On reading Friends' Peace Witness in a Time of Crisis

[This is old news, but in re-reading it I still liked it so I thought I'd let y'all read it if you want.]
Originally written 8/20/2005.

I ended up weeping with joy during this year's [2005] New England Yearly Meeting closing session, while we all sang as the Young Friends came into the auditorium. Some Quaker bloggers have been [were] discussing the minute that NEYM's Young Friends wrote eldering the adult yearly meeting for the quality of worship; but they approved another general minute, about peace. That was the minute that really moved me, because in it they each renounce violence, individually. Now I have no illusions about the process of minute-writing, especially among high-schoolers; doubtless there were a few among them who agreed to it through sleepiness or conformity rather than a profound change of heart. Yet it's a declaration of an ideal, and a membership in an ideal, and I trusted that most of them felt it deeply and meant it deeply.

Now, what I was all choked up about wasn't the Peace Testimony per se; it wasn't that I was overjoyed that there would be more folks at the protests or whatever. Pacifism is the result of a change of heart. A convincement, conviction, conversion, realization. According to their minute, they were all, to one degree or another, feeling convinced about it, and I was happy that they were joining the fold. Trying out the vulnerable power, allowing their hearts to be broken and reborn.

I know someone who got the pulp beaten out of him --went to the hospital-- when he was 14 because he refused to fight back. (Now if he had taken an AVP or HIPP course he might have outwitted or converted his attackers instead! But still, he had the commitment.)

I know a soldier who did his duty in Afghanistan and Iraq and wrestled with it in every letter he wrote me. And I prayed after every letter --and later, every week-- that his soul wouldn't get twisted by the violence he did. [And he's back home now, hurray, safe, whole, and a good and growing person.]

The first time I ever really prayed was before the start of the first Persian Gulf war, because I knew that I'd be complicit in the bombings of Iraq, just by being an American citizen.

I read some of the essays in Friends' Peace Witness in a Time of Crisis (FWCC Section of the Americas, 2005 --report of the January 2003 conference at Guilford) today [2005], and I was left feeling a bit empty. Maybe it's because I didn't read the right essays; or maybe it's because I was skimming and didn't let things sink in. But I missed a sense of what Douglas Gwynn calls "the spirituality of desolation" --a sense of the sacrifice needed for growth, or of the real fear and awe and majesty one feels in trusting to transform death through love. God's love, that is, that we participate in.

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