Friday, January 12, 2007

Peace and Vulnerability

It occurs to me that where Friends are very privileged and protected by Caesar's might, we are far more likely to set up "reasonable" arguments for the Peace Testimony, as a matter of public policy, or to abandon it altogether.

The third alternative, to justify the Peace Testimony as a recognition of an inward reality, requires that we confront the question: "are we living in the Life and Power that gives forth this testimony?" When we are not ourselves in the position to live out the peace testimony, when, instead of putting our lives on the line, we hide behind the walls of Empire, we are loathe to justify our doctrine by the Light, which would convict us in our hearts. It is easier for us to ground our testimonies in "reason" and liberal "sensibility," or to abandon it altogether, than to really examine what it is we believe - and, more importantly - what it is we are living in the terrifying Light of Christ that demands that we purify our lives and turn away from our own comfort.

We Friends can stand with integrity on our Peace Testimony if we are speaking out of our experience, and if we are living faithful, vulnerable, endangered lives. Of course we hide behind "reasonable" arguments when we are not putting ourselves in harm's way. We can only proclaim peace from a position of vulnerability.


Martin Kelley said...

Hi Micah: great to see your blog--Welcome!

Yes, I think Friends often lose the "peace" debate as soon as we rely on rationalist arguments.

The White House won't change the course of American foreign policy because a handful of math teachers, college profs, artists, etc., make some statement. I remember a yearly meeting session where we were asked drafting a relatively-technical statement on a certain kind of weapon system: what really did any of us in the room know about the issue? By and large we don't have the experience.

What we do have, or hope to have, is the experience of is the guiding love of Christ. We know from whence wars arise and we know its the meek who inherit the earth. We might not have much political authority to tell President Bush he isn't a good political strategist we have plenty to tell him he's not being a faithful follower of Jesus.

The most powerful witness of Friends in years was the horror that befell Tom Fox. He made himself vulnerable. What he did wasn't big or splashy and it wasn't at all rationalist. But it spoke to a bravery that the mainstream culture can barely understand. During his captivity most bloggers depicted him as a naive fool (or worse) but what's wrong with being a fool for God's sake?

Looking forward to more posts,
Your Friend, Martin, QuakerRanter

Micah Bales said...


Thank thee very much for the note!

Tom was very much on my mind when I wrote what I did. He stands as an example to all of us who would claim any connection to Jesus of Nazareth.



Unknown said...

And the choir said, "Amen!"

And then this choir member looked to his own life, and saw the finger pointing at his as well as away.

Micah Bales said...

I think we're all in the same boat, Friend. I look forward to rowing it together.


Anna said...

Hi Micah, welcome to the blog world.

Gail said...

Hello Micah -- I like this Blog idea. Good for you.

Peace and Vulnerability. . . ? Two words that seem frightening to some and politically attractive to others. If one supports "Peace," then one is opposed to war -- hence the political attraction. If one is "Vulnerable," then one may also be perceived as weak, a position that engenders fear. Isn't it interesting how the words and inferences suggest a certain level of negativity? Yet Jesus was the "Prince of Peace," the epitome of human vulnerability, the most known and revered figure in the history of humanity (that I'm aware of).

To say the least, it is difficult to proclaim peace from a position of vulnerability. The leaders of our country, and the leaders of many other countries, claim peace will come from a position of strength, strength derived from all sorts of sources that Jesus would have rejected. Our leaders claim to "know" Jesus. Wow! No wonder it's difficult to understand the Peace Testimony, let alone examine if we are personally living out its tenets.

I think the example of peace Jesus portrayed during his life was also or the same thing as his example of love. This analogy makes my personal peace testimony easier to live out (and it's still hard a lot of the time). Was Jesus the "Prince of Peace" because he also exemplified the ultimate example of Love? Was his example of love also his example of peace?

If someone was stealing something very valuable from you, could you look at that person with love and care in your heart? Could you ask yourself, "Why are they doing this kind of thing?"

Peace and Love,

Gomma said...


You pulled it all well!
I liked your last phrase, "peace coming from the vulnerability."

It reminds me of the biblical verse that when we are weak, God will strengthen us.

Maybe, the power of peace can come from our own recognition of who we are (an imperfect, vulnerable, emotional being with a "never-be-perfect" ability of reasoning and logics) and allow God to work through us, within a hope and reverence to God, in spite of this limitation.

Thank you for sharing your thought with us.

Peace, joy and love,


Craig Barnett said...

Thank you for this Micah, which cuts to the heart of what all our Testimonies are about - 'a recognition of an inward reality'.

Zach Alexander said...

Hi Micah, glad to see you're blogging.

I'm agnostic on this issue. I agree we should be suspicious of rationalization, and speak from our experience if we are to have integrity on this issue (or any other).

But, perhaps sad to say, this rather cuts against the idea that this is an essential value all Friends must share in common (as the modern Quaker idea of "the Testimonies" suggets) -- because I don't believe many of us have such powerful spiritual experiences that we are living life in that power that takes away the occasion. The more we emphasize it as a value all Friends must share, the more violence we do to individual Friends' integrity and experience. The more we respect the latter, the more diversity on this issue will show its face.

To speak personally, I am drawn to religious and ethical thinkers who denounce war, like Jesus and Tolstoy and Fox, but I don't think I could make the same declarations with authenticity.

If there's an answer, I think it lies in having spiritual practices deep and frequent enough to actually transform us, rather than just serve as a refuge from ordinary life, as Sunday worship often is.

Looking forward to seeing you in New Jersey...


Leah Yaccrst said...

hi, I'm new at this blogging culture, but i'm in the course of setting up my own blog... it doesn't have anything yet, but soon!

i'm a quaker from the conservative persuasion, but i haven't been that involved with Friends up to this point.

your post about good and evil spoke to my condition, i've been working through I great deal of discernment concerning good and evil lately and i think that will be the topic of my first post.

its great to see another enthusiastic friend!

Paul L said...

John Howard Yoder's The Politics of Jesus speaks very directly to the effectiveness vs. faithfulness dichotomy and finds Jesus clearly on the side of faithfulness.

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