I have been thinking about my sense of loyalties this week - to my family, my marriage, my friends, the Quaker meeting; to my professional commitments to peace and justice; to the Constitution and local, state and federal laws; and to my nation. I like to believe I am a loyal person with what the dictionary calls "a strong sense of allegiance and support," and I find that in most cases I am truly a very loyal person. But when my loyalty runs up against injustice, I am compromised and confused. How far does my loyalty need to go when the demands of my profession violate my ethical principles? How loyal do I need to be to my nation when it commits torture or allows, or even encourages, the powerful to harm the vulnerable? How loyal do we need to be to a friend or even a family member when they are hurting someone? Instead of avoiding these dilemmas, how might our loyalty to the people and institutions in our lives mean that our strongest loyalty might mean that we actually need to try to correct the injustices we see?
And what of my Quaker faith and practice helps me face the inevitable dilemmas in life where my loyalties are challenged? Each of you will have your own answers, but almost every time I am faced with moral dilemmas I come back to how important certain "gyrosopic" principles like our Quaker testimonies are to me, and how important my sense of a loyal belonging and accountability to our little Quaker community is to me, and to the venerable Quaker traditions that allow me to stand on the shoulders of courageous Quaker men and women who for centuries provided counter culture witness against war, discrimination, inequality and abuse. Those things are worth my loyalty.
And I need to also say that I claim an ultimate loyalty to what I name God - the faith I have that love ultimately triumphs, that truth ultimately liberates and restores and heals, that we are part of a marvelous tangible and intangible web of interconnections and interdependencies, most of which we cannot even imagine. For the most part the reality I call God is my sense of a Grand Mystery called life. I want to live with my ultimate loyalty to the paradox that is equal part of what is so tangible and real in life but is also a wondrous mystery. And I want to live in a joyfully loyal gratitude for this level of paradoxical understanding and wisdom.