Online Forum: Pacifism and Peace

One of the most important testimonies of the Quaker faith is peace. In times of war, Quakers have a long history of being conscientious objectors and are still active in varying forms of nonviolent protest. A familiar banner outside meetinghouses says, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.”

But what does it mean, both individually and as a society, to work toward peace and justice? Are there circumstances in which “fighting” or “violence” is justified, even necessary?

As we approach yet another election season, these questions about peace, violence, and the direction of our country become all the more evident as Friends consider whom to cast their vote for in the midst of economic hardships, healthcare legislation, unemployment and, of course, raging gun violence across the country.

From the small scale—a bully picking on a child—to the large—a politician taking a stand about the use of weapons and/or military force, how do you interpret the Quaker testimony of peace?

Please share your opinions, your personal stories, and even the questions you have with regard to this issue.

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15 thoughts on “Online Forum: Pacifism and Peace

  1. In the new preface to Christian Pacifism, I remarked that this was written when I was young and maybe naive, that it would be a lot harder to write it now, but that I still believe it 30 years later. As I now see it, we walk in obedience to Christ’s commands, and trust God in his sovereignty to take care of kings and nations [to put it much too briefly]. And as far as we can, we exercise our privileges as citizens to be salt and light in our own country.

    For my own struggle with this issue in moving from a Marine to a Christian pacifist. the amazon free ‘look inside’ feature lets you read that chapter.
    Another key point for me is that if we are truly faithful, our hands are too full doing Christ’s bidding to ever grasp a sword.

    Some try to dismiss the witness of the early Christians by focusing on the issue that being a soldier in the Roman empire involved idolatry. But this ignores the Christian abhorrence for bloodshed. “They could not bear to see a man put to death, even justly.”

    On the relation of the Christian to the State and the sword, it helps to take a fresh look at the context of Romans “13.”

  2. Michael, I think you’re really right to locate the peace testimony in terms of faithfulness. I’ve noticed a tendency to locate the peace testimony in terms of efficacious “peace-making” for instance, and when the focus shifts from peace-as-faithfulness to peace-as-telos, suddenly violence begins to look attractive as a way to make it happen.

  3. Sean, Michael, I respectfully disagree. As a college intern three decades ago, I served a semester at the FCNL, when a retired Raymond Wilson still trekked to the office every day to try to do something for peace. His saying always sticks with me:

    “The better world of tomorrow will not come by wishing for it. It is incumbent upon the individual not only to try to be good, but also, individually and in concert with others, to try to be effective.”

    I don’t see how trying “to be effective” necessitates violence, and I don’t understand what good faith is unless it is applied to the attempt “to be effective.”

    I have no pat answers on how to be effective, but I have faith that Raymond’s challenge is the one we should pursue.

  4. The Way of Peace is a great policy. Those of us in the military will continue to provide 24/7 protection, and to die for your freedom, so that you can pursue it. In the mean time, Peace Through Strength works for me.

  5. I am conflicted on this. I know that in our family life, and daily interactions, striving to be peaceful has made an amazing difference. But I also know, that my luxury to raise my children in peace is dependent, at least in part, on police officers and soldiers willing to do violence on our behalf. That their commitment and service is too often misused by those in authority only makes the question more confusing for me. So I choose to focus my vote on social justice, hoping that medical care and education help other families to live peacefully as well.

  6. Luke 3:14::the military has changed, but in the aspect of those able to extort great gain there would not appear to be any better following of Scripture. The military were also the police of Jesus’s day.

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