Windham Life and Times – January 28, 2016

Christianity and War | William S. Harris


January 21, 1916. 100 YEARS AGO IN WINDHAM

“A clergyman of some prominence in the state, in an address, after defining Militarism as ‘that policy of government by which the nation trusts in force for the achievement of its ambitions in disregard of the claims of justice, humanity, and international morals,’ apparently indorses this policy by avowing: ‘There is only one way to meet the militarists that history records: that is with his own weapons on the field of battle.’ ”

“From other statements in the same strain, some of which I myself heard the preacher make, I think I do not misapprehend his position and I cannot refrain from recording a protest against such teaching by those called to interpret and apply the principles of religion and to be leaders of public opinion. It is their place to give us not only warning from the past, but inspiration from the future. Those who believe that humanity can and should ‘make progress upward and onward’ need to look ahead as well as back.”

“One hesitates to denounce war to the full extent of his convictions because so many excellent and esteemed men who fought in our Civil war seem to think arguments for peace are a personal reflection on them. Do they realize that the Civil war ended fifty years ago? If our people have made one-half the progress in the moral realm in these fifty years that they have made in material inventions and scientific knowledge, who will say that the causes which produced the Civil was could not now be adjusted without bloodshed?”

“The apologies for militarism appear to amount to something like this: so long as we have to deal with bad men, there is no use for any one to try to be good. The good need not try to make the bad better, but should descend to their level and overpower them with their own evil weapons.”

“We are told that the ‘national honor’ (whatever that that may be) can be vindicated only by giving blow for blow. The noble statements of President Wilson that ‘a nation can be too proud to fight,’ I heard ridiculed in a sermon by the same clergyman referred to. He should have lived a hundred years ago, when a high toned gentleman could not be too proud to fight his personal enemy or friend if differences involving ‘honor’ arose between them. The duel then must decide which was right, and one or the other must be killed to uphold somebody’s honor!”
“The civilized world has outgrown that barbarous foolishness. We even have laws to forbid individuals arming themselves and avenging their disputes. The time is surely ripe for nations to discard that primitive way of settling differences and to speedily find some way worthy of intelligent, not to say moral, beings. Is it not at least an ideal worth working for? Even though the advocates of force have only derision and the cry of ‘mollycoddle’ and ‘poltroon’ for those who believe the Christian world at least, after two thousand years, should be approximating the precepts of its Great Teacher.”

“The attempt is sometimes made to justify war in the present age by an appeal to the Old Testament. If this can be done, certainly other evils, such as human slavery and polygamy, can be so justified, institutions which the Christian consciousness of this age has utterly repudiated, but which never caused one half of the havoc and misery that war caused.”
Again, if the Old Testament had been sufficient for the world’s moral needs, why did Christ come and teach and exemplify a morality far in advance of that which the world had previously known? Christ recounted things which had been allowed ‘by them of old time,’ but, affirmed, ‘I say unto you’— something higher and better.”

“Christianity was not needed to teach men courage or patriotism. The Spartans, centuries before Christ, were as courageous and a s patriotic as any people ever have been or need to be. The ‘new commandment’ or Christianity is love, good-will, brotherhood. There is no place in the teachings, example, or spirit of Christ for the hatreds, selfish ambitions, and jealousies from which wars spring and which wars in turn aggravate. Christianity has made men more willing to suffer, to die if need be, in defense of truth and principle, but we can not believe that the spirit of Christ has ever made a man more inclined to kill or injure his fellow man.”
“We are told that our country’s only safety lies in having an army and navy sufficient to repel any nation that might wish to attack us; especially Germany or Japan, or both together. But why stop at two nations? Looking at history and human nature one can imagine Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Russia, Turkey, Spain, Japan, China, and a few more banding themselves together to despoil America! Why assume we can have the privilege of fighting them one or two at a time? If to meet force with force is are only hope, when are we safe? What amount of preparedness will avail?”

“No, our security is in obeying the command of God and of reason ‘ do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.’ If as Voltaire said, ‘God is always on the side of the heaviest battalions,’ away with such a God, the ally of cruelty and injustice! He is worse than useless in the evolution of humanity. Shame on so-called Christianity that has nothing better to offer as a principle of action than that might makes right, and force can only be overcome with force. The whole idea is far aside from the teachings of Christ. Even the Old Testament is full of the teaching that righteousness and not superior force is the surest defense of a nation as it is of an individual.”

     Will we resist the call of the modern war-mongers? We really need to get our own house in order before we arrogantly tell the rest of the world how to act. America now seems to muck up everything it touches. Eisenhower, a Republican, warned us about the evils of the “military industrial complex.” We didn’t listen. His successor died at the hands of the “deep state,” the enablers of the military industrial complex, who wanted wars in Cuba and Viet Nam. Politicians, industrialists and bankers win wars and the propaganda methods of Edward Bernays compels us to blindly do their will. “When the truth is found to be lies, And all the joy within you dies…”Jefferson Airplane. “War=Peace. We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.” 1984 Blah, blah, blah…

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