Because Friends believe that faith requires action in the world, the schools emphasize the development of a caring community, peaceful resolution of conflict, and service to others, especially those less fortunate. Friends have a long tradition of putting love into action, and the Quaker testimonies of equality, community, harmony, and simplicity are reflected in the life of the school. Students grow into compassionate and responsible adults who recognize their interconnectedness with the larger human family. ~ "What Does a Friends School Have to Offer?" Friends Council on Education, Sidwell Friends School Website
We found the dead bodies. Some of the dead bodies were really badly chopped up by the rockets . . . The head of a child was missing. Others were missing limbs. We tried to find the body pieces and put them together. As it was getting late, we brought down the bodies in a rope bed. We buried them in the village's cemetery. The children were all from poor families. ~ Ashabuddin, a shopkeeper from Manogai, an Afghan village, whose nephew Khalid was among nine boys, ages 7 to 14, killed while collecting firewood by NATO helicopter gunners. New York Times, March 2, 2011
Kids are returning to school and President Obama's daughters, Malia and Sasha, like the children of many of the political elite in Washington D.C., will soon begin classes at Sidwell Friends School. Sidwell is a Quaker school, self-described as an educational community inspired by the values of the Religious Society of Friends and guided by the Quaker belief in "that of God" in each person. According to Irene McHenry, the Executive Director of the Friends Council on Education, the Obamas chose Sidwell school because "students learn that all of life is sacred, learn to resolve conflict non-violently through thoughtful listening and active engagement with different perspectives . . ."
What is it like to be raised with a Christian commitment to non-violence, a commitment to peaceful conflict resolution, a belief that every human being is sacred, while knowing that your parents, your government, your country is committed to violent intervention in 60 percent of the world's countries? What kind of confusion is created in a young person who is told to admire and emulate Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh, and other spiritual activists committed to non-violence when you know that in the real world problems are solved by bombs, by guns, by assassination, by secret acts of violence and torture?
How could any young person trust Christianity as a viable way of life when it is so blatantly and obviously ignored by the commitments and actions of adults? How do our children integrate the knowledge that our country (whose leaders proclaim their commitment to Jesus, see here and here) is responsible for thousands and thousands of innocent deaths? How do Malia and Sasha and all the other children of powerful political leaders reconcile the knowledge that their parents are committed to violence as a way of solving problems? What damage is done to the souls of Malia and Sasha and all the other young people formed by Christian values when they see the images of dead Afghan children killed by Christian soldiers with the support of Christian political leaders and a country that claims to follow Jesus?
What happens, I want to suggest, is that the spiritual yearnings within these young people are smothered. Christian morality and the life of Jesus become relegated to the world of fairy tale. The spiritual truths passed onto our children become so blatantly disregarded that a young person learns to reduce the Christian faith to a sort of "rules of etiquette for the socially mobile."