The Vanishing Quaker

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A History of Quaker Pacifism

This is just one short history of Quaker pacifism, and not at all a definitive history. Quaker history in this area is filled with holes-- since we have no central authority keeping records and issuing statements, we pretty much have to scrounge through the journals, news articles, minutes and Books of Discipline through the ages to see how our ancestors lived and thought. Often as not, we have to try and interpret small notices of actions we find in Meeting minutes.

So, this is merely what I have found so far, and I invite anyone to correct any misinterpretations here and to point me to good sources.

Modern Quaker "pacifism" appears to have evolved over the years, and while we are called one of the historic "peace churches," the first Friends would probably not recognize our attitude today. I daresay they wouldn't complain too much, and would very possibly agree with us, but this is not their Society.

The Peace Testimony presented to James II most definitely did not call for James to stop his wars with France, other pretenders to the throne, or anyone else. It simply said that the signers were not going to get involved in any way with any of these adventures. Politics and royalty being what it was back then, this was undoubtedly the safest way for a suspect religion to go. (This was, however, not simply a cynical document meant to get them out of the spotlight of James' inquisitors, but a genuine statement of faith that happened to have a certain timely convenience.) George Fox himself, while refusing a commission in the army and refusing a sword, still did much of his preaching and "advancement" in the barracks and it isn't mentioned that he demanded, or even suggested, the soldiers desert or abandon their military duties.

Robert Barclay, in his "Apology," barely mentions war and peace.

By the mid 1700's the concept of our leadings for peace and refusal to bear arms had matured to where John Woolman, in his Journal, talks of youth being jailed for refusing the draft and of war tax revolts. But, there seems to be little talk of disbanding armies and other more radical pacifist positions. Although Penn's "Holy Experiment" in Pennsylvania had great success in many ways, it didn't entirely condemn all war and Quakers in places like Rhode Island and North Carolina might not take up arms themselves but had few qualms about hiring armies and police to do the dirty work for them.

Unlike Mennonites and some other sects and groups, Quakers have always considered themselves to be an integral part of the wider community and fully participating in politics and government is not only allowed, but often encouraged. It has also been assumed that a large part of government involved police and defense, and that warfare is a normal, if not particularly wholesome, affair of government. The Quakers running Rhode Island and Pennsylvania knew full well where their responsibilities lay whenever their colonies were threatened, and while many would not personally bear arms, they would support those who would.

In more modern times, Howard Brinton, in "Friends for 350 Years," writes of the varying amounts of the Light within each of us and how there are times when you are a coward if you don't fight, and other times you are a coward if you do.

In even more modern times, The American Historical Association gives Meredith Baldwin Weddle's 1991 book "Walking In the Way of Peace" high marks, and it may well be the definitive work on the history of Quakers and peace. She thoroughly disects the myths of past pacifism and shows pacifism to be an intensely personal experience quite separate from actions on public policy.

Quakers are well known to have done much soul-searching (to the extent they believed in souls) in every major war we have been in. Quakers have fought in the Revolutionary and Civil wars, and in WWI and II. Quakers have supported our "police" actions in Korea and Bosnia. And, Smedley Butler, the most decorated general in history, was the son of a politically well-connected Philadelphia Quaker family who dropped out of Quaker school to join the Marines. The family and local Meetings were dismayed, but moat apprently supported his decision.

So, where did we get this reputation of being a "Peace Church" and where did all the anti-war activism come from?

Chuck Fager of Quaker House, and who knows vastly more about Quaker history than I do, has said that much of it comes from the Viet Nam era when anti-war activism was at its peak, but I'm not so sure that's the whole story. The 19th Century already had very vocal preachers from Baptist and Assemblies of God churches preaching pacifism, and that tradition continued through William Jennings Bryan, who resigned as Secretary of State when we entered WWI. I have to get through Weddle's book to find out more, but I don't doubt for a minute that Quakers of the time were influenced by all this talk. We were in a period of "Quietism" through much of the 1800's, but that doesn't mean we weren't listening.

The American Friends Service Committee may have been a key element in solidifying our reputation. With its creation we were no longer a motley group of monthly and yearly Meetings squabbling over Hicksite, Gurneyite, Orthodox, Liberal-- who's the real Quaker... We now had a fairly unified voice, and that voice called for peace and resistance to the calls of war. Those Quakers around at the time now had an organization to rally around and those of a pacifist bent could be heard loudly.

Another key element may have been the overall gradual dawning of understanding, between the Civil War and WWI, that wars were rarely altruistic, generally horrible bloody things and was set to agree with the later words of Smedley Butler. Butler retired from the Marines to rage against war for profit and how his career had been largely to make Central America safe for United Fruit. War in defense of the nation may be grudgningly acceptable to even a pacifist Quaker, but war to steal Indian tribal land or to depose a government inconvenient for our profits cannot possibly be reconciled with any Quaker belief.

At any rate, the early 20th Century saw great changes in our national attitudes toward war and peace. Baptists ended up more warlike, Quakers became more peaceable, and the period after WWI saw the entire country become isolationist while the War Department was pretty much shut down. WWII and the Cold War changed all that once again, but the Quaker path hasn't changed this time.


Monday, January 22, 2007

I hear whining again

I recently heard a talk by a member of yet another aggrieved group reminding us of our past, and often present, sins of discrimination, theft, and other horrible things that have been done to them. Even murder.

I have no argument with them about the facts of history-- they have been treated terribly. What I have a problem with is the tone of the talk. It was not reaching out for peace and understanding, but a list of demands. Things that they are "owed."

No where did I hear a word about what they are doing for themselves, and why we should help them help themselves. Just a list of "gimmes."

Historically, Quakers have considered community as fundamental, and it is now one of our cherished Testimonies. Charity and assisting those coming on hard times is unquestioned, as is our understanding that we should do what we can to avoid those hard times coming to ourselves and others. But, we ultimately consider ourselves to be the masters of our own fates-- we must first do what we can for ourselves, and then if we should fail for whatever reason, we have our community to fall back on. We do not beg for alms, but we work for our supper and only accept charity when the work fails.

So, as I listened to the hard list of demands, I asked myself just how hard these people were trying. I knew of certain legal and practical advantages they have in some areas, and wondered how they were using them to their advantage. I wondered how they were raising their children to value education and honest work. I have met many of these people, and they are as educated, hard working, and decent as anyone else, but they have built this wall of separation around from the years of suffering. I always feel that I am seen as the enemy, and must not be trusted until I once again prove myself.

There is a culture of victimization that is not limited to only a few groups. So many of us, even the highly privileged, can't help talking about what "they" are doing to us. It is so much easier to blame "them" than to look inside of ourselves and ask how we can do better ourselves. It is certainly easier than looking for ways to work together with "them" as a larger community.

That old saw about giving a man a fish/teaching a man to fish is as true as it has ever been. I will give you fish today because you are hungry, but tomorrow you must learn how to fish.


Monday, October 02, 2006


Last weekend I attended a 3 day seminar on alternatives to violence and such run by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Since then I've been thinking about two things. One is that the group has no adhesion, and few of us have bothered to keep in contact. That is a common, and often fatal, problem when we have these shindigs and will have to be addressed. At another time, though.

The other thing that bothered me was the almost total lack of religion all weekend. We did all sorts of New Agey chanting and mumbling, but few of us addressed our common religious background and how this would help us apply what we may have learned in our daily lives.

This in a seminar held in a church and with two ministers attending.

Granted that our affiliations ranged from Quakers and UUs to Methodists and at least one Jew, with a few others of no known affiliation, leaving us with what seems like little common ground. Bringing up Christian witness might be considered opening a can of worms best left alone in such a group.

But, I don’t quite agree. Witnessing is not going from door to door with a stack of Watchtowers or getting in your face demanding you find Jesus– that’s evangelizing. Witnessing is openly living a life of principle lead from your faith. The details of our faith are our own business, but our outward actions must reflect it, or it is no faith at all. And, it’s not necessarily entirely a question of faith. Even atheists and agnostics must somehow develop an ethical system and live by it. Atheist witness– what a thought! But, I digress...

Witnessing and leadings are fundamental to Quaker life and thought. Our testimonies have not been rules, but statements of where we have arrived in our spiritual journeys. We have always witnessed, not by preaching, but by acting or refusing to act in accordance with our leadings. There is no reason why other religions or sects cannot be as openly witnessing in their lives as we have been.

It is a sad state we’re in that the fundamentalists among us are the ones doing the real witnessing. They truly believe that abortion and homosexuality are wrong, war is OK, and that we should be more of a Christian nation, among other things. Muslim and Jewish archconservatives think much the same way in their own worlds, and none of them are shy about speaking out and acting on their beliefs.

But, we sit back and watch, sometimes shaking our heads, sometimes mildly complaining about their influence, but ultimately not doing a damn thing about it. And damned we will be if we don’t. (That’s assuming there’s any actual damning going on in the hereafter– a question still open.)

We have a problem in that we can’t look at the world in black and white like they do. We see the shades of gray and find it difficult to agree on much and let the details get in the way of the big picture. We argue amongst ourselves and lose momentum. We find more important things to do.

We are the (gasp!) Humanists we keep hearing about. We apply Locke’s test of rationality to our religious beliefs. We don’t trust our faith enough to lead us.

Or, maybe we’re just chicken about it. We don’t want to start trouble or be embarrassed by mentioning that we’re against war or the death penalty or something else because it’s our religion. Or that our religion insists we feed the poor and hungry and demand housing and health care for all. Fanatics talk about religion all the time, and we’re reasonable, nice people.

But, we have to change or we will see the “fanatics” take over. They are organized, they see their big picture, and, ahem, they vote as a block. The half of the US population that doesn’t bother to vote even in a Presidential election is not them– it is us.

Quaker witness has always been just speaking truth to power. We simply say what we cannot do, or what we must do. And we act accordingly.

Every religion I know of speaks of this sort of witness. Why is it so difficult for so many of us to follow our own teachings?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A few numbers to ponder

The 2006 Pentagon budget is $450 billion. 
Supplemental Afghan and Iraq costs may be about $120 billion
Department of Energy costs to maintain our nuke supply is about $17 billion
The VA budget is about $76 billion
A good guess of the debt from past military spending is about $275 billion
Misc costs for other Federal departments atrributable to military support is about $10 billion

This totals $948 billion, $500-600 billion of which will be spent this year, and doesn't include some  other "war on terror" expenses, like that wall on the mexican border or the secret NSA budget.

Working that out, it comes to $3,200 bucks for every man, woman, and child living in the country.  $2,000 in checks written this year alone.

Here in Suffolk County, with a population of about 1.4 million, we gotta come up with $2.8 billion in fiscal 2006, and a total of about $4.5 billion eventually.  Give or take a few hundred million.

That's a LOT of money in anybody's book, and we might start asking just what we're getting for it.

And where it's going.



Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Peace Jam

Excerpts from an article on the latest Peace Jam

A Weekend with Nobel Peace Laureates
by John Dear

Archbishop Tutu was just one of ten Nobel Peace prize winners speaking to three thousand youth last weekend in Denver at PeaceJam, an international program which brings youth from around the world together with Nobel Peace Laureates --- ten of them in this case --- the largest gathering ever in North America. Founded by a dynamic young couple, Dawn Engle and Ivan Suvanjieff, PeaceJam is one of the most exciting, empowering youth programs in the nation.

My friend Mairead Maguire, the Nobel laureate from Belfast, whose writings I edited into the collection, “The Vision of Peace,” asked me to accompany her to the events. I had traveled with her before, along with our friend Adolfo Perez Esquivel, the Nobel laureate from Argentina, to Iraq in 1999. And recently, Archbishop Tutu, laureate from South Africa, wrote a forward for my forthcoming Doubleday book, “Transfiguration.”

Besides reconnecting with these heroes of mine, I got to meet Jose Ramos Horta, Prime Minister of East Timor; President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica; Jody Williams of the Landmines Campaign, Shrini Ebadi of Iran, Rigoberta Menchu Tum of Guatemala, and Betty Williams of Northern Ireland. And at one point during the weekend, I received a blessing from the Dalai Lama. The weekend concluded with a “Global Call to Action with the Youth of the World,” a plea to fight poverty, racism, environmental destruction, war and nuclear weapons.

Such wondrously inspiring days. The weekend over, I drove Mairead to New Mexico, where she spoke in several churches and gave media interviews and toured Los Alamos.

It was gratifying to meet young people from around the world. At one point, hundreds lined up at the microphone to say briefly what inspires them, before they received Tutu’s blessing. One fifteen year old said, “I’m inspired by all those who stand up against the current and speak out for peace. After all, only dead fish go with the flow!”


And Jody Williams asked, “What has the war and violence done in Iraq? It’s only turned Iraq into a training ground for terrorists. You cannot bring change through the barrel of a gun. If we really want to disarm the world of nuclear weapons, we should begin first here at home.”

“Work for peace is really hard work,” she continued. “Peacemaking means getting up every single day and working hard for global peace. It’s not doves or nice paintings or bad poetry; it’s hard work. And that’s the only way to make the world better. Peace is economic and social justice, and we have to work hard for that.”


John Dear is a Jesuit priest, peace activist and author of “You Will Be My Witnesses” (Orbis) and “Living Peace” (Doubleday). For information on the Nobel Laureates gathering, see: For information on the campaign to stop the war on Iraq, see: See also:

Monday, September 25, 2006

Peace Heroes

The Peace Heroes Page is a great place to start for learning about the people and successes in our movement. Some you've heard of, some you haven't, and a lot are missing, but all are the inspirations we need to keep us going.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

More on talking to Congress

Alas, there seems to be a problem with this site at the moment, but this looks like an interesting article if I can ever get to it:

“Communicating with Congress: How Capitol Hill is Coping with the Surge in Citizen Advocacy”
CMF’s latest report on how the Internet and e-mail has changed the communications process between citizens and Capitol Hill. Includes survey, interview, and focus group data from 350 staffers in 202 congressional offices. More..."

Forget about any thoughts of librarians being little old ladies in comfortable shoes. When freedom of speech and information is involved, they are lions and tigresses and are one of the loudest voices against abuse of the PATRIOT Act.

Communication is one of their strong points, and here's a tidbit from the ALA site about how to get a bit more sympathy from a congresscritter:

"Why share your library's story?
Use Effective Stories To Make Your Case Personalize The Policy

Stories add insight and humanity…

Your members of Congress will remember your library's story - they are relying on YOU to show them what policy means for the real people who use the library in your community.

Most library experiences don't seem dramatic on the surface, but the impact libraries have for real people is significant

Statistics can be impressive, but personal stories bring the library message to life. Always match a statistic with a story.

How Do You Tell Your Library's Story?

Be simple and brief

Make sure your message is clear

The story should illustrate your point

Only use real names if given permission: So get permission!

Have a punchline

What Makes An Effective Story?

Stories that show how a person uses and benefits from the library
Stories that tie a person who used the library to his/her accomplishment with library resources

for example…

"We here at the Cresco Public Library depend on E-rate funding to provide the Internet (through reduced phone bill costs) to patrons who do not otherwise have access to a computer (The message containing your main point). The library is located in Howard County, the poorest county in Iowa. Access to computers via the public library enables school children to do research and reports, retired people to e-mail their grandchildren, and parents to e-mail and chat via computer messenger systems with their children serving in Iraq (A brief, two sentence, real-life story about the patrons who use your library to illustrate your main point). Our library is currently funded at $15,000 less than it was two years ago (A statistic supports your story and illustrates your main point). We depend on E-rate funding. I urge you to approve legislation to save the E-rate. (The Punchline).

Friends Committee on National Legislation Resources

FCNL is the Quaker lobbying arm, and has been presenting our social, peace, and environmental conerns to Congress for over 60 years.

Our lobbying started long before that, of course, and goes back to the week of George Washington's inauguration when a group of Quakers went to visit him to press for the end of slavery.

FCNL's Iraq page has "Eight Tips for a Successful Lobby Visit," an excellent summary of how best to approach your own Congresscritters with your concerns.

It also has a place for your church or group to endorse the STEP resolution. A large group from Catholics to Mennonites to Methodists has already publicly endorsed this resolution, and more are welcome.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A peace sermon

Last month I was the guest speaker at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Southold, and this is the text of the talk I gave. It's not exactly what they heard, since I started ad-libbing a bit, but this is what I wrote for them to hear.

So, you’re a Peace Church now, are ya? Now you done it. You don’t know what you’re in for.

This is probably the easiest time to become a Peace Church, but the worst time to be one-- we are in the middle of a war no one likes started by a President even fewer like.

Easy you say? Well, someone on the LIE shoots you the bird for your bumper stickers, your neighbor gives you dirty looks on his way to the VFW hall, and the kids get ragged at school because Real Men join the Marines. Tough life being a peacenik, eh?

You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

How about being a Mennonite in Germany when the Gestapo is breaking your door down to see if you’re hiding any Jewish neighbors.

A Quaker in London when it’s raining V2 rockets?

A pacifist Baptist running an Underground Railroad station when the Civil War breaks out?

Those were Peace Churches under the test, and you haven’t seen the test yet.

You are against ALL violence, even self-defense. Because you’re a Peace Church.

You are against ALL war, even those considered just war or in defense of the nation. Because you’re a Peace Church.

You cannot join the military, the ROTC, or even the police. A cop might have to use that gun, and you can’t take the chance. Because you’re a Peace Church.

Any of your members sign up for the military? Throw them out. Because you’re a Peace Church.

Jail or supporting the government in an unjust action? Jail. Because you’re a Peace Church.

One of your daughters was horribly murdered. Through your grief and rage you remember that justice is not vengeance or death. Because you’re a Peace Church.

Quaker Peace Testimony is clear, but it is not absolute. It’s not generally advertised that it came about largely to reassure King James II that The Religious Society of Friends was not about to join any of the wars and revolutions around him. Essentially, it was to take the heat off of Quakers who were seen as potential enemies of the Crown. But, it was not simply a cynical bowing to the Crown or expedience. It was the opportunity for Friends of the time to make clear their views on war and violence.

There are two key parts to the Peace Testimony.

First is that the signers announced that their beliefs and spiritual state had “taken away all occasion for war.” They had come to the point where they had no need for violence themselves and had found a better way. "I told them I knew whence all wars arose, even from the lusts, according to James' doctrine; and that I lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars."

Many religious traditions have this end of reaching a state of grace, Nirvana, or other place of peace. These traditions realize that peace is not simply the absence of war, or of winning one, but starts with the inner peace of understanding one’s self and being at peace with that self, one’s world, and the Creator of that world. True peace is attained as more become at peace with themselves, and perhaps with their God.

In Quaker terms, we don’t bother to define God, because, well, God is God, and if we understood God, it would be more like having a beer with the boss and not worshiping God. So, we don’t bother with all those doctrines and dogmas. Besides, it seems God has other things to do than hang out down here, and he hasn’t been seen around for 2,000 years. Weeping Madonnas and the face of Jesus on a pizza don’t count.

So, we simply accept the concept of God, and then believe that “There is that of God in all of us.” We call this temporal experience of God “The Light” and pretty much leave it at that. As your measure of the Light increases, you become closer to what might be traditionally called a state of grace, and you are lead to a unity with God (whatever God is) the community of fellow believers, the community of mankind, the planet, and ultimately the cosmos.

Unity. That is the key to all Quaker belief and practice, and everything proceeds from this concept of unity. All of our testimonies and actions come from unity. Starting with unity with God, and then, naturally, unity with all God’s creation.

We have no set beliefs on the sources of good and evil, heaven and hell, the afterlife, or that sort of thing. There’s no way to know what happens after death, so we concentrate on our life here and now, assuming that any afterlife will take care of itself. Quakerism in practice becomes a lifestyle, as many churches preach, but few follow up on.

So, the Testimonies– Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, and Equality– are not rules or documents we subscribe to, but witness of where have come to. We take many paths to God and the Light, and these are the places that all of our paths cross.

The second significant part of the Peace Testimony is that they saw no need to fight with “outward weapons.” But, they did not see any need to give up fighting. The fight will continue with the inward weapons of their commitment to peace, their relationship with God, and the strength of their beliefs and commitments.

Now, this is all well and good that we have these marvelous inward weapons, but just how handy are they when faced with a line of tanks and machine guns? Or the swords and cannon of the 17th century? Not very good at all, and that’s where it gets a little complicated.

We do not despise the military, we lament the necessity for its existence. We do not join or support the military in its adventures or its defenses, but we work to reduce the causes of war. Should war break out, we do not fight, but we do not shirk from other assistance to efforts at defense, and we work to reduce the damages of war. We are not pacifists because we are weak, or traitors, or cowards, or lazy, or can’t handle screams of pain or the sight of blood. We are pacifists because to actively join in the violence is to accept and legitimize the violence and we must follow our path. If we do not follow our path in times of danger and peril, there is no point to that path at all.

But, the testimony is not absolute, and as John Woolman, one of our earliest theologians said, “There are times when you are a coward if you don’t fight, and other times when you are a coward if you do.” Almost half the Quakers drafted in WWII went to war, causing many rifts in the Religious Society of Friends, because of what they considered the greater evil. Traditional Quaker theology talks of differing amounts of The Light in each of us, and it takes a lot of Light to make a true pacifist. WWII was a practical test of this belief.

Our pacifism is not negatively “against war” but positively “for peace.” What we do is attempt, in whatever way we can, to “remove the occasion for war.” And not just war, but all violence. This may at times seem hopeless, but it can work, and has worked. As pacifists, we are deeply involved with alternatives to violence projects, nonviolence and peace and reconciliation training, and “witnessing” our faith in nonviolence and true justice.

But my purpose here isn’t to teach Quaker theology but to talk of peace work.

Which brings me to the Lamb’s War.

Early Quakers were on a quest to restore the Christian Church to its earliest roots, which included the pacifism that was assumed until it became the official church of the Roman Empire, and as an arm of the Empire required it to indulge in its wars.

They were well aware of church/state issues, and had the questionable advantage of having lived through rulers who imposed Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, and Puritan rule. Unlike many other Protestant thinkers, however, they did not believe in absolute separation, but that they should involve themselves in the affairs of state, with a delicate balance of involvement, but not a formal state religion. The state was seen as the legitimate temporal arm of God, but for secular purposes only and one’s religion was still one’s own business.

They rejected Augustine’s apology for Christians indulging in Just War and considered war occasionally necessary for the state, but not for true primitive Christians.

The Lamb’s War, however, was different. It was the war fought for peace and justice and was fought with spiritual weapons of Biblical authority. While Quakers are not apocalyptic and have no interest in “End Times” theology, some of the imagery of Revelation is just too good ignore.

The Lamb’s War, in essence, is simply speaking truth to power. Somebody has to stand and say “No!”

But, the Lamb’s War is not just a war of words. That won’t work. Words mean little with a trillion dollar budget spent on preparation for and waging war. Words mean little when the fear of unseen enemies and glorification of the military is used to cow the populace into accepting this budget. Words mean little when facing the guns of an invading enemy.

The evidence that peace is better than war is as undeniable as the evidence that slavery and racism is wrong and women should be able to vote– other battles in the Lamb’s War that have been successfully fought. And the war is fought by bringing forth that evidence at every chance, and by our example.

So, who are our heroes of the Lamb’s War?

Quakers, like William Penn, Lucretia Mott, Chuck Fager, Bayard Rustin, and Rufus Jones.

Those who have been influenced by Quakers, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who was a close friend and associate of Lucretia Mott. Martin Luther King, who had Bayard Rustin as one of his closest associates, Jane Addams, whose meeting with British Quakers opened her eyes to the possibilities.

And those who are not Quakers at all, like the Alberts Schweitzer and Einstein, Sister Helen Prejean, and so many other leaders of the peace and social action organizations today. William Jennings Bryan is remembered more for being on the wrong side of the Scopes trial and bimetallism, but we could also remember him for his constant battles for economic and social justice, and as a pacifist who resigned as Secretary of State when we entered WWI.

Even soldiers have been occasional allies in the war. Besides the conscientious objectors we now see in the news, we remember William Tecumsah Sherman, who in his more lucid moments warned us all of the horrors of wars he committed his troops to. Smedley Butler, who enlisted as a Marine and became its most decorated general, with TWO medals of honor, and retired to warn us of the dangers of sending the Marines into Central America to save the world for United Fruit. Eisenhower, who knew far more about war than any politician or pundit gassing about today, as President preached of the dangers of building a permanent war machine.

But it won’t be easy, this Lamb’s War. It never is.

The Air Force just told Boeing it didn’t need any more cargo planes and immediately a dozen Congresscritters rose up to demand it buy them anyway. “3oo hundred jobs in my district...”

The entire Congressional delegation in NJ rose up to scream to the heavens that the world would end if Ft. Monmouth was closed.

You know that $5,000 trip to China Dave Koeppel is being hounded about? Chump change. That’s a cocktail party in DC when Lockheed is looking to sell something. Or a half day’s fee to a lobbying firm. Jack Abramoff wouldn’t pick up the phone for a lousy 5 grand.

And that’s our key problem. We are addicted to spending on war, and the money is over there. We don’t profit from peace. We don’t have the staff that the American Manufacturers Association has to lobby and feed PACs. We have to work for a living and peace is a sideline for most of us, not our job.

Face it, if world peace broke out tomorrow, our economy would crash.

Just to put things in perspective, the American Friends Service Committee has an annual budget of about $50,000,000. Exxon made $50,000,000 last Friday.

We’re spending about $80,000,000 per month in Iraq, and that’s a drop in the bucket in our total defense spending. The money is spread around everywhere, and it’s not just Halliburton, Northrop and General Dynamics getting it. Sure, the oil companies drool when a carrier fleet moves and the planes and support ships suck fuel up like it’s free. But it’s not just the big stuff or bombs and bullets– there are thousands of small companies making brass buttons and shoelaces and the parts for the big stuff. Even here in Southold there is at least one company that once subcontracted defense parts, and maybe still is.

Here in Congressional District 1, our share of Iraq alone looks like $1.3 billion. You might think of the other things Suffolk County could do with that kind of money.

And Quaker House is trying to find the money to put one additional staffer on for 500 bucks a month.

So, we are outspent, and can’t have large professional staffs pushing our peace agenda. We have to do it all part-time as we worry about our own jobs and families.


Chuck Fager, head of Quaker House and a well known Quaker historian, gave a talk a few years ago about the Hundred Year Lamb’s War and made some excellent observations.

One was to steal a few tricks from the military. They spend a lot of time “refighting” past wars to prepare for the next ones. How many of us have spent any time researching past peace movements? I bet everyone here can name a bunch of generals from major wars, but can anyone name as many successful peace workers? We have over 300 war museums, but only one peace museum. We have thousands of statues generals on horses, but how many of peaceworkers? We have to do at least minimal work to prepare ourselves for working for peace.

The military spends a lot of time training and securing its base. Two things we aren’t that good at doing. True, we don’t have a pile of people on the payroll with little to do but train between battles, but we can put up more of an effort.

War is made exciting, safe, and cheap for us. We can read the news about our “successes,” and don’t have to fight over there or even pay for it now. Defense, honor, glory... But where is the propaganda for peace? Where is the simple notion that we are better off not fighting than fighting?

The military also works closely with its allies. Here in town, has anyone asked across the street if there are any Pax Christi or Catholic Peace Fellowship supporters we can work with? Any Witherspoon Society support at the Presbyterian church, or work on a Methodist Peace Fellowship? And that’s just the religious groups we should be working with. There are other peace groups all over the county, state, and country that we have to work with to get anything done.

As a religious organization, there are a number of groups we can ally ourselves with as a counterpoint to those voices of militarization. Every Church a Peace Church, Sojourners, Fellowship of Reconciliation. I’ll be posting lists of organizations on my blog as I find them.

Probably the most important thing we can do is consider peace work as something similar to, well, eating.

We all eat, and we all prepare food, to some extent. Some of grow our own food, or take cooking courses. Others balk at anything more than making coffee or a sandwich. But we all manage to feed ourselves every day.

Same with peace work. Every day there is some opportunity to do some small thing, even just thinking about how things could change Some of us will be great activists, but all of us can and must do one small thing a day, just to keep the idea alive. Going to a rally or march once a year and coming home thinking you’ve done something doesn’t really cut it. Bumper stickers and signs are a good start to keep the idea out there, as are small, nonconfrontational comments in normal conversations. Remembering to write letters to the editor and to legislators are a bit more work, but they are important. Joining the groups and attending the meetings are necessary to keep the community active and to keep morale high.

And training and understanding of conflict resolution and alternatives to violence are essential. If we are to work at all for peace, we must be able to provide the realistic alternatives.

Lucretia Mott had three great struggles in her long life– the end of slavery, women’s rights, and the end of warfare. She saw some advance in women’s property rights, but women didn’t get the vote until 40 years after she died. She saw the end of slavery, but racial segregation lasted another hundred years. And we’re still waiting for the end of war.

So we very likely won’t see the end of the Lamb’s War, but we will win some battles and some truces.

Think small- it’s nice to dream of and end to war, or just the end of war in Iraq, but that won’t happen any time soon. Nor will there soon be peace in Darfur, Timor, Chiapas, Uganda, Somalia... But if each day we all live to make just one tiny movement toward peace, it will come. If not for us, for the generations to come. Find just one more person to bring to peace work, and you have doubled your own efforts.