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Feather of Peace
23 September 2014
We have learned a lot about the world through our “story time.” The book we just finished is a good example of this: The Arrow Over the Door by award-winning Native-American (Abenaki) author Joseph Bruchac.
Mr. Bruchac uses the literary form of historical fiction to tell the true story of an encounter between Abenaki Indians and Anglo Quakers during the beginning of the Revolutionary War. In setting the stage for the main event in the book, the author gives some background information about the Quakers, or Friends as they would call themselves:
Father and the others in the Saratoga Meeting [Quaker congregation] had no locks on their door. And no Friend would have a gun, a weapon that might injure other human beings. Even when they went to work in their fields, many of the other people carried guns with them now. But no weapons were ever carried to the fields by Friends.With these words to set the stage, let me now share with you the true story of what happened in Easton. Mr. Bruchac used this account as the foundation for his story, taking the facts and expanding upon them for his historical fiction The Arrow Over the Door book.
Almost everyone else had guns in their houses. Some farmsteads were now like small fortresses, their thick wooden doors banded with metal and double-barred.
“Father,” said Samuel. “Yes, Samuel?” he asked. “What shall we do when the war comes here?”
Father replied, “We shall do what we always do. We shall treat all with love and trust in the Truth of God, which never changes. Fighting is not our way. Love your enemies. You must understand this. To be a Friend is to be a friend to peace.”
As they walked out of the house, Samuel was the last to leave. He pulled the door of their cabin closed, so that the latch caught and the wind would not blow it open. There was no lock on the door, no bar to hold it shut when they were within. But in the settlement, whenever someone left a house or a shop, he would always secure it. The shopkeeper would pull a ring of keys and lock that door tightly so that no one could enter unbidden.
“Father,” Samuel said now, “why do we have no lock on our door?”
“We have no need to keep anyone out,” Father said. “If someone weary from travel should come to our door when we are not home, they can come in and take their rest.”
“And what if that person wishes to steal from us?” Samuel asked stubbornly.
Father smiled. “A locked door will not keep out a man who is determined to steal from you. He will simply break that door and come in to take what he wishes to take. Then your door is lost, and so is whatever has been stolen. But an open door may lead a man to open his heart. A great lock on a door tells a thief of the fear that what is within will be stolen. But a door without a lock tells the man who wishes to enter that nothing will be kept from him.”
These Quakers not only talked the talk, but they walked the walk. They knew from the New Testament that there is no defense for Christian self-defense, and that followers of Yeshua are not to dispatch unbelievers to Hell. Therefore, they refused to own weapons, lest in the heat of passion they use that weapon on a fellow human being.
Feather of PeaceSetting: The time was 1777; just a year after the Declaration of Independence had been signed. The thirteen American colonies were fighting to win their freedom from powerful England.
For the settlers in Saratoga County, in the valley of the Hudson River north of Albany, New York, it was a scary time. Both armies were camped not far away, and both of them were sending scouting parties through the valley nearly every day. Scouting parties were small groups of soldiers and guides. Besides trying to find out what the other army was up to, each scouting party was looking for food for the armies. They just took whatever they could find, including grain, cows, sheep, and pigs.
Most scary for the settlers was the fact that Indians were often used in the scouting parties because they knew the countryside so well. Most of the area was not settled yet and was pretty wild. The Indians were angry at the settlers for spoiling their hunting and for pushing them back from land they had always used. There were many stories of their torturing and killing settlers — and sometimes scalping them. And they spoke a different language, so it was hard to talk to them.
It got so dangerous for the settlers that the American government finally said it could not protect them and they should all leave and go back east where it was safer. In July that year, a whole family in that valley, the Allens, had been killed at their dinner table.
Most families did leave, but several Quaker families decided to stay. They had always gotten along well with the Indians, and they hated to leave their new farms. They had built a log meetinghouse just the year before, at what would later be called Easton.
So they watched all their neighbors load up what they could carry. Some had wagons. Some went on horseback. Some had sledges, dragged along the ground. Many more just fled on foot. Most of their possessions had to be left behind.
By September, only the Quaker families were left: the families of Zebulon Hoxsie and his brother-in-law, Rufus Hall, who had started their Meeting [Quaker congregation, here and throughout the story] four years before, and a few other families who had come to join them. The nearest Quaker Meeting was another new Meeting nearly fifty miles away at East Hoosack, Massachusetts.
In the East Hoosack Meeting was a young man named Robert Nisbet, who had come to America from Scotland eleven years before. After some time in Boston and Nova Scotia, he had come to East Hoosack, where he became a Friend [Quaker, here and throughout the story] and later, traveling minister. He was outspoken against slavery and consistently refused to wear anything made by slaves. He could speak both English and French.
One morning that September, Robert Nisbet woke up at 4:00 and felt a strong urge to visit the Easton Meeting for their mid-week worship. It meant walking through the wilderness alone for two whole days, but he started right out, and he got there in time. He sat next to Zebulon Hoxsie on the facing bench, and the meeting settled into silence.
After a long, deep silence, Robert Nisbet stood up and gave a strange message. He said. “You did well, Friends, to stay on valiantly in your homes when all your neighbors have fled. The report of your courage and faith has reached us in East Hoosack, and God has charged me to come on foot through the wilderness all these miles to meet with you today, and to bear to you these two messages:
“The Beloved of God shall dwell in safety, and He shall cover you with his feathers all the day long.While the grown-ups were pondering these strange words, a little boy in the front row saw a head appear at a window, then another, and another. They were Indians! The boy raised his arm to point at them, but his mother put down his arm, continuing her silent worship.
“You shall not be afraid for the terror by night nor for the arrow that flieth by day.” [See Psalm 91]
By this time, other worshipers had become aware of the visitors, but the silent worship continued. Robert Nisbet looked up and saw them and felt called to go out to talk to them. He rose quietly and walked down the aisle and out the open door.
Outside, he found a small group of Indians with a frightened young prisoner. The Indians were in full war paint and carried weapons. One had a dried-up scalp hanging from his belt.
“Any weapons inside?” asked the leader in French.
“No, no weapons,” answered Robert Nisbet promptly, speaking in French also. “We are worshiping the Great Spirit. Will you join us?”
Wary and suspicious, the leader moved to the door to see for himself and took a few steps inside. For what seemed like hours, he stood there, straight and still as a statue, his piercing eyes looking carefully at each man. But of course, the Friends were totally unarmed — no guns, no swords, no knives.
During this time, most heads remained bowed in worship, but Zebulon Hoxsie, on the facing bench, was smiling a loving welcome. Finally, satisfied that there were no weapons, the Indian leader gave Zebulon Hoxsie a long, angry, scowling look, then slowly dropped his eyes. Love had won. Motioning to the others to follow him, he put his weapons against the wall, walked quietly to the center of the room and sat down on the floor. The others did likewise.
The silence continued and deepened as the sunlight reamed through the open windows and Indians and Friends worshiped together in the little log room.
When the hour ended, Zebulon Hoxsie walked to the Indian leader and shook hands warmly with him. Though he could not speak French, he had no trouble using signs to invite the visitors to his home. An earlier raiding party had taken most of his supplies, but he had been able to hide a round of cheese, and his wife had baked bread the day before. So he placed bread and cheese on the table and motioned to his guests to eat. They did so with obvious pleasure and thanked him with nods and smiles. The records say that they let their prisoner eat too but do not make it clear whether they released him.
When they had finished, the leader said in broken English that they had come to kill. But when they found people worshiping the Great Spirit, with no guns or knives, the Great Spirit had told him not to kill these people.
Then he took out a white feather. Solemnly, he walked back to the meetinghouse and fastened the feather above the door.
“Safe, all.” he said, with a wide sweep of his hand to include all those present. “Indians and you — friends.”
And then the little band took their leave and were soon lost to sight in the forest.
Today, a white frame meetinghouse stands near where the the log one stood in 1777. The gravestones in the little cemetery under the trees show that Friends have been worshiping in Easton Meeting for more than 200 years since that bright September day. And there is still a white feather above the door.
Because of their deep convictions and their long-held stance of non-violence, they didn’t get caught up in the revolutionary-fever rebellion of their day. While both Americans and British would worship at church on Sunday, and then kill each other during the week, the Quakers chose to follow Yeshua instead of following self and Satan. When the pressure came, they continued to follow the teaching of the New Testament.
It is amazing how the Indians understood where the Quakers were coming from, just because the Quakers refused to carry weapons. If they had had weapons at their meeting, there would have been a huge massacre, with many Anglos and Indians dying. It is sad that so few “Christians” in their day took the teaching of the New Testament seriously, which made the Quakers stand out as a unique people. Those who took the path of violence, even in “self-defense” brought shame and disgrace upon Yeshua, and totally ruined their testimony of Him.
Unfortunately, many in our day who claim to be Christian are following the same evil path. They are much more concerned about their own agenda than God’s agenda — which casts doubt upon their claim. They believe that self-defense is a God-given right, and that only suicidal idiots would not exercise that right.
Look at the first part of the word “self-defense” — SELF. That single word ought to make it obvious that such “Christians” are on the WRONG path! The New Testament NEVER teaches that we are to defend self. On the contrary, it teaches that we are to deny self. We are to pick up our cross, which means suffering, death to self and self-interest, and perhaps even physical death. We are to follow the example of Yeshua, who lived a life of suffering and died a martyr’s death so that others might find eternal life.
People will reply that they are not defending themselves, but their families, friends, property, business, town, nation, etc. All these things are SELF-interests. SELF is still at the root of it all. If we were to lose our family, friends, property, nation, or whatever we hold dear, then we would suffer. We don’t want to suffer, so we will violently defend our SELF-interests. The New Testament NEVER teaches that we are to defend our self-interests. We are to DENY self, DENY self-interests, and embrace suffering, death to self and self-interests, and perhaps even physical death.
If “Christians” are following self, as in “self-defense” and “protecting self-interests” (family, possessions, town, nation), then they are NOT following Yeshua. You can't do both at the same time. Either you are following Yeshua, or you are following self. If you want to follow Yeshua, you have to deny yourself. If you follow self, you are denying Yeshua. Those are the only two choices!
In my next article, we will explore these issues in more depth by examining God’s agenda vs. our agenda.
This article is 51st a series of articles on this Web site related to Modern Christianity and the Church which also includes (scroll to see the entire list):
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