Sunday, February 16, 2014

Should We Stand On the Peace Testimony?

There’s a conversation going on over at that is important, and that led me to this question.  It’s called “A Hermeneutics of Non-Violence "  Randy Oftedahl asks us, among other questions:  

 “Should Quakers seek to promote, to use the phrase of Adam Erickson of the Raven Foundation, ‘a hermeneutics of non-violence,’ in keeping with our Peace Testimony and historic witness, as our collective role and presence and purpose in the church of Christ in the world today?

Should this include a willingness on the part of each one of us to examine and speak out against ALL forms of violence, in ourselves, in others, in our S/society, in our country, and in our world, whether inter-personal violence or cultural violence, whether in the form of militarism, or racism, or sexism, or classism, or economic exploitation, or religious prejudice, or any other form, whether historical by our ancestors or in ourselves today, whether blatant, or latent, or actively denied?”

This is in keeping with the questions I’ve been asking about being a non-violent entrepreneur.  Should I examine myself for the seeds of non-violence and take up a stand about it in the world today?  It’s a huge question.

In my own Meeting, and in many Meetings, I observe that what we do is take stands for the issues where we see violence, not take stands on the testimonies. There’s a big difference.  Perhaps we need to examine whether as the Religious Society of Friends our stand would have more impact if we stand together on our Testimony of Peace and stand together.  We are seeing the power of the people standing together for the rights of all people to marry.  This to me, has at least the same impact and import.

When we start with genuine compassion and honesty for ourselves, to look inward and examine the places where we fall short of a genuine unity with the peace testimony in our daily lives, we begin to approximate what it will take to reach unity as a Society and become a strong voice again for peace in our world. 

We have often become weak in our daily lives, sufficing to live by the mission of the workplace we are employed under, rather than asking, “Does this mission statement meet the testimonies I have come to believe and stand under in my religion?”  How many of us ask, “Does my investment portfolio have investments that have their roots in violence or damage to others?” Do we endeavor to teach our children the roots of violence in our everyday actions?

Do we call on others in our Meetings, and in the World, to do the same? How much do we teach, discuss and worship over the roots of our faith that form the Peace Testimony.  Do we give lip service to the thing called the Peace Testimony or do we search out and teach the Biblical and historical roots that gave rise to people testifying in the name of peace? 

As I read it, the people spoken of in John Woolman’s “Plea for the Poor, Part X” were not too far from what we view in the world now.  Woolman was cautioning the world that many were so far from the vision of Christ’s religion as to be hid from it, and these people were able to participate in war with no sense of their sin.  He goes on to caution those with property and wealth that this is contrary to universal righteousness, and he asks them to examine if they are declaring against war that they must examine their motives for holding great estates.  He calls on the poor to come forward and take the stand for peace for they are without hidden motive. 

This is a strong indictment and one that no doubt many people in our Society would react against today.  But does it have bearing on our self-examination?  Is there merit to examining the roots of our investments, our possessions and our motives and gaining self-understanding before we stand against war and violence?  In gaining self-understanding might we gain the inner strength we need to bond together as a Society and prove that there is a place for non-violent resistance?  Might we show that there is a place for economic and entrepreneurial resistance as well? 

It is my thesis that in our honest and straightforward approach to our dealings with others we have been met over the centuries with respect and reconciliation, and we of the Religious Society of Friends have a tradition that is deeply rooted in Biblical and history:  It is time for the Society of Friends to lead by standing firm on the Testimony of Peace.

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