Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

An Unsent Letter

An unsent letter ... for consideration.

There is a plain clothes site, which also sells American Flag buttons, support the troops yellow ribbons, and nine eleven pins.

I am sitting and laboring, and considering this. I recall John Wollman's concern when he embraced the Delaware (I believe) warrior who ran at him with a tomahawk. He spent days after considering his motives in embracing the fellow -- spiritual bravado or true love. Where is my love in sending this, if their hearts are hardened to war? Are their hearts hardened to war?

To me, support for the killing of 100,000 men women and children of Iraq denies that we are one in God. Well, I'd appreciate anyone helping me in looking inside myself on this. Maybe, and I think this is likely, a letter is not the way, but rather I should look to finding a time to go, and labor with these plain Sisters and Brothers on this ... to ask them where God's love is found in their witness for patriotism...

My dear dear Friends and Sisters and Brothers in the Lord:
I have been looking to purchase a plain coat, and soon will be ordering a coat from you, when I have saved enough. It does a heart good to see clothes made as a witness for truth.

I am strongly led to address one more thing to you, not in the spirit of argument, but in deeply shared love of our common home in God. I am a plain Friend in Downtown New York. My wife and I witnessed the terrible day when so many of our nations children died. We know people who were killed, and I have heard that one attender of our meeting has been missing since that day and is thought to be among the uncounted, unfound dead.

On that day, as we sat in the gray ash, and ministered to strangers, Friends to our hearts, who were in shock and could not see the light ahead, nor could see God through the dark of that day, our feelings were feelings of profound sadness, not revenge. There is no end to a cycle of revenge. We Quakers, many like my family, came from Ireland, where wars of the justification of the last outrage lasted eight hundred years. The dark void of hatred can only be filled with love, love beyond the imagination of the mind, but so firmly born to heart by faith.

Peace is the greatest patriotism. We plain Quakers avoid the false gods of patriotic images. These may often obscure the truth. Born along on a wave of patriotism with flags and bunting generations have been led to die and kill for simple lies. But, not we Quakers, nor Amish, nor Mennonites, nor Brethren or Adventists. These, our grandparents were tortured in American jail cells for our witness to God's peace. After most wars we find that the reason given for fighting, was not the reason wars were fought.

I will not try to convince you, as I am convinced, that this is an evil war based on lies. I will ask you to consider that we have been lied to in the past about wars. We who choose not to fight, cannot make the mistake of murdering another because we believed a lie.

There is an old Quaker myth, that William Penn could not bring himself to stop wearing a sword, for fancy. He spoke to the founder of our faith, George Fox, about this, asking if he was wrong to do so. Fox told him to wear his sword as long as he could. In that spirit, I don't ask that you not sell patriotic buttons about the 11th day of the 9th month. But, I do ask you to search your heart for a fullness of love, that fullness of love that already leads you to say, "I cannot fight," and more that fullness of love that will lead you to gently take another's hand and say, "for love of our God and our land, please do not kill."

In the light of that love, we Quakers have maintained schools in places our nation tells us are full of people who will kill us because we are not sisters and brothers to them. We have not found this to be true. We have found that Moslems of all persuasions have welcomed us in the mutual love of one God, when we came as sisters and brothers to offer all we could in the face of need.
This is not only true of Quakers. When the UN office was bombed in Iraq, a friend who was close to my heart, a former friend, professor and mentor was killed. Arthur Helton devoted his life to bringing aid to all in need, often while wars were fought around him. He was a shinning example of God's courage to love. He was not killed by the Iraqi who planted the bomb anymore than he was killed by the soldiers who we sent to their land. He was killed by war. War is the enemy of God, not the soldiers on either side. We are commanded to love against all human reason.

In closing, I have seen war first hand. I went to war with a camera and an openness to learn. Much that I learned has a weight to bear. That weight is always lifted by God's love. It is our human instinct to want to stop the hearts of those we fear. It is Gods love that teaches us to take into our heart those we fear and in so doing melt their fear of us.

Yours in the light and with the greatest measure of FriendshipLarry Otway


Post a Comment

<< Home