This is part of a series called “answers for a small-f friend.” These articles are deliberately simple, informal, and under 200 words…the kinds of answers that I might give casually over a cup of lemonade.
If you’re wanting to go deeper, I recommend Faith and Practice (any yearly meeting’s version) or Quaker Process for Friends on the Benches by Mathilda Navias. If you’re a video person more than a text person, try the QuakerSpeak series, available online.
Do you have a question I should add? Let me know in the comments.
What’s the Quaker position on civil disobedience and other forms of resistance to injustice?
Friends have a history of civil disobedience. From our beginnings, many Friends have believed that eternal principles outweigh laws when they conflict. Sometimes Friends go to jail or pay fines for civil disobedience. Some Quaker groups have systems in place to help cover court costs, etc., when a Friend is under legal threat for following their conscience.
I’m not sure whether there was ever a time when the majority of Quakers were actively practicing civil disobedience, but that’s not the case now. Most of us support it as a theory but comparatively few are doing it. Is that because we’re not being called to practice it or because we’re choosing not to follow that call? I don’t know the answer to that question.
Some Friends have wondered exactly how our peace testimony works here. Does non-violent protest allow for property destruction, for example? I’ve met Friends who say yes and others who say absolutely not.
We also don’t have unity about what is acceptable protest for other people. Would we support movements that include some people practicing violent protest? My personal feeling is no, but not all Friends agree. Questioning the form of protest of oppressed people gets complicated.