Max I. Reich
[The Friend (Philadelphia) Vol. 89 No. 3 (Seventh Month 15, 1915,) pages 25-26.]
This Document is on The Quaker Writings Home Page.
Now there are many powerful reasons for the absolute abolition and total destruction of all war.
But for brevity's sake I will confine myself to just three: (1) the irrationalism of war; (2) the
immorality of war; (3) the unchristian character of war.
I.--WAR IS IRRATIONAL.
To attempt a settlement of international disputes by resorting to force is on the face of it a stupid
and unreasonable method of procedure. It is the dethronement of reason and the glorification of
passion. It is the government of the beast in man. To knock down an opponent in an argument
does not prove the falsity of his reasoning. It might silence him but does not convince. It only
shows which of the two disputants has the stronger biceps. Is the just cause in war always
crowned with victory? Does might never trample right? Is justice never violated .by brute force?
Does passion never drown the voice of reason? Unless victory, on the battlefield is always and
uniformly on the side of truth and righteousness, the arbitrament of war is not a safe way of ,
settlement. The rights and wrongs of the case are left after a murderous and costly war just where
they were before diplomatic relations were broken off. Because war is an unreasonable and
foolish attempt of ending the matter the settlement reached is only a temporary makeshift. The
injured side broods over the wrong it has had to submit to, and often makes plans to avenge it
when the favorable opportunity presents itself. Thus one war breeds more wars. By sowing hatred
nations reap hatred. By war they manufacture more war. Nations that have become powerful by
the sword have all, without exception, perished in turn by the sword. The miserable business of
brutal self-assertion of one nation over another goes on as an endless chain down the
blood-polluted stream of human history. "Shall the sword devour forever?" The hope of humanity
is in One who alone can teach the nations the more excellent way of turning their swords it
plowshares and their spears into pruning-hooks; to transform their instruments of destruction into
implements of production and profit, and learn the science of war no more.
II.--WAR IS IMMORAL
The time will come when it will be universally recognized that what is morally wrong in an
individual cannot be right in a community. To glorify by the sacred name of patriotism national
sentiments and actions flowing from them, which would be intolerable if found in individuals, is to
hold in our hands the balances of deceit and to tamper with the fine equilibrium of the moral
A war cannot be carried on without a resort to methods which, taken by themselves, are always
and only evil. Deceit, arson, destruction of property, the maiming of the bodies the taking the lives
of fellow-beings are clearly immoral But in these things consists the so-called "glory" of war. For
the committing of these things men are decorated and honored. We need to look beneath the
outward appearance of things. War is made to look a magnificent spectacle. The gaping crowd
admires the pomp and pageantry of militarism. The appeal is cleverly made to the craving for the
sensational and the spectacular. Serried ranks, shining helmets, gorgeous uniforms, glittering
weapons, prancing horses, flying banners, the proud bearing of the participants, stirring martial
music hypnotizes the imagination of the beholder. But the inward spirit is the very cruelty and
bitterness of hell. War is a colossal imposition on the moral judgment of mankind. It is a
impudent declaring that which is wrong to be right. It is barefaced glorification of the most hateful
of all doctrines ever proposed for the acceptance of men that "the end justifies the means." For, so
it is argued, though I may not lie, cheat, loot, burn down my neighbor's property, ruin all his
prospects, maim his body for life, perhaps squeeze the soul out its [P26] palpitating sheath of
flesh, thus creating his wife a widow and his children orphans, for myself, to advance my own
private interest, I may commit these atrocities, yea ought to commit them, under given
circumstances, in conjunction with others, in the name of war, for my country.
Was ever unclean and loathsome monster so gorgeously apparelled as this blood-thirsty monster
III--WAR IS UNCHRISTIAN.
The first two propositions appeal to honest minds and tender consciences, but there is another
which is the end of all controversy to the follower of the Lamb. War is contrary to His example,
opposed to His teaching and subversive of the principles of His Kingdom.
We might not perhaps succeed at the present time of convincing governments and the mixed
multitudes called nations swayed by prejudice and passion for that particular part of the earth's
surface they call their country that war should be done away with. But we ought to be able to
convince every Christian man, that for him to have any lot or part in war is to commit treason
against his Lord, For He has introduced him into a different sphere and order of things than that in
which the nations of the world move. He has brought him into a new brotherhood which ignores
the old boundaries between men and men. In Christ the greatest contrasts are harmonized; the
middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile, Greek and barbarian, American or Japanese,
English ,or German, are broken down. The empire of the Lamb has or its foundation principle the
sacrifice of Divine love as exhibited on the Cross. It is on this basis that the kingdoms of this
world shall yet become the Kingdom of our Lord and ,f His Christ. The old kingdoms may
remain, but another life will pervade them and unify them when the slain Lamb in the midst of the
throne will be acknowledged by them as "King of kings and Lord of lords." Each nation and tribe
and tongue may retain what is peculiar to it, for there is beauty in diversity. But all will find their
uniting principle in the one center of attraction from which a new order will be promulgated. He
shall teach the nations to learn war no more, because the earth shall be filled with the knowledge
of he Lord as the waters cover the sea.
The question for the disciple of Christ is really a very simple one. Shall I stand now for the
principles of that Kingdom to which the future belongs? Shall I act on them, if need be suffer for
them? Must I wait till these principles are universally accepted, and fall in with things as they are
in the meantime? Or shall I show that I believe in their ultimate triumph by making them the rule
of my life now, and thus cooperate with Him towards His ultimate inheriting His blood-bought
rights in every in sphere of human life?
The prophets of Israel foresaw the coming of the Messianic age in which amongst other features
should be witnessed the total abolition of all war and the making of costly preparations for it.
Our blessed Lord and Saviour came to announce and establish this heavenly Kingdom on earth.
He exemplified in life and death its principles, of which that of non-resistance is central and
fundamental. And shall we not confess that it is gloriously workable? The inheritance belongs to
the meek, and not to the big stick or the mailed fist. The nail-pierced hands hold the sceptre. No
one can indefinitely go on smiting an unresisting face. I admit it requires faith to confess and act
on this principle. It may look like fanaticism. But the principle of non-resistance has been
demonstrated victorious over and over again. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even
our faith." By faith the early Christians overcame the pagan world. The blood of the martyrs
became the seed of the Church. By faith the reformers overcame the Roman hierarchy. The flames
of their stakes lit a candle which is still shining. By faith the early Quakers overcame in their day,
and their testimony of non-resistance in dungeons and on the scaffold is still bringing forth fruit.
We may not resist evil, but are to overcome evil with good. " And this is the principle which will
have the last word in the controversies, quarrels, dissensions and wars of the children of men.
The command is peremptory: Seek first the Kingdom of God. Everything else must stand aside---personal, family or national interest---yea, life itself. No half-measures will ever succeed in efforts for that Kingdom which aims at turning the world upside down. Christianity is a revolutionary religion. And this I say: if half the energy, treasure and enthusiasm now spent so lavishly by millions calling themselves by the Christian name, to advance by means of war the interests of the contending potsherds of the earth, were spent in devoted service and suffering for the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, a new and better day would quickly dawn on our now distracted world.