‘This Is Our Testimony to the Whole World’: Quaker Peace Work and Religious Experience

Religions 13 (7):623 (2022)
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Abstract

Quakers express their faith by refraining from war, often actively opposing it. In modern Quakerism, this is known as the ‘Peace Testimony’. This commonly has a negative and positive construal: it is seen as a testimony against war, and as a testimony to the possibility and goodness of peaceful lives. This paper offers an account of how these aspects of the Peace Testimony are unified in and grounded on a corporate experience of being led by God into a way of life that renders war unthinkable. My goal is to make sense of Friends’ activism in light of their religious experience and to introduce some ideas from Quaker practical theology to philosophers and theologians more generally. I begin by considering the role of what Rachel Muers calls ‘negative testimony’ in Quaker peace work, arguing that we risk misunderstanding this work if we do not see the unity of the Peace Testimony’s negativity and Friends’ positive peace-making endeavors. I then turn to the Testimony’s ground, which I claim can be nothing other than an experience of direct revelation. I conclude by arguing that prominent objections to pacifism, such as Elizabeth Anscombe’s, hold little weight against the Peace Testimony.

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Matt Rosen
Oxford University

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