"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.IV No.VII Pg.10-11
February 1942

Are You A Conscientious Objector?

Fanning Yater Tant

If so, the chances are that you have some trying days ahead of you. America is at war; on top of that, America is angry. The treachery of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, electrified the nation into a unity of feeling and purpose that is simply astonishing. At no time in World War I was there such perfect accord and such universal approval of measures to be taken for the destruction of the enemy.

"Buy a bond and slap a Jap across the pond!" "Let's axe the Axis!" "Life, Liberty and pursuit of Japanese!" "To Hell With Hitler!" These, and scores of other such expressions are becoming the pass-words of America. They indicate the character of the emotional attitude throughout the nation. Personal sacrifices are to be made; luxuries, comforts, and even necessities (or what we thought were necessities) are to be foregone. The nation must fight!

In the midst of this national fever of enthusiasm for the task of war, the conscientious objector, perforce, finds himself in a most trying and difficult position. Patriotism is as strong in his heart as in the heart of any of his fellow Americans. The love for home and country is as natural to him as it is to anyone. He has the willingness to sacrifice his life to preserve those values no less than any other loyal citizen.

But--and it is a forceful negative!--his allegiance to Christ forbids that he have any part in the slaughter of his fellow-beings. He is citizen of America, to be sure, but first, and foremost, he is a citizen of heaven. He cannot, and will not, violate his conscience toward God at the behest of any human government. Such a stand may mean death. In Hitler's Germany there is little doubt that it would mean death--or worse. In Russia in all probability the same fate would befall him.

But here in America, by the providence of God, we have a nation which recognizes the value of a man's conscience. Our nation is fighting as much to preserve the sanctity of the individual conscience, as it is to preserve democratic institutions and ideals, and all the other values which totalitarianism would destroy. And our government does not propose to destroy that value in seeking to preserve other values. Section 5 (g) of the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 provides that:

"Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed to require any person to be subject to combatant training and service in the land or naval forces of the United States who, by reason of religious training and belief, is conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form. . ."

How Can He Serve?

This exemption does not mean at all that the conscientious objector cannot, or will not, serve his nation. It merely provides that he will not be asked to violate his conscience in doing so. There will remain an area, of service to him just as important, just as necessary, and just as "patriotic" as would be the bearing of arms.

At the time of this writing Adolph Hitler's armies are reeling back in steady retreat before, the crushing blows of the Red army. Hurled back from the gates of Moscow, it seems now that Hitler has suffered a major disaster. Even if he should recover himself, and stabilize his lines, he has suffered a blow that may well prove mortal.

This unexpected and disastrous stroke was delivered by about 4,000,000 Red troops who had been held in reserve back of Moscow. All through the summer and fall, when the Germans were rolling on like an ocean tide, these troops were held there. They were not sent in to stem the rush of Hitler's legions. They merely waited. To many of them it must have been a heart-breaking thing to do. Their country was being invaded; their homes were being laid waste; their wives and mothers and children were being subjected to all the brutal treatment for which the Nazi soldiers have become notorious. And yet they were not permitted to strike.

The Red army command realized that the time had not yet come. Not until Hitler had spent his strength; not until the cold Russian winter set in could these men be used.

Then came the crucial moment. And the reservers were called on to do their part.

The result has astonished the world.

In somewhat similar fashion we believe the Christian has his part to play, his place to serve, in the struggle that has enveloped the world today. His training and his allegiance to Christ unfit him for the business of killing. His whole attitude is one of love and good-will, not one of hate and anger. Even if he should be inducted into the army he could not make a good soldier. One of our leading army authorities has said that, "No man can be a good soldier until he learns to hate--to hate to the point that he wants to kill." It is a psychological impossibility for the humble follower of Christ to have such a feeling.

But one day this war will be over. Peace will settle once again upon a troubled world. The flags will be furled, the uniforms packed away, and the war-weary world will try to return to normal and peace-time pursuits.

Then will come the opportunity for the conscientious objector to serve his country--and humanity. For the world will be in desperate need of men of peace--"men of good will"--who have not been participants in the bitter heat and hatreds of the battle-field. There will be a ministry of reconciliation necessary, a time of healing up the wounds of bitterness and malice which any war leaves in its wake. The nation will need, as never before, the leavening influence of a company of people who have kept themselves aloof from all the spiritual and moral degradation which is an inevitable part of warfare.

And the Christian, whose conscience unfitted him for war, will be, by virtue of that very conscience, the best fitted man on earth for carrying on this work of building up and re-establishing the spiritual values which war has destroyed. He is the man who can do most to restore the friendly relationships and normal intercourse which must exist between nations if peace is to endure. The soldier is peculiarly fitted and prepared to fight to preserve the nation; the Christian is peculiarly fitted and prepared to carry the spiritual values--for which the soldier fights--into all the world, and so make future wars impossible.

So, if you are a conscientious objector, if you cannot bring yourself to the point of taking human life, let no one persuade you that such an attitude is "unpatriotic." There will be hot-heads who lose their sense of balance in time of national peril. They will doubtless make life as miserable as they can for those who believe Christ has forbidden his followers to shed human blood. But to a man of conviction the slurs and jibes of more belligerent souls will serve only to strengthen his will to follow after peace. And, above all, remember that you have a part to play, you have a service to render to the--nation and to the world. That service can be given only by those who keep their hearts free from hatred and their hands free from blood.

Your government recognizes the value of that service; it appreciates your worth to the nation. It places a high estimate on the very convictions which unfit you for blood

letting. And when this war is over, you; like the Red soldiers saved for the crucial moment, will be called upon to render a service which was not possible before that hour. See to it that you are prepared to serve, that no malice or bitterness or hatred is ever allowed to find harbor in your heart; that your prayers for the suffering people of the Axis are as often and as fervent as are your prayers for our own nation. And let no unthinking citizen provoke you to doubt your stand by his taunts of "Coward" of "unpatriotic." Remember the last lines of Milton's Sonnet on His Blindness

"They also serve who only stand and wait."