obsolete and unthinkable.

But what, it is fair to ask, did that onetime bastion of Quaker pacifism and anti-militarism, Longwood Yearly Meeting of Progressive Friends, have to say about all this?

Longwood Progressive Friends Yearly Meeting

Longwood Friends in 1865, At the end of another war

The short answer is short indeed: Longwood said nothing about World War One.

In 1902 they adopted a testimony against the rise of American militarism, especially in the war against Spain, and the taking of the Philippines: “We condemn in unmeasured terms the spirit of militarism into which so many circles of our people have been betrayed by the events of the past four years; and we call upon our people to see to it that the Republic maintain its leadership as the great peace power of the world.” And “We view with abhorrence the cruelties and barbarities practiced by our troops on the natives of the Philippine islands.”

But they also heard a call by E.H. Magill, a former president of Swarthmore, in which he quoted the confident conviction of novelist Thomas Hardy that “‘Oh yes, war is doomed. It is doomed by the gradual growth of the introspective faculty in mankind, of their power of putting themselves in another’s place and taking a point of view that is not their own. Not to-day, nor to-morrow, but in the fulness of time, war will come to an end, not merely for moral reasons, but because of its absurdity.’ The reasoning of the great Russian economist, Bloch, will here occur to every one, in which he shows that wars will in a few generations be made impossible as well as absurd by the constantly increasing power of the weapons of war.”

But aside from the question of what a novelist/poet (or a career schoolteacher and academic) knew about the future of war (not much, as it turned out), the Longwood testimonies, read later, seem to lack the same conviction as the full-throated pacifist declarations from their early years before the Civil War. In the 1850s, they urged the government to abolish the army, navy, and all fortresses and arsenals; God and arbitration could resolve all such problems.

But the epic internecine conflict of 1861-1865, which at times seemed to be heading for their front door, marked a sea change for the Progressives. By 1872, with war memories still very fresh, and many Quaker war veterans among their wider circle, a proposed Testimony at Longwood denouncing all wars had to be revised to sidestep that blanket assertion, in favor of an endorsement of arbitration, the all-purpose Quaker peace nostrum of the post Civil War decades, and one which did not necessarily exclude war.

To Be Concluded in Part 3 . . . .

III

When the first world war did come, the Longwood Progressive Yearly Meeting was no longer issuing Proceedings, but its program lists from those years do not address it. Then in early 1917, their longtime Clerk Frederick Hinckley died, and the annual session was canceled. Another yearly meeting session was not put together until 1919, when the war was over.

Why the silence and stumbling? For one thing, for a decade after Hinckley’s death, the clerking was hit and miss. For another, once the U.S. government began moving toward joining the war, it seems clear that almost all Quaker attention became fixed on reports of the fighting, Quaker relief efforts, and then the creation of what became the American Friends Service Committee. AFSC offered a combination war relief program and a haven for Quaker conscientious objectors, many of whom were very roughly treated by the authorities.

The new AFSC also brought together Hicksites and Orthodox, after 90 years of estrangement, in an emergency collaboration that had major long-term consequences. Longwood, without a clear message, was sidelined. For that matter, so was Swarthmore College. While it accepted a military training project, at its Orthodox rival, Haverford College, Rufus Jones organized a training unit for aspiring volunteers for overseas war relief and reconstruction work, as an alternative to combatant service.

Relief workers from Haverford, enroute to World War One duty in war-torn Europe
Relief workers from Haverford, enroute to duty in war-torn Europe

But war resistance was far from the whole story. There are no statistics, but as scholar Philip Benjamin concedes, “So intense was the hysteria for participation that countless numbers of American Friends wavered in their pacifist resolve.” After all – wasn’t this the “war to end war”? The Hicksite Philadelphia Yearly Meeting managed to retain its longtime testimony statement against war, but the Civil War “compromise,” which left compliance entirely up to individuals was in full force. Moreover, they were battered by a strong internal pro-war faction.

So the Progressive Friends heritage was least substantive when it came to World War One, and this was shown both in Longwood’s silence and the Hicksite Yearly Meeting’s equivocation. Even at Lucretia Mott’s Race Street Meeting, the property committee refused the vocal pacifist Progressive Jesse Holmes permission for a series of peace lectures there in early 1918, most likely for fear of government repression, objections from its own war supporters, or both.

Nor was Orthodox Haverford exempt: a brilliant young professor there, Henry Cadbury, was forced off the faculty after he published an antiwar letter in a Philadelphia paper in the fall of 1918. (He landed on his feet, at Harvard.)

Henry Cadbury at Haverford College

Henry Cadbury at Haverford, before the pro-war axe fell.

The peace witness of American Friends in World War One is a complex, ambiguous and important story. There was much heroism and sacrificial witness. But we can’t do justice to it here . . . .

Adapted from Remaking Friends: How Progressive Friends Changed Quakerism and Helped Save America.

Remaking Friends

The book is available at Amazon, and from CreateSpace.com

Revelation On Rose Street: A Progressive Quaker Story

July 29th, 2014


NOTE: While this story is fiction, much of it is drawn from actual history. The three Friends who were disowned were real persons, and shared that fate. The popular minister George White was likewise real, as was Stephen S. Foster. And Rose Street Meeting was real too. The Meeting — and Rose Street — are gone now, but at the time of this story Rose Street ran near Wall Street, and past the site of New York City’s City Hall.

New York City – A Fine autumn day in 1843

I was still feeling a bit weak that first Day morning, after several days in bed with a bilious fever. But I was now better, and the weather in New York was fair.

My good wife agreed. “Jacob, a walk to Meeting would likely do thee good. It is only four blocks to Rose Street, after all.”

Several men Friends were milling around near the broad meetinghouse steps, on their way into the building. But one lingered, not going in. His tall figure was unmistakable even though his grey coat and broadbrim hat were like all the others.

It was Simon Goodloe, and he was standing on the top step, looking over the rest, evidently waiting for someone. And that someone must have been me, because as soon as he recognized me came down the steps, his long legs moving like those of a graceful grey crane, and extended his hand.

“Jacob Hicks, I heard thee was ill,” he said, shaking my hand.

“I’m better,” I answered, “but grateful to be here.”

“Good, good” he said, and I could tell from the repetition that asking after my health was a lead-in to something else.

“Um, I wonder if thee’s seen any newspapers this week?” He asked. When I shook my head, he reached into his coat. “Then thee may not have heard about the bit of difficulty our George White faced in Philadelphia last First day.” He handed me a folded sheet of newsprint.

I scanned it quickly. “Good lord,” I said. “An actual riot? In the Cherry Street Meeting? It says the police were called? To a Friends Meetinghouse?”

His long face was solemn. “All incited by that abolitionist agitator Stephen Foster.”

I looked up at Simon. “What did Foster do?” I asked.

“Tried to turn worship into an abolitionist assembly. His impertinent intrusion was too much for some of the younger brethren, it seems.” Goodloe hovered as I read, then pursed his lips. “Roughed him up like a pack of stevedores,” he said. Didn’t exactly turn the other cheek, I suppose” he mused. But he did not seem very upset about it.

Stephen S. Foster, abolitionist
Stephen S. Foster, abolitionist. (Not a songwriter.)

“And perhaps it’s unseemly of me to take any satisfaction in this report,” he said. “But Jacob, I admit it: while I’m grateful this, er, incident did not happen here at Rose Street, I’m not sorry to see those infernal abolitionists educated firmly that Friends want nothing to do with them or their noxious doctrines.” He gazed down the street again.

Was Simon, I wondered, waiting for someone else, or perhaps watching out for someone?

“Jacob,” I said, “surely this Foster would not try anything like that here . ..” Though I now recalled having heard the name before, and knew Foster had in fact disrupted numerous worship meetings in various churches in the East, trying to preach his infidel notions. And there were others like him.

“I doubt we’ll see him,” Simon said. “Foster spent the night in the Philadelphia jail, licking his wounds, then was fined $250. And even with help from his abolitionist backers like Lucretia Mott and her ilk, that’s a lot of money. It will take him awhile to recover.

Stephen S. Foster Arrest - Reported in Niles National Register 1843
A brief report of Stephen S. Foster’s arrest, from Niles’ National Register

“No, Jacob” he continued,”I’m more concerned today about our home-grown abolitionist troublemakers.”

I nodded. “Thee mean, Charles Marriot and James Gibbons?”

“Yes,” he said. “Thee may likewise not have heard that their appeal of disownment was rejected by the Yearly Meeting Committee three days ago.”

“I had not,” I admitted. “Three days ago, I was thinking only of my aching joints, and unsettled stomach.”

“Yes,” he said. “Thee has recovered well. But I don’t think we need worry about them. Gibbons is away, I am told. And Marriot was visited by a committee which urged him to find another place to worship, and he said he would.

“So,” I said, “that leaves only–”

“Yes,” Simon said. That leaves only Isaac Hopper.”

Isaac Hopper, I thought. The third person in our own unholy trinity. An amiable enough fellow, to talk with. But hard as flint when it came to abolition. I was on the committee that warned him he would be disowned if he stayed on the board of an abolitionist society.

Then I had to listen to him declare, rather pompously I thought, that he would be honored to suffer on behalf of the voiceless slave, even this little bit. He said it quietly, but there was no doubting him. And then he launched into a discourse about whips and chains and selling off slave children, again quietly but implacably.

I was grateful when Simon cut him short, reminding him sharply that Quakers had been free of owning or selling slaves for more than fifty years. Hopper simply replied that all the Quakers who had done that were long since dead, and in the meantime the number of slaves in the country had increased by millions. “The question for Friends today,” Hopper said, “is not what our ancestors did then, but what we shall do, now.”

Isaac Hopper
Isaac Hopper (1771-1852): Friend, Disowned Quaker, abolitionist

Hopper came closest to having an edge in his voice when Simon repeated to him the message of George White. White is our most renowned minister, the one whom Stephen Foster had accosted in Philadelphia. White preached that slavery was evil, but said its fate was in God’s hands, not man’s. And so slavery would end, as it must, he said, but that end would come in God’s own time, and by God’s mighty hand, not by human agitations. Abolitionism is no more than some men trying to force God’s hand. That made it, he said, an abomination.

For years, George White had preached his message in Friends Meetings from Boston to Indiana, to large and welcoming audiences. He warned them all that abolitionism meant only trouble, for Quakers, and for the country.

Hopper’s back had stiffened and his eyes flashed when he heard this, though surely it was all familiar to him. But his voice was still calm, and even a bit lower, when he replied: “Simon,” he said, “I can only tell thee my convictions: that we are called to be the hands of God in this world, as best we can. And that all time is God’s time, which includes our time. We are to put our hands to God’s work now, today, as best we can. And liberation to the captives was in the first message Jesus preached. That is the part of God’s work I am striving to join.”

The committee was unmoved, and left him soon after. Its verdict was swift: Isaac Hopper, along with Gibbons and Marriot, threatened the unity and reputation of the Society of Friends by their abolitionist actions. They were thus pronounced to be out of unity with Rose Street Meeting, and disowned by Friends.

But being disowned, I knew, did not prevent an offender from attending worship– unless he was expected to be disruptive, like Stephen Foster. But that did not fit Isaac Hopper. He was determined, yes; but calmly so. He had, in fact, been seen at meeting here at Rose Street every First Day since the committee acted, taking his regular seat up front. But quietly so.

A Quaker elder, circa 1843. Goodloe? White? Jacob Hicks?
A Quaker elder, circa 1843. Goodloe? White? Jacob Hicks?

In which case, why was Simon Goodloe waiting to see if he would appear today? The meeting had, I could tell, begun settling into quiet. We were late, lingering there on the steps.

A thought came to me. I tapped the news clipping. “How far has this Philadelphia story spread,” I asked.

His expression turned rueful. “Far enough,” Simon said, “to be read by Armistead Merriweather.”

“Who?” The name was strange to me. It didn’t sound Quaker. More like southern.

I had guessed right. “MISTER Armistead Merriweather, Esquire,” Simon said, emphasizing the titles which Friends normally avoided. “Of Savannah, Georgia. He is an agent for many leading southern planters. And a client of Goodloe and Goodloe.”

“Ah,” I said. “He saw this report too, then.”

“Yes,” Goodloe agreed. “On his way to New York, on one of Goodloe and Goodloe’s ships, loaded with cotton. He came with it to make sure everything was in order.”

“Which it was, I’m sure,” I said. After all, Goodloe and Goodloe was one of the largest and most respected American shipping companies.

“On the ship all was well,” Simon said. “But when he saw the article at a stop in Baltimore, Merryweather resolved to make sure all was in order off the ship as well.”

Simon removed his hat and wiped his brow, though the air was not all that warm. Then he clamped it back on his head, frowned at an unpleasant memory, and affected a southern drawl.

“‘Mr. Goodloe,’ he mimiced, ‘I am aware that your people have some different views about some of our southern customs. Now I can live and let live, suh: you follow your conscience, and we follow ours. But my planters need to be sure of that policy. And I am also aware that there are other shipping companies in New York, firms that are operated by men of other faiths. Presbyterians, for instance. Now the Presbyterians have made it clear to us that they too are on board with a live and let live approach to social matters. Can you, Mr. Goodloe, suh, give me similar assurances to take back to Savannah?’”

My mouth gaped. “What?” I almost shouted to Simon. “Well I never! The very idea that he was questioning the good faith of a Quaker firm like Goodloe and Goodloe. It’s unheard of!”

“Thank thee, Jacob,” Simon said, “for thy high opinion of us. But I must say that, despite my high regard for thy opinion, unless thee also has many boatloads of cotton for my ships to carry, I must also pay very close attention to the views of MISTER Merryweather.”

The sarcasm in his voice was most unusual, but the point was clear. For Goodloe and Goodloe, Friends were welcome. But customers were necessary. “As he said,” Simon added, “he is not bothered that we refuse to own or sell slaves. But association with the abolitionists, who want to free all slaves in the south, including those who grow and harvest the cotton — neither he nor his planters will tolerate that. Does thee know, Jacob, they have now made it a crime to distribute any papers questioning slavery in the southern states?”

I had indeed read of those recent disturbing laws. “So, what answer did thee give him?” I asked.

A small tight smile crept onto Simon’s face. “What does thee think?” He said. “My answer was to invite him to join us here at worship. Especially with George White back from Philadelphia and speaking for us in the meeting. I’m counting on the sobriety and good business sense of Rose Street Friends to be so evident that Merryweather will come away with all the assurance he could hope for.”

So THAT’s who he was waiting for. Not Isaac Hopper at all.

Now Simon was looking down the street again, and his face seemed to brighten, though with what seemed to me a forced air of welcome. “There he is now,” he whispered, waving one arm.

I glanced around, and saw a large man striding toward us. His white linen suit stood out like a flag, even from half a block away.

Writer Tom Wolfe, in his Southern Gentleman array
Writer Tom Wolfe, self-styled Southern Gentleman, doing his Merryweather impression . . .

“If thee don’t mind,” I whispered back, “I will join the meeting,” and went past him through the men’s doors. The large meeting room was nearly full, and an usher directed me up the stairs to a seat in the gallery.

The room was quiet. From my perch, I saw Simon and Merryweather enter and brush past the usher to take Simon’s accustomed place near the front.

And a few rows further up, there was Isaac Hopper, in his usual seat, silent and seemingly serene.

The quiet did not last long. A minister rose in the elevated facing benches at the front of the room and began to preach.

His message was something about the spiritual importance of arriving at worship in a timely manner, as we were exhorted to do in our Book of Discipline. Then another minister soon stood, doffed his hat, and began to pray for the safety of all those who sailed the hazardous seas, and for government officials who carried the heavy burdens of state, and for all others who were burdened, of which he had a lengthy list. Nothing very radical, or interesting so far, I thought.

But then, after a short silence, a stocky figure stood, in the body of the meeting, and began to speak.

It was George White. He admitted to us that he was guilty of a breach already spoken of, in that he had arrived late, and so was not in his accustomed seat on the facing benches with the other ministers. But then he began his message proper, which was another version of his abiding plea to put all our burdens and problems onto God and Jesus. We were to turn to them, he said, because as hopelessly sinful men, we could do nothing for ourselves.

He spoke for almost an hour — I admit I covertly checked my pocket watch– and this for him was a relatively brief sermon. As he continued he also made sure to denounce abolitionism as an abomination, along with Temperance societies and the new groups who wanted to gain more legal rights for women.

These too were among his usual targets: all were faithless, useless inventions, he said, efforts by men to displace and hinder the work that belonged to God alone. All of them were bound to fail, he insisted, and to create havoc and misery as they did so. I looked around the room. As usual, it was evident that his message was being well-received by most of the Friends.

Once White sat down, I expected the elders on the facing bench to shake hands to mark the close of worship.

But before they could do so another figure was standing. I leaned forward for a better view: yes, it was Isaac Hopper, who almost never spoke.

At once I felt a twinge of anxiety: was Hopper now, with nothing to lose, going to join Stephen Foster in bringing abolitionism into Rose street and challenging George White? Was he about to dash the hopes of Simon Goodloe to retain Armistead Merryweather’s confidence and trade?

I needn’t have worried. After surveying the group for a moment, on whose faces were many expressions of caution or even hostility, he spoke:

“I am reminded this morning,” he intoned, “of those words of Jesus, among the last that he spoke on the cross. They are recorded in the twenty-third chapter of the Gospel of Luke. He said,’Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.’”

Forgive whom, I wondered? The elders, including me, who approved his disownment? The southern slaveholders whose property he meant to snatch away from them? George White, for condemning reformers like Hopper himself? Or something else, perhaps of a personal nature?

But that was all; Hopper then sat down, my questions dissipated. The elders quickly shook hands, and we rose.

A few minutes later, I saw Simon introducing Merryweather to George White. I couldn’t hear what the southerner said, but he was all smiles. And above him, Simon’s face wore an unmistakable look of relief. Whatever Isaac Hopper’s cryptic quote had meant, it made no difference here. So it seemed as if Simon Goodloe had obtained for his visitor the assurance he sought, or something close to it.

Hicksites- No New Ideas Allowed

But as I left the building, there was a tap on my shoulder. I turned to see Isaac Hopper at my side. In his hand was a piece of paper, which I recognized as cut from the newspaper. “Thee saw this?” He asked quietly.

“Yes,” I said.”From Philadelphia.”

He glanced down at the text. “Jacob,” he said, “I do believe those who incited the attack on Stephen Foster can be forgiven. As can those who have wronged me and others here.”

He folded the paper and slid it back into his coat. “But I believe something else, too: God’s forgiveness aside, those who think they have put an end to something, in Philadelphia and here in Rose Street, are very much mistaken. My case here may be finished. But others will follow, and the matter of liberty to the captives is not over, no, not at all.”

Before I could think of a reply, he touched his hat, said, “Good day to thee, Friend,” and walked down the steps and up the street.

Watching him go, something struck deep within my inward parts, like a stone sinking into my belly. I could somehow feel that, whatever Simon Goodloe and Mr. Merryweather had arranged this morning, it was Isaac Hopper, the offender now disgraced and cast out from among us, who was right about the future.

And as this sense sank into me, I began to feel ill again, so headed home, and back to bed.

Copyright © by Chuck Fager. All rights reserved.

Progressive Friends - A Continuing Series

Note, my new books on Progressive Friends, Angels of Progress and Remaking Friends, describe the actual history on which this story is based in much more detail, based on extensive research. They are available at the links, and from Amazon.

Progressive Friends & That Haunting Face In The Mirror: Hoping History Won’t Repeat — Or Rhyme Too Much

June 3rd, 2014

While reading about and “living with” Progressive Friends, I was inspired by several of the memorable personalities I walked with, admired more, and learned from all of them, as well as others who interacted with them.

But there’s one Friend I identified with especially: Samuel M. Janney.

Samuel M. Janney
Samuel M. Janney, Virginia Friend

This was something of a surprise. Janney wasn’t a Progressive Friend; he was more of a middle-of-the-road Hicksite, with traditionalist leanings. But that’s not where the identification came from. It was more with his situation, his plight.

His situation is described in one of the best recent books I came across in my studies. It’s called Quakers Living In the Lion’s Mouth, by A. Glenn Crothers. If you appreciate a poignant story, with plenty of current relevance, it should be in your meeting or personal library.

The book is about Quakers living in northern Virginia before and through the Civil War, and into its aftermath. There were a lot of them, and Crothers describes many of them. But Janney is a something of a central figure in the saga.

'Quakers Living In The Lion's Mouth

Janney was among other things a schoolteacher, in an era when almost all schools were “private,” and were also small businesses. He was a Friends minister as well, who traveled widely among Eastern and Midwestern Quaker groups. Visiting Ohio, he tried to mediate some of the conflicts between Progressives and mainstream Hicksites, though without much success. He also worked to begin bridging the chasm between the Hicksite and Orthodox branches, a labor that continued for decades after his death.

All of that is interesting. What was compelling for me was that he lived out his life as a Virginia Friend. Virginia was, of course, a slave state; that’s the “lion’s mouth” of Crothers’ title. And his book shows us in often painful detail the challenging, frequently agonizing implications of Quaker life there.

And what they came down to was compromise. Not compromise in the “give a little, take a little” negotiating sense, which is often constructive and is important in Quaker decision making too, even though many Friends don’t like to admit that.

No, in a slave state like Virginia it meant that Janney and other Friends were caught in an inherently “compromising situation,” and were forced every day into being “compromised” by their social, economic and political environment.

A list of such “compromising” situations would be long: Janney did not own slaves; that was a long-settled testimony for him. Yet everything he bought was either made with slave labor, or brought to him by it. In his schools, which were open to non-Friends, it was the patronage of slave-owning families, paying tuition with the profits of slave labor, that kept them afloat. The state’s politics, while concerned with many practical issues, was dominated by defense of slavery. And as the war clouds gathered, that defense and the associated rhetoric became steadily more repressive and bellicose.

Many Virginia Friends, exhausted by trying to cope with all this, left the state and headed west. Janney stayed; Virginia was in his blood; burdened as the culture was, it was his home.

But he didn’t passively submit to this fate, especially after 1842. That year, he was struck with a Progressive lightning bolt: Lucretia Mott was at the sessions of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, which Virginia Friends were part of. She preached an antislavery sermon which electrified Janney; it convinced him he had to become more active and vocal in antislavery witness, despite the risks.

Lucretia Mott
Lucretia Mott — an Electrifying Progressive preacher

So he did. Not that he turned into a fire-breathing abolitionist; that was a dead-end in a state where association with abolitionist “incendiary publications” could send one to prison for five years. But he did speak up and speak out: he published a series of carefully-worded, well-informed newspaper articles, pointing out how the use of slave labor actually retarded the growth of Virginia’s economy, and how ending it (gradually and, he hoped, painlessly) would greatly benefit all its citizens and generations to come.

He also promoted and lobbied for a system of free public schools (for whites), based on the idea that as more whites became educated, support for slavery would wane.

These were sound ideas, for which he worked diligently. And while his efforts might not look radical to us, they entailed risks: in 1849 he was indicted under the “incendiary publications” provisions. He defended himself well and won the case; but it had to be a traumatic experience.

In sum, though, all Janney’s diligent efforts at promoting a voluntary, locally-oriented transition out of slavery came to nothing. At the end of his road — at the end of all the roads — was war. A long and very brutal war, from which Virginia was not spared.

I don’t point up this failure to be critical of Janney. I wouldn’t have done any better in his place; more likely, I would have been among those who headed west, or north.

And far from criticizing Janney, I’m writing about him because I feel as if I’m in a very similar situation to his. I too, live “in the lion’s mouth,” in an economy and society that is supported in significant measure by slavery, or its modern equivalent.

How so? Well, the evidence rides every day in my shirt pocket, in the form of a smartphone. The evidence stares out at me right this minute from my computer screen. It slips onto my feet as comfortable black sneakers. And so on: I’m connected to mass exploitation and de facto slavery in a hundred ways.

Modern slavery -- smartphones & computers

To be sure, unlike Janney’s Virginia, the slaves supporting me are usually kept well out of my sight, thousands of miles away, so easy to forget. It’s one of the many wonders of globalization. And mostly I do quite well at forgetting them. Our media and much else in my society eagerly help me float my tiny boat along the wide river of denial.

Twinges of conscience come, of course. And like Janney, I’ve done a little of this and a little of that, aimed more or less at easing this situation.

But still, my compromised status persists. I look in the mirror and I see a hazy image of him, probably from the late 1850s, as all his labors are about to be swallowed up in the smoke of Fort Sumter.

Further, unlike many of Janney’s fortunate Quaker contemporaries, I don’t know where to go to escape this plight. There are no “free states” on my horizon (or on Google maps) to which to emigrate. I can’t even figure how to follow his default testimony of not owning slaves. (Sure, at least in the U.S., one doesn’t technically “own” anybody; these days, one only rents them, along with millions of the rest of us affluent ones, long enough to extract one’s collection of gadgets and goodies. Is that morally any better?)

I’ve read some manifestoes by those who say they’re determined to tear down our world and start over. Right; I read them on the net, and Facebook, those quintessential markers of entanglement with our world’s status quo. They’re no help to me.

I know how Samuel Janney’s story turned out: a long, terrible war came, with major battles fought in Virginia and repeated ordeals for Friends there. Yet slavery was ended, though the forces of reaction triumphed over Reconstruction, and violent racism was re-enthroned across the South (with different forms in the North) for many decades more.

Janney survived all this, kept up his work as a minister while his health lasted, and died peacefully in 1880.

Somebody said that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it can rhyme. Pondering Janney’s plight,

Progressive Friends - A Continuing Series
and mine, I wonder on which line, from his life and those of other Virginia Friends of his era, the rhyme might now fall. My hope is that with the justice due, there might also be some mercy.

My books about Progressive Friends and their legacy are listed here, with online ordering information:

Angels of Progress

Remaking Friends
You can also find them on Amazon, and in Kindle editions there.

Alone Together: Living With & Writing About Progressive Friends

May 30th, 2014

Researching and writing about Progressive Friends has been a paradoxical experience: from one angle, it was a very solitary effort: from another, very crowded.

Most of my time at Pendle Hill has been spent going solo: in the Friends Historical Library poring over old letters, minutes, pamphlets and books; in my room, reading more old documents; then lots of staring into my computer screen, at the ever-growing store of texts available there.

Progressive Friends - Logo

Along with that, of course, the writing, 700+ pages in two volumes; a solitary task if there ever was one.

So I haven’t been much good to the “community” here: skipping most collective activities, even taking many of my meals in my room. There’s always lots going on at Pendle Hill, but don’t ask me about it, because I don’t know much.

Pendle Hill - The Barn & Clouds
Pendle Hill. Nice place — I should visit sometime.

That was part of the deal, though: Pendle Hill awarded me the Cadbury Scholarship based on a proposal to do a substantial research project. And I meant to get it done. But doing it required focus, focus, and more focus.

So that was one angle. But there was another.
Henry Cadbury

Henry Cadbury, a heckuva good scholar. Big shoes to fill, even temporarily.

From this other side, my time at Pendle Hill was not solitary at all. In fact, it was crowded, noisy and often grueling.

That’s because of two things: first, the times– I was burrowing into a period of frequent, almost constant turmoil in U.S. history: 1840 to 1940. When I opened that door, the clouds of civil war were gathering all around; and while many earnest, sincere efforts were being made to prevent the deluge, I knew, as the participants did not, that they were bound to fail. And when I finally closed the door, in 1940, an even bigger war was about to engulf the country and Friends. Plus other wars in between, and a first Gilded Age that looked eerily, depressingly familiar.

Chuck Fager at work
The exciting part . . . .

Not that this old news was all bad: along the way, slaves were freed; women grasped many rights; some old orthodoxies collapsed; today’s liberal Quakerism was forged; and more. But it was intense. The “Progress” these Progressive Friends believed in took one beating after another; even as it made considerable impact.

Longwood Progressive Friends - 1856
More exciting stuff. It may look old to thee, but it was new and interesting to me.

And besides the roller-coaster ride of those years, my mind – and often, it felt like, my room– were crowded, filled with a succession of remarkable, vivid characters. Some names are familiar: Lucretia Mott (probably my favorite), Frederick Douglass, The Grimke sisters, and then many others less well-known except to Quaker history nerds.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass — yeah, he was a Progressive Friend. Or at least he hung out with them a lot.

Let’s take Joseph Dugdale as a specimen. A reform-minded Hicksite who joined in abolition and Underground Railroad work in Ohio, he was disowned for that, and for not keeping quiet about it. He felt his expulsion was unjust, and began a quest for exoneration that lasted twenty years.

Joseph Dugdale: The Hicksite outcast who wouldn't stay out
Joseph Dugdale — exiled Hicksite, Progressive Instigator. Kicking him out was easy; getting rid of him wasn’t.

This journey first took him to Pennsylvania and the Longwood Progressive Yearly Meeting, then to Iowa, and ultimately to the new Illinois Yearly Meeting. There Dugdale played a crucial but below-the radar role in making Illinois YM the first Progressive beachhead inside the Hicksite world.

Or consider Elizabeth Buffum Chace of Rhode Island. She was something of a Quaker grandee, married to a prosperous textile mill owner, and socially prominent (but plain). She too joined in abolition work, and likewise felt the lash of the anti-reform Quaker establishment.

Elizabeth Buffum Chace
Elizabeth Buffum Chace

But she refused to bow, and quit before they could disown her. Yet Chace did not wander far; her husband stayed a Friend, and she sought out Progressives. Nor was she only an activist: she also had to cope with many family tragedies, not least the early deaths of five children in a row. Small wonder she turned to spiritualism, which offered her “messages” of comfort from the lost little ones. And there is more to her story.

Or – just one more for now– there’s Moncure Conway. He was not a Friend, but as a young, Virginia-born, proslavery, hellfire-preaching Methodist minister, he had an encounter with a Quaker community, non-slaveholders in the slave state of Maryland. This confrontation was entirely peaceful, but also entirely fatal – to Conway’s traditional theology, and to his proslavery attitudes as well. The Quakers he met didn’t argue with him; but as the old saying goes, their lives preached, and the message was explosive. (He thought hard about becoming a Quaker, but ended up a Unitarian, because he couldn’t give up music.)

Moncure Conway
Moncure Conway — he wanted a peaceful end to slavery

Yet despite these radical changes, as a native southerner he still loved his “homeland,” and yearned to find a way to end the “peculiar institution” there that would avoid the ravages of a possible war. He tried, and tried again – and you can guess that he failed; but not what it cost and where it left him afterward.

These and many others became much more for me than words on a page, or dim unsmiling photographs (nobody said “Cheese” in those days). Not all of them could fit even into two volumes; the books were already long enough! But that just means there is more for other seekers to discover and bring us.

These were my companions, often teachers, and elders, during a crowded and intense eight month pilgrimage through a century marked by war, social and economic upheaval, and relentless change both inside the Society of Friends, and in American society at large.

All done now. I’ll be leaving here in a week. Thanks again, Pendle Hill; I believe I stayed the course with my commitment to you and Henry Cadbury; I hope I have done right by these many other Friends as well.

Mott & Whittier Keeping An Eye On Me
All Alone? Not With Lucretia Mott & John Greenleaf Whittier keeping their steady Overseers’ eyes on me.

My two books about Progressive Friends, Angels of Progress and Remaking Friends, are available now from Amazon (Kindle too) or via these links:

Angels of Progress
Remaking Friends

Progressive Friends & Spiritualism

May 19th, 2014

Progressive Friends -- A Continuing Series

From the new book, Remaking Friends: How Progressive Friends Changed Quakerism & Helped Save America:

Many, maybe most, early Progressive Friends were involved in spiritualism. It was not a church; one did not need to join. Two features of spiritualism’s appeal in the mid-nineteenth century deserve mention here: perhaps above all, it gave solace to the bereaved, assured them that dead loved ones were at ease, and not beyond the love of the living. And in that era, when deaths from illness were much more common than now, especially among the young, this was no small thing.

A striking example of this is our Rhode Island renegade, Elizabeth Buffum Chace. She was the wife of a prosperous textile manufacturer; but all her affluence and “privilege” did not save her first child, born in 1829, or the next four after him: all five died, one after another, in infancy or shortly afterward.

Elizabeth Buffum Chace and Bessie, 1879

Elizabeth Buffum Chace with Bessie — one of the five of her ten children who survived infancy.

As the fifth one faded, Chace penned a rhymed plea

“Oh! no, it cannot, cannot be;
My darling babe will live.
He must not go away from me,
He is the last of five. . . .

And, much and often have I prayed,
That so it might not be;
That in a little coffin laid
This one I ne’er might see.

“Oh! Father, spare him longer yet,
Our lonely home to cheer.
We’ve often said it was for this
That Thou hast sent him here.”

But it was not to be. Then, says her biographer:

“It was almost inevitable that Spiritualism, in its dawning day, should attract the yearning interest of a woman, five of whose babes had wandered into the forest of Unknown Wilderness. Mrs. Chace saw a pillar of cloud taking shape before her on her darkened pathway and followed it for a score of years, sometimes believing, sometimes doubting, sometimes hoping that messages floated backward to her from her lost children. For two or three years in the early period a sweet young girl dwelt in her home, who had or seemed to have the mysterious power of a “medium.” Later, a younger son of Mrs. Chace’s seemed also thus endowed.

“Certainly, these things did happen when there was no possibility of intentional fraud; namely, Mrs. Chace and a few intimates, including the “medium,” would sit around a small but not too easily moved table; they would place their hands upon it, and, after two or three minutes of silent waiting, the table would begin to rock, and, so far as concerned the consciousness of the sitters, without their muscular effort.

“Then Mrs. Chace would repeat the alphabet, and the table would stand still and only tip to call attention to particular letters. The letters taken in that designated order did spell words, and the words did come in proper sentence relation to each other, and the sentences did carry rational significance.

Table tipping -- 1850s spiritualism

“Mrs. Chace, certainly, for a time, believed quite simply in it all as genuine revelation. She taught her living children [she had five more] that there were no fairies, but that the spirits of their own dead brothers and sisters whom they had never seen were their special guardian angels. It was a pretty faith, a real household cult, and, since it was taught and accepted sincerely, it did no harm, were it true or were it only one of the numberless human imaginations of the truth.

“I think Mr. Chace never quite accepted the Spiritualistic faith. The Quaker Inner Light sufficed for him, but he was not opposed to his wife’s opinion and perhaps his own sometimes approached it. . . .
But in later life, Spiritualism, as such, ceased to influence her. She never quite disavowed belief in it; she said only, “It used to seem true when we were receiving those communications from the children.” In the last twenty years of her life she said little about that long, noonday passage of her soul through a valley wherein dreams and hopes moved like almost visible phantoms beside her.”

Besides the crushing feelings of loss, Elizabeth Chace also had to contend with the lingering legacy of New England Puritan theology. Its stern predestinarian vision dictated that most humans were doomed to spend eternity in the torment of hellfire, regardless of their personal innocence or guilt. Babies too? Some said yes, others squirmed and fudged. The uncertainty was a torment to many who did not consider themselves of Puritan stock, yet still lived and breathed in that atmosphere.

Pioneer Wesleyan writer Charles Wesley excoriated this dismal doctrine in a 1741 poem, “The Horrible Decree”:

O HORRIBLE DECREE
Worthy of whence it came!
Forgive their hellish blasphemy
Who charge it on the Lamb . . . .

The righteous God consigned
Them over to their doom,
And sent the Saviour of mankind
To damn them from the womb . . . .

They think with shrieks and cries
To please the Lord of hosts,
And offer thee, in sacrifice
Millions of slaughtered ghosts:

With newborn babes they fill
The dire infernal shade,
“For such,” they say, “was thy great will,
Before the world was made.”

A Cartoon about Calvinism

A skeptical view of Calvinist theology

Spiritualists vociferously rejected this notion, and claimed that their spirits confirmed their rebuttals. And comforting the bereaved was a steady draw for new “investigators” as Americans passed the midpoint of the century.

One other important point: many of the early stars of the Spiritualist movement were also strong supporters of most of the Progressive reforms: abolition, women’s rights, temperance. That and their combination of a “scientific” performance and an affinity for the new lecture circuit that the Progressive groups offered was an irresistible combination.

Pennsylvania Progressive Friends
A “Testimony” on Spiritualism from the Pennsylvania Yearly Meeting of Progressive Friends; one of many.

Cora L.V. Hatch & Andrew Jackson Davis
Cora L.V. Hatch & Andrew Jackson Davis, two popular, reform-minded spiritualist mediums — not Quakers but appeared at many Progressive Friends meetings.

But all was not roses for spiritualism and reform. Not a few of the “investigators” became utter devotees, forgetting about any other concern. This was the case when Boston abolitionist Parker Pillsbury sent this gloomy report from the 1857 Michigan Friends of Human Progress session:

“The greatest good accomplished at this meeting, perhaps, was to separate the Anti-Slavery cause from a morbid, mawkish Spiritualism, that had infested it like the potato-rot, and was almost working its ruin. . . . There were some gone-to-seed, professed Abolitionists among them, whose anti-slavery seemed not to have been very vital, for they have mostly discontinued their anti-slavery papers, too often leaving arrearages of from one to five or six dollars unpaid. , , ,

A sketch of Mary Lincoln, with the

Mary Lincoln, with the “spirits” of her Abraham Lincoln and her son Willie, from 1872. Many doubted the authenticity of this example of “spirit photography.”

“These disciples of Spiritualism appeared much annoyed, all of them, at the introduction of anti-slavery into our discussion. Many of them seemed to assume the meeting as their own . . . . Some would not hear us patiently, if at all; and others declared they would not have come to the meeting, if they had known it was to be open to any thing but their favorite idolatry. It is certainly not too much to say, that there is not a more bigoted and intolerant class in the whole sisterhood of sects, than this type of so-called spiritualists.”

From: “Remaking Friends: How Progressive Friends Changed Quakerism & Helped Save America.”