From the Vault: More Victims Won’t Stop the Terror (10/2001)

Today is the ninth anniver­sary of the war in Afghanistan. In recog­ni­tion, here’s my Non​vi​o​lence​.org essay from 10/7/2010. It’s all sad­ly still top­i­cal. Nine years in and we’re still mak­ing ter­ror and still cre­at­ing enemies.

The Unit­ed States has today begun its war against ter­ror­ism in a very famil­iar way: by use of ter­ror. Igno­rant of thou­sands of years of vio­lence in the Mid­dle East, Pres­i­dent George W. Bush thinks that the hor­ror of Sep­tem­ber 11th can be exor­cised and pre­vent­ed by bombs and mis­siles. Today we can add more names to the long list of vic­tims of the ter­ror­ist air­plane attacks. Because today Afgha­nis have died in terror.

The deaths in New York City, Wash­ing­ton and Penn­syl­va­nia have shocked Amer­i­cans and right­ly so. We are all scared of our sud­den vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty. We are all shocked at the lev­el of anger that led nine­teen sui­cide bombers to give up pre­cious life to start such a lit­er­al and sym­bol­ic con­fla­gra­tion. What they did was hor­ri­ble and with­out jus­ti­fi­ca­tion. But that is not to say that they didn’t have reasons.

The ter­ror­ists com­mit­ted their atroc­i­ties because of a long list of griev­ances. They were shed­ding blood for blood, and we must under­stand that. Because to under­stand that is to under­stand that Pres­i­dent Bush is unleash­ing his own ter­ror cam­paign: that he is shed­ding more blood for more blood.

The Unit­ed States has been spon­sor­ing vio­lence in Afghanistan for over a gen­er­a­tion. Even before the Sovi­et inva­sion of that coun­try, the U.S. was sup­port­ing rad­i­cal Muja­hadeen forces. We thought then that spon­sor­ship of vio­lence would lead to some sort of peace. As we all know now, it did not. We’ve been exper­i­ment­ing with vio­lence in the region for many years. Our for­eign pol­i­cy has been a mish-mash of sup­port­ing one despot­ic régime after anoth­er against a shift­ing array of per­ceived enemies.

The Afghani forces the Unit­ed States now bomb were once our allies, as was Iraq’s Sad­dam Hus­sein. We have rarely if ever act­ed on behalf of lib­er­ty and democ­ra­cy in the region. We have time and again sold out our val­ues and thrown our sup­port behind the most heinous of despots. We have time and again thought that mil­i­tary adven­tur­ism in the region could keep ter­ror­ism and anti-Americanism in check. And each time we’ve only bred a new gen­er­a­tion of rad­i­cals, bent on revenge.

There are those who have angri­ly denounced paci­fists in the weeks since Sep­tem­ber 11th, angri­ly ask­ing how peace can deal with ter­ror­ists. What these crit­ics don’t under­stand is that wars don’t start when the bombs begin to explode. They begin years before, when the seeds of hatred are sewn. The times to stop this new war was ten and twen­ty years ago, when the U.S. broke it’s promis­es for democ­ra­cy, and act­ed in its own self-interest (and often on behalf of the inter­ests of our oil com­pa­nies) to keep the cycles of vio­lence going. The Unit­ed States made choic­es that helped keep the peo­ples of the Mid­dle East enslaved in despo­tism and poverty.

And so we come to 2001. And it’s time to stop a war. But it’s not nec­es­sar­i­ly this war that we can stop. It’s the next one. And the ones after that. It’s time to stop com­bat ter­ror­ism with ter­ror. In the last few weeks the Unit­ed States has been mak­ing new alliances with coun­tries whose lead­ers sub­vert democ­ra­cy. We are giv­ing them free rein to con­tin­ue to sub­ject their peo­ple. Every weapon we sell these tyrants only kills and desta­bi­lizes more, just as every bomb we drop on Kab­ul feeds ter­ror more.

And most of all: we are mak­ing new vic­tims. Anoth­er gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren are see­ing their par­ents die, are see­ing the rain of bombs fall on their cities from an uncar­ing Amer­i­ca. They cry out to us in the name of peace and democ­ra­cy and hear noth­ing but hatred and blood. And some of them will respond by turn­ing against us in hatred. And will fight us in anger. They will learn our les­son of ter­ror and use it against us. They cycle will repeat. His­to­ry will con­tin­ue to turn, with blood as it’s Mid­dle East­ern lubri­cant. Unless we act. Unless we can stop the next war.

Snipers shoot democracy yet again: the assasination of Benazir Bhutto

The bul­lets and bombs have final­ly found their mark. It is no sur­prise to learn of yet anoth­er assas­i­na­tion attempt against Pak­istani oppo­si­tion leader Benazir Bhut­to. Details are still sketchy and con­flict­ing but the only thing we real­ly need to know is that this attempt was suc­cess­ful and that Bhut­to is dead less than two weeks before Par­lia­men­tary elec­tions that might well have brought her into pow­er for the third time.

Pak­istan is a coun­try who’s top gov­ern­ment sci­en­tist export­ed atom­ic bomb-making across the world for decades. It still hosts Osama bin Laden. Afghanistan’s Tal­iban are still more-or-less head­quar­tered in its West­ern provinces. The stand­off with India has spawned war after war over the decade, now nuclear-enabled should either coun­try get so embold­ened. Bil­lions of dol­lars of Unit­ed States mon­ey has left Wash­ing­ton for Islam­abad since 9/11 and a pop­u­lar politi­cian can’t even cam­paign there with­out dead­ly assas­si­na­tion attempts. Pak­istan is one of the world’s hot spots, a nexus of ter­ror­ism, nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion, reli­gious extrem­ism. It is a very sad day today indeed.

Forsaking Diplomacy

In the New York Times, a “glimpse behind the scenes of the Bush Administration’s sup­port for war in Lebanon”:www.nytimes.com/2006/08/10/washington/10rice.html:
bq.. Washington’s resis­tance to an imme­di­ate cease-fire and its staunch sup­port of Israel have made it more dif­fi­cult for [US “Sec­re­tary of State”:www.nonviolence.org/tag/secretary%20of%20state] Rice to work with oth­er nations, includ­ing some Amer­i­can allies, as they search for a for­mu­la that will end the vio­lence and pro­duce a durable cease-fire.…
Sev­er­al State Depart­ment offi­cials have pri­vate­ly object­ed to the administration’s empha­sis on Israel and have said that Wash­ing­ton is not talk­ing to Syr­ia to try to resolve the cri­sis. Dam­as­cus has long been a sup­port­er of “Hezbollah”:www.nonviolence.org/tag/hezbollah, and pre­vi­ous con­flicts between the group and Israel have been resolved through shut­tle diplo­ma­cy with Syria.
p. The wars in “Lebanon”:www.nonviolence.org/tag/lebanon and “Iraq”:www.nonviolence.org/tag/iraq are caus­ing irrepara­ble harm to the U.S. image in the Mid­dle East. High-sounding words about democ­ra­cy ring hol­low when we for­sake diplomacy.

Christian peacemaker Teams News

On Sat­ur­day, Novem­ber 26, 2005 four mem­bers of “Chris­t­ian peace­mak­ers Teams”:www.cpt.org were abduct­ed in iraq. On March 20th the body of Amer­i­can Quak­er Tom Fox was found; on March 23rd, the remain­ing three hostages were freed by U.S. and British mil­i­tary forces.
Here at Non​vi​o​lence​.org, we have always been impressed and high­ly sup­port­ive of the deep wit­ness of the Chris­t­ian peace­mak­ers Teams. Their mem­bers have rep­re­sent­ed the best in both the peace and Chris­t­ian move­ments, con­sis­tent­ly putting them­selves in dan­ger to wit­ness the gospel of peace. Not con­tent to write let­ters or stand on pick­ett lines in safe west­ern cap­i­tals, they go to the front­lines of vio­lence and pro­claim a rad­i­cal alternative.
While we can be grate­ful for the release of the three remain­ing hostages, we should con­tin­ue to remem­ber the 43 for­eign hostages still being held in iraq and the 10 – 30 iraqis report­ed­ly tak­en hostage each and every day. As iraq slips into full-scale civ­il war we must also orga­nize against the war-mongerers, both for­eign and inter­nal and finde ways of stand­ing along­side those iraqis who want noth­ing more than peace and freedom.

Here’s links to recent articles on the situation: https://​deli​cious​.com/​m​a​r​t​i​n​_​k​e​l​l​e​y​/​n​e​w​s​.​c​p​t​-​f​o​u​r​.​f​o​x​m​e​m​o​r​ial

And a per­son­al note from Nonviolence.org’s Mar­tin Kel­ley: I myself am a Chris­t­ian and Quak­er and one of our folks, Tom Fox, of Lan­g­ley Hill (Vir­ginia) Friends Meet­ing is among the hostages. I don’t know Tom per­son­al­ly but over the last few days I’ve learned we have many Friends in com­mon and they have all tes­ti­fied to his deep com­mitt­ment to peace. Some of the links above are more explic­it­ly Quak­er than most things I post to Non​vi​o​lence​.org, but they give per­spec­tive on why Tom and his com­pan­ions would see putting them­selves in dan­ger as an act of reli­gious ser­vice. I am grate­ful for Tom’s cur­rent wit­ness in iraq – yes, even as a hostage – but I cer­tain­ly hope he soon comes back to his fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty and that the atten­tion and wit­ness of these four men’s ordeal helps to bring the news of peace to streets and halls of Bagh­dad, Wash­ing­ton, Lon­don and Ottawa.

Action Step:

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The Left Wing Conspiracy Revealed by Non​vi​o​lence​.org

Non​vi​o​lence​.org read­ers may not be aware that my per­son­al site has been the talk of the polit­i­cal inter­net for the last few days. Since post­ing an “account of get­ting a phone call from a CBS News pub­li­cist”, I’ve been linked to by a Who’s Who of blog­ging glit­er­at­ti: Won­kette, Instapun­dit, The Volokh Con­spir­a­cy, Lit­tle Green Foot­balls, Rather­Biased, etc. For a short time yes­ter­day, the sto­ry was a part of the second-ranked arti­cle on Technorati’s Pol­i­tics Atten­tion index.

A hack from CBS News called me to say they were doing a pro­gram on an issue that’s cen­tral to Nonviolence.org’s man­date: con­sci­en­tious resis­tance to mil­i­tary ser­vice. After look­ing over the mate­r­i­al, I thought the inter­views of resisters who have fled to Cana­da would be inter­est­ing to my read­ers and so wrote a short entry on it. Think­ing it all a lit­tle fun­ny that a pub­li­cist would care about Non​vi​o​lence​.org, I men­tioned the inci­dent in the “Sto­ries of Non​vi​o​lence​.org” sec­tion of my per­son­al site. One by one the lead­ing polit­i­cal sites of the blo­gos­phere have run the sto­ry as fur­ther proof of the vast left-wing main­stream media con­spir­a­cy. It’s rather fun­ny actually.

I have to won­der is who’s kid­ding who with all this feigned out­rage? For those miss­ing the irony gene: the Non​vi​o​lence​.org Pay­Pal account cur­rent­ly has a bal­ance $6.18, the bulk of which comes from the last dona­tion – $5.00 back on Novem­ber 20th. My cor­ner of the left wing con­spir­a­cy is fund­ed by the vast per­son­al wealth I accu­mu­late as a book­store clerk.

Wonkette’s pages adver­tise “spon­sor­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties,” she’s a recent cov­er girl on New York Times Mag­a­zine, her hus­band is an edi­tor at New York mag­a­zine and in Octo­ber she cashed out her blog­ging fame for a $275,000 advance for her first nov­el (“It’s not Brid­get Jones does Wash­ing­ton, it’s Nick Horn­by does pol­i­tics”: good grief). Eugene Volokh has clerked on the U.S. Supreme Court (for San­dra Day O’Connor), teach­es law at UCLA and just had a big op-ed in the Times. Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds teach­es law at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ten­nessee, has served on White House advi­so­ry pan­els, and is a paid cor­re­spon­dent for MSNBC. Yet he, like the oth­ers, calls a two minute phone call “recruit­ing”?

I’m begin­ning to think the real inter­est comes from the fact that this top tier of blog­gers is total­ly in bed (lit­er­al­ly) with the MSM. Their income comes from their con­nec­tions with media and polit­i­cal pow­er. Their carefully-crafted fas­cade of snark­ish inde­pen­dence would crum­ble if their phone logs were made pub­lic. They’re not real­ly blog­ging in their paja­mas, folks.

By men­tion­ing the exis­tance of blog pub­li­cists, I’ve threat­ened to blow their cov­er. Pay no atten­tion to the men behind the cur­tains: my social gaffe was in pub­licly admit­ting that the main­stream media courts polit­i­cal blogs. Kudos to jour­nal­ist Derek Rose on admit­ting the practice:

But why shouldn’t a news organization’s pub­lic­i­ty depart­ment court blog­gers? As a MSM mem­ber, I get emails from TV flacks all the time pro­mot­ing their scoops. From ABC, for exam­ple, I’ve received emails regard­ing a tape they got of the Belt­way sniper’s call to the Rockville police; Bar­bara Wal­ters’ Hillary Clin­ton inter­view; and their ‘Azzam the Amer­i­can’ video … as well as a Rush Lim­baugh drug laun­der­ing sto­ry that nev­er panned out. I even got atten­tion from pub­li­cists when I was work­ing for a news­pa­per that didn’t have a 20th of the cir­cu­la­tion of Instapundit…

Rose aside, there’s incred­i­ble dis­tor­tion in the “report­ing,” a term I have to use very loose­ly. Won­kette says “Kel­ley claims that a CBS min­ion put the screws to him to post some­thing about a ’60 Min­utes’ pack­age on con­sci­en­tious objec­tors” yet all read­ers have to do is fol­low the link to see I nev­er said any­thing like that. Why do the cream of blog­gers feel like a posse of self-absorbed sev­enth graders? When I start­ed Non​vi​o​lence​.org back in 1995, I thought the brave new polit­i­cal world of the inter­net might be All the President’s Men. Boy was I wrong: it turns it’s just Heathers. God help us.

Quaker Testimonies

One of the more rev­o­lu­tion­ary trans­for­ma­tions of Amer­i­can Quak­erism in the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry has been our under­stand­ing of the tes­ti­monies. In online dis­cus­sions I find that many Friends think the “SPICE” tes­ti­monies date back from time immemo­r­i­al. Not only are they rel­a­tive­ly new, they’re a dif­fer­ent sort of crea­ture from their predecessors.

In the last fifty years it’s become dif­fi­cult to sep­a­rate Quak­er tes­ti­monies from ques­tions of mem­ber­ship. Both were dra­mat­i­cal­ly rein­vent­ed by a newly-minted class of lib­er­al Friends in the ear­ly part of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry and then cod­i­fied by Howard Brinton’s land­mark Friends for 300 Years, pub­lished in the ear­ly 1950s.

Comfort and the Test of Membership

Brin­ton comes right out and says that the test for mem­ber­ship shouldn’t involve issues of faith or of prac­tice but should be based on whether one feels com­fort­able with the oth­er mem­bers of the Meet­ing. This con­cep­tion of mem­ber­ship has grad­u­al­ly become dom­i­nant among lib­er­al Friends in the half cen­tu­ry since this book was pub­lished. The trou­ble with it is twofold. The first is that “com­fort” is not nec­es­sar­i­ly what God has in mind for us. If the frequently-jailed first gen­er­a­tion of Friends had used Brinton’s mod­el there would be no Reli­gious Soci­ety of Friends to talk about (we’d be lost in the his­tor­i­cal foot­notes with the Mug­gle­to­ni­ans, Grindle­to­ni­ans and the like). One of the clas­sic tests for dis­cern­ment is whether an pro­posed action is con­trary to self-will. Com­fort is not our Society’s calling.

The sec­ond prob­lem is that com­fort­a­bil­i­ty comes from fit­ting in with a cer­tain kind of style, class, col­or and atti­tude. It’s fine to want com­fort in our Meet­ings but when we make it the pri­ma­ry test for mem­ber­ship, it becomes a cloak for eth­nic and cul­tur­al big­otries that keep us from reach­ing out. If you have advanced edu­ca­tion, mild man­ners and lib­er­al pol­i­tics, you’ll fit it at most East Coast Quak­er meet­ings. If you’re too loud or too eth­nic or speak with a work­ing class accent you’ll like­ly feel out of place. Samuel Cald­well gave a great talk about the dif­fer­ence between Quak­er cul­ture and Quak­er faith and I’ve pro­posed a tongue-in-cheek tes­ti­mo­ny against com­mu­ni­ty as way of open­ing up discussion.

The Feel Good Testimonies

Friends for 300 Years also rein­vent­ed the Tes­ti­monies. They had been spe­cif­ic and often pro­scrip­tive: against gam­bling, against par­tic­i­pa­tion in war. But the new tes­ti­monies became vague feel-good char­ac­ter traits – the now-famous SPICE tes­ti­monies of sim­plic­i­ty, peace, integri­ty, com­mu­ni­ty and equal­i­ty. Who isn’t in favor of all those val­ues? A pres­i­dent tak­ing us to war will tell us it’s the right thing to do (integri­ty) to con­truct last­ing peace (peace) so we can bring free­dom to an oppressed coun­try (equal­i­ty) and cre­ate a stronger sense of nation­al pride (com­mu­ni­ty) here at home.

We mod­ern Friends (lib­er­al ones at least) were real­ly trans­formed by the redefin­tions of mem­ber­ship and the tes­ti­monies that took place mid-century. I find it sad that a lot of Friends think our cur­rent tes­ti­monies are the ancient ones. I think an aware­ness of how Friends han­dled these issues in the 300 years before Brin­ton would help us nav­i­gate a way out of the “eth­i­cal soci­ety” we have become by default.

The Source of our Testimonies

A quest for uni­ty was behind the rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion of the tes­ti­monies. The main accom­plish­ment of East Coast Quak­erism in the mid-twentieth cen­tu­ry was the reunit­ing of many of the year­ly meet­ings that had been torn apart by schisms start­ing in 1827. By end of that cen­tu­ry Friends were divid­ed across a half dozen major the­o­log­i­cal strains man­i­fest­ed in a patch­work of insti­tu­tion­al divi­sions. One way out of this morass was to present the tes­ti­monies as our core uni­fy­ing prici­ples. But you can only do that if you divorce them from their source.

As Chris­tians (even as post-Christians), our core com­mand­ment is sim­ple: to love God with all our heart and to love our neigh­bor as ourselves:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great com­mand­ment. And the sec­ond is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neigh­bour as thy­self. On these two com­mand­ments hang all the law and the prophets. Matthew 22:37 – 40 and Mark 12:30 – 31, Luke 10:27.

The Quak­er tes­ti­monies also hang on these com­mand­ments: they are our col­lec­tive mem­o­ry. While they are in con­tant flux, they refer back to 350 years of expe­ri­ence. These are the truths we can tes­ti­fy to as a peo­ple, ways of liv­ing that we have learned from our direct expe­ri­ence of the Holy Spir­it. They are intri­cate­ly tied up with our faith and with how we see our­selves fol­low­ing through on our charge, our covenant with God.

I’m sure that Howard Brin­ton didn’t intend to sep­a­rate the tes­ti­monies from faith, but he chose his new catagories in such a way that they would appeal to a mod­ern lib­er­al audi­ence. By pop­u­lar­iz­ing them he made them so acces­si­ble that we think we know them already.

A Tale of Two Testimonies

Take the twin tes­ti­monies of plain­ness and sim­plic­i­ty. First the ancient tes­ti­mo­ny of plain­ness. Here’s the descrip­tion from 1682:

Advised, that all Friends, both old and young, keep out of the world’s cor­rupt lan­guage, man­ners, vain and need­less things and fash­ions, in appar­el, build­ings, and fur­ni­ture of hous­es, some of which are immod­est, inde­cent, and unbe­com­ing. And that they avoid immod­er­a­tion in the use of law­ful things, which though inno­cent in them­selves, may there­by become hurt­ful; also such kinds of stuffs, colours and dress, as are cal­cu­lat­ed more to please a vain and wan­ton mind, than for real use­ful­ness; and let trades­men and oth­ers, mem­bers of our reli­gious soci­ety, be admon­ished, that they be not acces­sary to these evils; for we ought to take up our dai­ly cross, mind­ing the grace of God which brings sal­va­tion, and teach­es to deny all ungod­li­ness and world­ly lusts, and to live sober­ly, right­eous­ly and god­ly, in this present world, that we may adorn the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in all things; so may we feel his bless­ing, and be instru­men­tal in his hand for the good of others.

Note that there’s noth­ing in there about the length of one’s hem. The key phrase for me is the warn­ing about doing things “cal­cu­lat­ed to please a vain and wan­ton mind.” Friends were being told that pride makes it hard­er to love God and our neigh­bors; immod­er­a­tion makes it hard to hear God’s still small voice; self-sacrifice is nec­es­sary to be an instru­ment of God’s love. This tes­ti­mo­ny is all about our rela­tion­ships with God and with each other.

Most mod­ern Friends have dis­pensed with “plain­ness” and recast the tes­ti­mo­ny as “sim­plic­i­ty.” Ask most Friends about this tes­ti­mo­ny and they’ll start telling you about their clut­tered desks and their annoy­ance with cell­phones. Ask for a reli­gious edu­ca­tion pro­gram on sim­plic­i­ty and you’ll almost cer­tain­ly be assigned a book from the mod­ern vol­un­tary sim­plic­i­ty move­ment, one of those self-help man­u­als that promise inner peace if you plant a gar­den or buy a fuel-efficient car, with “God” absent from the index. While it’s true that most Amer­i­cans (and Friends) would have more time for spir­i­tu­al refresh­ment if they unclut­tered their lives, the sec­u­lar notions of sim­plic­i­ty do not emanate out of a con­cern for “gospel order” or for a “right order­ing” of our lives with God. Vol­un­tary sim­plic­i­ty is great: I’ve pub­lished books on it and I live car-free, use cloth dia­pers, etc. But plain­ness is some­thing dif­fer­ent and it’s that dif­fer­ence that we need to explore again.

Pick just about any of the so-called “SPICE” tes­ti­monies (sim­plic­i­ty, peace, integri­ty, com­mu­ni­ty and equal­i­ty) and you’ll find the mod­ern notions are sec­u­lar­l­ized over-simplications of the Quak­er under­stand­ings. In our quest for uni­ty, we’ve over-stated their importance.

Ear­li­er I men­tioned that many of the ear­li­er tes­ti­monies were pro­scrip­tive – they said cer­tain actions were not in accord with our prin­ci­ples. Take a big one: after many years of dif­fi­cult min­is­ter­ing and soul search­ing Friends were able to say that slav­ery was a sin and that Friends who held slaves were kept from a deep com­mu­nion with God; this is dif­fer­ent than say­ing we believe in equal­i­ty. Sim­i­lar­ly, say­ing we’re against all out­ward war is dif­fer­ent than say­ing we’re in favor of peace. While I know some Friends are proud of cast­ing every­thing in pos­ti­tive terms, some­times we need to come out and say a par­tic­u­lar prac­tice is just plain wrong, that it inter­feres with and goes against our rela­tion­ship with God and with our neighbors.

I’ll leave it up to you to start chew­ing over what spe­cif­ic actions we might take a stand against. But know this: if our min­is­ters and meet­ings found that a par­tic­u­lar prac­tice was against our tes­ti­monies, we could be sure that there would be some Friends engaged in it. We would have a long process of min­is­ter­ing with them and labor­ing with them. It would be hard. Feel­ings would be hurt. Peo­ple would go away angry.

After a half-century of lib­er­al indi­vid­u­al­ism, it would be hard to once more affirm that there is some­thing to Quak­erism, that it does have norms and bound­aries. We would need all the love, char­i­ty and patience we could muster. This work would is not easy, espe­cial­ly because it’s work with mem­bers of our com­mu­ni­ty, peo­ple we love and hon­or. We would have to fol­low John Woolman’s exam­ple: our first audi­ence would not be Wash­ing­ton pol­i­cy mak­ers instead Friends in our own Society.

Testimonies as Affirmation of the Power

In a world beset by war, greed, pover­ty and hatred, we do need to be able to talk about our val­ues in sec­u­lar terms. An abil­i­ty to talk about paci­fism with our non-Quaker neigh­bors in a smart, informed way is essen­tial (thus my Non​vi​o​lence​.org min­istry [since laid down], cur­rent­ly receiv­ing two mil­lions vis­i­tors a year). When we affirm com­mu­ni­ty and equal­i­ty we are wit­ness­ing to our faith. Friends should be proud of what we’ve con­tributed to the nation­al and inter­na­tion­al dis­cus­sions on these topics.

But for all of their con­tem­po­rary cen­tral­i­ty to Quak­erism, the tes­ti­monies are only second-hand out­ward forms. They are not to be wor­shipped in and of them­selves. Mod­ern Friends come dan­ger­ous­ly close to lift­ing up the peace tes­ti­mo­ny as a false idol – the prin­ci­ple we wor­ship over every­thing else. When we get so good at argu­ing the prac­ti­cal­i­ty of paci­fism, we for­get that our tes­ti­mo­ny is first and fore­most our procla­ma­tion that we live in the pow­er that takes away occas­sion for war. When high school math teach­ers start argu­ing over arcane points of nuclear pol­i­cy, play­ing arm­chair diplo­mat with year­ly meet­ing press releas­es to the State Depart­ment, we loose cred­i­bil­i­ty and become some­thing of a joke. But when we min­is­ter to the Pow­er is the Good News we speak with an author­i­ty that can thun­der over pet­ty gov­ern­ments with it’s com­mand to Quake before God.

When we remem­ber the spir­i­tu­al source of our faith, our under­stand­ings of the tes­ti­monies deep­en immea­sur­ably. When we let our actions flow from uncom­pli­cat­ed faith we gain a pow­er and endurance that strength­ens our wit­ness. When we speak of our expe­ri­ence of the Holy Spir­it, our words gain the author­i­ty as oth­ers rec­og­nize the echo of that “still small voice” speak­ing to their hearts. Our love and our wit­ness are sim­ple and uni­ver­sal, as is the good news we share: that to be ful­ly human is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neigh­bors as we do ourselves.

Hal­leluiah: praise be to God!

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