SOA Watch

On November 16, 1989, six Jesuit priests, their co-worker and her teenage daughter were massacred in El Salvador. A U.S. Congressional Task Force reported that those responsible were trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA) at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

In 1990 SOA Watch began in a tiny apartment outside the main gate of Ft. Benning. While starting with a small group, SOA Watch quickly drew upon the knowledge and experience of many in the U.S. who had worked with the people of Latin America in the 1970’s and 80’s.

Source: About SOA Watch

New England Non-Resistance Society (1838)

We believe that the penal code of the old covenant, AN EYE FOR AN EYE AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH, has been abrogated by JESUS CHRIST; and that, under the new covenant, the forgiveness instead of the punishment of enemies has been enjoined upon all his disciples, in all cases whatsoever. To extort money from enemies, or set them upon a pillory, or cast them into prison, or hang them upon a gallows, is obviously not to forgive, but to take retribution. VENGEANCE IS MINE—I WILL REPAY, SAITH THE LORD.

The history of mankind is crowded with evidences proving that physical coercion is not adapted to moral regeneration; that the sinful dispositions of men can be subdued only by love; that evil can be exterminated from the earth only by goodness; that it is not safe to rely upon an arm of flesh, upon man whose breath is in his nostrils, to preserve us from harm; that there is great security in being gentle, harmless, long-suffering, and abundant in mercy; that it is only the meek who shall inherit the earth, for the violent who resort to the sword are destined to perish with the sword. Hence, as a measure of sound policy—of safety to property, life, and liberty—of public quietude and private enjoyment-as well as on the ground of allegiance to HIM who is KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS, we cordially adopt the non-resistance principle; being confident that it provides for all possible consequences, will ensure all things needful to us, is armed with omnipotent power, and must ultimately triumph over every assailing force.

Source: New England Non-Resistance Society Declaration of Sentiments, Written by William Lloyd Garrison, September 18-20, 1838. Harmless as Doves Ministries.

Charles Spear (1830)

Spear began himself to write critically of capital punishment in 1830. He and his brother John urged passage of resolutions against capital punishment at the Universalist General Conventions in 1835 and 1836. In 1839 they both were founding members of the New England Non-Resistance Society, an organization led by William Lloyd Garrison and Adin Ballou which renounced violence and all worldly government. In 1841-42 Charles and John Spear organized both the first and second Universalist Anti-Slavery Conventions in Lynn, Massachusetts.

In 1845 Charles Spear was appointed General Agent of the newly founded Massachusetts Society for the Abolition of Capital Punishment. In his Essays on the Punishment of Death, published the previous year, Spear articulated the arguments still used by opponents of capital punishment. He argued that because human life is sacred and capital punishment irremediable, execution is a blasphemous appropriation of divine power. He said a spirit of revenge is unworthy. He considered the horrifying and brutalizing effects upon everyone concerned with an execution—the prisoner, the prisoner’s family, and the spectators….

He had earlier said, “I want our prisons to be more like hospitals.” Early in 1845 Spear began to edit and publish the Hangman, soon retitled The Prisoner’s Friend, a journal devoted to transformation of the purpose of prisons from punishment to rehabilitation….

Source: Charles Spear, Unitarian Universalist Historical Society (UUHS)

American Peace Society (1828)

The American Peace Society, based in Boston, Massachusetts, was formed in May 1828 as a result of a merger suggested by William Ladd between the peace societies of Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The records of the American Peace Society, housed at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, consist of meeting minutes, branch material, correspondence, reports, articles, periodicals, pamphlets, scrapbooks, memorabilia, photographs, and personal material from Benjamin Trueblood and his daughter, Lyra Wolkins.

Source: “American Peace Society: Contribution of Benjamin Franklin Trueblood.” This page written by Anne Yoder, Archivist. Last updated August 1998.

Noah Worcester a.k.a. Philo Pacificus (1814)

The Christian Disciple, a monthly journal, had been established by the Revs. William Ellery Channing, Charles Lowell, Samuel Cooper Thacher, and Joseph Tuckerman. In May, 1813, Worcester became its editor. The letter inviting him to Boston to take up this position cited the union of his “talent in writing, skill in reasoning, with Christian gentleness and a catholic largeness of spirit.”

Residence in Boston led to observations and reflections on “the baneful influence of the war spirit, . . . the barbarity of war and its demoralizing influence.” In December, 1814, he published A Solemn Review of the Custom of War, an incisive indictment of “the basest passions of human nature” that lead to armed conflict. The treatise was read widely in the U.S. and England and was translated into several languages in Europe. Worcester founded the Massachusetts Peace Society, its first meeting being in his home. In 1815 he established The Friend of Peace, a quarterly journal of the Society, which he edited and largely wrote until 1828.

Source: “Noah Worcester.” Article by Dennis Davidson. Unitarian Universalist Historical Society (UUHS). Unitarian Universalist Association (archive site).

See Worcester on Napoleon

And Jefferson’s Reply to “Philo Pacificus”

David Low Dodge (1809)

It was in 1805 that a startling personal experience prompted the train of thought which soon and forever made David L. Dodge the advocate of the thoroughgoing peace principles with which his name is chiefly identified, and led him to condemn all violence, even in self-defense, in dealings between men, as between nations. Accustomed to carry pistols when traveling with large sums of money, he was almost led to shoot his landlord in a tavern at Providence, Rhode Island, who by some blunder had come into his room at night and suddenly awakened him. The thought of what his situation and feelings would have been, had he taken the man’s life, shocked him into most searching thinking. For two or three years his mind dwelt on the question. He turned to the teaching and example of Christ, and became persuaded that these were inconsistent with violence, the carrying of deadly weapons, and war. The common churchman sanctioned such things, but not the early Christians; and he found strong words condemning war in Luther, Erasmus, the Moravians, and the Quakers. Discussing the matter with many pious and Christian men, he found them generally avoiding the gospel standard. He was shocked by the “general want of faith in the promises,” but he himself laid aside at once his pistols and the fear of robbers. He became absolutely convinced that fighting and warfare were “unlawful for the followers of Christ,” and from then on he began to bear public testimony against the war spirit.

Early in the spring of 1809 he published his essay, The Mediator’s Kingdom not of this World, which attracted so much attention that in two weeks nearly a thousand copies were sold. . . .

Source: WAR INCONSISTENT WITH THE RELIGION OF JESUS CHRIST BY DAVID LOW DODGE. With an Introduction by EDWIN D. MEAD. Transcribed by Tom Lock, Feb. 2007.

Mother Ann Lee (1774)

The Shakers are one of the few success stories resulting from the proliferation of communitarian and millenarian groups in eighteenth and nineteeenth century Europe and America. They splintered from a Quaker community in Manchester, England (Gidley and Bowles 1990). James Wardley, its preacher, had absorbed the teachings of the millenial French Prophets and his community began to evolve around 1746 (Melton 1992). The members were known as the Shaking Quakers and were viewed as radical for their communion with the spirits of the dead and impassioned shaking that would occur at their services (Horgan, 1982; Robinson 1975). As radicals, all the members were harrassed, including a young married woman named Ann Lee. Fervent from a young age, Ann had a revelation during a long imprisonment that she was the Second Coming of Christ, the vital female component of God the Father-Mother (Bainbridge 1997; Gidley and Bowles 1990; Horgan 1982; Robinson 1975).

The vision had a great impact on the congregation and “Mother” Ann became the official leader of the group in 1772. With a distinctly new version of the Second Coming and other beliefs contradictory to mainstream Christian ideology, it was at this juncture that the Shaking Quakers became known as the Shakers (Gidley and Bowles 1990). These radical views increased the Shakers’ persecution and a small group composed of her brother, niece, husband and five others followed Mother Ann’s vision of a holy sanctuary in the New World to New York in May,1774 (Bainbridge 1997; Horgan 1982; Robinson 1975). They struggled for five years to survive, gaining few converts, on a communal farm in Watervliet, NY (Bainbridge 1997; Robinson 1975). During this period they faced great persecution for being both English and pacifistic in the middle of the Revolutionary War (Horgan 1982).

The turning point was a wave of religious revivalism called the New Light Stir that swept across New England between 1776 and 1783 (Gidley and Bowles 1990), bringing in new converts from other millenial groups and allowing the Shakers to safely proselytize. . . .

Source: “Group Profile.” The Shakers. Created by Dominica Harlan For Soc 257: New Religious Movements, Spring Term, 1998, University of Virginia. Last modified: 07/24/01