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.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Peace (No Cross, No Crown, No Nothing)

Quakerism: a view from the back benches continued

Copyright 1966 The Back Benches

Peace (No Cross, No Crown, No Nothing)

The peace testimony has been in many ways the glory of Quakerism; it has more than other factor preserved us from the idolatry of nationalism. Since nationalism is most conspicuous and most demanding during wartime, our refusal of military participation enabled us to retain some modicum of objectivity when others were drowning in a sea of subjective patriotism.

It is our impression, however, that the peace testimony is not very strong. Certainly the number of young men becoming conscientious objectors is small. There are Meetings where an applicant for membership is not even asked his convictions on war and peace. One can hear the scantiest and most simple-minded arguments from young army-bound Quakers, indicating that their Meetings have not pressed them to develop even an informed non-pacifist position. Indeed, there are Meetings where the burden of argument is upon the lad is a pacifist, and where the adults accept in a naïve way the State Department line and the jingoist newspaper accounts.

These developments, plus the emergence of Quaker members in the John Birch Society, indicate that nationalism is gaining ground. Peace-concerned Quakers are sometimes upbraided for sounding “unpatriotic” when they call a spade a spade - an atrocity an atrocity. The idea that the American nation-state-like all great powers-is capable of gross immoralities meets with increasing Quaker resistance because our emotional ties are growing stronger to our country. To criticize the government is increasingly to criticize us, at the same time that one hears members of the Society refer to Friends in general as “they.” What is happening but a shift of emotional identification in which one’s religious commitment no longer gives one an objective position from which to judge the behavior of one’s government?

We deeply believe that this is no peripheral issue: this is nothing to shrug off with a murmur about “each to his own light,” This issue goes to the very heart of the continued existence of the Society of Friends as anything like a genuine religious community. When a religious commitment can no longer protect one from the claims of class, of color, or of country, that commitment is nothing but the shadow of piety: it was such that George Fox scorned.

It seems essential, therefore, that no one be admitted to membership who does not intend to refrain from violence against other men. We suggest, too, that by 1975 all present members should be clear that violence is evil and is not justified able under any circumstances. While coming to accept this basic principle, we must develop creative responses to violence, so that our pacifism cannot be a cover for indifference to the claims of justice. The insights of those Friends who do not presently call themselves pacifists will be valued as we engage in this exercise of clarity.

(to be continued)


Post a Comment

<< Home