A question of method

Daily Reading for September 4 • Paul Jones, Bishop and Peace Advocate, 1941

In the first place, let me say that I, as a loyal citizen, am whole-heartedly for this country of ours in which all my hopes and ideals and interests are bound up. I believe most sincerely that German brutality and aggression must be stopped, and I am willing, if need to be, to give my life and what I possess, to bring that about. I want to see the extension of real democracy in the world, and am ready to help that cause to the utmost; and finally, I want to see a sound and lasting peace brought to the world as a close to the terrible convulsion in which the nations are involved.

But the question is that of method. It is not enough to say that the majority have decided on war as the only means of attaining those things and therefore we must all co-operate. I believe it is not as easy as that, for the problem goes deeper.

We all feel that war is wrong, evil, and undesirable. Many even feel that war is unchristian but unavoidable as the world is now constituted, and that the present situation forces us to use it. Some contend that this is a righteous war, and that we must all fight the devil with fire, even at the danger of being scorched, or all the ideals which we hold dear will go by the board, and therefore we are solemnly, sadly, and earnestly taking that way. . . .

I have been led to feel that war is entirely incompatible with the Christian profession . . . because the deeper I study into it the more firmly I am convinced that the whole spirit of the gospel is not only opposed to all that is commonly understood by the word “war,” but offers another method capable of transforming the world and applicable to every situation which the individual or the nation is called to face. . . . I believe that it is always the church’s duty to hold up before men the way of the cross; the one way our Lord has given us for overcoming the world. . . .

Prayer is, I believe, the best test of the whole matter. If it is right and our honest duty to fight the war to a finish, then we should use the Church’s great weapon of prayer to that end; but the most ardent Christian supporter of the war, though he may use general terms, revolts against praying that our every bullet may find its mark, or that our embargoes may bring starvation to every German home. We know that those things would bring the war to a speedy, triumphant close, but the Church cannot pray that way. And a purpose that you cannot pray for is a poor one for Christians to be engaged in.

From a statement made to the House of Bishops by Bishop Paul Jones on October 18, 1917, quoted in Documents of Witness: A History of the Episcopal Church 1782-1985, edited by Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum. Copyright © 1984. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY. www.churchpublishing.org

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