“All Things Have Their Beginnings”
The Quaker peace testimony, like violence itself, is complex, encompassing many dualisms, such as its extreme individualism while asserting one Truth, the importance of motive as well as behavior, and the tension between private belief and public duties for magistrates (a tension resolved in favor of public duties). It is best described as a pacifist continuum, a line along which both belief and behavior fall, allowing for different parameters and even deep shifts in meaning over time. Thus, while the early Quaker peace testimony focused upon the purity of one's own soul, later Quakers expressed more concern for the victims of violence and for earthly justice. With this shift, the consequences of nonviolent behavior became more important, and spiritually based pacifism came to resemble secular pacifism, more strategic in nature. Quakers did not assume that aggression was necessarily dominant in human nature; rather, they believed that the transforming power of love itself might prevail over the evil within, one person at a time.
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