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The Protest of Anabaptists and Friends.
CHRISTIANITY AND POLITICS
THE European War has caused an extraordinary strain on the resources of the nations engaged in it. Each combatant is trying to put out its full strength and to organise the energies of labour and the wealth of capitalists with a view to military operations; each is striving to the utmost to obtain success. Such a trial of strength must have far-reaching results; war is an ordeal which not only strains material resources, but tests the habits of thought and accepted axioms of political life. Till July of last year there was a general belief in England and America that war had become an anachronism; that, though it might survive among half-civilised and decadent peoples, it could no longer occur amongst the most highly developed nations. It seemed impossible that there should be such an outrage on civilisation. On the one side, humanitarian sentiment was likely to prevent an outbreak of war, with all the misery it entails; on the other, the interests of the nations of the world were so interdependent that it seemed unlikely that any could gain by means of war. But events have proved that the hopes
which were so generally entertained were baseless; a nation, distinguished for scientific culture and for effective organisation, has forced on a war, and horrors which were looked upon as a thing of the past have been let loose on a larger scale than ever before. Pacificism, which professed to be the last result of scientific sociology, has been discredited as impracticable in Europe, since events have proved the ineffectiveness of humanitarian sentiment and prudential calculation, to prevent an appeal to arms.
During the last year there has also been fresh recognition of religion as a force in political life; for a century and more there had been a tendency to wave it aside and discard it as no longer a matter of public concern. The persistence of the philanthropists was not indeed wholly forgotten, and Christianity was expected to interfere with the internal affairs of the nation, and to rouse the national conscience on such questions as the sweating of labour and the improvement of housing. Apart, however, from social reform, religion seemed to many men to be a matter of private concern, and no one regarded it as entering directly into the field of international politics. With the stress and anxiety of war all this is changed, and Christianity has taken its rightful
place. The depth and fervour of religion in Russia has been a revelation to the Western world. The Kaiser has appealed to the faith of his people that God will give victory to the Germans, and render Teutonic ideas triumphant throughout the world; while English statesmen call on the Church to use her influence and support them in a sacred cause. The present war has forced men to realise, as they were ceasing to do, that Christianity has an important part to play in shaping the destinies and maintaining the influence of a nation.
Christianity, when thus appealed to, speaks with an uncertain sound; different ideals are cherished and different opinions are put forth as to the attitude which is right for the Christian man in regard to war. Religion may be the strongest incentive to courage in battle, as it was in Old Testament times, and in the tide of conquest by which Mohammedanism was spread in the East and West. Their religion was the inspiration for the struggle of the Huguenots in France, and the Ironsides in England; but it seems to have increased the bitterness of parties and to have added fuel to the flames of political passion. Their common Christianity did not prevent the outbreak of war between European nations; yet this is inconsistent with the conception of Christianity as first preached and as now accepted.