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The first sentence in Leo Tolstoy's book, "The Kingdom of God is Within You" (which was written after the publication of his book "What I Believe") says: "Among the first responses called forth by my book were some letters from American Quakers." He goes on to say that he was also contacted by the son of William Lloyd Garrison, the famous champion of the emancipation of slaves in America. Garrison, who was on friendly relations with the Quakers, promoted non-violence in a declaration which he wrote for a peace convention held in Boston in 1838. Tolstoy also pays respect to another American, Adin Ballou, who spent fifty years preaching the same doctrine of non-resistance during the Nineteenth Century.

Several points of great significance to us as Jesus Christians in the Twenty-first Century, come out of this chapter of Tolstoy's book.

The first observation is that there has been a curious progression in our own history which has brought together some different strands which originally seemed to be unrelated. We started with a simple goal: to rediscover the teachings of Jesus Christ. In particular, our emphasis was on what Jesus had to say about money, and about living by faith.

In 1984, we watched the movie "Gandhi" in Sydney, Australia, and were immediately struck by a feeling of oneness with the man and much that he stood for. Later that same year, we started our work in India.

Twelve years later, in 1996, while doing Easy English translations of great books by great authors, we were asked by our publisher in India to do something by Leo Tolstoy. That was when we learned that Tolstoy was one of the greatest influences on Gandhi, and it was also when we discovered Tolstoy's love for the teachings of Jesus. At that time we wrote "An Old New Member", a short article acknowledging our oneness with Tolstoy. We were excited to learn that this man had experienced, more than a hundred years previously, much that we were experiencing in the closing years of the Twentieth Century.

Another book which we had selected for the Easy English reading program was Uncle Tom's Cabin. This book made special reference to the Quakers of North America in the Nineteenth Century. In 1998, it led us to go looking for Quakers in Newcastle, Australia, where we were living at that time. We discovered a small group, and were excited to now have some present-day fellowship with people who shared so many beliefs in common with ourselves.

It has taken us until 2005 to discover that Tolstoy had something of the same experience when he discovered that the Quakers had been preaching for some 200 years, many of the doctrines which he had discovered painfully and independently himself.

That opening chapter of "The Kingdom of God is Within You" notes that there has been a thread throughout the history of the church joining various movements that have taught literal obedience to such teachings of Jesus as "turning the other cheek" and loving one's enemies.

But a second, though related, point made in that chapter is that the thread has been constantly and consciously buried by the religious establishment throughout history. Tolstoy marvelled that in all that had been written of Garrison, for example, he had never come across any reference to Garrison's campaigns for active non-violence, or pacifism.

Of Adin Ballou, Tolstoy says, "For fifty years Ballou wrote and published books dealing principally with the question of non-resistance to evil by force." He notes that on Ballou's death there was an obituary notice in an American Christian journal which stated that he delivered from eight to nine thousand sermons, and wrote about five hundred articles, "but there is not a single word said of the object to which he devoted his life; even the word 'non-resistance' is not mentioned."

This is much the same thought that we had when we first discovered Tolstoy's writings on the subject of Christianity. We had never even heard that he was a Christian, much less that he had had such important things to say about the teachings of Jesus on non-violence. In fact, his writings often had to be smuggled across borders in his native Russia during his own lifetime. Today they largely collect dust on seminary bookshelves.

And that brings us to our own efforts to get people to consider the teachings of Jesus today. In our book "Excommunicated" we talk of a conspiracy which existed at the turn of the century in Australia against the Jesus Christians. We have no doubt that things we have said have deep and significant implications for the whole of Christianity. What we have done and said has not been done or said in a corner. And yet to date there is only one religious publication ('On Being' magazine, in Victoria) which has ever made any effort to take a serious look at what we stand for as a community. Despite a flurry of media interest in our early days (often because of novel ways in which we sought to communicate our message), the ban is now almost airtight amongst the secular media as well. Over the years there has been a progression of independent writers who have submitted stories on us to various editors, only to see their stories killed.

As Tolstoy noted with regard to the Quakers, Garrison, and Ballou, and as we have noted with Tolstoy and ourselves, it has not been a case of people arguing strongly against any of us. It has, instead, been a case of deafening silence.

We have a painting which hangs in our home. It is quite large, about a metre square, and it is three dimensional. A sculpture made of a man who we came upon in India years ago, who had starved to death on the street, is in the foreground of the painting. Behind the beggar, however, is a huge cathedral, some office buildings, and a rubbish bin, overflowing with half eaten junk food. Over the years, many people have visited us and seen this painting. It hits them between the eyes when they enter the room. Yet (apart from people coming from Third World countries themselves) we could count on one hand the number of people who have ever commented on it. Most pretend that they have not even noticed it. Why? Because the message is too confrontational for them. It is deeply convicting to people who assume that big cathedrals, high-rise office buildings, and half-eaten junk food are quite innocent, and have no relation to the sufferings of the rest of the world.

So two of the points from Tolstoy's book are that there has been this thread of which we find ourselves a part, and that there has been a universal conspiracy of silence against it. The third point that came to me was that there have been some significant similarities between all of these movements, and also that there have been some important differences, which should be considered and addressed.

First the similarities. For Tolstoy, what was similar was the emphasis on peace. He goes on to mention Mennonites and others who settled largely in the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania, and notes that all of these people taught that the only way to really change the world and bring about world peace would be through non-violent resistance to war of any sort and under any circumstances.

When I was about eight years old, I arrived at much the same conclusion. I had been taught that the Christian way to stay out of trouble at school was not to hit back. It made such good sense that I asked my mother why Christians didn't take the same approach to war. She assured me that some do, and that she herself was a pacifist. "But," he said, "we should be thankful for people like your father, who go out and fight the wars for us." Even at eight years of age, I could see the hypocrisy of that approach!

Throughout my youth I regarded myself as a pacifist. I registered as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. But for some reason or other, I never thought to question the teaching of my church that being a conscientious objector was optional for Christians. By making it optional, my church (like almost all other denominations) essentially declared war to be right, good and normal, and they declared conscientious objectors to be somewhat odd, and out of step with the rest of the church. It was okay for me to hold such a belief, but only so long as I did not try to spread it amongst others in my congregation who supported war.

At any rate, when it came time to start my own community, in partnership with Cherry my wife, pacifism was so much a part of our understanding from the teachings of Jesus that we hardly even thought it necessary to mention the topic. We have always been able to assume naturally that anyone who believes in the teachings of Jesus must, of necessity, see the logic of non-violence. And this has been our experience with virtually everyone who has joined our community. A few exceptions had been steeped in the virtues of war from their childhood, but these people also came to see quite naturally the logic of our position without any great debates. Once they accepted the teachings of Jesus as the cornerstone for their faith, the rest following without a hitch.

The relationship between the teachings of Jesus and the philosophy of non-violence was indisputable with Tolstoy, Garrison, Ballou, and the early Quakers, as it is with us as Jesus Christians. However, Gandhi attempted to adapt it to his very liberal form of Hinduism, with great political success in India. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Lech Walesa followed on from Gandhi with political applications of the philosophy which did not dwell so heavily on the Christian source of it. Many modern-day Quakers also feel that the philosophy is not dependent on a faith in Jesus or, indeed, even in God.

Even amongst early Quakers there was an understanding of the universality of faith and the limitations of trying to separate believers from unbelievers on the basis of a formal creed. We as Jesus Christians share this belief. However, we feel that as the peace movement has moved farther away from the teachings of Jesus as their authority for what they espouse, its authenticity has become somewhat suspect.

Thousands of early Quakers were imprisoned for their faith, and it would be hard to find one who didn't feel that it was Christ himself who spoke to their condition and had led them to where they were.

In Garrison's declaration on peace he says, "We expect to prevail through the Foolishness of Preaching. We shall endeavor to promulgate our views among all persons, to whatever nation, sect, or grade of society they may belong. Hence we shall organize public lectures, circulate tracts and publications, form societes, and petition every governing body."

He continues, "We are not unmindful that in its prosecution we may be called to test our sincerity even as in a fiery ordeal. It may subject us to insult, outrage, suffering, yea, even death itself... Our confidence is in the Lord Almighty and not in man. Having withdrawn from human protection, what can sustain us but that faith which overcomes the world?"

Adin Ballou in his catechism on non-resistance, answers the question "So long as only a few act thus, what will happen to them?" He says, "If only one man acted thus, and all the rest agreed to crucify him, would it not be nobler for him to die in the glory of non-resisting love, praying for his enemies, than to live to wear the crown of Caesar stained with the blood of the slain? ... In dying for the truth they would have left behind them their doctrine, sanctified by the blood of their martyrdom... May overruling love be the imperishable heritage of every soul who obeys willingly Christ's word, 'Resist not evil.'"

It is our conviction, as Jesus Christians that the tendency to hide the importance of Jesus as the source of this doctrine is having a deleterious effect on the peace movement as a whole, and is leading to a counterfeit peace such as that predicted in the Bible, where people will say "Peace! Peace!" when they have no peace.

But we believe that there are other differences that need to be noted and seriously considered with regard to this thread that we are a part of.

We have been struck by the similarities in beliefs despite the fact that people like George Fox, Leo Tolstoy, and ourselves have each had to more or less start from scratch in digging out the truth of Christianity that has been buried under centuries of tradition and deception. But it is understandable that each of us would have differences, which may include imperfections as well as improvements. The task of working out which are which is a challenging one.

We have already suggested that the move away from Jesus and the authority of his teachings is a worrying one. And we would go so far as to say that the peace message itself should be seen as just one aspect of the overall message of Christ. Tolstoy admitted to having difficulty with the miracles of Jesus. He assumed that "educated" people would find it difficult, if not impossible, to believe in miracles. And we have seen this same assumption passed on in many of today's liberal Quakers.

Although it is difficult for us to relate to people who act as though life in the spirit is an endless series of supernatural events, the presence of one or two miraculous experiences at some stage in a person's life seems eminently reasonable to us as believers. We say this from experience, but we also say it from the perspective of people who cannot understand the logic in believing that an intelligence capable of creating the world and all that is in it, could not also perform creative miracles in exceptional circumstances for us today.

George Fox and his followers made assumptions with regard to the prophecies of Jesus about his return and about the kingdom of heaven. It seems that they assumed that they (i.e. the Quakers) were the promised kingdom. It may have even been as a result of this that one of Fox's assistants, James Naylor, felt led to ride into the city in a reenactment of Jesus riding into Jerusalem, an act for which he was tried and found guilty of blasphemy. It is quite understandable to us that both Fox and Naylor should have seriously entertained hopes that the movement which they spawned was a fulfillment of the promises Jesus gave about his return. But with hindsight, it is also reasonable to assume that they made a mistake.

We Jesus Christians believe that the prophecies are yet to be fulfilled, and that any movement, no matter how idealistic, will forever fall short of the perfect kingdom which only Jesus can establish when he returns.

Because we have tried to embrace ALL of the teachings of Jesus, we have come to the conclusion that what Jesus had to say about money was of equal (if not greater) importance to what he had to say about peace. And from these teachings, we have been led to make further observations about events happening in the world today that seem to be overwhelming evidence of fulfilled prophecies. In particular, we are talking about the evolution of money to the point where the new Verichip has become a literal fulfillment of the "mark of the beast" as described in the thirteenth chapter of the Revelation.

Much of what we (and Jesus) have said about money, and almost all that we (and Jesus) have said about prophecy seem to have been missing from earlier sections of the thread that has led down to us today. It would be fair enough for others to suggest that we are an aberration of the pure message that was delivered to George Fox and others, were it not for the fact that our teachings on money are every bit as solidly supported by scripture as are the fundamentals of the peace testimony. (There is much more room for disagreement about our understandings of prophecy, but the idea that it should feature in a complete understanding of what Jesus stood for is certainly irrefutable. And yet other peace advocates have almost ignored the topic entirely.)

So what have I been trying to say? I have been saying that we Jesus Christians are part of a movement which has persisted throughout the history of the church. That movement has been the true church inasmuch as it has sought to find and disseminate the truth of the teachings of Jesus, and it has consistently found its message fought and covered up by the institutional Church.

I have also been saying that this thread of truth and revelation has not remained static, that more truth has been revealed at the same time that there have been heresies that have crept in, which have threatened to distort or counterfeit the earlier truth. In particular, I have claimed that emphasis on living by faith and taking more literally the things that Jesus said about money and about the future, will lead us back to the message that alone can give us answers in these final days of the history of this planet.

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