This is an exciting, hopeful week for our country as we inaugurate Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States. As we listen to their speeches, let us also be reminded of the words of Friend Margaret Fell, who wrote:
“We are a people that follow after those things that make for peace, love, and unity. It is our desire that others’ feet may walk in the same. We do deny and bear our testimony against all strife and wars and contention.”
These words, although written more than 360 years ago, carry a deep resonance, especially this week as we embark on a new administration and a new Congress.
It resonates not only for Quakers but also for people everywhere who long for peace, and who shun violence. Based on the commandment of Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves, the pacifist foundation of our Quaker faith is first spiritual or inward. This leads to outward action—to pursue truth, to work for justice, to promote peace.
In every way and in every place, we must work to eliminate the scourge of hate that leads to violence and promote the bonds of love that establish justice and that lead to peace.
In every way and in every place, we must work to eliminate the scourge of hate that leads to violence and promote the bonds of love that establish justice and that lead to peace. To realize this, we must also hold people accountable for violating laws and hold lawmakers accountable for perpetuating lies about the last election.
Both President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have already set forth ambitious plans this week to counter the wrongs of the past administration that damaged our country and caused countless injuries and deaths.
Amid the recent chaos and violence, there has been the persistent pull of positive energy and growing momentum to reckon with the profound challenges we face today.
While some of the immediate problems can be fixed through executive actions by President Biden, most of the work ahead requires partnership with Congress. It requires our voices pressing our members of Congress to support, improve, or reject specific legislation in order to create a just and equitable society.
Even as we lean into the energy for change with the Biden-Harris administration and the 117th Congress, we recognize the profound threats of polarization and violence founded on and encouraged by fear. The inauguration of Joe Biden occurs in a militarily fortified US Capitol in order to prevent the domestic enemies of democracy from further acting violently and seditiously as they did on January 6.
The ‘peaceful’ transfer of power will happen on January 20 with 25,000 armed national guard troops in the nation’s capital. Security perimeters will leave most of us to celebrate the inauguration virtually.
As we join in celebrating the inauguration of the Biden-Harris administration and a new Congress, let us do so firm in our belief that as Quakers and people of faith, we must always speak truth to power no matter who our earthly leaders are.
While we must contend with the immediate twin crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic and a recession, we also know that a military response will not solve the underlying inequities and the threat of white supremacy, racism, and anti-Semitism that continue to erode the foundations of our democracy.
As we work to end these -isms and bring about a just and fair society, we remain grounded in Margaret Fell’s call to tackle these challenges nonviolently and with love, keeping in mind that Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. However, this is not a passive love, rather it is the fierce love that calls us to speak truth to power.
We are schooled in our understanding of what fierce love looks like as we listen to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. While we honor him with a holiday for his remarkable leadership of the civil rights movement, his life and ministry were even deeper and wider testaments to nonviolence. His clarion message and challenge call for us to act, grounded in love.
So, as we join millions of people in our country and around the world in celebrating the inauguration of the Biden-Harris administration and a new Congress, let us do so with fierce love. Let us do so firm in our belief that as Quakers and people of faith, we must always speak truth to power no matter who our earthly leaders are.