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SMAD. An Organ of Student Opinion. 1935. Volume 6. Number 17.

Christianity and War

page 3

Christianity and War.

Dear "Smad."-

The issue of participation or non-participation in war is no longer an academic question. The nations are progressively ranged in fighting lines, and the question is whether we range ourselves in the fighting line with the nation to which we belong.

Now, for the purpose of the immediate decision which we have in fact to make, the question can be narrowed from a general discussion of the Christian attitude to force and coercion. "Christian pacifism" is a wider term the "anti-war," and complete pacifism has wide implications for the whole range of individual and social life. For example, it would affect our attitude to punishment, to prohibition of the liquor traffic, and to a score of other issues of conduct. But war is to some degree at least a separate problem.

To indicate then, the lines which such a consideration would necessarily follow:-

First: the nature of the Christian Church has to be remembered. It is a group holding itself as in bondage only to Christ to whom the Church owes all things and to whom loyalty and obedience are supremely due.

Thus loyalty is absolutely unconditioned.

The State is an organisation. But there is no absoluteness about any one state organisation. The Christian man lives in the state as a citizen, and his business is to play his full part in co-operation with his brethren in ministering to the best common life, but his version of the "best common life" is derived from the revelation in Christ to which he has given his assent. This may very readily set him at variance with the views of his fellow-citizens, and the official embodiment of that view-point-the State. Thus, the "social contact" into which the Christian man, as a citizen, enters has always in it a limiting proviso-that when the State required of him disobedience to the truth of the Gospel and conduct inconsistent with it, he will disobey.

In the case of modern war, we have a special phenomenon Modern war involves the mobilisation of an entire nation for purposes of destruction. For the duration and the purposes of war the state of its own alleged necessity requires of its citizens the turning of their energies to that end which for the time being is the end of the state. This has certain very definite implications, thus to join automatically in the fighting forces it is necessary to take an oath of allegiance which in the nature of the case must be unconditional. I do not know that the matter has been tested-but I am fairly certain of the reaction of military authority to a recruit's insistence that his pledge must contain a proviso that he will obey no orders which require of him conduct inconsistent with Christian principles, or attitudes less than that of perfect love, unselfishness, and unwillingness to suffer rather than to inflict suffering.

It is along such lines as these, to my mind, that a decision must be reached. True also it is, that war under modern conditions cannot be effective defence. For a nation to go to war is practically equivalent to committing hari-kari. But these considerations are less important than the fact that to engage in war is to deny the nature of the Church and its task in the world-to abandon the Christian redemptive aim to range oneself with nation for a purpose which is less than Christian.

-Lex Miller.