Is Bombing Civilians Worse than Enslaving Civilians?
It appears that Quakers got off onto the wrong downward path away from peace-making at the start of the Civil War when many Friends enlisted in the war.
Some enlisted because of nationalism.
But others enlisted, determined to end slavery by invading and killing soldiers of the Confederacy.
For sure, slavery is inherently evil, one of the very worst acts humans do (as various thinkers from John Woolman to Martin Luther King Jr. have emphasized).
Contrary to the subjective ethics of modern society, for Friends, slavery is always wrong. Always.
Furthermore, ethical leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. emphasized that to achieve justice and peace and human rights,
we need to go about seeking justice, peace, and human rights, through just, peaceful, and right means.
Our killing others so as to end injustice, (whether slavery or Islamic subjugation of women, etc.) isn’t the way to bring peace and goodness into being.
Tragically, at least beginning in the Civil War--and much more so in the Great War,
Somehow they became blinded by war propaganda, and lost site of the vivid truth that 'just war' for both sides of a conflict is
just killing, '
No, just war!
And now at present, most Friends meetings hold the view that whether to kill other humans in one's country's wars or not is an individual's choice, not a horrific ethical wrong for every Friend, indeed, for every human being.
Why is that?
How many Friends at present--
and in the past beginning in 1775
when slavery was banned by Quakers--
would declare that whether or not you own slaves
your own individual choice?
See how weird and wrong that sounds?
It seems that we Friends are like the frogs that are getting slowly boiled by relativistic ethics when it comes to killing.
Even worse than all of this, many Friends in the Civil War (and later in the Great War) enlisted, not primarily because a belief that killing is justified to bring justice, but because of rampant nationalism:
“The words of the Quakers themselves provide us with telling insight into their attitudes toward their service in the military.
"Letters from the field written by Quaker soldiers reflected the resonance of calls to patriotic sentiments and duty echoing from the festive atmosphere of the recruiting stations. Abner Hoopes wrote, "I do not believe there is a man in our army but what is willing to shed the last drop of blood in defence of his country."*
The irony of the Quaker man's words “in defense of his country,” is that they were untrue.
On the contrary, it was the Union forces who invaded Virginia. More than 30,000 Northerners invaded Virginia in the Confederacy, even though the latter had voted to leave the Union (a central right according to the founding father Thomas Jefferson!).
While the South was guilty of gross slavery, it is also true that Virginians were seeking to protect their home and families from the robbing and killing invaders from the North.
Robert E. Lee, who wouldn’t accept becoming the general in charge of all U.S. forces, only a few days later, when the President Abraham Lincoln ordered 70,000 troops to invade his state of Virigina, joined the army of Virginia.
Lee had already stated he didn't want war, was opposed to Secession, and did think that slavery was an evil which needed to be phased out.
Such home-defense doesn't excuse General Lee's slaughter of hundreds of thousands of human being, but we need to remember to get history accurately. The Quaker soldier and hundreds of thousands of other Northern soldiers were the invaders, not defenders.
Furthermore, when Abner Hoopes said he was "willing to shed the last drop of blood..." he wasn't speaking in the Light, not at all.
“Edward Ketcham, a New England Quaker, expressed similar sentiments in a letter to his brother when he wrote, " ... and am willing, if necessary, to die for the cause of the Unity entire of this government, and do not wish to live to see its overthrow ... "
"Jesse Taylor wrote '... I do feel that my life would be willingly given up for my country.' These men, prior to expressing these sentiments, had seen battle. These were not the words of idealistic dreamers, but the words of men who saw the death and destruction of war. They expressed grim determination to fight for their country."
"Although many Quakers Meetings opposed slavery, sentiments of patriotism rather than hatred of slavery were foremost in these soldiers’ thoughts as well as in their letters.”
Patriotism and Paradox: Quaker Military Service in the American Civil War by Mark A. Schmidt
"I think it is conceded that in proportion to their number they had more soldiers in the war for the Union than any other religious denomination." Willard Heiss, Quaker and historian, wrote that "many" Quakers served in the Civil War.
"Finally, letters written by Friends during the war also disclosed that many Quakers marched off to the battlefield. One Quaker, for example, wrote: "23 of our Springboro Boys going to start away ... for the Army."
"Another letter recorded that the southern rebellion had become so serious that "thousands" of Quaker boys all over America were going into the army."
...”the percentage of Friends in service [in the Civil War from Indiana] in the same age range lies between 21 and 27 percent.”
Imagine if in 1861, 21-27% of Quaker men had started buying and owning slaves!!
"Another Friend, Daniel Wooton, echoed a similar patriotic view for joining the military in several letters in which he carefully explained how a Quaker could take up arms in the rebellion.
He insisted that the cheapest way for the nation to obtain "justice" in the war was to hang every seceder
and stated that "God will also justify us in doing so."
"I would be serving my God."
See how accepting most humans are of killing--even many Friends, but not of enslaving?
Is not killing other humans even worse than enslaving them?
It seems that we Friends are too often like the frogs that are getting slowly boiled but not aware of it.
By the 1990’s many Friends rarely condemned specific wars supported by their own countries.
Allegedly, some Friends organizations such as the AFSC even excused lethal killing by oppressed people.
Check back to the Civil War again, “At Birmingham Meeting, the only mention made of members who violated Quaker peace testimony appeared muted...members falling asleep during meetings received equal attention."
"Baltimore Yearly Meeting expressed an understanding of the reasons for some of their member's enlistment “... it is not surprising that they should be carried away by the current of popular enthusiasm."
"Longwood Meeting went even further, "As a Yearly Meeting, we disclaim all disciplinary authority, whether over individual members or local associations." Although not an outright sanction, this proclamation did remove one potential obstacle to military service by young Quakers fired up with patriotism.”
As already mentioned, Quaker opposition to the Great War was even less. (Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find the statistic--but as I recall about 2/3 of Quakers supported the war).
Of course, what does one expect when some leaders and members of Quaker meetings in Indiana were also members of the KKK!
The 'world' had intruded into the Society of Friends, and twisted good ethics.
The "Ocean of Darkness" of which George Fox spoke, was alive and destroying even among devout Friends.
Yes, some Friends spoke of "peace," but it was in a similar sense to warring nations speaking of peace--that the other side ought to stop warring, not us.
All talk, no living.
And leaders supported its members killing for its country’s wars!
When our meeting in Southern California hired a fighter pilot as our leader, my wife and I left.
Many Friends, and quite a few Quaker meetings rarely condemn specific wars when they come.
Northwest Yearly Meeting who in the distant past strongly opposed war, and had a high percentage of conscientious objectors, now thinks killing is an individual's own choice!
Other forms of killing have also become acceptable, or even supported, in some Friends Meetings.
Some members in a different yearly meeting support euthanasia!
And think of how many modern Quakers now support abortion,
the intentional killing of infants in the womb!
Not only do many modern Quakers support abortion in tragic circumstances, many have bought into the modern lie—that a mother killing her infant is a woman’s right.:-(
The World is so twisting Quaker ethics, it’s probably not impossible that some Quakers will someday say that Quakers don’t have to view slavery as inherently evil.
Well, actually, some Quakers now already say they don't think there is objective ethical truth.
Instead Live for the Light,