Chapter 23 » 23.102

Friends and state authority

Crime and punishment

We believe in overcoming evil with good. We must speak and act from our own inner light to the inner light in all others as Jesus did. He showed and taught love, respect and concern for all, particularly those rejected by others, reaching out to the good in them.

Causing deliberate hurt to another person because that suffering is thought to be of benefit in itself, we believe is not a Christian response. Punishment in this sense not only harms the punished but also degrades those who inflict it, and is a barrier to the working of God’s love within us.

Whether it be in the family, the school, the workplace or the wider community the intentional use of pain and suffering cannot be the best way to resolve differences, or gain the cooperation of people or restrain those who harm themselves or others.

To do away with punishment is not to abandon safety and control or to move towards disintegration, disorder and lawlessness. A non-punitive approach will not remove the need in some circumstances for restraint or secure containment, but it does mean that restraint and containment should be carried out in a life-enhancing spirit of love and care.

Nor in general does this loving approach have lesser expectations or demand less responsibility than does the infliction and acceptance of punishment. In personal relationships and in the broader context of community and international affairs a positive response to aberrant or destructive behaviour through reconciliation, restitution and reparation may take longer but it will be more likely to encourage the good in all parties, restore those who are damaged, reduce resentment and bitterness, and enable all those involved to move towards fuller integration.

Six Quakers, 1979

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