Does God Need Friends? What For?

This site is a place where Friends (and others) may disagree agreeably.

It does not speak for any Meeting within The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers.) Therefore it can go beyond what we've agreed on between ourselves; we hope people can talk freely here about the world, our place in it, what good we might be for ourselves and others.

What you see here will include some material from our Faith and Practice, some by regulars at our two local Meetings. Comments may be from any sincere well-meaning person.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Friends' Political Stands

[ This is a big, complex subject; please allow for this section being an incomplete work-in-progress for some time. ]

Peace and Conscientious Objection to War:
Quakers are, as everybody knows, for peace.

This has meant different things over the years. But beginning with George Fox, Friends and their organizations have generally agreed that God forbids us fighting in any earthly war for any cause.

We have also had individual Quakers, ever since Friends came to this Continent, who have felt called upon to fight in one war or another.

Though established Friends Meetings were uniformly against the Revolutionary War, Larry Ingle mentions that "a group of so-called 'Free Quakers,' disowned by their meetings for supporting the military struggle for American independence, did set up a dissident meeting in 1781 in Philadelphia; they hung on, in dwindling numbers, until 1836."

In the Civil War, Quakers considered slavery such an evil that many young men felt called upon to fight it by any means available, including joining the Union Army. Considering the conflicting demands of conscience involved, their Meetings generally welcomed them back afterwards. In subsequent wars, some Quakers have fought and some have refused; the tradition clearly discourages fighting but it also implies a need for each person to discern what it is that God demands of him.

[For a longer, but fascinating account of how Quakers have dealt with this issue over the years, see Quaker Peace Page ]

Peace Making:
This is a slightly different matter, and not as easily researched. We've been doing it a very long time, if you include traveling preachers led to meet with various rulers, to persuade them away from warlike behavior. Quakers have, as a group, earned a good reputation as honest mediators-- which has proved instrumental in relieving some minor-- but ugly-- conflicts, Northern Ireland being one example.

I mention Northern Ireland because I was at Pendle Hill when their 'Friends in Residence' were a couple who'd lived and worked in the 'Quaker House' in Ulster. Protestants who couldn't be caught talking to Catholics; Catholics who couldn't be caught talking to Protestants-- could slip in the back door of the Quaker House around the same time someone from the other side happened to be around. People had been fighting for a very long time, had grown up and aged in the fighting, had gotten very tired of losing people. So enemies came in and talked with each other, and eventually agreed on a truce.

I see by the wikipedia piece that mutual suspicion and occasional violence have continued in the years since, but the major combatant groups remain at peace.

Peace Protests:
Yet another facet-- and so far as I can find via on-line searches, a recent innovation.[?]

AJ Muste helped found the Fellowship of Reconciliation, an effort to stop WW I, while he was still a protestant clergyman, and didn't become a Friend until a few year later, after his congregation rejected him for preaching an anti-war sermon on Easter. Quaker involvement in actual marches and demonstrations against wars and militarism appears to have originated with the Fellowship (?) and continues ever since via participation in it and similar organizations.

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