Consumerism and Over-Consumption

Author: Breeze Richardson


This afternoon Focus Groups were held around areas of concern that those gathered wanted to explore more direct action around; I choose “Liberating the Earth from Consumerism, Over-Consumption and Greed.”

How can we bare witness to these concerns with clear language that’s inviting, not berating?

There are 5 parts to prophetic witness. One might feel led to do just one; or might feel led to do more:
– speak out (Speak Truth to Power)
– build and demonstrate the alternative
– celebrate what around you that is already good
– take symbolic and practical action
– envision

What does it mean to “live a good life” today? How does an individual answer such a question, and find resources to explore & discover new answers?

(a list which is in no way exhaustive, but represented by those gathered)

Living Witness Project (of Britain Yearly Meeting) – to help Meetings learn how to do this corporately
Friends Testimonies and Economics (a project of Quaker Earthcare Witness) – learning/teaching about our economic policies in a context of ecological impact
Quaker Institute for the Future, a research initiative which has just published Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy (2009)
Quaker Earthcare Witness – demonstrating how we can better live with right relations towards the earth; has many online resources on specific issues
National Council on Churches (NCC) Eco-Justice Department
Mennonite Creation Care Network – includes resources on connecting to Mennonite farmers, eco-friendly conference/gathering planning, and other initiatives

One particularly interesting action that caught my attention was the use of a Volunteer Fuel Tax Fund. One participant shared the success of his congregation to implement a voluntary tax each participating church member pays to a special fund, equal in amount to their personal consumption of gasoline (so for example, his family pays 50-cents a gallon). The money raised has refurnished the building: new environmentally-friendly windows, better insulation and low-flow toilets, to name a few. Wall cards accompany the renovations, explaining their funding. (Note: another participant mentioned a Quaker initiative that has begun along these lines, called the “Dime-a-Gallon Project“.)

In the end, we authored two-sentences at the direction of Gathering organizers:

We witness… and lament our participation in our economic system, which has led to catastrophic results: over-consumption, unequal distribution of resources, and the destruction of God’s Creation.

We are called to… return to our communities to speak out about the structural economic injustice around us, reduce our ecological footprint, and seek to live in right relationship with all God’s Creation.

Let’s Go to the Movies – and Look for a Message of Peace

Author: Breeze Richardson

My workshop this week has been a really nice experience, facilitated by Gareth Higgins (author of How Movies Helped Save My Soul: Finding Spiritual Fingerprints in Culturally Significant Films) and Warren Cooper (owner of Music Media Ministry).  Titled, “How Does Pop Culture Reinforce Conflict or Encourage Healing”our time together focused on Walter Wink’s Myth of Redemptive Violence and how that false truth – that order comes from chaos – has been the key belief of all human cultures.  …and how this has played out in pop culture, especially film.

I think my main take away was a new appreciation for the idea that the context in which you see something affects how you perceive it.  So if you look for a message of peace, or reconciliation, or hope, or integrity… you might just find it.

Here are 7 films Gareth recommended, all which challenge this notion that violence can be a cleansing experience:

Hero (Ying Xiong) (2002)
The Full Monty (1997)
The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
Munich (2005)
Protagonist (2007)
ScaredScared (2004)
Gran Torino (2008 )

Can you add to the list?  Or Comment on any of these you’ve seen (or see them so you can comment!), and share your thoughts on what take-away message you found?

Moving in a Good Direction

Author: Breeze Richardson

Last night the Gathering seemed to shift (ever-so-slightly) in a new direction with the keynote plennary address by Alexie M. Torres Fleming.  Founder of Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice in the South Bronx, her personal story and life lessons were most welcome.

Even with her faith-based approach, her storytelling was very accessible and her groundedness in a very Quaker-like place – “that of God [Good] in everyone” – was a message she delivered in a humble, believable way.  “You can’t wait for a miracle; you are the miracle.” “Work in your own backyard; you don’t have to travel halfway around the world to make a difference.” and “You cannot redeem what you do not assume.” were all powerful messages, especially in this context that has been a lot about talking and little about action, resources & next steps.

But to keep a clear spirit-led edge to my experience here, I think the “life lesson” Alexie shared that struck me the most was her clear belief that as she would be willing to, without question, give her life for one of her children – she asked us: what would it be like to feel that for all children?  All people?

As a mom (of a two-year old little boy), and six-months pregnant with my second son, I heard this question in a new Light.  I know without hestitation the love I feel for my child.  To feel that for all humanity?  What would that committment to relationship and community honestly mean?

PS: My long-time Friend, Chuck Fager, Director of Quaker House in Fayetteville, NC, is also here at the Gathering & writing nightly about his experiences.  Visit: A Friendly Letter to read more about what he’s discovering, including what he took away from Alexie’s talk last night…

Purpose of Prayer

Author: Breeze Richardson

In the conference’s Opening Worship yesterday, a prayer was shared that I’ve found myself returning to throughout the day today.

Each stanza was read in Spanish, then the 300 gathered recited it in English, which I think gave me time to soak in the meaning and motivation, and personalize its intention a little more. Perhaps I’m more open to the idea of prayer than I thought.

“Prayer of the Farmworker’s Struggle”

Show me the suffering of the most miserable;
So I will know my people’s plight.

Grant me the courage to serve others;
For in service there is true life.

Bring forth song and celebration;
So that the Spirit may be live among us.

Let the Spirit flourish and grow;
So that we may never tire of the struggle.

Let us remember those who have died for justice;
For they have given us life.

Help us to love even those who hate us;
So we can change the world.

The Spirit Flourishes Among Us

Author: Breeze Richardson

Today I arrived in Philadelphia for the start of “Heeding God’s Call” – it has been a whirlwind start, to say the least.

I’ve always been one of those Friends that is deeply rooted in Quaker testimonies and in my identity as a member of the Religious Society of Friends, but am not christnocentric (at all) in my beliefs. Therefore, being in an environment that it this evangelical is challenging.

But I had an inspirational afternoon! Reverend Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr. was a fabulous start to this experience. In the context of considering this time in our lives quite possibly the year of the Lord’s favor, Rev. Forbes asked us not only to dwell on the sadness & conflict in the world, but instead ask: What are you thankful for?

I am thankful for family, for good health, for passion and inspiration, for a desire to nurture community, for friends, and for love.

What are you thankful for?

Heeding God’s Call: A Gathering on Peace

Author: Breeze Richardson

Breeze, here.  All next week, I’m going to be attending a national conference as the delegate from Illinois Yearly Meeting.  According to the “Heeding God’s Call” website, the gathering’s mission statement declares that the purpose is “to strengthen our witness and work for peace in the world by inspiring hope, raising voices, taking action.”

I think it will be an interesting experience & plan to write daily about what I learn.  Other Quakers around the country will be writing, too, as part of Friends Journal‘s coverage of the event.  I look forward to the other members of the Peace Resource Committee Commenting on what I discover & Friends across ILYM and beyond joining in on the conversation, too!