#whitefeather diaries

Peace: The Great Adventure

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Those attempting to persuade young men to enlist in the army often spoke of adventure, sacrifice and comradeship.

As John's entry today makes clear, there was also much comradeship in the peace movement. Maude Royden, an Anglican who worked closely with Quakers, was keen to associate peace with the spirit of adventure traditionally associated with war. Her book, The Great Adventure, was published in early 1915. Here's an abridged extract.

Is it not time that we abandoned the hope of exterminating heresies by killing heretics? The history of the Christian Church is stained with blood shed in this belief. And it is true that, though very rarely, “heresies” have sometimes been for a time crushed out in blood. But to do this is to fall in to a worse heresy – it is to believe that such cruelty is justifiable. We no longer torture those who disagree with us theologically; but we seek to put a nation to the torture still.

Once more we seek to destroy a heresy by violence, and we enthrone that very heresy in our own hearts. The determination to crush the enemy altogether, the hatred of individual “alien enemies”, the belief that war is after all a good thing, as well as an inevitable thing – all this, which is the very opposite of Christianity, is openly professed by people who are quite unaware that they are not Christians. We seek to convert the Prussian from his heresy, but we ourselves know not what spirit we are of.

There is only one way to kill a wrong idea. It is to set forth a right idea. You cannot kill hatred and violence by violence and hatred. You cannot make men out of love with war by making more effective war. Satan will not cast out Satan, though he will certainly seek to persuade us that he will, since of all his devices this has been throughout the ages the most successful.

To make war in order to make peace! How beguiling an idea! To make Germans peaceable by killing them with torpedoes and machine-guns – that does not sound quite so well. Yet this is what we set out to do when we “fight German militarism” with the weapons of militarism.

You cannot kill a wrong idea except with a right idea. This warfare is the most heroic of all, and heroism will always move mankind. Well, I tell you that there is a mightier heroism still – the heroism not of the sword, but the cross; the adventure not of war, but of peace.

For which is the braver man when all is said – the man who believes in armaments, or the man who stakes everything on an idea? Who is the great adventurer – he who goes against the enemy with swords and guns, or he who goes with naked hands? Who is the mighty hunter – he who seeks the quarry with stones and slings, or he who, with St Francis, goes to tame a wolf with nothing but the gospel?

We peace people have made of peace a dull, drab, sordid, selfish thing. We have made it that ambiguous, dreary thing – “neutrality”. But Peace is the great adventure, the glorious romance. And only when the world conceives it so, will the world be drawn after it again.

Source: Maude Royden, The Great Adventure (Headley, 1915)

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Front cover of The Tribunal
Tuesday 10 November 2015

As time went on, John became less isolated and more involved with the anti-war movement. Motivations for opposing the war differed; some held religious convictions while others opposed it on political or humanitarian grounds, others made no distinctions.

The ‘absolutists’ were determined not to accept any work ordered by the state; others would consider alternative work – though there were further differences over what sort of work they would accept. John was later asked about divisions in the movement. This was his reply.