Integrity Part II
“Let your lives speak.” Early Friends’ words had power not because they were better educated or more articulate than their contemporaries. Their words had power because they had integrity. Will I offend Friends by suggesting that our words lack the same power because our lives do not reflect the same intense commitment to living as citizens of the kingdom of heaven? Modern Friends talk a great deal about the peace testimony and relatively little about the testimony of integrity. Many Friends clearly enjoy talking about the peace testimony but the way it is discussed speaks volumes to me about how the original Quaker vision has been obscured. Talk about the peace testimony is often unQuakerly in two important respects. First, it often drifts into complaints about the violent words and actions of other people. Second, it tends towards intellectualism and abstract principles. Traditional Quakerism would oppose both tendencies. In traditional Quakerism I would focus 99% of my energy, prayer and attention on the beam in my own eye and speak truth to power to George Bush and company the other 1%. Second, Quakerism is an experiential religion not an intellectual one. We don’t come to understand the peace testimony or any other testimony by thinking about it. Living it takes precedence over understanding it. As you live it you come to understand it more and more. To intellectualize the peace testimony is to fall in love with “notions.”
This is why there should be much more attention paid to integrity than to peace. The challenges we face in our daily lives to live with perfect and complete integrity are much more numerous and powerful than similar challenges to live the peace testimony. Exaggeration and distortion are standard operating procedures in the modern world of business and the professions and those of us who work in that world are constantly under pressure to conform to that standard. Here are daily opportunities to experience the testimony of integrity. In living that testimony we will experience in thousands of tiny ways the pain of the cross and the glory of the crown. And the more faithfully we live it the more “peculiar” we will seem to our worldly neighbors. But if we are relatively inconsistent about this, as I am, it doesn’t make much of a statement. If we are content to be a little more truthful than the average guy we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back for this. To make a statement with our lives our commitment to integrity must be extreme. To recover the fire and excitement of Quakerism we need to imagine what it would be like to live this testimony 100% of the time. This would make a far bigger statement than coming to work dressed like the guy on the Quaker Oats box.