Contemporary Friends have a wide range of beliefs on various topics—all the more reason Adria Gulizia takes comfort in the universality of the peace testimony, a principle that stretches back to Quakerism’s roots in seventeenth-century England.
“I think that’s a beautiful thing that we still have unity in that even as our practice, our way of experiencing God and worshiping God, can be so different,” Adria says. “I’m still very much spoken to by that image of the lion laying down with the lamb and the peaceable kingdom of pounding our swords into plowshares, and instead of focusing on ways of imposing our will on others, really living into that nurturing faithfulness.”
Adria reflects further on how the values of the earliest Quakers continue to speak to us today in the latest issue of Friends Journal. Her essay, “Facing Evil, Finding Freedom,” elaborates on the Quaker view of atonement, and the belief that “freedom in the Spirit… is not metaphorical or abstract but real, concrete, and immediate.”
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The peace testimony today is one of the things that binds, I think, all Friends across our very wide theological spectrum. Friends of all branches come together around the peace testimony and the recognition of the reality that God calls us to walk the path of peace. I think that’s a beautiful thing that we still have unity in that even as our practice, our way of experiencing God and worshiping God, can be so different. For me, I’m still very much spoken to by that image of the lion laying down with the lamb and the peaceable kingdom of pounding our swords into plowshares and instead of focusing on ways of imposing our will on others, really living into that nurturing faithfulness.
Examining the Quaker Peace Testimony
My name is Adria Gulizia. I live in Newark, New Jersey and I attend Chatham-Summit Friends Meeting in Chatham, New Jersey.
The peace testimony was first authoritatively articulated in the 1660 Declaration to King Charles II, and what’s interesting about that articulation is that it was both a theological statement and political statement. The theological statement is, you know, as followers of Christ, we believe that we have been disarmed by the gospel. We are no longer going to lift up weaponry against our fellow man. We instead will only engage in the spiritual warfare described in Ephesians six, what Friends would come to call the Lamb’s War, of praying for each other ,of preaching the gospel, of living in the power of the Spirit. The political side, however, is that there was a lot of tumult– basically civil war in England that time, and by making this declaration it was basically saying, look, as Quakers were harmless. We’re not gonna get on any army’s side. We’re not going to try to overthrow the government. We’re safe, please just leave us alone to pray, and by doing that Early friends protected the fledgling Quaker movement from political persecution.
Do We Need the Peace Testimony Today?
Early Friends were fond of quoting the scripture verse that, you know, we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling. It’s not enough to look at the past and say, oh well those faithful people in the past did X and therefore I today must do X. We have to encounter that spiritual reality for ourselves, and so as we consider the peace testimony it’s not enough to say, oh well, George Fox said this and Barclay said that. The question as it was in Fox’s time is what canst thou say. And so, you know, I think Friends today certainly, you know— I, in this moment, have to always go back to the beginning. Okay, do I believe that the Spirit that spoke through Jesus that said, you know, lay down your sword; that said, resist not the evil person; that’s informed Christians and Quakers for the last 2000 years: do I believe that that Spirit has changed? Have I experienced the reality of that Spirit? Have I experienced that feeling of being disarmed?
For myself in my own life, I have been disarmed in several ways. I used to be somewhat—- somewhat. I used to be extremely competitive, verbally more than anything, but with that streak that not only wanted to be right, but wanted to be better than you; that wanted to kind of rub your nose in the fact that you were wrong. That’s the spirit of violence. And so what does it mean to lay down violence in interpersonal relationships as well as outward violence, as well as other types of coercion?
I’ve been in situations where I’ve had legal rights that I could have enforced in court, but I laid down those rights because that for me didn’t feel like how I was called. Better to be wrong than to use coercive means and stand on my rights in certain ways. So I think each of you have to ask ourselves, how are we being called in this moment? Have we encountered that power that takes away the occasion for all war and for all violence? Have we encountered that power and that love that brings us into the reality of a peaceful way of life? Understanding that that’s going to mean sacrifices. Understanding that that’s gonna mean taking it on the chin. And yet we have the power to choose to either respond as the world responds and meet violence with violence (whether that’s physical violence or other forms of coercion) or to respond in a higher way, in the way of the Spirit, which is with peace and love and long suffering and patience. It’s not fun. It is really not fun, and yet that’s how I feel that that we’re called.
- What does the peace testimony mean to you? How do you implement it into your life?
- As Adria puts it, how do we “encounter… spiritual reality for ourselves?”
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.
2 thoughts on “Examining the Quaker Peace Testimony”
One of the best Quaker Speak videos I have heard. Thank you for a well thought out and articulated response. Thank you!
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