The Violated Conscience
After all debate in favor of carnal warfare, the uneasy conscience of the combatant still goads. Near the beginning of World War II, Charles Morrison wrote in The Christian Century of the guilt felt by many religious men who chose combat over pacifism. “His is the guilt which the pacifist escapesthe guilt of killing his fellow men. He will always be haunted by it. That night, in no man’s land, when he thrust his bayonet through a fellow man as innocent as himself of any wrong, he cannot forget the horror of it, but neither can he wash away the guilt of it. He chose what he had believed to be the greater good, but his conscience accuses him for accepting the greater evil, and he can never be sure which good was the greater and which evil was the worse.”
A Dallas, Texas newspaper carried the words of a young soldier in the Persian Gulf. He was looking forward to battle saying, “Now I can kill someone legally.” But many, seasoned soldiers, veterans of combat, spend nights of remorse and terror as memory floods their minds with the blood of their fellow men killed in war.
Many brethren who fought in the Second World War are now conscientious objectors. A number of them will talk about their horrible I experiences, but always with regret where bloodshed is involved. Bro. George Bentch has exposed the soldier’s indoctrination; it is “Kill, kill, kill.” Strong men, good menour brethrenhave openly wept as they recounted their sin in participating in mortal combat. The conscience of the warrior is uneasy.
Some have simply sought to blot out of their minds the question of the Christian and war. Thus, their conscience is not goaded. Others have argued that their boys are no better than anyone else’s; therefore, their sons should fight. If the premise is true, then the conclusion is also true. What is it, however, that could lead Christians to support the premise? God’s people are to be different; and if Christian sons are no different from other boys, then something is wrong with the Christian. God’s people are not to be like the people of the world. If one can honestly say, “My child is no different from anyone else’s son; therefore…” then his conclusion would be correct if his premise is. God’s people, on the other hand, are dedicated to different aims.
We are not saying Christian’s are “better” in the sense of the Pharisaical posture of “looking down their noses” at others. God’s people are simply governed by different ethics. The world may have no remorse for killing in battle. The Christian does. The world is carnal; the Christian is spiritual. The world thinks and plans and labors to accomplish fleshly ambitions. The Christian labors to be like Jesus. This is what makes the Christian better. But it must be understood that every son has the right, the opportunity, to be that “better” kind of person. No one is inherently better than anyone else. Only following Jesus Christ can make us so, including following his peaceful lifestyle of non-resistance.
The Light, March, 2006