In 1651, English Puritans imprisoned Quaker founder George Fox in a dungeon for refusing to fight in the English Civil War. Out of this refusal grew the testimony to peace among early Quakers. As Fox said: “…we do certainly know, and so testify to the world, that the spirit of Christ, which leads us into all Truth, will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ nor for the kingdoms of this world.”
Quakers have been refusing to fight in wars ever since, though this does not mean they have not contributed. Quakers served as medics during the American Civil War and in other wars involving the U.S., and Conscientious Objectors have served in numerous ways at home. The Peace Testimony continues to be a defining element among Friends today.
Does that mean everyone who counts themselves a Quaker is against all war? No, indeed. In a recent discussion at Reno Friends Meeting, several attenders said they feel the Peace Testimony is the most personal of the Quaker testimonies: it requires each of us to wrestle with his or her beliefs and understanding about war, war taxes, military service, even (for young men) registering for the Selective Service, as required by federal law.
The Peace Testimony, in fact, is about more than whether it is moral to go to war. As the Pacific Yearly Meeting puts it: “Recognizing that violence and war typically arise from unjust circumstances, Friends address the causes of war by working to correct social injustice, and by strengthening communities, institutions and processes to provide nonviolent alternatives to military force. We testify against structural violence implicit in disparities of wealth and income and against discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, class, sexual orientation, and other divisions of people.”
Friends support those who seek to register as conscientious objectors to military service, while holding in love, but disagreeing with, those who enter the armed forces. In the search for peace, Quakers are called to see and speak to that of God in everyone, as well as seeking peace within ourselves, the family, the community and the world.
On September 27, Reno Friends will participate in a Peace Day event in Reno, one of many events being organized nationwide by Campaign Nonviolence during the week of September 21-27. The Reno event is still being planned, but we expect it to include speakers and music. We’ll provide details on our Calendar as they are finalized. Hope to see you there.
In the Light,
Wendy Swallow, Clerk of Reno Friends Meeting
email: wswallow54 (at) gmail.com
The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting.