"I am a pacifist still in one sense; that is to say, I realize that Christians should be able to meet material force with spiritual power. It is horrifying to reflect that after nineteen hundred years, we are still unable to do it except in individual cases and on a small scale. But to me it seems merely 'wishful thinking' to act as though we had a power which in fact we have not and for which we have neither trained nor disciplined ourselves in the past. Such power does not come to those who have not disciplined themselves, at the last moment, in the hour of need. It has not come to us. I would rather, therefore, do what I can in defence of principles which I believe to be both right in themselves and of enormous importance to the future of the human race, than stand aside and do nothing. It is doing nothing that is the worst expedient of all.
my pacifist friends ask me whether I can imagine Jesus Christ
dropping a bomb or firing a gun I am entitled to reply: 'No, I
cannot; but neither can I imagine him standing aside and doing
nothing at all.'
I am compelled to
echo the words of a very dear relative of mine who, loathing war as
much as any pacifist that ever breathed, said to me at the beginning
of the last war, (in which he lost his life) 'If you can stop war
with spiritual power, do it. If you can't, let me do what I can; and
if you are right in thinking that war is so damnable that anyone who
takes part in it is damned, then I would rather be damned than let
these things go on without doing all I can to stop them, even at the
cost of my own life.'
Is this not very
close to the meaning of our Lord when he said: 'He that loseth his
life shall save it'?"
The foregoing is the concluding portion of a
touchingly sorrowful article contributed to The Survey Graphic
of December 1941 by the celebrated Dr. Maude Royden of the
Guildhouse, London. She is one of the foremost pacifists of the
West. Like many she has felt compelled to revise her position and is
now most reluctantly but fully ranged on the side of the defenders
of the British Isles.
The article demands a considered reply. I have been
in constant touch with the Western pacifists. In my opinion Dr.
Royden has surrendered her position in the portion I have quoted. If
individuals have lived up to the Christian teaching (i.e., on
non-violence) and that on a small scale, one would think practice
should make such a life possible for many people and on a large
scale. It is undoubtedly wrong and foolish "to act as though one
had the power which in fact one has not". "But," says the worthy
writer, "such power does not come to those who have not disciplined
themselves, at the last moment, in the hour of need."
I suggest that with the knowledge of the defect no
time should be lost in seeking to remove it. That by itself is doing
not only something but the right thing. To deny one's faith by
contrary practice is surely the worst thing one can do.
And I am not sure that "doing nothing is the worst
expedient of all". In septic treatment, for instance, doing nothing
is not only expedient, it is obligatory.
There is no cause whatsoever for despondency, much
less for denial of one's faith at the crucial moment. Why should not
British pacifists stand aside and remodel their life in its
entirety? They might be unable to bring about peace outright, but
they would lay a solid foundation for it and give the surest test of
their faith. When, in the face of an upheaval such as we are
witnessing, there are only a few individuals of immovable faith,
they have to live up to their faith even though they may produce no
visible effect on the course of events. They should believe that
their action will produce tangible results in due course. Their
staunchness is bound to attract sceptics. I would also suggest that
individuals like Dr. Maude Royden are not mere camp followers. They
are leaders. Therefore, they have to live their lives in strict
accord with the Sermon on the Mount, and they will find immediately
that there is much to give up and much to remodel. The greatest
thing that they have to deny themselves is the fruit of imperialism.
The present complicated life of the Londoner and his high living is
possible only because of the hoards brought from Asia, Africa and
other parts of the world. In spite of the fierce criticism which has
been levelled against my letter 'To Every Briton', I adhere to every
word of it, and I am convinced that posterity will adopt the remedy
suggested therein against violence however organized and fierce. And
now that the enemy is at the gates of India, I am advising my
countrymen the same course of action I advised the British people.
My advice may or may not be accepted by my countrymen. I would
remain unmoved. Their non-acceptance will be no test of failure of
non-violence. I would subscribe to the charge of my imperfection.
But a Satyagrahi does not wait for perfection before he invites
others to experiment with him, provided always that his faith is
immovable like a mountain. The advice that Dr. Royden's relative
gave her and which she quotes approvingly is altogether wrong. If
the war is damnable, how can he stop the things that go on by taking
part in it, even though it may be on the defensive side and at the
cost of his own life ? For the defence has to resort to all the
damnable things that the enemy does, and that with greater vigour if
it has to succeed. Such a giving of life is not only not saving it
but a mere waste.
I have attended the Doctor's services in her Church
where a living belief in the efficacy of prayer is much in vogue.
When the impenetrable gloom surrounded her, why did she not find
strength and consolation and real action in heart-prayer? It is
never too late to mend. She and her fellow-pacifists, many of whom I
have the privilege of knowing should take heart and, like Peter,
repent of the momentary loss of faith and return to the old faith in
non-violence with renewed vigour. Their return will mean no material
loss to the war effort but will mean a great deal to the anti-war
effort which is bound to succeed sooner rather than later, if man is
to live as man and not become a two-footed brute.