Faithfulness and Acting-As-If
“I lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars.” That’s George Fox, recounting in his Journal his refusal to join Oliver Cromwell’s army.
Fox’s refusal to fight didn’t stop, shorten, or lessen the effects of the English Civil War. Nor have the thousands of young conscientious objectors in the centuries since managed to put the brakes on what seems to be so many human societies’ compulsion to war. So what, exactly, does refusal do?
Friends are in a position to witness with our eyes and with our actions. I would argue that we have an obligation to cast aside our tendencies toward genteel quietism, look at the world as it is—where it has fallen and where it is failing. We must not avert our eyes, and we must name what we see in the plainest possible way. And then, we must act.
Not all of us need be what many would consider activists. Many people who are incredibly effective forces for good in the world would bristle that label. But it is important that we cultivate in the Religious Society of Friends systems, structures, and expectations that this work—seeing, naming, and using our gifts to change the world—is valued, necessary, and centered in an understanding of what Fox described in his vision: “I saw the infinite love of God. I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death; but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness.”
We have to act as if what we believe is truly possible. If that is not faithfulness, what is? Fox declared, and let us declare with him: there is a life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars.
Do not avert your eyes. In this issue, our contributors explore the human lives afloat—and swimming—in this ocean of darkness and death. We see how acts of human understanding and compassion can transform and heal, embodying the infinite ocean of light and love flowing over. David Zarembka writes of Friends peacemaking efforts with terrorists in Kenya. Raed Jarrar writes of his family’s travails to un-disappear a son during the U.S. occupation of his native Iraq. George Rubin composes a letter to a young person considering military service, recounting his own service and time spent as a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany. Quaker military chaplain Zachary Moon talks with our senior editor, Martin Kelley, about how Quaker practice can equip people as peacemakers even across cultural divides. These are just a few of the powerful experiences Friends share in these pages. War is not something that happens “over there.” It’s here, and we’re a part of it whether or not we asked for it. Let’s look for the war that is in us and around us, name it, and work in support of the life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars.
Yours in peace,