|Selection of Dick Sheppards writing
|murder is wrong
let us know
© Peace Pledge Union
|'It is extraordinary,' writes one of our leading statesmen, 'how rarely in history have victors been capable of turning in a flash to all those absolutely different processes of action, to that utterly different mood which alone can secure by generosity what they have gained by force.'
Fine and true as that sounds, there is nothing much to it. It is neither extraordinary nor surprising that men should be unable to walk straight out of war into peace. It is only natural.
I am a pacifist because I am a Christian and I base my pacifism on the whole spirit and teaching of Jesus Christ, not on any specific Gospel text. One can find particular texts which can be interpreted in almost any way one pleases. As a personal follower of Jesus Christ, I think that a total impression of His life makes it perfectly clear that a disciple who wishes to follow Him cannot kill his brother. This doctrine may be crystallised in the Sermon on the Mount; but it is implicit in His entire life. I think that a large number of our members have fundamentally the same convictions as myself. At the same time, we welcome every sincere pacifist, whatever his views. There is no kind of religious test.
I think that the leaders of the churches should have insisted unequivocally that war is wrong. If they had done this, I believe that the effect would have been enormous. Instead of that, they have compromised. As a churchman I feel that the religious leaders of Europe have been gravely to blame. I consider that they have no excuse for their attitude. I should like to lead 100,000 men to meet the leaders of the Christian Church and say what I thought of them.
Humanity would be thankful beyond words to get out of its present fix. As an end, pacifism is popular already. The thing that's popular at present is the means to peace. We have got to take certain risks and make certain sacrifices. For example, we have got to take the risk of going out for complete disarmament. As a country and as individuals, we haven't been prepared to make the smallest sacrifice for the sake of the ideal of peace. We all passionately desire peace; but we have never been willing to give anything for it.
I believe that an appeal to men's reason and sense of human decency is never wholly wasted. Still more firmly I believe that men cannot remain unmoved before an act of disinterested generosity and courage. If one nation were to perform a genuinely pacifist act - such as an act of unilateral disarmament - the effect would be enormous, even among its potential enemies.
As a Christian, I think it might be necessary for a nation to suffer so that the world might rise again. That is my own persuasion; but I don't say it would be that of others. I would rather see the disintegration of the British Empire than a new war.
The Peace Movement's first object is to prevent war, but it must cover other relationships of life - it seems to me very foolish to suppose you can realise a great ideal of peace, without submitting to some inconvenience. The consequences of doing what one believes to be right have got to be faced, however unpleasant they may be.
Were an enemy soldier to attack my wife, I should do my very best to protect her. I hope I should not kill the attacker, but I might. One never knows what one may do when one sees red. I don't believe I should be right if I did kill. It is a much simpler problem for me personally than for someone to whom religion does not signify anything.
Of course you have got to have police for keeping order within a country. But do remember that in most civilised countries, the police are unarmed. The thing which keeps a country orderly isn't violence; it's respect for public opinion; it's the desire of individual men and women to be thought well of by their fellows: it's the spirit of cooperation. What we do at present is to impose arbitrary limits on cooperation. We say it's right and proper for a man to cooperate with other men of his own tribe; but if he cooperates with men of another tribe, the chances are that we shall call it treachery and regard him as the lowest of criminals. Like Christianity and the other world religions, pacifism insists that we shall set no limits to the spirit of cooperation. If cooperation is right in one particular time and place, then it is right in all times and places. Conversely, if murder is wrong in one particular set of circumstances, then it is equally wrong in all circumstances.
P E A C E P L E D G E U N I O N 1 Peace Passage London N7 0BT, Britain.