Elise Boulding was a Quaker sociologist and author credited as a major contributor to creating the academic discipline of Peace and Conflict Studies. She wrote extensively on topics ranging from family as a foundation for peace to Quaker spirituality to reinventing the international “global culture.” She viewed listening at the key to advancing world peace and nonviolence. A major theoretical focus for Boulding was the idea of peace as a daily process, challenging the idea of peace as something that is dull and static. In much of what she wrote, she advocated for the rights of women and children, and the influence that the family can have in setting the foundation for a culture of peace.
For today, take a few minutes to reflect on these words:
“We’re never going to have respectful and reverential relationships with the planet- and sensible policies about what we put in the air, the soil, the water – if very young children don’t begin learning about these things literally in their houses, backyards, streets and schools. We need to have human beings who are oriented that way from their earliest memories.”
James Nayler (1616-1660) was among the early Quaker leaders. At the peak of his career, he preached against enclosure of lands (that led to the creation of an ownership class) and the slave trade. He gained notoriety when he re-enacted Christ’s entry into Jerusalem by entering Bristol, England on a donkey. He was charged with blasphemy and was imprisoned.
Nayler riding into Bristol
This also led to a deep separation from and denouncement by George Fox. After leaving prison in 1659 he was a physically ruined man. He repented and was forgiven by Fox. In 1660, he was robbed and left near death in a field. A day later, he made the following statement:
“There is a spirit which I feel that delights to do no evil, nor to revenge any wrong, but delights to endure all things, in hope to enjoy its own in the end. Its hope is to outlive all wrath and contention, and to weary out all exaltation and cruelty, or whatever is of a nature contrary to itself. It sees to the end of all temptations. As it bears no evil in itself, so it conceives none in thoughts to any other. If it be betrayed, it bears it, for its ground and spring is the mercies and forgiveness of God. Its crown is meekness, its life is everlasting love unfeigned; it takes its kingdom with entreaty and not with contention, and keeps it by lowliness of mind. In God alone it can rejoice, though none else regard it, or can own its life. It is conceived in sorrow, and brought forth without any to pity it, nor doth it murmur at grief and oppression. It never rejoiceth but through sufferings; for with the world’s joy it is murdered. I found it alone, being forsaken. I have fellowship therein with them who lived in dens and desolate places in the earth, who through death obtained this resurrection and eternal holy life.”
The first peacemaker we are observing during this Lenten season is Tom Fox. Thomas William Fox (1951-2006) was an American Quaker peace activist, affiliated with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq. After a career as a musician in the US Marine Band, Tom became very active in Quaker activities. Within his own Meeting (Langley Hill) and Baltimore Yearly Meeting, he was very active in a variety of youth programs. As wars came post-9/11, Tom got involved with CPT. He often posted writings about his observations and reflections while there, many of which can still be found on-line and still resonate with wisdom about the hard work and sacrifice that peacemaking often entails. In 2005 he was kidnapped in Baghdad along with three other CPT activists. His legacy lives on as an example of pacifist commitment to breaking the cycles of violence.
Take a moment to reflect on these words from one of his blog postings from Iraq:
“We are all finite creatures with a very limited field of vision. But what I do instead of opening my field of vision to include things that I don’t understand or agree with is to make my field of vision even narrower. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is an old saying that seems rather apt in this case.”
When you hear things you don’t understand or agree with, which do you do? For today, see if you can make your field of vision even wider.