Tonight at dinner, my children and I were discussing the history of pacifism among Friends. My daughter worried about the draft and said she would like to move to England or to Canada. My older son said he wants to stay here in Upstate NY and my baby said he wants to move to New York City when he is big.
The idea of war frightened all of them. My daughter is indignant when she speaks of war. She feels that the draft is just another form of slavery.
In the course of that conversation, we turned to the subject of belief in Christ. My daughter wanted to know if Friends had to believe in Jesus. I told her that many Friends do not believe that Jesus was a specially divine being, but that most Friends do and that we recognize that Jesus has been the source of Friends' understanding of the Light that is in all people. I also said that I feel that although many Friends, including us, are not Christian, we also believe that surely anything that conflicts with the love shown by Jesus is not of the Light and not something that Friends believe.
I told her that Friends believe that all people have a Seed or a Measure of that of God in them and that like any Seed, it only grows if we allow it to be warmed by the Light. I said that some people allow their seed to shrivel while others open themselves to the Light and grow and grow in that Light. I said that many Friends believe that Jesus was one who was very open to the Light and that the Light shone brightly in him. He is an example of one who shows us how to be open to that Light which existed before him, surely showed itself through him during his life, and is with us to this day.
My daughter said that this made more sense to her. She said she had thought that Christians only believed in Jesus because they were afraid God would be angry if they did not believe. She had felt this was foolish, but she said it made much more sense to her to think that Christians love Jesus as an example of one who was full of Light and Love. I said that we can think of him as an older brother and that we can look to him as an example of how to be loving in the world.
We talked about how young he was when he died and that many other people before and after him also were killed by angry and frightened people because they were true to their principles and because they defended the dignity of those who were less powerful in the world. My daughter asked me if by standing up for women, minorities, and the environment she might be killed too. At first, I was quietly frightened by her question, but I told her that I did not think so. I told her that I have stood for those things all my life and her grandparents before her have too. "We are stronger if we stand together than if we stand alone," I told her. But I do not know. I told her that she must learn to listen to the Spirit and answer her calling.
I'm glad we had that conversation. My girl, as is typical of her, was more talkative and inquisitive than her brothers, but my boys were listening. My older son was saddened by Jesus' early death and my littlest told me solemnly that he would be a Quaker even when he moved to New York City. These children are my friends as well as my offspring. They are my companions. They know my fear for them, but they also know that I believe in their goodness and kindness. I pray that we stand together. I pray that we stand strong in our convictions. I pray that we have courage to live up to the full Measure of the Light Within. My children must live in difficult times. Let them be wise. Let them be strong. Let them walk in the Light.