Leisure, Recreation and Social Customs
Recreation is necessary to every normal person in the maintenance of physical, mental, and spiritual health. The ability to recreate reflects God's act of creation in our own lives and can strengthen the individual, the family, and relationships with friends. Church and community should cooperate in furnishing wholesome and constructive recreation which will provide for social and mental as well as physical needs. Friends should promote high standards of quality and moral influence in all forms of entertainment.
Friends seek to live in the world, to be a part of it, and to be a leaven to its standards of daily conduct and custom. Respect for themselves and the determination not to encourage weakness in others by their own conduct has led Friends to advocate abstinence from use of alcohol, tobacco, and the abuse of drugs, from gambling and lotteries, and from entertainments or amusements which are tawdry or merely sensational in their appeal. Friends should be clear that abstinence is not an end in itself but a means to fullness of life. When it is necessary for Friends to dissent from familiar social usage, let it be done without self-righteousness and in a loving spirit which will maintain fellowship with those who still accept the practices and standards Friends have been led to reject.
True leisureliness is a beautiful thing and may not lightly be given away. Indeed, it is one of the outstanding and most wonderful features of the life of Christ that, with all his work in preaching and healing and planning for the Kingdom, he leaves behind this sense of leisure, of time in which to pray and meditate, to stand and stare at the cornfields and fishing boats, and to listen to the confidences of neighbors and passers-by.
Most of us need from time to time the experience of something spacious or space-making, when Time ceases to be the enemy, goad-in-hand, and becomes our friend. To read good literature, gaze on natural beauty, to follow cultivated pursuits until our spirits are refreshed and expanded, will not unfit us for the up and doing of life. Rather will it help us to separate the essential from the unessential, to know where we are really needed and get a sense of proportion. We shall find ourselves giving the effect of leisure even in the midst of a full and busy life. People do not pour their joys or sorrows into the ears of those with an eye on the clock.
Caroline C. Graveson: Religion and culture (Swarthmore lecture), 1937, pp. 37-40.
Art is Part of Truth
The truth which the artist seeks and which he expresses through his Art is part of the Universal Truth, just as the truth sought and expressed by the philosopher and the scientist and the theologian is part of the Universal Truth. The man who can only see the significance of his own specialised field of vision may not mar his own contribution, but inevitably he will impoverish it. Happy is the artist, the philosopher, the scientist or the theologian who recognizes that all Truth is one.
Elfrida V. Foulds: Living in the kingdom (William Penn lecture), 1955, p. 14. Philadelphia Y M.
Participants Rather Than Spectators
In these days a vast amount of time is spent by many in listening to radio or in looking at television and professional sports. While such entertainments may have a proper place if kept in moderation, recreations in which we are participants rather than mere spectators are usually more beneficial and are much needed.
Philadelphia Y. M.: Faith and practice, 1961, p. 25.
Lest We Strengthen Evil
Every degree of luxury of what kind soever and every demand for money inconsistent with divine order hath some connection with unnecessary labour. To labour too hard or cause others to do so, that we may live comfortable to customs which Christ our Redeemer contradicted by his example in the days of his flesh, and which are contrary to divine order, is to manure a soil for propagating an evil seed in the earth. Such who enter deep into these considerations and live under the weight of them will feel these things so heavy and their ill effects so extensive that the necessity of attending singly to divine wisdom will be evident, thereby to be directed in the right use of things, in opposition to the customs of the times, and supported to bear patiently the reproaches attending singularity. To conform a little to a wrong way strengthens the hand of such who carry wrong customs to their utmost extent; and the more a person appears to be virtuous and heavenly-minded, the more powerfully does his conformity operate in favour of evil-doers. While we profess in all cases to live in constant opposition to that which is contrary to universal righteousness ... what language is sufficient to set forth the strength of those obligations we are under to beware lest by our example we lead others wrong.
John Woolman: "A plea for the poor," (written in 1763-4) in The journal and major essays ed. Phillips P Moulton, 1971, pp. 246-8.
Use and Misuse of Alcohol
Friends as well as all other Christian groups have much to contribute to a creative solution of the problems of the use and misuse of alcoholic beverages. These problems have become more and more acute as the tensions of life have increased and controls have been relaxed. For over a century the Religious Society of Friends has discouraged its members from the use of intoxicating liquors and more recently has pressed the cause of total abstinence.
There are many cogent arguments against alcohol: its physical effects, even in moderate quantities, on the human body; the fact that it is a habit-forming drug; that it is a depressant and reduces acuteness of hearing and vision; that the immediate and continuing effect of alcohol as a beverage is to dull the higher mental processes, such as judgement, self-criticism and self-control. There is a close association of alcohol with crime and indeed with many of our social ills.
Philadelphia Y. M.: Faith and practice, 1961, p. 33.
Friends and the Use of Alcohol
American Friends were certainly affected by the national perception that Prohibition was a noble experiment but a failure. Following Repeal in 1933, it became difficult to find a position regarding alcohol on which Friends could unite whole-heartedly.
But recently there has been increased concern about the seriousness of drunk driving, spouse and child abuse, and other alcohol-related problems. In the latter category many Friends have revealed the existence of such difficulties within their own families. In recent months Young Friends in our own Yearly Meeting [Baltimore] have asked adults whether they have not in fact been condoning a double standard of behaviour with regard to alcohol consumption.
Accordingly, we recommend that Baltimore Yearly Meeting:
- Affirm as a goal that Friends minimize the consumption of alcohol in all situations.
- Strongly uphold members who feel led to a position of complete abstinence, and seek to encourage situations where it will not be felt necessary to serve alcohol to achieve either good-fellowship or individual self-respect.
- It is felt that Friends will wish to be especially conscious of these concerns during all Friends gatherings.
- Unite with other Friends bodies, and in coalitions with other like-minded groups, to develop general educational material on the use of alcohol, and to work actively for significant changes in relevant public policies. Actions to be studied should include limitations on alcohol advertising, increasing taxes on alcoholic beverages, ending Government subsidies on the sale of alcohol on military bases, and the strengthening of both private and Government-supported organizations and programs which deal with alcoholism and with alcohol-abuse.
From a minute approved February 20, 1983, Langley Hill Friends Meeting.
Gambling and Lotteries
We recognize and deplore the prevalence of the gambling spirit throughout the world. It extends to all classes of society and permeates finance and commerce as well as sport and recreation. Its indulgence not only causes the material ruin of many individuals, but dwarfs and warps their moral and spiritual lives. From early days Friends have recognized these facts and have opposed "lotteries, wagering, and other species of gaming." The evils in the grosser forms of gambling are apparent, but are less so in the petty forms that prevail in connection with games and other recreations.
New England Y M.: Faith and practice, 1930, p. 108.
Appeal to Covetousness
Gambling by risking money haphazardly disregards our belief that possessions are a trust. The persistent appeal to covetousness is fundamentally opposed to the unselfishness which was taught by Jesus Christ and by the New Testament as a whole. The attempt, which is inseparable from gambling, to make profit out of the inevitable loss and possible suffering of others is the antithesis of that love of one's neighbor on which our Lord insisted. Moreover, we must consider the moral and spiritual plight of those who by indulgence in gambling become suddenly possessed of large financial resources for which they have rendered no service to the community.
London Y M.: Christian faith and practice, 1960, no. 567
Reject Gambling as Revenue
We reject the spurious argument that the gambling instinct is too strong to be outlawed and that therefore the state should legalize gambling and raise revenue from it. This is wrong in principle, for we should tax ourselves for the services we require. We should not depend on the weaknesses of our fellow men to finance these services.
Drafted by the 1965 Revision Committee.
Tobacco Injures and Shortens Life
Medical research makes it clear that the use of tobacco, especially in the form of cigarettes, injures and shortens life. Friends are urged to consider whether it is wise to indulge because of the effect on their own health, and because of the example Friends may set to youth. Furthermore, smoking is often practiced with little regard for the comfort of others.
Drafted by the 1965 Revision Committee.
The Society of Friends bears a testimony against membership in secret organizations. Secret societies are capable of producing much evil, and are incapable of producing any good which might not be effected by safe and open means. The pledge to secrecy may be in itself a surrender of independence, which tends to moral decadence and spiritual loss.
New England Y M.: Faith and practice, 1950, p. 97.
Exclusiveness of Secret Societies
We especially admonish our younger members against college societies whose proceedings are hedged with secrecy. The Society of Friends is opposed to ceremonialism and the exclusiveness of secret societies gives to the fellowship which they promote a flavor of selfishness.
New England Y M.: Faith and practice, 1930, pp. 55-6.
Recreation is Relief and Restoration
Recreation is relief and restoration; the ultimate basis of inward peace and security is trust in God, consciousness of His love and guidance, and whole-souled commitment to Him in work and play.
Philadelphia Y M.: Faith and practice, 1961, p. 25.