Religion: For Pacifists

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A pacifist is a person who, on religious or moral grounds, objects to all wars, defensive or offensive. A conscientious objector is one who reserves to himself the right to decide whether to support his country in a particular war. When the U. S. entered the World War, more than 64,000 citizens applied, on grounds of conscience, for exemption from combat service. But fewer than 4,000 went further, demanded exemption from noncombatant duty. Most of these were sent to farms and camps; 486 were sentenced to prison, 17 to death. (But no one was executed; at the war's end all sentences were commuted.)

Last week seven U. S. peace bodies* issued a Pacifist Handbook designed to inform and gird pacifists and conscientious objectors for the next war. The Handbook is factual, realistic, anything but meek and mild. In some 60 questions and answers, it shows pacifists what happened to their fellows in the last war, what will probably happen to them in the next, not excluding "the concentration camp and even the firing squad." The Handbook summarizes the arguments against pacifism to which its adherents will be subjected, suggests various courses of action in such dilemmas as: whether to refuse to pay war taxes ("nothing more than a gesture"), whether to fly the U. S. flag ("whichever action he takes, he will be misunderstood"), whether to economize on flour and sugar (possibly, as a means of helping needy pacifists).

The case for the pacifist the Handbook states as follows: "He considers himself a patriot because he is confident that the nation will be better off if it adopts his method. . . . Against 'aggressors' he advocates the practice of nonviolence, seeking to remove the injustices which give rise to 'aggressors.'... He does not believe that Christianity, or democracy, or liberty, can be successfully defended by being compromised from the outset."

How many conscientious objectors there will be, the Handbook does not attempt to say. It estimates that there are 1,000,000 pacifists in the U. S.—on the basis of questionnaires circulated among ministers and churchgoers in recent years, and of the enrollment of the avowed pacifist churches (Quakers, Mennonites, Brethren, Churches of Christ, Assemblies of God). Moreover, some of the biggest Protestant churches, among them the Northern Baptist,' Methodist and Disciples of Christ, have gone on record as claiming for their conscientious objector members the same exemption from combatant service which the Quakers and others will expect. The compilers of the Handbook do not fool themselves as to what will happen to these commitments "in the emotional stress of war."

More determined to keep their backs up are the independent pacifist organizations, whose membership is small but whose zeal for propaganda is great. Typical of these is the Fellowship of Reconciliation (8,500 members), whose vice chairman, Rev. Abraham J. Muste, is the No. 1 U. S. pacifist. Lean, sparse Preacher Muste, director of Manhattan's Labor Temple and chairman of a new United Pacifist Committee, is, as far as pure pacifism goes, a Johnny-come-lately; a Marxist, he used to advocate revolution by violence.

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