One day in June I was walking down a forest path. The sun was high in the sky, about noonish I suppose, and I had taken to pondering the mysteries of the universe. The world seemed so peaceful here, so tranquil and serene. The more I thought about the serenity of my surroundings, the more strange it seemed. Such a contrast of the world in which I live, I had never seen. Had God blessed this place, or had he merely damned the rest of the world, I wondered. Perhaps this is heaven.
As you may have guessed I am a Christian, a Quaker to be precise. I am bound to non-violence by my faith, but more so because of my own moral compass.
I was not born into Quakerism or these non-violent beliefs; rather they were the ironic consequences of my own violent tendencies.
You see, I was a bit of a hell-raiser as a child, and I got into all sorts of trouble.
The types of misbehavior I exhibited were rather unusual for a child of my age, I got into fights, stole petty cash, destroyed things merely because they were there, and all sorts of other mischief. My mother saw what I was becoming, a bully and a thug, and decided to put a stop to it. Rather then put me in timeout or hit me, as was the normal response for juvenile misbehavior, she taught me the intrinsic value of human life and the way of Christianity.
She wasn't a Quaker though. She along with me was an Episcopalian. Every Sunday we would sit on the wooden benches in the back of the Grace Episcopal and listen to the preacher blather on about how we were going to hell or some such nonsense. I never paid much attention. I was much more interested in the stained glass art around me, and the massive archway in which I sat. Still, regardless of my inattention to the service, my mother felt the church did instill some of its better values into me, and diverted my course into criminality.
Being in the church relaxed both my mother and I, and gave us something greater then ourselves to believe in. I believed in the Minster and everything that he said, even if I didn't listen to it. Unfortunately this was not to last.
Our foray into the Episcopal Church came to an abrupt halt in the beginning of the Gulf War, when the church we were attending decided to support the war effort. I remember the Minster saying distinctly "God is on our side and he shall lead us to victory."ÃÂ A greater hypocrisy I have never heard uttered, the thought that god would condone the slaughtering of his children disgusted both my mother and I, and from that day forward we did not attend the Episcopalian service.
After wandering from church to church for a while, we found Haddonfield Meeting. The Quakers, or Society of Friends as they call themselves, welcomed us with open arms. They agreed that we did the right thing by leaving the Episcopalian church because they supported the war, but did not condemn those who stayed. They greeted everyone who came with open arms and a smile, and did not judge them on their previous history. After a week, we decided to stay. Their values were the same as ours and we felt at home.
Through the years I learnt Quakerism and I adopted Quaker values of pacifism and understanding. Although they taught me well enough, I am far from the ideal Quaker. I still get angry regularly, I get into fits of rage in which I break stuff, and I am constantly fighting with my brothers and sister. Aside from that I also play violent video games, in which the objective is to commit mass genocide, which according to my Mentor, is acceptable as long as I don't carry them out. "Pixels not people!"ÃÂ he says all the bloody time.
Yet even as bad a Quaker as I am, I experience religious frustration regularly. I am constantly torn between my testimonies, my values, and the practicality of the situation.
Take the attacks on the World Trade Center for instance. I want with all of my heart to find a passive solution to the September 11th's events, but my striving comes to dead ends. I find myself wanting the Taliban if responsible, to be stopped in order to stop further attacks on other innocent civilians, but cannot conceive an effective peaceful solution to their violent attack.
What is even more so disturbing to me is that these people who carry out these attacks, those who fight and kill, claim to be people of God.
This I never understood. Somehow people got the crazy idea that God wanted them to kill their brothers and rape their sisters. Why this is I don't think I will ever will come to understand.
God, as I understand him, not only didn't want his children to kill each other, he specifically made a commandment against it. What the confusion on the issue is, is another thing I doubt I will ever understand as well. A four-word sentence, all one-syllable words, written on a stone tablet handed to Moses. How much clearer can an omniscient deity get? Many people I speak to on this issue say that the bible is translated from a Roman scripture, and that the commandment "Thou Shall not kill"ÃÂ actually reads, "Thou Shall not Murder"ÃÂ, condemning individual attacks rather then holy wars of an epic scale.
However, the commandments were originally transcribed from the tablets Moses brought down, and could have read, "Thou Shall not Kill"ÃÂ which was translated into "Thou Shall not Murder"ÃÂ.
Of course this is all speculation, but regardless of the actual translation of the tablet, it does not change my values. Violence against another is unholy and wrong, regardless of what religion you claim to be. No one has the right to take another's life, or so I believe.
It is said in the Islamic Religion that those who die spreading the word of Mohammed are granted eternal paradise, but both Allah and Mohammed could not have meant to kill those who did not agree with their philosophy.
Right now I feel overwhelmed by my everyday life combined with trying to cope with our counties hardship, as well as some of my friends as a result of the violent events of September. I am constantly Searching for a position to take to this mess, we as people have created. I wish that perhaps in the future people will come to realize that life is precious and violence against other is inherently wrong. Perhaps then the world be more peaceful, more serene, and not such a contrast to that warm summers day I spent walking through forest.