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Selection of Dick Sheppards writing

 

if another war comes what will you do?

 

'It is extraordinary,' writes one of our leading statesmen, 'how rarely in history have victors been capable of turning in a flash to all those absolutely different processes of action, to that utterly different mood which alone can secure by generosity what they have gained by force.'
Fine and true as that sounds, there is nothing much to it. It is neither extraordinary nor surprising that men should be unable to walk straight out of war into peace. It is only natural.
When millions who have been permitted and encouraged to hate, then proceed with every devilish device at their disposal to work out that hatred on their fellows of another breed, we can hardly expect them to emerge from their hell as young angels of love and light.
If men prepare for war there is bound to be an unholy row.
The happenings of 1914-1918 were a mere bagatelle to what would happen next time; but on this subject I would say nothing, for I detest the method - too often employed - that tries to make peace by putting the fear, not of God, but of man, into the hearts of timid people.
It is only very brave men that can make and keep peace; passionate, strong, healthy, laughing warriors - the sort that come into our mind each November 11th in the eleven o'clock Silence; the sort that hated killing, but had to kill, and came back, sometimes, to wish they, too, were dead.
You may answer: 'Stop all these platitudes. Who wants war?'
No one, thank God! Yet listen.
It has been declared that among the countless million citizens of all the enlightened nations of the world there would not be found as many hundreds to declare in favour of modern war as a reasonable means of settling disputes between nations.
Yet the same responsible millions, ever since the disaster that converted them to this view, have been consistently overtaking themselves in preparation for a more outrageously modern war still.
That is where we are many years after we cried aloud to God, and to those who gave all they had to give to end war: 'It is finished; never again, this we swear.'
If the Unknown Warrior died in vain, his the glory, ours the shame.
If he trusted that we would complete his work, and now we only serenade him with a posthumous eruption of gratitude once a year, how greatly pathetic is he, how blasphemous our GHQ Community orders each November 11th!
Politicians, in their moments of insight, tell us that peace will only come when the hearts of men are changed.
After that they have nothing to say. Christians though most of them be, it would not be good form to add anything more. It is simply 'not done'. Has anybody else anything to suggest? Forgive my impertinence - I have.
Let Christ be called in, at great cost, to expel the clouds of fear and suspicion that still haunt the human heart, and make it impossible for us 'to turn in a flash to all those absolutely different processes of action, to that utterly different mood' by which the peace of God may be won.
And, lastly, let those who long for the will of God to prevail go pacifist out and out, through and through, since Jesus and Jehovah cannot walk in step.
Speaking only for myself, I maintain, with my whole soul, that the Church of Christ is not worthy to represent its Lord today unless it declares, without any equivocation or delay, that no leader or ranker under its banner may kill his fellow, his brother. Why? One answer will suffice: Christ would not permit it.
   

I will not fight

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© Peace Pledge Union

 

I was not a pacifist in the first year of War: as a professing Christian I ought to have been.
There are now fifty thousand English men pledged never to take part in another war; pledged to refuse to kill their fellow men at the orders of any government, and to suffer any penalties such a government may choose to inflict rather than disobey their consciences.
Those who have declared their future intention to resist are well aware of what is involved. They know what sacrifices may be demanded of them, and will not shrink at the prospect.
War must be abolished if civilisation is to endure, and it is the duty of all honest and thoughtful men to resist war and the preparations and policies that make war imminent, even if in doing so they are accused of behaving 'unpatriotically'. How this can best be done is a debatable matter, but that it is worth doing there can be no doubt in any of our minds. The Christian and humanitarian who are determined to obey without equivocation the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill', and the socialist and reformer who see in war the most terrible of all threats to their efforts to make a better world for men to live in, are at one on this issue. War must be prevented, whatever price of martyrdom and devotion may be demanded of us, and if we fail again to prevent it we must continue our resistance until our fellow-countrymen, and eventually the peoples of all nations, are convinced of the wickedness and folly of war.
It is sometimes said to us that 'you cannot change human nature', and that human nature makes inevitably for war. But we know that human nature can be changed, that it has been changed in the past, and that it is the duty of the Christian churches, and of all men of goodwill, to see to it that human nature does change, and changes in time to prevent the overwhelming catastrophe that threatens us. If we have abolished slavery by an appeal to men's consciences, then we can also abolish war. But we shall only do so when we have the courage of our convictions, and when we are ready to oppose to force and brutality an unyielding and unconquerable conviction in the rightness of our cause.
Finally, let me say something as to the spirit in which I believe our resistance should be carried on. It happens only too often that the militant pacifist becomes more militant than peaceful, and that our resistance to war is marked by a bitterness and violence that are not only deplorable in themselves but do much to harm our cause. We are out to persuade and convince our fellows, to show them the truth, to make them feel the stupidity and waste of war and the possibilities of a right and sane international conduct. We shall not succeed in doing this if we allow ourselves to become bitter and provocative, or needlessly insult feelings and institutions cherished by our fellow countrymen. We must remember that many of our opponents are actuated by very noble motives, that they are genuinely sacrificing themselves for what they believe to be right. We should endeavour to meet them with all possible charity and good-will, and to convince them of their errors without wounding their feelings. For it is only by convincing mankind that war is both morally wrong and materially disastrous, and that it is possible to organise a true community of nations, that we shall ever be able to achieve a lasting and genuine peace.
The issue is a spiritual one. For myself my pacifism begins and ends with the Spirit and teaching of Jesus Christ. I cannot believe that He would authorise or permit me to kill my brother; therefore whatever it cost and whatever the consequences I must refuse to fight.