The Weekly Query #14

Everyone’s heard about the “death tax” and “death panels.” More people believe in “climate change” than in “global warming.” And it seems like half the debates in this country involve someone saying, “I’m the real victim here.” Framing and labeling thus have enormous power.

Are there labels that cause a knee-jerk emotional reaction for you? How true are those labels?

What words are guaranteed to make you angry? To make you scared? How might those words be used against you?

Labels and framing can provide us with mental shortcuts. What labels would you prefer to stop using, if you could?

There are many big issues and questions swirling in the world today. Who asks those questions? Who decides what those issues will be? What’s in it for them? What’s in it for us?

Introducing the Weekly Query

In my branch of the Quaker tradition, there are no set statements of belief, no precepts. In their place, Friends over the years have worked out queries. The queries are sharp, probing questions, not intended to be easily answered, and never intended to be answered in a rote fashion. They are intended to provoke thought. Nor are there any “right” answers, since the questions are often deeply personal–and the answers for any individual or group may change over time. They are often asked in groups, organized thematically. Answering them can be a spiritual discipline, and in theory the introspection leads to action.

Consider the following queries, out of many, on equality:

Do we avoid being drawn into violent reactions against those who are destructive of human dignity? Do we reach out to the violator as well as the violated with courage and love?

In short, the queries are tough.

I’m embarking on a new series for the Generous Grasp: the Weekly Query. While I may occasionally draw on classic Quaker queries, mostly they’ll be hard questions I’ve thought of or had to face myself. You can respond to the queries, but bear in mind that if you have an instant answer, you may wish to think again.

Moreover this series will always give you (and me) a reason to come to the blog on a regular basis, something which I feel I’ve lacked in my haphazard postings.

As the queries reflect long-running problems and processes in our lives, I may repost ones from time to time. The terms “you,” “we,” “yours,” and “our” may be used indiscriminately throughout. Interpret them as you choose.

Let us therefore begin.

Are we aware that we speak through inaction as well as action?

(Taken from the North Pacific Yearly Meeting Book of Faith and Practice)