Eastern Hills Friends Meeting
Anderson Township, Cincinnati, Ohio ... 513-474-9670
I live in the virtue of that life
and power that took away
the occasion of all wars…
I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you… (Matt. 5:44)
We Quakers are often a mystery to non-Quakers. I've had to explain to well-meaning and enthusiastic people that I am Quaker not Shaker, that I do have children, and, no, I don't make furniture. We also don't make breakfast oats or whiskey, and while I do wear hats, I don't wear one of those flat flying saucer affairs.
However, whatever else they might mistake us for, most people know that we are a peaceable and peace-loving people. After all, many have seen the movie Friendly Persuasion. Perhaps fortunately for our reputation, they do not know that during the separations of the Nineteenth Century there were instances of Quakers literally shoving other Quakers out of meetinghouse doors. We also know that there have been some Quakers who served in the military and have participated in war. In spite of such instances, the Religious Society of Friends has historically held up the Peace Testimony as a fundamental part of our tradition. More than a few "convinced" Quakers have been drawn to the Society by the Peace Testimony.
A few years go, the Wilmington Yearly Meeting Board on Christian Concerns for Peace and Society considered the desirability of a booklet such as this to remind us all of the importance of the Peace Testimony for our faith and practice. Not long after that, I had an opportunity to talk with a group of WYM middle-school youth about the Peace Testimony. I was disturbed by the fact that none of them knew what the Peace testimony was about. Some hadn't even heard of it. I think that it was after this experience that I volunteered to edit the collection that you are reading.
Obviously, a collection of statements as brief as those included is by no means the last word, but the Board thought that statements written by and about Quakers that many of you know from your own meetings is a good place to begin consideration of the Peace Testimony. Similarly, the resources identified at the end are merely a beginning.
To begin, then, let's consider what the term Peace Testimony refers to. In her on-line article, "The Friends Peace Testimony as 'Questing Beast'," Chel Avery quotes New England Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice:
More than a mere refusal to participate in the military is required of the servant of peace. We are called to root out the causes of war from our own lives and from the political and social structures about us.
She goes on to explain that "From there, various disciplines include a variety of concerns under the topic "Peace," some of which include: eliminating the seeds of war in one's employment and consumption practices, advocating for peace with government, working for social justice, resolving conflict nonviolently at the community and interpersonal levels, and teaching peace in the family."
I also like Mary Lou Leavitt's explanation:
On the simplest level, "testimony" means "bearing witness" and Friends' long heritage of witnessing to peace can be found in public statements and personal reflections, in their refusal to bear arms in times of civil and international conflict, in acts of prophetic confrontation and of quiet, reconciling diplomacy. But these are merely outward and visible signs of inward conviction. This conviction springs from a living Spirit, mediated through the human experience of those trying to understand and follow its leadings. It grows afresh in every life, in every worshipping group, in every generation.
I believe that the brief articles in this booklet illustrate how the "Living Spirit" as manifested in Christ's life and teaching took root in our f(F)riends' and acquaintances' lives to flower as public witnessing against violence and war. I have heard people accuse pacifists and specifically conscientious objectors of cowardice. However, I believe that the evidence here (and elsewhere) makes clear that living the Peace Testimony takes courage, not the kind fueled by an adrenalin rush but a courage grown from thoughtfulness and, most importantly, from faith in Christ's commandments and example.
The Quaker movement originated in Cromwellian England at a time of great social and military upheaval, much of which was rooted in religious conflict. There were many Seekers in Yorkshire who sought via a rejection of the formal religions of the day (the Episcopal church, Calvinism and Puritanism) a way free of this turmoil. One of the Finders in this movement was George Fox, regarded as the founder of the Quaker movement. During his seeking Fox had been advised to join the military. His investigations of those who had taken up military life did not impress him as a way to find meaning in life nor a place in society that "spoke to his condition."
Once there were enough Finders among the Seekers to form what became the Quaker movement, several Quaker leaders were challenged to support the decaying Cromwellian Protectorate. Fox's response was "We do live in that light and power that takes away the occasion for all outward wars and strivings …." A later declaration from a group of elders to the restored King Charles II reads "We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretence whatsoever. … The spirit of Christ by which we are guided is not changable so as once to command us from a thing as evil and again to move unto it; and we do certainly know, and so testify to the world, that the spirit of Christ which leads us into all Truth, will never move us to fight against any man with outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ nor for any kingdoms of this world." These declarations became a hallmark of the young Quaker movement. William Penn, who had been raised as a young nobleman with the appropriate military training, asked Fox about the propriety of his wearing a sword. Fox responded, "Wear thy sword as long as thou canst." Penn, whose only portrait shows him as wearing a sword as a young man, is reputed never to have been seen with a sword again. During the years of persecution that followed, the Quakers were noted for submitting physically to the authorities in accordance with the peace testimony, but not meekly so.
The Peace Testimony and the attempt to seek "that of God in everyone" led Penn to enter into a treaty with the Native Americans inhabiting Pennsylvania rather than try to take it by force of arms. That treaty, and the Quaker good name among the Pennsylvania Indians, kept the peace in that part of the world as long as Quakers dominated the Pennsylvania legislature. However this dedication was not pure. The Pennsylvania legislature was known to provide to Her Majesty (Queen Anne) such funds as were needful to maintain safety and the public order. This was a rather undisguised euphemism for maintaining a militia, protecting the border, and fighting pirates. With the advent of the French and Indian wars, Quakers essentially abandoned political office in Pennsylvania, Delaware and North Carolina because of the Peace Testimony. American Quakers were very intolerant regarding their non-participation in the French and Indian as well as the Revolutionary wars. Frequent references are made to disownments for "carrying arms." This was reference to participating in military or paramilitary operations as Quakers of the day had no trouble using arms for other purposes. These wars are referred to in meeting minutes of the day as "the present difficulties." There was a small sect of "Free Quakers" (including Betsy Ross and Nathaniel Greene) who attempted to be patriots and separatist Quakers but they were ostracized and this group died out by about 1800. Friends did, however, use their meetinghouses as hospitals if a battlefield were nearby. They also buried the dead from all sides together, and in at least one case they bought up rifles made by a Quaker gunsmith and destroyed them.
The rigid adherence to the peace testimony continued in the wars of 1812 and the American Civil War. The Federal government allowed Friends to buy their way out of service; Confederate governments were less accomodating. Many Southern Quakers suffered hardship, fled to the North or went into hiding. Many of their stories can be found in the book Southern Heroes. For many Northern Quakers there was a clash of values in opposition to slavery and opposition to war, as well as the personal issue of personal safety. This dilemma is conveyed well in the writing of John Greenleaf Whittier about this period, in the collection of short stories by Jeassamyn West entitled Friendly Persuasion and in the movie by the same name. Some Quakers resolved the quandry by joining Union military units and fighting in the War Between the States.
The Civil War also introduced a new element to the American Friends' Peace Testimony: providing support and recovery efforts following a war. At the end of the civil War, Friends in Baltimore and Indiana went into the South to support hurting Quaker communities, to encourage better farming that would stabilize communities, and to set up schools for the new Freedmen and their children. Many of these efforts continued up to the early 1900s. In similar vein, and at the request of President Grant, Quakers started a number of Indian Missions under the aegis of the Associated Committee on Indian affairs after the Indian Wars in the Great Plains. Most of these missions were in Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Iowa. Many continue to this day.
During the 20th century, Friends were more tolerant of those among them who chose to participate in war. At the same time that the British and American governments became more tolerant of the larger number of Friends who became conscientious objectors. There is unfortunately no compendium of the experiences of Quakers in Civilian Public Service camps during WWI and WWII, but there are many stories of their work to build roads, parks, to provide water for isolated communities, and of the Friends Ambulance Corps in South East Asia. After WWI Friends service activities were formalized in the American Friends Service Committee and in the Friends Service Council of Britain. These two organizations received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in feed refugees after WWI. During WWII yet another aspect was added to the Peace Testimony: trying to prevent war itself and to prevent suffering during war. The most striking example is the mission of Rufus Jones and his AFSC affiliates to seek the release of Jews held in Germany and how prayer opened the way for Goebbels' heart to be softened enough to allow the AFSC to remove thousands of Jews from Germany in the late 30s. After WWII, a group of concerned Friends formed the Friends Committee on National Legislation whose primary aim over the years has been to promote polices that will head off war.
In the later half of the 20th century Friends have been less unified in their Peace Testimony (among other things) than previously, although no less ardent. This lack of unity has more to do with the form of witness to the peace testimony than with the peace testimony itself. As result, the more notable witnessing against war has been more mixed. Many young Friends participated in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts and most became dedicated pacifists after that experience. In 1969, Quaker House was established as a counseling center to assist young soldiers at Fort Bragg. The AFSC sent the Phoenix with medical supplies to Hanoi to parallel the AFSC limb replacement center near Da Nang in the South of Vietnam. Many yearly meetings declined to pay the telephone tax that funded the Vietnam War. Individual Friends have been instrumental in shaping the pronouncements on war by the US National and the World Council of Churches. Many Friends have joined in the Christian Peace Maker Teams who go into war zones and try to "stand between" conflicting parties. As a member of one of these Christian Peace Maker teams Tom Fox of Baltimore Yearly Meeting became the first Quaker Martyr of the 21st Century when he was kidnapped and shot in Iraq.
While the Peace Testimony has been an important distinctive since early in Quaker history, our acceptance of it is grounded in more than tradition. More important is the scriptural basis of our efforts to live the difficult commandment to peace.
To some, it may seem a contradiction to speak of the Bible as the source of the commandment to live peaceably. Certainly, the Old Testament contains many violent stories, some of them so intense that they repel some, even given the horrors of the 20 th century. Some of the violence even seems countenanced by God. T. Canby Jones, however, has shown that God's real concern in the human/divine relationship is the realization of peace throughout the Creation. Important passages in the Old Testament make this clear, most significantly Isaiah 9 and 11, which are seen by many Christians as anticipation of Christ's salvific entry into history. In Isaiah 9, we are promised that with the birth of the Prince of Peace "all the boots of the trampling warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire" and that "there shall be endless peace." Isaiah 11 gives us the well-known description of the Peaceable Kingdom to be brought by the little child we know as Christ.
Important though such passages are, the quaker Peace Testimony rests largely on the New Testament where Jesus' words and actions make clear that we must be his partners in achieving this kingdom. Beginning with the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that God's love--not our wills or self-interest and not our military might--is the superior power in Creation. Those of us who claim to be Christ's people must ground our lives in that love. If we genuinely "trust in God," our faith must be in that love, not in our missiles or economic power. Living in that faith, we become God's children as peacemakers (Matt. 5:9, 45). Some have said that the whole thrust of the Sermon on the Mount is to prepare us for Christ's most challenging commandment: to love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-46; also Luke 6:27-28), even as God loves each of us, in spite of our sins. It is in the same chapter of Matthew that Christ enjoins us not to resist evil (Matt. 5: 39).
In his own life and death, Jesus demonstrated that violent retaliation is not consistent with God's love. He rebukes James and John when they want to destroy a Samaritan village because its inhabitants would not receive them (Luke 9: 51-55). On the Mount of Olives, he stops his disciple's violent response to those arresting Jesus (Matt.26:52; Luke 22: 49-51; John 18:10-11). The early church father Tertullian wrote that when Christ disarmed Peter (John 18:11), he "disarmed every soldier."
Those who took Jesus' message to the world spoke not only of the salvation he offers us but also of his peace message. Paul repeatedly rejected violent response to evil (Romans 12: 17-21; 1 Corinthians 4:10-13; 2 Corinthians 10: 3-6; Galatians 5:14; Ephesians 4: 31-32, 5: 11, 6: 11-18; Colossians 3: 15; 1 Thessalonians 4:8). 1 Thessalonians 5:15 is particularly explicit: "See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men" (KJV).
James tells us, "From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war…" (4: 1-2). When George Fox justified his refusal to "take up arms for the Commonwealth against the King, he grounded his explanation in James:" "I told them that I lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars, ands I knew from whence all wars did arise, from the lust according to james' doctrine..I told them I was come into the covenant of peace which was before wars and strifes were." On other occasions when called upon to renounce violence, Fox alluded to scripture:
From under the occasion of that sword I do seek to bring people. My weapons are not carnal but spiritual, and "my kingdom is not of this world", therefore with a carnal weapon I do not fight.... (John 18:36-37; 2 Cor.10: 3-4)
Ye are called to peace, therefore follow it, and that peace is in Christ, not in Adam in the fall. All that pretend to fight for Christ they are deceived, for his kingdom is not of this world, therefore his servants do not fight. Therefore fighters are not of Christ's kingdom, but are without Christ's kingdom; for his kingdom stands in peace and righteousness, but are fighters in the lust, and all that would destroy men's lives are not of Christ's mind, who came to save men's lives. (John 18:36-37; 2 Cor. 2:6-7; 10: 3-4)
Nicknamed "The Fighting Quaker" Smedley Darlington Butler was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania to Thomas Butler and Maud Darlington Butler both from distinguished Quaker families. His father was a lawyer, judge and for 31 years a Republican Congressman. Smedley Butler was educated at West Chester Friends Graded High School (now Westtown) and later at Haverford College where he dropped out to join the Marines in 1898 in spite of his parents wishes.
This non-quintessential Quaker thus began his exciting and notable military career. At Guantanamo, Cuba, a Spanish sniper's bullet barely missed his head. From Cuba he went to China where he was twice shot during the Boxer Rebellion. In 1903 he fought to protect the U.S. Consulate in Honduras. From 1909 to 1912 he served in Nicaragua. During the U.S. occupation of Veracruz, Mexico in 1914 he received his first Medal of Honor. 1915 found him in Haiti where he received his second Medal of Honor. During World War I he was in command of Camp Pontanezen at Brest, France. For his services in France he earned the Distinguished Service Medal of both the Navy and Army and the French Order of the Black Star. After World War I he returned to the United States to command the Marine camp at Quantico, Virginia.
In January, 1924 he was asked by the major of Philadelphia to serve as the Director of Public Safety. Butler took a two year leave from the Marines to take this position. Philadelphia at this time was a notoriously corrupt city and many people liked it that way. Butler immediately went after bootleggers, prostitutes, gamblers and corrupt police officers and corrupt politicians. He had the roofs removed from police cars so police could not sleep in their cars during their shifts. He ordered raids on over 900 speakeasies. However, the raids were not limited to the gangsters and lower class hangouts. He included the Ritz-Carlton and the Union League favorite speakeasies of many prominent, influential and wealthy Philadelphians. His efforts to clean up Philadelphia were not popular and the mayor who hired him had him fired. Butler later said "cleaning up Philadelphia was worse than any battle I was ever in."
After returning to the Marine Corps Butler was commander of the Marine Expeditionary Force in China. Returning from China in 1929 he was promoted to major general. He then worked for the further development of Camp Quantico. At the death of Major General Wendall Neville in 1930 many expected Butler to be the new Commandant of the Marine Corps. But Butler's bluntness and honesty had created much opposition among the nation's political elite and he was passed over for the position. He soon retired from active duty.
Active in retirement, he took up a career on the lecture circuit. Now retired he was even more free to express himself about the military and war profiteering.
In 1934 he was approached by some representatives of wealthy industrialists to led a coup to overthrow President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He then went to the United States Congress to report the plot. Although the investigating congressional committee verified his testimony, no further action was taken.
The rest of his life was dedicated to lecturing and writing about his views on nonintervention and the military industrial complex. The following is a part of an article from Common Sense magazine in 1935:
War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the few at the expenses of the masses.
I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight then we'll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar earns only 6 percent over here then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.
I wouldn't go to war again as I have done in the past to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our home and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.
There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. They have "finger men" to point out enemies , its "muscle men" to destroy enemies, its "brain men" to plan the war preparations and a big "Big Boss" super- Nationalistic Capitalism.
It may seem odd for me a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent 33 years and 4 months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General.
I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I'm sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.
During those years I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.
Smedley D. Butler wrote a small book War is a Racket. It has only five short chapters. Read it in its entirety - lexrex.com/enlightened/articles/warisaracket.htm.
Although it was written about 70 years ago so much of it is applicable today. Although the military honored Smedley D. Butler by naming Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler in Okinawa and the USS Butler a Navy warship after him, I believe he personally would be more pleased that the Boston, Massachusetts, chapter of Veterans for Peace and the Smedley Butler Society, an organization dedicated to peace, anti war, anti intervention and pro-constitution were named in his honor.
Standing against the tide of popular opinion, especially in time of war, is hard and lonely. Here is the story of one man who did that.
Born in 1922 in Columbia, South Carolina, John Griffith grew up immersed in family love and Christian principles. His father, a Methodist minister, preached that war was incompatible with the teachings of Jesus. John's mother died when he was twelve, a profound loss that taught the grieving boy the value of life and the terrible suffering that follows the death of a loved one. With World War II in Europe and military conscription at home, John had to balance loyalty to country with his growing conviction that he could never participate in war. After reading church publications, pacifist writings, accounts of Gandhi's nonviolent struggle for Indian independence, and above all, the teachings of Jesus, John realized that his conscience would not allow compromise. "It seemed to me," he wrote later, "that the whole world was going insane. And rather than seeking accommodation, I felt a need to say as emphatically as I could that war is insane and that conscription is the first step in that insanity. I decided to refuse to register."
In 1942, at age 19, John openly refused to register for Selective Service. Under enormous pressure to change his mind, he talked with his worried father, attended church camp, talked with a noted Methodist missionary, and prayed. One evening he opened a hymnal and read words that shook him deeply:
Jesus, I my cross have taken. All to leave and follow thee. Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou from hence my all shall be.
After that experience he never looked back. After John's arrest two Quakers -- Wilmer Young, working on an AFSC project in the South, and Walter Longstreth, a Phila-delphia attorney -- offered assistance. Longstreth, representing him at no charge, told the court of John's exemplary record of Christian living. The judge allowed John to read a statement in court and then sentenced him to thirty months in prison. In federal prisons in Petersburg, Virginia and Ashland, Kentucky, John was a model prisoner until repeated humiliating experiences, racial segregation in the entire federal system, and assignment of war related work led him to refuse all orders. After that he was held in solitary confinement or administrative segregation until his release in late 1944.
In prison John met other war resisters who shared and strengthened his pacifism and belief in nonviolence. His brother, a naval officer on hazardous duty at sea, visited John when possible, and the love between the two never faltered. John's father and stepmother supported both their sons, sustaining them emotionally through a fearful and lonely time.
Released from prison John enrolled at William Penn College in Iowa, a Quaker institution where President Cecil Hinshaw encouraged an interracial college community, welcomed conscientious objectors as well as returning military veterans, and promoted the Peace Testimony of the Society of Friends.
In 1947 John Griffith and Reva Standing were married in Iowa in an old-fashioned Friends meetinghouse. John graduated from college, became a faithful member of the Society of Friends, and worked in the farm cooperative movement until his retirement in 1985.
In 1986 John and Reva faced tragedy when Christopher, the oldest of their four sons, was brutally murdered. Despite their grief and anger, John and Reva held firmly to Christian love and nonviolence, persuading the judge to spare the life of the man responsible for their son's death. Because the perpetrator had killed four persons, the judge imposed the death penalty for the other three murders. John and Reva attended every trial session and wrote to the murderer on death row and to his distraught parents, determined to break the cycle of hate and violence that had claimed their innocent son. Later they became active in Journey of Hope, family members of murder victims who work tirelessly against capital punishment.
Since the death of his beloved partner in 2004, John Griffith continues to follow the teachings of Jesus and the Quaker Peace Testimony. His life's witness is a beacon of hope to Friends and others who strive to build a peaceful future.
Standing against the tide of popular opinion, especially in time of war, is hard and lonely. Here is the story of one man who did that.
Quaker history is filled with the names of men and women who risked comfort, possessions, reputation, and even their lives as they let their lives speak Quaker values. Cyrus Guernsey Pringle of Vermont was one such person. Although his name is not emblazoned as brightly in Quaker history as George Fox's, Mary Dyer's or John Woolman's, Pringle, along with some other Quakers of his generation, merits our admiration for his stand against participating in war.
George Fox established the Quaker peace testimony in 1651 when he declared that "I live in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars ." Grounded in the peace testimony, many American Quakers have refused to participate in war, no matter how seemingly "just" the war might be. Given the significance and evils of slavery, the American Civil War provided a particularly difficult test of Quaker devotion to peace. Pringle took a stand that today we would call "conscientious objection."
On July 13, 1863, Pringle was drafted for service in the Union Army. Draft laws allowed anyone with religious scruples against participating in war to pay a three hundred dollar fine. Pringle refused to pay this fine because he knew that this money was commonly used to "hire" an army substitute, and he was reluctant to "be the agent in bringing others into evil." He would not send another man to do what he would not do. Some acquaintances encouraged him to pay the fine, even arguing that paying it was his duty, but Pringle claimed a "higher duty than that to country; and [denied] any obligation to support so unlawful a system, as we hold a war to be even when waged in opposition to an evil and oppressive power and ostensibly in defence [sic] of liberty, virtue, and free institutions…."
Nevertheless, Pringle was forced into uniform and was herded into a railroad car with other resisters, draftees and substitutes. He was first confined at Brattleboro, Vermont, then at a camp in Boston harbor, then at camps at Alexandria and Culpeper, Virginia. Throughout this time, Pringle suffered bullying and other indignities, including men relieving themselves on him. At Alexandria when he and others refused to accept rifles, the weapons were placed upon them forcibly. At the Culpeper camp when the resisters refused to be present at inspection of arms, they were tied up for three hours. Once when he refused to clean his rifle, Pringle was tied on the ground so that his limbs were stretched in the form of a X. Further efforts to compel Pringle to take up arms also failed, even after officers threatened him with death. Asked to do hospital duty in lieu of combat duty, he was initially inclined to comply. Finally, however, Pringle refused because he recognized that the purpose of military medical treatment was to make the wounded fit for battle again, if at all possible.
Fortunately, President Lincoln had always been sympathetic with the Quakers. Lincoln ordered Secretary of War Stanton to release Pringle and his fellows, an order Stanton resisted at first but finally obeyed when the President made his desires clear. Pringle was allowed to return home. Later in his life, he became a well-known botanist, plant collector and breeder, and keeper of the University of Vermont herbarium. He collected extensively in the Pacific states and Mexico between 1880 and 1909.
Although I have been a lifelong pacifist, I can only suggest those experiences that led me to that position. I prefer the term war resister to conscientious objector because, to me, the latter seems to imply a kind of self-righteousness which I totally reject. It was in May, 1942, when I turned twenty, that my stand against war forced a decision concerning the draft. The United States was not yet involved in World War II and public opinion strongly opposed our entrance. The period after World War I was one of disillusionment about war combined with strong isolationism. The United States had not ratified the Versailles Treaty, nor joined the League of Nations nor the World Court. That isolationist sentiment changed only after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.
I was raised in Reading, Pennsylvania by my mother and grandparents who were anti-war and anti-military. Reading was a city with a Democratic Socialist government whose anti-war position influenced many of its citizens. My grandmother was a Christian Science pacifist, even though the denomination did not recognize conscientious objection. Mom, as I called her, was as nonviolent and loving as any individual I have ever known. She was nonviolent by nature and her religion provided spiritual support. My grandfather was also anti-war, though on a socialist basis. My Mother was strongly opposed to war on a personal, religious and philosophical basis. She was a professional dressmaker and some of her clients were Quakers. Although she never joined the Quakers she volunteered for AFSC sewing projects through the Reading Meeting. Those contacts led to my attending Friends Meeting which I joined when I was eighteen.
In the Meeting there was considerable emphasis on the Peace Testimony and I participated in a discussion group that addressed issues of peace and war. Members supported my pacifism though they did not agree with my decision to publicly refuse to register for the draft. After my imprisonment they gradually came to support me even though they would have preferred my accepting alternative service. Darlington Hoopes, my attorney, was a member of the Meeting, and one of my prison correspondents was David Richie, who had directed a Quaker work camp I attended.
Certain books and films deepened my commitment to nonviolence. Richard Gregg's Power of Nonviolence and Krishnalal Shridharani's War Without Violence convinced me that there was a workable alternative to war. Autobiographies of World War I resisters Ernest Meyer and Harold Gray inspired me, as did my meeting several other resisters, including Julius Eichel and Evan Thomas. Three anti-war films were a powerful influence: Grand Illusion, All Quiet on the Western Front and They Gave Him a Gun.
Summer volunteer Quaker work camps, one in Reading, Pennsylvania and another in Michigan, included lively discussions on war and peace, and provided time to read books on pacifism. Equally important was my participation in two Food for Europe Pilgrimages prompted by the need to send food to European countries occupied by the Nazis. Portraying refugees, we walked from Lancaster, Pennsylvania to New York City during Christmas break, 1940 and from Wilmington, Delaware to Washington DC during Spring break, 1941. Those experiences took my pacifism from theory to practice and led to my meeting some early non-registrants and such peace leaders as A.J. Muste, Allen Knight Chalmers, and Muriel Lester.
All these experiences contributed to my decision to refuse to register for the draft, a decision that led to a three-year prison sentence which I served in three different federal prisons. The story of my imprisonment is included in A Few Small Candles: War Resisters of World War II Tell Their Stories, a book my wife Lenna Mae and I co-edited.
While in federal prison I engaged in work strikes against racial segregation and served a year in modified solitary confinement.
There are many things in life I would do differently if I could, but I have never questioned my decision to refuse to register. By the end of the war many others came to agree with my position. Nevertheless there is still a need for some kind of legal civilian service should the draft ever be reinstated. Many individuals, in following the lead of conscience, would accept service under conscription so long as it is not military service. Those individuals are also anti-war, for they too witness against the killing and destruction of war.
In the years since the Second World War, I have combined a long career as a historian and college teacher with work as a part-time activist, witnessing against war and violence and advocating nonviolent solutions on all levels of human conflict. In this age of nuclear weapons I believe that war has become the greatest threat to the human race.
I was born December 14, 1944 to Mary and Robert Hackney. The United States was still involved in World War II. My father had signed up as a conscientious objector, but was never asked to serve as a CO or in the military because he had a farmer's deferment. My parents were members of Chester Friends Meeting in Clinton County, Ohio. My mother was probably stronger than my father in her views on peace, war, and non-violence, but my father was often more easy going and laid back in his personality.
Although my parents adhered to the Quaker Peace testimony, it did not affect their relationship with people in the military. My mother had four brothers; at least three and maybe all four served in the military. After World War II many military families moved to Wilmington to serve at the Clinton County Air Base or the Nike Center. This caused a housing shortage in the Wilmington area. My parents invited an Air Force Lieutenant and his family to share part of their large country home. They had two children, a daughter slightly older than I and a son slightly younger who was born while they lived with us in the farm house. When the family transferred to California, the son left me a gift of a toy gun. My mother had never allowed me toy guns before, but since it was a gift she allowed me to keep it. My wife and I visited this couple when we were in Hawaii a few years ago. The wife recalled the pleasant life they had shared with the Quakers at Chester Meeting and still remembered the baby shower the ladies of the Meeting had given her when their son was born. In visiting with with this retired military man, I found him to be closer to Friends testimonies than many Friends.
While in high school, I gave some thought to joining the Marines, because a friend of mine was interested in joining. He was younger, and we decided that I would wait for him to graduate so we could go together. I graduated from high school at the age of r7, and felt obligated to stay on the farm because my father had suffered a broken leg and needed my help that summer.
By the time that I reached the age of 18, my father had recovered and I was facing the draft. I chose to sign up as a Conscientious Objector. During this time, the United States became involved in the Vietnam situation. I was not able to understand the American involvement there. At 18, I could do my alternative service or go to college and get a student deferment. At this age, two years for alternative service or four years of college-both seemed like a long time. I chose college, although I really didn't have a desire to go. After earning over three years of college credits, I decided to try teaching to see if I liked it. At that time, I was able to get a temporary teaching certificate that was good for 100 days. I got a job teaching for the Mohawk School District located in Wyandot County, Ohio. After teaching one semester, I decided that I didn't want to teach or go back to school.
I went to the Draft Board to ask what my next step should be. I was given an approved list of places to do alternative service. I was told that they didn't want me to do this service in Clinton or an adjoining county. I chose Kettering Memorial Hospital in Montgomery County. For two years, I worked in the laundry at the hospital. I probably had an easier time than most COs as Kettering Memorial Hospital was founded and run by the Seventh Day Adventist Church. They encourage their young men to be non-combatant medics in the military. Many of their young men also chose to do their service in one of the numerous Seventh Day Adventist hospitals throughout the country. One lady who worked in the laundry--not a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church--talked about her son being drafted. She felt that it was unfair that I got to work at the hospital while her son had to serve. She was never hostile in her comments, and I considered her my friend.
What led me to follow the path to become a CO instead of serving in the military? My strong Quaker family was definitely an influence and Jesus gives us directions to follow. In Matthew 5:38, Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek and love our enemies. Matthew 5:9 says, "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God." In Luke 23:34 as Jesus was being brutally killed he said, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." I believe that Jesus meant what he said. This doesn't mean that many, including myself, don't disregard his teachings sometimes. George Fox spoke about the "Life and power that takes away the occasion for war." While I was doing my alternative service, I read several books about the life of Ghandi--probably to justify my being a C. O. By studying the lives of Jesus, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and others, you realize that peace if tried can work.
As a youth I was active in the Epworth League of the Methodist Church. We went to summer conferences and we discussed what a Christian should do in time of war. In 1939 my sister went to a Quaker work camp and she persuaded me to go to one in the summer of 1940. Since there was a lot of talk about war, in fact the first peacetime draft was enacted that fall, we talked a lot about the Quaker peace testimony. The next spring the Quakers asked some of us old work campers to go on a special earthquake relief camp in Mexico. This was men only since it was to build temporary houses for the earthquake victims. I turned 21 that summer so I knew I had to register for the draft within five days after I returned to the U.S. so I was especially interested in talking about the Quaker peace testimony. I realized that Hitler was doing very horrible things and that he needed to be opposed. However, I blamed the U.S. for allowing Hitler to gain power. The Versailles Treaty was a very revengeful pact that made it possible for Hitler to gain a lot of support in his county. Our President Wilson proposed the League of Nations but then our Congress refused to let the country join. After making all these mistakes, then our country turned to us young men and said now you stop Hitler. We were asked to kill German boys who were drafted as we were and who did not have the power to influence their leaders. As we didn't.
Everyone knows that war is wrong and there are better ways to settle disputes but in 1940 the majority said this war is different, I will oppose the next one. I felt it was important for some of us to take the pacifist position for "this" war and say that killing is wrong anytime. By taking this position maybe I could help influence my country in the future to not use violence as a means of settling a dispute.
My application for the C.O. classification was turned down by both the county and the state of Ohio draft boards but I finally received the C.O. classification from the Presidential draft board. I applied to the American Field Service to be an ambulance driver in China but I was turned down; they said they had too many C.O.s. I was drafted in the spring of 1943 to a Civilian Public Service camp in North Dakota. Since it was operated by the Quakers, I felt right at home. That fall I got a chance to apply for detached service at Byberry Mental Hospital in Philadelphia. After I was accepted there,the hospital wrote me a letter to ask if I would be willing to volunteer as a human guinea pig for the Hepatitis (Jaundice) experiment that the U.S. Army was running at the University of Pennsylvania. This would require going to the university two days a week and working at Byberry as an attendant four days a week. I was glad to have the opportunity to show that I was willing to take risks for my body in order to save lives rather than killing lives. I contracted two types of Hepatitis, the viral and the infectious.
After the war was over, Congress deleted the law that said C.O.s could not leave the country. I was still drafted but I was able to apply to the Heifer Project run by the Church of the Brethren and UNRAA. I took two trips to Europe delivering' horses and cows to Poland and Greece.
The Quaker Peace Testimony has been a challenge for me that I have grappled with since coming among Friends in 1993. In fact, I struggled with it long before I knew there was such a thing as a Quaker, let alone a Quaker Peace Testimony! I was raised in a Baptist Church, and my father was a U.S. Army veteran and was proud of his service in the Army Corps of Engineers, building airstrips during the Korean Conflict. I don't believe I ever heard the words "conscientious objector" until I was a teenager. If I did, it made absolutely no impression on me.
My father began teaching me to fight, to defend myself, at a very young age. He always taught me, "Don't ever start a fight, but if someone else starts one, then you finish it!" He also taught me that I should always fight "fair and clean" if I had to fight, and never to be afraid to stand up and fight to protect a woman, a girl, or someone who is weaker than I. He would often box or wrestle with me, with the intent of "making a man out of [me]."
My father's teaching resulted in a rather humorous episode when I was about five years old. Our church had a visiting minister, and our pastor brought him over to our house for a visit. The man dropped down into a squat so that he was on eye-level with me. What he did not know, was that my father would always get down on that level to spar with me. No sooner was he on his knees than I belted that preacher a good one, right in the nose! My parents were embarrassed, of course, but I think my dad was actually rather proud!
Balancing my father's influence, was my grandfather's Bible teaching. He would read the Bible to me long before I could read myself, and then with me as I learned to read on my own. When I became able to read independently, he began discussing with me the truths of scripture, teaching me to look there for the answers to my questions, rather than to the ideas of other people. Whenever I asked him a question (which was often!), he would say, "Let's see what the Bible has to say." Though I don't remember any specific teaching about war, I do remember him teaching me to take seriously the words of Jesus, particularly that we should "turn the other cheek" if we can when confronted by belligerent people. As a young boy, I tried to avoid conflict whenever possible. If someone picked on me, I would usually just walk away unless backed into a corner. There were a few times that I felt that I had to stand up and defend myself, but those times were few and far between. I "turned the other cheek" when I felt that I could, and defended myself when I felt that I had to. My father was a little disappointed in me at times, as I tended to be able to avoid conflict most of the time. One of his proudest moments was when he looked in the backyard one day and saw me in a fight with the neighborhood bully, holding my own with a boy who stood a head taller and was quite a bit heavier.
I began to seriously consider a Christian stance toward war and peace while still in high school during the Viet Nam conflict. Like many young men, I was faced with the prospect of conscription for military service in a bloody and meaningless war. I saw friends and relatives who were only a few years older than I being forced into military service. I saw them return as broken men; emotionally and psychologically damaged by the experience, they turned to alcohol and drugs to ease their internal anguish. I struggled with how I should respond if drafted. I thought about becoming a conscientious objector, about fleeing to Canada, about simply refusing to go and accepting the consequences, but could not decide what was the right thing to do. I could not see myself going and participating in that war and killing people. That seemed wrong to me. I felt like I might be able to fight to defend my country if we were being invaded, but I could not see my way clear to killing for any other reason. Fortunately for me, when the time came for me to register the draft had just been placed on hold, so I was classified 1-H (holding)! Thanks to Richard Nixon I was never forced to make that decision!
Knowing the Scriptures about turning the other cheek, I continued to struggle with the idea of peace. I remember being approached by a group of hecklers while street preaching in a mall parking lot in Damascus, Maryland. My partner and I both admitted afterward to struggling with how we should react if the heckling had moved beyond the verbal and become physical. Neither of us was too certain that we would have been able to "turn the other cheek," though we agreed that it would have been the approach that Christ would have wanted from us in that situation.
During this same time period, I became friends with a young man who was an ex-Army Ranger who had resigned from the military as a CO after becoming a pacifist while serving in Europe as a hand-to-hand combat trainer. Jim told me about how after coming to Jesus, he began to struggle with the fact that he would spend his days teaching his men to be effective killing machines, then his evenings telling people about the love of Jesus. At this stage of my life I was NOT at all inclined toward pacifism. I believed that the words of Jesus only applied to individual conduct and was a strong believer in the ideas of self defense and the "Just War." Jim and I had many lengthy and sometimes heated arguments, and though I disagreed with him, I thought carefully about his arguments and have in the years since come to realize that he was correct.
It was not until I came to Lost Creek as pastor that I finally realized that I must resolve my personal conflicts and make a decision as to where I stand on this issue. I realized then that my choice could be nothing other than to follow Jesus. That leaves only one choice. As he taught peace, I must do likewise. It may be difficult, as are many other challenges that we face as Christians, but it would be cowardice on my part to not take the stance that I know in my heart is right. Thus, I am not only a convinced Friend but also have become a convinced pacifist.
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