on pacifism

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and left wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” G.K. Chesterton wrote that in 1910, and during the hundred or so years since, nothing has changed. “Difficult” concepts (thou shalt not kill; love your enemies; do good to those who hate you) become impossible in times of war and are conveniently forgotten.


During the 1939-45 war … all the churches I knew … seemed in support of the war. …. [J]ust as we prayed to God for victory and deliverance, so did the German people; and just as chaplains on our side blessed the men before battle, so did the other side. […]

Gradually [as years went on] the church I had grown up with ceased to have relevance. …. In my early thirties, I found myself on a spiritual search and to my everlasting gratitude was led to Quakers and read the great testimonies. It was … as though everything came tumbling into place. …. I knew then that I could not answer all the questions that arise, such as “What would you do if …” and “What about Hitler and his attempt to execute all the Jews, the homosexuals, the mentally ill, the gypsies?” Later, I met a relative who had been a conscientious objector in the 1939-45 war, and he gave me great help. His brother lived in a psychiatric hospital due to injuries received in the 1914-18 war, and indeed died there in the early 1970s. The simplicity of his answer, “I did not want to do to anyone what had been done to my brother,” put into words what has remained a truth for me.

Quaker Quest, “Twelve Quakers and Pacifism”, Quaker Quest Pamphlet 3 (London, UK, 2005), pp. 13, 15-16.

I have begun my own spiritual search, so would like to share these words with you. This and other pamphlets in the series are not available online, but can be purchased from quakerquest@blueyonder.co.uk


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