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Answering God – Day 30

Answering God – 40 Days with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Day 30 – Tuesday after 5th Sunday of Lent

A&Q sidewaysTo Read: 

We are called to live ‘in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars’.
Do you faithfully maintain our testimony that war and the preparation for war are inconsistent with the spirit of Christ?
Search out whatever in your own way of life may contain the seeds of war.
Stand firm in our testimony, even when others commit or prepare to commit acts of violence, yet always remember that they too are children of God.
(Advices & Queries #31)

From the Scriptures: 

While [Jesus] was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; 48 but Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?’ 49 When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, ‘Lord, should we strike with the sword?’ 50 Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched his ear and healed him. 
(Luke 22v47-51)

weapon to violinsTo Reflect:

Organised religion, if Gwyneth Paltrow and popular culture are to be believed, ‘causes war. More people have died because of religious conflict than any other reason’.

This is hard to gainsay.  It is easy to ‘prove’ that this statement is false. A short does-religion-cause-warexamination of human conflict will reveal that out and out religious wars are a drop in a very bloody ocean when compared to ‘all’ wars.  Sadly though, warmongers seem to make very comfortable bedfellows with religious leaders.

Perhaps a better catchphrase may be found in Jasper Forde’s surreal novel ‘The Eyre Affairwhere one of his characters says, ‘Religion isn’t the cause of wars, it’s the excuse’.

religion excuse for warWe soon realise, as I have throughout my Christian life, that it makes little sense arguing over the semantics of a popular mantra.  The scandal for religious people in general and Christians in particular is that war and faith are mentioned in the same breath.

The position of the Religious Society of Friends has always been one of pacifism.  One does not take an easy path if you answer this question from the Advices with a ‘yes’.

Do you faithfully maintain our testimony that war and the preparation for war are inconsistent with the spirit of Christ?  

This is more than, as is sometimes portrayed, a simple draft-dodging response from those who ain’t gonna study war no more’.  It is easy to forget the ‘religious’ violence that Quaker families suffered when they first started to live their way of simplicity.  This is a response forged in the flames of persecution and founded on the example of Christ.

To become a Christian the early Church demanded the denial of violence and war.  The Gospel was a dangerous word for soldiers in the Roman army to hear.  In England hearing the Good News and protecting a Christian priest brought martyrdom to our first British saint, the Roman soldier Alban.  In my own life it seems I have often found myself St. Martin of ToursI am a soldier of Christunder the protection of Martin of Tours, the former soldier, who was the first person to be declared a saint but was not a martyr.  It is not for nothing that Tertullian, an early Christian writer said, ‘Christ, in disarming Peter, ungirt ever soldier’.

What changed?  Why does not the whole Church (along with other religions) follow the path of the Prince of Peace.  Reasons are complex and wrapped up in the history of the Western world (an easily accessible explanation of this is available from Pax Christi here).

What is non-negotiable for all Christians, be we pacifists or Just War theorists, is that to build peace requires effort and activity.  The Just War theorist must always be reluctant about violence as a last resort.  The Pacifist must not interpret their refusal of violence to include a non-participation in society.  To demonstrate this the Religious Society of Friends has a long track record of offering works of mercy whilst under fire in war.

2355eebc6f418005fd7dc35c10fd567cPeace and prosperity is costly and all,  pacifist or not,  have a part to play in establishing its reign.  Doing nothing and watching from the sidelines is not an option, as it leads to the rule of the mighty and the oppression of the weak.  As Pope Paul VI is often quoted, ‘If you want peace you have to work for justice’.

This should not surprise those who believe that their own peace was won through the violence done to our Beloved on the Cross.

War and violence must always be regretted and for all people of faith must be a last resort.
If in conscience we feel we must fight to win a peace (as some Quakers have) we must support and pray for them that in perpetrating inhuman deeds they would retain their humanity.
If in conscience we feel we cannot fight (as many people of all faiths have) we should encourage them to not abdicate their place in society but spend their energies in building a society where we can all lay our burdens down by the riverside because ‘we ain’t gonna study war no more.’

 

To Pray: ploughshsares-un

From childhood, I felt a compassion for animals.
Even before I started school, I found it impossible to understand why, in my evening prayers, I should pray only for human beings.
Consequently, after my mother had prayed with me and had given me a good night kiss, I secretly recited another prayer, I had composed myself. It went like this:

Dear God,
protect and bless all living beings.
Keep them from evil
and let them sleep in peace.
(Albert Schweitzer)

  

To Do:

1)  Read slowly the note from ‘Advices & Queries’ above again
2)  Commit to praying for one faithful friend whose serves in the Armed Forces of your nation.

 

Acknowledgements:

Quotes from ‘Advices & Queries’ are copyright © The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain, 1995, 1997 and 2008

Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Prayers from ‘Prayers for Hard Times’ are copyright  © Becca Anderson 2017

These Reflections, ‘Answering God’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 – and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged

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