Integrity is another quality that Quakers are universally known for; in particular their refusal to swear to an oath. Of course this is rooted in their total respect for truthfulness. Truth, always spelled with a capital T is a very special word in their vocabulary. The essence of Quakerism is in the demand for complete integrity of the individual in relation to God, and other people, and to one’s self.
Early Friends realized that an important part of the message of Jesus was how we treat our fellow human beings. They felt that honest dealing with others meant more than just not telling lies. Friends feel that it is important not to mislead others, even if the words used are all technically truthful.
One of the results of truthfulness is that Friends believe that the price set should not exceed the value and that they should then stick to it rather than bargaining.
Early Friends refused to swear oaths, even in courtrooms, on the theory that one must speak truth at all times, and the act of swearing to it implied otherwise. Instead, Friends giving testimony in court, or being sworn into governmental office, “affirm” that they are going to tell the truth; the U.S. Constitution guarantees this option for anyone sworn into office in the United States. Not taking oaths was severely tested this is when Friends refused to take oaths in courts; doing that meant to them that they were implying a double standard. This belief is also deeply routed in scripture. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. It is difficult now to appreciate the price early Friends paid in order to maintain this testimony of integrity. Many suffered in imprisonment for refusing to take oaths.
One part of integrity that is little more nuanced is that they distinguished themselves from other Christians, and criticized the way other Christians quickly adopted what was fashionable, while ignoring the hard teachings of the gospel. Jesus, in the Gospels, often “demands” many things. Many Christians have reduced those demands to suggestions. They rationalize away the demands in the cloak of salvation doctrine. Quakers do not distinguish a difference between salvation and justification. They believe that the two are actually one thing.
Next time we will look at the ideas of Silence, personal revelation and worship practices. These beliefs are probably what makes Quakers most unique among Christians.