Posted by: Carl Magruder | March 26, 2009

Faith In Action

I think that church camps and regional gatherings are a formative experience for young people.  When I was a kid, if I had been given a choice between going to Pacific Yearly Meeting (of Quakers), or having Christmas, I’d have gone for Yearly Meeting, which was a good deal more religious than commercialized Christmas anyway. 

                One of my buddies at this annual week-long get together was Tristan Anderson.  Tristan was a thin, mostly quiet kid with a crooked nose and eyes that turn down at the corners.  He often had a Mohawk haircut, and loved punk rock music, which even when I was a kid was too much for me.  And, Tristan was an activist, even at fourteen. 

                A serious Quaker historian once posited that since there were no membership rolls during the first century of the movement, the way to tell who was a Quaker from the historical record was simply to look at who was sent to jail.  Quakers went to jail for holding meetings, refusing to take off their hats, not going to church, and a host of other civil disobediences.  They were so profoundly affected by all this jail time that one of the first things they did in the colony of Pennsylvania was to attempt to develop the prison as a way to rehabilitation and not just punishment.  That is why they are called “penitentiaries.” 

                Well, Tristan has spent his Quaker share of time in jail.  He’s been politically active in the street for environmental issues, anti-globalization, peace, nuclear non-proliferation, and non-genetically modified food, to mention a few.  Nonviolent civil disobedience has landed Tristan in handcuffs on numerous occasions.  Last year he spent quite a while sitting in a tree on property owned by the University of California to prevent development of a beautiful grove of oaks.  Sure enough, he got arrested. 

                On March 13th, Tristan Anderson, now 38 years old, was shot in the head by an Israeli Defense Soldier with a high-velocity tear gas canister while protesting the building of the “Israeli West Bank Barrier” wall in Palestine.  This wall is mentioned as an “obstruction to peace” in the NCC’s statement on peace in the Middle East (, and was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004.

                Tristan’s skull was fractured instantly and his brain was visible as blood poured from his nose and mouth.  He has lost his right eye and part of the right frontal lobe of his brain.  He has had three surgeries, and is still unconscious.  His prognosis is unknown. 

                Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”   (John 15:12-14)  This agape love—love that Christians consider divine, unconditional, self-sacrificing, active, volitional, and thoughtful—is the love that motivated Martin Luther King Jr., Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day, Mary Dyer, Mahandas K. Gandhi, Thomas Merton, and Harriet Tubman to speak truth to power and to forego an easy, comfortable life devoid of controversy or risk.  It is this same love that motivated Tristan Anderson to go to Palestine and witness for peace between the Palestinian and Israeli people.  And it is this love that carried Jesus Christ up the long walk to Calvary and the Cross.

                Godspeed, Tristan, and may your example of courage and sacrifice serve as an inspiration to me and others who falter and wander in hearing the call of Spirit to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”  (Micah 6:8)



  1. Prayers for Tristan’s recovery are being offered.

  2. I had news today that Tristan shows some improvement, though he is still facing multiple surgeries, including one tomorrow to drain fluid from his brain. He has been asked to hold up two fingers, squeeze someone’s hand, etc., and has been able to do it. Recently his mother asked him to squeeze her hand. When he complied, she said, “It makes me so happy when you do that.” Tristan then gave her hand a quick series of squeezes, as if to pump her up with happiness! This shows me that he is capable of understanding causality, which is to say logic, AND that compassion for others is still a motivator for him. Very heartening.

  3. […] how to love our neighbor, anarcho-privitivism, superhero bike-rides across the country,  quaker anarchists dismantling the system from within the belly of the beast.  and […]

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