Sunday, May 29, 2005

Memorial Day, War and A. J. Muste

The protest against Bush at Calvin College got me thinking of nearby Hope College and their pacifist graduate A J Muste.
from Rutherford Institute: Yet A.J. Muste, unlike Gandhi and Martin Luther King, is virtually unknown to the general public. Like most people who are not inclined to take popular positions, who don't fit neatly into the chapters of middle school history books, Muste's extraordinary life has naturally been back-shelved by the writers and librarians of modern history. After all, what do you do with a radical Christian/Marxist pacifist who stood up at a Quaker Meeting in 1940 and said, "If I can't love Hitler, I can't love at all"?
People forget the pacifists opposition US fighting in World War II and it's good to go back and read again what we these folks were saying. I find Muste depressing and chilling.

Here is an essay on Orthodoxy Today by Joseph Loconte which gives you a flavor of the pacifist outlook in the late 30s and early 40s.. On Memorial Day it's worth contemplating what the world would be like now had the Pacifists been ultimately successful. They had a lot of support in America then, as now, although few of their present day supporters acknowledge them much.

Some saw German aggression as a kind of divine judgment. "Our sins have found us, that's all," explained John Haynes Holmes, pastor of New York City's Community Church. "If Hitler triumphs, it will be as the punishment of our transgressions." A.J. Muste, a Congregationalist minister turned peace activist, compared pro-democracy hawks to "the men who tortured and killed the victims of the Inquisition." Albert Palmer, president of Chicago Theological Seminary, said Americans should be "solving the problems of social and economic justice" at home rather than condemning Germany "through a haze of Allied propaganda."

The Christian Century magazine, the nation's leading religious journal, devoted itself to opposing U.S. intervention. Writing as late as November 1941, editor Charles Clayton Morrison denounced an Anglo-American alliance as "the most ambitious imperialism ever projected." He then offered this dark prediction: "For the United States to make a fateful decision to enter this war on the mistaken and irrational assumption that it is a war for the preservation of anything good in civilization will be the supreme tragedy of our history."

I'm more of a Rheinhold Niebur guy (Niebuhr another sensible West Sider by my expansive definition graduating from Elmhurst College class of 1910) and Loconte quotes him saying,
The Christian ideal of love," Niebuhr warned, "has degenerated into a lovelessness which cuts itself off from a sorrowing and suffering world."
The degeneration's become worse my opinion but maybe I just spend time on the wrong blogs.

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