“Quakerism is rightly called an experiential religion: one becomes a Friend in the experience of being illuminated, convicted, and empowered by the light within.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian, was in some ways close to the early Quakers in his views on morality and violence. Yet he accepted the need to lie and perhaps even to kill in resistance to Hitler and the Nazi government, not rationalizing those acts as intrinsically good but taking on the responsibility before God for committing them. I am moved by his sincerity and courage.
An escape hatch is opened. Can I, in good conscience, climb through it?
The draft board holds a hearing but doesn’t listen, lays a snare that fails, and then goes silent while the FBI investigates me. While marking time, I embark on psychedelic adventures.
My letter to a priest from whom I’d requested a reference for the draft board, in which I explain that I must refuse, as Tolstoy put it, “to be ready on another’s command (for this is what a soldier’s duty actually consists of) to kill all those one is ordered to kill.”
I notify the draft board of my conscientious objection to war; the board refuses to recognize it. I quit school, leave home, and wait for the government’s ax to fall.
Two brief, closely-related sections. As I am slowly separating myself from Catholic piety, the necessity for a moral decision about war leads me ultimately to reject the Church and embrace pacifism.
A sketch of my evolution, despite encounters with predatory priests and a vindictive draft board, from youthful candidate for the Catholic priesthood to adult a-theistic Quaker who still asserts that “God is love.”
I sense that our motives for taking part in an action for peace are crucial to the effectiveness of that action. But I am not clear about my motives. I can’t say with confidence that I am moved more by love for enemies (in this case, warmongers and other violent people) than by a desire…
“Peace and Nonviolence”: Part 14 of “The Life of the Spirit” in Quaker Faith & Practice for the 21st Century