With Our Soldiers in France
THE CAMP OF THE PRODIGALS
We are in a natural amphitheater of the forest, near a big base hospital, about seventy miles behind the lines in France. Always in the stillness of the woods, even at this distance, one can hear the intermittent boom of the big guns at the front, and the air is vibrant on this summer evening. Beyond the wood lies the old drill ground of Napoleon, which is used today as a field for final training for the reenforcements for the front line.
In this wide open space in the woods at sundown the patients of the hospital in their blue uniforms are gathering for the meeting. It is a picturesque sight to see about eight hundred of them seated on the grass, while an orchestra composed of their own men is playing before the opening of the meeting. Who are these men before us? They are not the wounded who have fallen on the field of honor, but the sick, and, quite frankly, they all have venereal disease. The war has dragged this moral menace so into the light of day that the times of prudish silence and of fatal ignorance should have passed for all who are truly concerned for the welfare of the soldier and who want to know his actual conditions. We shall, therefore, in this chapter call a spade a spade.
The eight hundred men gathered here are a small part of some thousands of similar cases in France. The London Daily Mail of April 25th, 1917, referring to the report of the military authorities to the House of Commons, stated that there had been some two hundred thousand cases of venereal disease in the British Army in France alone. This does not include England or the men on the other fronts. The British Army is not worse than others. Professor Finger, at a meeting of the Medical Society in Vienna early in the war, estimated that over 700,000, or some ten per cent of the Austrian troops, had contracted venereal disease. More ominous still is the fact that in almost every place yet investigated the majority of the men were confessedly living in immorality amid the temptations of the base camps in France.
As we visit the hospitals in France, we are saddened by the fact that for one of the two venereal diseases no cure has yet been found, that a large proportion of these cases suffer a relapse, and that over seventy per cent will develop complications. As one Commanding Medical Officer said, "There is enough venereal disease in these military camps now to curse Europe for three generations to come."
One young major said: "Every day I am losing my boys. I've lost more men through these forces of immorality than through the enemy's shot and shell." The recent report of the Royal Commission shows the grave menace of the disease to Britain, where twenty per cent of the urban population has been infected. Flexner's terrible indictment in his "Prostitution in Europe" proves how particularly dangerous and pernicious is the system of inspection and regulation which legalizes and standardizes vice as a "necessary evil" and spreads disease through the false sense of security which it vainly promises. According to Flexner's statements, our men are fighting in the land which of all others is perhaps the most dangerous in Europe for their moral welfare. Even if the inspection and regulation of vice were physically perfectly successful, it might still lead to national degeneration, but instead of being a success it has proved, especially in France, a miserable failure.
Among the men in the venereal hospitals of France are musicians, artists, teachers, educated and refined boys from some of the best homes, and in another camp we find several hundred officers and several members of the nobility. What was the cause of their downfall? A questionnaire replied to by several hundred of them revealed the fact that six per cent attributed their downfall to curiosity, ten per cent to ignorance, claiming that they had never been adequately warned by the medical authorities, thirteen per cent to loss of home influences and lack of leave, thirty-three per cent to drink and the loss of self-control due to intoxication, while the largest number of all, or thirty-eight per cent, attributed it to uncontrolled passion when they were unconverted or had no higher power in their lives to enable them to withstand temptation. But perhaps the chief cause of the spread of immorality is the unnatural conditions under which the men are compelled to live in a foreign land in war time.
Donald Hankey, the brilliant young author of "A Student in Arms," who fell at the front, speaks thus of the moral problem in the soldier's life:
"Let us be frank about this. What a doctor might call the 'appetites' and a padre the 'lusts' of the body, hold dominion over the average man, whether civilian or soldier, unless they are counteracted by a stronger power. The only men who are pure are those who are absorbed in some pursuit, or possessed by a great love; be it the love of clean , wholesome life which is religion, or the love of a noble man which is hero-worship, or the love of a true woman. These are the four powers which are stronger than 'the flesh'---the zest of a quest, religion, hero-worship, and the love of a good woman. If a man is not possessed by one of these he will be immoral. . . . Fifteen months ago I was a private quartered in a camp near A-----. . . . The tent was damp, gloomy, and cold. The Y M C A tent and the Canteen tent were crowded. One wandered off to the town. . . . And if a fellow ran up against 'a bit of skirt' he was generally just in the mood to follow it wherever it might lead. The moral of this is, double your subscriptions to the Y M C A, Church huts, soldiers' clubs, or whatever organization you fancy! You will be helping to combat vice in the only sensible way."
We agree with Donald Hankey that the appetites hold dominion over the average man, whether civilian or soldier. We do not wish to make any sweeping generalizations or accusations. We have no means of knowing how many men are immoral in peace time, as we have in war time. We only know that conditions of ordinary times are intensified, aggravated, and multiplied; and they are revealed in wartime as never before, and thrown upon the screen of the public gaze. The writer also desires to guard against any possible impression that the British army is worse than our own or any other. It is too early to know what record our men will make, but we find it difficult to believe that they could have maintained a higher standard if placed in equal numbers in the same circumstances.
But to return to our meeting. Every one of these eight hundred men in this audience has a history. Tired or hardened or haggard faces are relaxed as they join in singing the hymns on this Sunday evening, "Nearer, My God, to Thee," "Lead, Kindly Light," "Tell Me the Old, Old Story," and "Where is my Wandering Boy To night?" There is a tragedy in every heart, and each man has experienced the bitterness of sin and bears its scars branded in his body. Look into the faces of some of these men. Here in front, this very first one, is an American cowboy from Texas, Frank B-----. As a "broncho-buster" he became the star rider in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and was finally adopted as his son. At the age of fifteen he started to go wrong in New Orleans. At an early age he joined the American army, and later, at the outbreak of the war, he served in the Flying Corps of the British army. Here he broke a leg and was smashed up in action. After that he joined an infantry division. In one of the meetings this week he accepted Christ. He has since been standing firm and goes out tomorrow to begin a new life. Near him is a young theological student with a sad look on his face, who has learned here in bitterness the deepest lesson of his life. Next to him is a heartbroken married man with a wife and children at home.
After the crowd has assembled, we speak to them of Christ as the Maker of Men. We tell them of the transformation of others like themselves, of Augustine, Francis of Assisi, Loyola and the saints of old, of John B. Gough, Jerry McAuley, Hadley, and the men of Water Street whom God raised out of the depths, and of men right in their midst who have come out for Christ in the meetings this week. After speaking for an hour, we go into the Y M CA for an aftermeeting.
We had a wonderful time with them here one Saturday night. Five hundred of them crowded the hall and listened for an hour as we spoke on the good news of the free offer of life. When the invitation was given, over two hundred stayed to the after-meeting as desiring to follow Christ. After we had spoken one of the men came forward and asked if he could say a word. He had been an earnest Christian before the war, and as he began to speak of his fall and of his trusting wife and children at home, the poor fellow broke down in utter wretchedness. It seemed to strike a responsive chord in the hearts of the married men all over the room. Many a one buried his head in his hands and wept bitterly. A second after-meeting was held and God seemed to be moving in the heart of every man present. Man after man rose to tell of his fall, or of his repentance, or of his new acceptance of Christ. The feeling was deep but controlled. It was one of the saddest and yet one of the gladdest meetings I have ever attended. One minister present said he had seen nothing like it all through the Welsh revival.
During their stay in this hospital great changes have taken place in many of these men. Here is Dan, a young chauffeur, a strong-willed, self-sufficient young fellow who thought he needed no help and no religion. He has a Christian wife at home to whom he has been untrue, for the temptations of the war swept him off his feet like a flood. In the meetings this week he turned to Christ and has been working right and left bringing in others ever since. Beside him is a poor fellow whom he has just brought to the meetings. He went on leave to England, only to find his three children deserted by his wife, who had run away, untrue to him. At last he found her, and brought her home. On his return to the army, he finds that now he has to bear here in the hospital the vicarious result of her fall. He came to me as a non-Christian struggling with the problem of forgiveness. Could he forgive her all this and his broken home? At last in Christ he found the power to forgive and took up his heavy cross. He knelt at the altar of the little chapel and yielded up his life to God. Tomorrow he leaves the hospital to begin a new life.
Here is a young Australian who was untrue to his wife. When we first saw him he was hardened by sin. That night he yielded to Christ. The next Sunday we knelt beside him at the Lord's Supper. He was a new man; his very face was changed. He said, "I have read of miracles in the past, but there was never a greater miracle than the change which has taken place in my heart and life. I am a new man. I can look any one in the face today!"
Beside him at that communion table knelt a young gunner, "Joe," of the Royal Field Artillery. He was a strong, red-cheeked six-footer, winsome and good to look upon, the most popular man in his battery. Away from home among bad companions he was swept off his feet and fell. He has found Christ here among the prodigals in a far country. Before leaving he came up to bid us good-by, saying, 'I'm going out to warn other men and to witness for Christ to the end of my days."
Here is M-----, a young sergeant, who came up after the meeting, with tears in his eyes. "Sir," he said, "I was never drunk but once in my life, when my pals were home on leave, and that once, under the influence of drink, I fell. Here I am in the hospital, yet I am engaged to a little girl at home who is as white as snow. What is my duty in the matter?" He has accepted Christ and is a changed man.
Oh, it is a wonderful sight to see men transformed by this inward moral miracle, wrought by the touch of the living God. Here in the very center of this venereal camp stands the Y M C A, endeavoring to meet their every need, and even here the red triangle shines with the hope of a new manhood for body, mind, and spirit. Every day at the hour of opening there is a scurry of feet as the men rush in to the one center in the whole camp where they can congregate.
Martin Harvey has just been here to cheer them up, and they were enthusiastic over a fine lecture and recital last night on Chopin. The Colonel in command takes particular pride in the YMCA for his men, and states that crime among them has been reduced ninety per cent since it started.
But even greater than the privilege which the Association has in ministering to the fallen, is its work of prevention in the other camps. Just up the road is a swearing old major in command of a unit which has always had the worst record for immorality and disease of any camp on the plain. He finally came in and demanded a Y M C A hut for his men. A few weeks later he came to the Association headquarters and said, in punctuated language which could not be printed, "For a year and a half my camp has led all the rest as the worst in venereal disease, with some twenty-five fresh cases every week. The first week after the Y M C A was opened we had only ten cases, the next week six, the third week only two, and it has not risen above that since. Your Association is the ------- best cure for this evil."
Nothing less than reaching the whole man can meet this gigantic problem. You must take physical precautions and build up a strong, clean, athletic body. Better than all repressive rules and regulations, you must provide healthy and happy occupation for the minds of the men. But beyond the reach of medical and military restrictions you have got to grip and strengthen their spiritual and moral nature. Otherwise, in the artificial and unnatural conditions consequent upon a vast concentration of men in a foreign land, away from all home influences, and in the poisonous atmosphere of a land of "regulated" immorality, where the government is in league with it as a "necessary evil;, you must see your men fall in ranks before the machine guns of commercialized vice, controlled by the vested interests, or fall a prey to the harpies who walk the streets. In the face of all this we must lay bold claim to the whole of manhood for God and for the high ends for which it was created.
The writer recently walked through a French street of licensed vice, where strong young fellows were tossing away their birthright for a mess of pottage. He passed on the main street of the city two young Americans from a medical unit who were reeling along in the possession of two harpies. They were shouting to all the passers by, trying to hold up the carriages, and widely advertising their uniform and their nation. We recognize the difficulty of maintaining a high moral standard in a foreign land in war time, but we believe it can be done. A plan has recently been suggested by the Association for dealing with this menace.
First of all, it is proposed to conduct a campaign of education on the highest moral grounds by a select group of lecturers, capable of presenting wisely the danger of immorality from both the medical and moral standpoints. This will involve the preparation of lectures, charts, lantern slides, films, and everything needed for the effective presentation both to the ear and eye. It is hoped that these lecturers will be able to instruct chaplains, Y M C A secretaries, and all who are responsible for the moral leadership of the troops, in order that they may be better able to cope with the situation. It is proposed that these lecturers conduct meetings for three days in each center, with a parade lecture for each battalion and voluntary meetings in the evening, which will include addresses on hygiene, lantern lectures, and moral talks. Healthy literature will be prepared and distributed to the men, and similar campaigns will be conducted in the camps in the United States and on shipboard before the troops reach France.
Second, a positive program for the occupation and amusement of the men will be provided. Athletic sports, games, tournaments, track meets, and other events will offer adequate physical facilities. Amusements, entertainments, concerts, classes, and lectures will be arranged for the mental occupation of the men. Meetings, personal interviews, and services will be planned to keep before them the moral and spiritual challenge and the call for clean living. Special campaigns will be carried on in all Y M C A huts from time to time.
Third, we would favor strict regulations and penalties to cope with immorality. We are glad that the selection of camp sites for the American troops in France is being made at places as far removed from the temptations of the cities as possible, where the men will be kept under closer supervision than could be done if the troops were located near large centers of population. Other means are being provided which cannot here be mentioned.
In the fourth place, we favor adequate medical provisions, coupled with the highest moral restraints. We will take our stand against any league with vice, against any recognition of immorality as a "necessary evil." We will stand against all notices, lectures, or medical talks such as are given in some quarters, which practically serve as an invitation or solicitation to immorality. We would oppose any provision on the part of the authorities to provide in advance for immorality, to standardize it, accept it, and attempt to render it safe, and we would oppose any mention of it which tends to advertise and increase the evil. We would strenuously oppose the running of supervised houses of prostitution by our own military authorities, as was done by some of them on. the Mexican border. Conceivably a system of inspected government houses and of prophylactic measures might be devised which would eliminate disease altogether, and yet demoralize the young manhood of our nation by a cynical scientific materialism such as we are fighting against in the powers that dragged the world into this war. We are more opposed to immorality than to disease, which is its penalty.
We fear not only the impairment of the physical fitness of the men as a fighting force, but much more the menace of the moral degradation of the manhood of the nation, under the unnatural conditions of wartime.
We believe that the hearty cooperation of the medical and moral agencies and of the military and voluntary forces which have to do with the men, can greatly reduce both immorality and disease. We feel sure, moreover, that the solid backing of public opinion in America will support every effort to surround our camps with a zone of safety and to keep the men clean and strong in the multiplied dangers of a foreign land, as well as in the military camps of our own country. It is reassuring to know that our military authorities abroad have taken a strong stand and that in no army in Europe are drunkenness and the contraction of venereal disease more instantly court-martialled or more severely punished.
RELIGION AT THE FRONT
The war, like a great searchlight thrown across our individual and national lives, has revealed men and nations to themselves. It has shown us the nation's manhood suddenly stripped of the conventionalities, the restraints, and the outward respectability of civil life, subjected to the trial and testing of a prodigious strain. It has shown us the real stuff of which men are made. It is like the X-ray photographs now constantly used in all the military hospitals, and placed in the windows of the operating rooms, to guide the surgeon in discovering the hidden pieces of shrapnel or shattered bones which must be removed in order to save the patient.
The war has been a great revelation of things both good and bad. In the light of this terrible conflict, we may well ask what it shows us of the present virtues and vices of the men, an of our past failure or success in dealing with them, and to what future course of action it should summon us? In other words, what lessons has the war to teach us? Large numbers of young clergymen and laymen of the churches of England and Scotland have gone to the war zone with the men as chaplains, Y M C A workers, or in the army itself, and have learned to know men as they never knew them before. We would covet this opportunity for every young minister or Christian worker in America. Mr. Moody once stated that the Civil War was his university. It was there he learned to understand the human heart and to know and win men.
During the summer of 1917 a questionnaire was sent out to representative religious workers throughout the armies in France and Great Britain by a committee under the chairmanship of the Bishop of Winchester and Professor D. S. Cairns, with Mr. E. C. Carter of the Y M C A, and the Rev. Tissington Tatlow of the Student Christian Movement, as secretaries. Although the results and findings of this committee are not yet published, the writer has before him the reports of numbers of workers in France. In the base camp where he was last working, the questions were taken up by more than a hundred of the workers and discussed in conferences with groups of the soldiers and officers of the various regiments. These were summarized in findings and the reports were compared with the returns made from other centers. The writer has had the privilege of talking with hundreds of the soldiers regarding their own religious lives and difficulties. In this chapter he will try to form a composite photograph of all these impressions and to state impartially the results of his own experience and those of others.
We shall confine ourselves to three outstanding questions: I. What are the moral standards and actions of the men in war time? II. What is their attitude to religion and what is their religious life at the front? III. What is their attitude to the churches, and what lessons may the Church learn from the men at the front?
The questionnaire has been answered mainly by men of the British army, but the writer could observe no radical difference between the British and American forces as regards their religious life. As in other things connected with the war, we in America may learn much from the experience of Britain and other nations.
What are the moral standards and actions of the men in war time? At the very beginning, we must recognize the difficulty and danger of generalizations. No two men in the army are precisely alike. All sweeping generalizations are likely to be misleading. Regiments differ from one another and workers receive differing impressions of the front. Most of all we must distinguish between the different classes in the army.
It has been repeatedly affirmed that not more than 20 per cent of the men now under arms among the British troops were connected with the churches in any vital way before the war, or were regular in attendance at their services. Of this minority perhaps a half---those who were weak or nominal Christians before the war or have lost the higher standards of peace time or have hidden whatever religion they may have had---would not now be classed as definitely Christian men. But the remaining half, or one-tenth of the total number in the army, would probably be out-and-out Christians, strengthened by the severe discipline of the war and living under distinctly Christian standards.
At the other or lower extreme, there are perhaps one-tenth who are so-called "rotters," the men who set the evil standards of the camp and whose conduct is almost altogether selfish and materialistic. Between these two extremes are the great majority, or four-fifths, whom it is so difficult to classify. It is our conviction that these men "are not saved, but are salvable."
What are the moral standards of this majority'? They are not definitely Christian. Rather, they have a military, material standard of the type of a somewhat primitive social group. Their expressions unconsciously reveal their judgments. Their constant demand of one another is "to play the game," that is, to play fair and to do one's part in order to win the game for the good of all. Anything which harms, hinders, or endangers another, which brings suffering to one's fellows or defeat to one's side, is not playing the game. They condemn unmanly actions which bring defeat, and praise the practical and virile virtues. As one chaplain writes: "I believe nearly all live partly by faith in a good God. I have never found men afraid to die, even though they were afraid before battle. As to the standards by which they live, I should say they are the sanctions of group morality. They have very lax ideas about drunkenness and sexual irregularity, but they have very strict ideas about the sacredness, of social obligations within the groups to which they belong. I would mention sheer fear of public opinion as one of the great weaknesses of the men. They would rather be in the fashion than be right. And most of them have been hardened---though not necessarily in a bad sense."
As we ask ourselves what are the virtues which the majority admire in others and practice themselves to a greater or lesser degree, we would say that they are chiefly five:
1. Courage or bravery, the first virtue of the ancients and always at a natural premium in war time, is admired by all. In countless instances in the camps or on the battlefield this rises to heroism or self-sacrifice. Cowardice is scathingly condemned, and the man who starts to run away on the battlefield is unhesitatingly shot down by his comrades to preserve the morale of the fighting body.
2. Brotherliness, or comradeship, shows itself in unselfish service and cooperation with others.
3. Generosity and tender-heartedness show themselves in the men's willingness to help a comrade, to share their last rations, and to insist that others be attended to on the battlefield before themselves when they lie wounded. These are among the most beautiful virtues which the war has revealed.
4. Straightforwardness and genuine honesty are demanded; and all cant, hypocrisy, double dealing, shirking, and unreality are scathingly condemned.
5. Persistent cheerfulness in the midst of monotony, drudgery, suffering, danger, or death, is admired and maintained by the majority. This is not incompatible with the "grousing" or grumbling which the Englishman regards as his prerogative. This good cheer shows itself in the inveterate singing and whistling of the men on the march.(1)
Commenting upon the virtues of the soldiers, especially the wounded, a hospital nurse writes: "I was struck by the amount of real goodness among the men---their generosity, kindness, chivalry, patience, and self-sacrifice. The sins which they dislike are those sins of the spirit which Christ denounced most bitterly---hypocrisy, pride, meanness. They love giving, they bear pain patiently, they honor true womanhood, they reverence goodness."
Probably no one in the present war has given a better description of the unconscious virtues of the soldiers than has Donald Hankey, in his chapter on "The Religion of the Inarticulate," fragments of which we here quote:
"We never got a chance to sit down and think things out. Praying was almost an impossibility. . . . Above all, we were not going to turn religious at the last minute because we were afraid. . . . The soldier, and in this case the soldier means the workingman, does not in the least connect the things that he really believes in with Christianity. . . . Here were men who believed absolutely in the Christian virtues of unselfishness, generosity, charity, and humility, without ever connecting them in their minds with Christ; and at the same time what they did associate with Christianity was just on a par with the formalism and smug self-righteousness which Christ spent His whole life in trying to destroy. . . . The men really had deep-seated beliefs in goodness. . . . They never connected the goodness in which they believed with the God in Whom the chaplains said they ought to believe. . . . They have a dim sort of idea that He is misrepresented by Christianity. . . . If the chaplain wants to be understood and to win their sympathy he must begin by showing them that Christianity is the explanation and the justification and the triumph of all that they do now really believe in. He must start by making their religion articulate in a way which they will recognize."
As we turn from the virtues to the vices or moral weaknesses of the soldier in war time, we find that they also fall chiefly under five headings:
1. Impurity must certainly take the first place. Investigation seemed to show that the majority of these men were immoral in peace time, but the war has intensified this evil. This would be accounted for to a large extent by the unnatural conditions under which the men are forced to live, and the policy of the military authorities, who are often concerned merely with the fighting fitness of the men, rather than with the moral issues. However this may be, in nearly every camp or battalion or regiment or body of men questioned, whether among officers or men, the majority were confessedly living in immorality. This in itself is a staggering fact. It could be supported here by numerous statements or authorities and by much evidence.
2. Obscene and profane language is sweeping like an epidemic through the camps. It is infectious, and the worst men, who are the loudest talkers, tend to set the standard, so that evil is rapidly and unconsciously propagated until the very atmosphere becomes saturated. It is some comfort to know that frequently words are used unthinkingly and without a full realization of their original meaning. it is also comforting to be assured that there is not much deliberate telling of obscene stories. As one man puts it, "There are few essentially rotten minds." When, however, the name of our Lord is used not only profanely, but dragged into the most obscene and horrible connections, unheard of in peace times, no possible excuse can be offered and the habit cannot but prove deadening and baneful in its influence. Men who never before thought of swearing find themselves driven to strong language and to reckless, heightened, or intensified expression in the trying and persistent strain of war time.
3. Drunkenness has always proved the danger of the soldier. The discipline of the army has lessened this evil within the camps. Certainly it is being sternly suppressed and severely punished by the authorities among the newly arrived American troops. The rum which is given to the soldiers of the British army before a charge, or in the extreme cold of the trenches, has taught some men to drink who had not contracted the habit before. It is also a fact that the drink bill of England has increased during the war. Lloyd George said: "We are fighting against Germany, Austria, and Drink; but the greatest of these three deadly foes is Drink." The drink trade of England is maintained on the one hand by the powerful vested interests and the respectable moderate drinkers at the top of society, who are not willing to sacrifice their selfish comfort for the weaker brother, and on the other hand by the demand of the laboring classes who will have their beer, and whom the government does not dare oppose in the present crisis. Drink has been a curse to Britain during the war.
4. Gambling is a danger to the soldier. It is strictly forbidden in most of its forms by the military authorities.The 'game of "House" is tolerated as a mild form of gambling, where the men play for hours for very small stakes in order to kill time. The game of "Crown and Anchor" is also popular.
5. A lack of moral courage, of independence, and of individual initiative are particular evils of the present. All the men have to act together. They are taught to obey under rigid discipline. Individual initiative is crushed or left undeveloped. The sense of personal responsibility and of personal ownership is often weakened. This lack of the sense of private property may partly account for the pilfering which goes on. The men find it exceedingly difficult to take an open stand on moral or religious questions before their comrades. A soldier will ordinarily hide his religion and is afraid to be seen praying or doing anything that makes him peculiar, although the most immoral and obscene man is not ashamed of his actions.
A lieutenant of the Royal Irish Rifles says:
"Taken singly they are afraid to face public opposition, anxious to avoid bother and exertion, slack, and easily overcome by temptations. There is a fairly general chaotic unrest, but little or no serious thought. There is a greater tolerance towards vice. Many more men practice sexual vice than before and most refuse to condemn it.
"It might be said that the men are more open to religion, but less religious. They are also more open on the question of sacrifice, the need for living or dying for others."
An army chaplain who himself served in the ranks writes of the soldier: "He lives an animal life in which the thinking is done for him. Indeed his relative comfort depends upon the extent to which he can abstain from thinking. In France the number who take drink increases greatly. It is wicked, damnably wicked that our lads through ignorance should be allowed to slip into sins which in themselves are deadly, but which also open the door to deadlier sins. . . . There are many indications that when the Army returns there will be a great social upheaval. Men feel that they are out to fight Prussianism, but they are becoming growingly conscious of Prussianism in our own national life. They are very conscious of it in military life."
If we were to sum up our impressions we would be compelled to say that there has been an increase of immorality, drinking, and bad language during the period of the war.
Let us now ask, What is the attitude of the men to religion, and what are the characteristics of their religious life in war time? The war seems to have intensified all the tendencies of peace time. It makes a man a greater sinner or a greater saint. He is either driven to God or away from Him. It would be impossible for any single human mind adequately to sum up the good and evil of war, and strike a balance between the two. Most Christians cannot believe that war is in itself good. To those who have seen its hideous reality it is unquestionably a dire evil. Even the best results of war might have been better attained by other means. The good is often revealed rather than caused by it. A moral equivalent for war might have been found. Certainly no Christian could defend war save as a last resort, forced upon a nation in defense of its life or for the lives of others, when all more rational or judicial methods had failed.
Among the obvious evil results of war we would be compelled to name at least ten: The wanton destruction of human life; the maiming and suffering inflicted upon the wounded; the breaking up of homes and the terrible suffering caused to women and children; the loss of wealth and property, with the subsequent hardship for the poor which it entails, and the destruction of art, architecture, and the higher material accomplishments of civilization; the outbreak of immorality and drunkenness, which always accompanies war; the hardening of the finer sensibilities of men through the cruelty and barbarity of modern warfare; the increase of hatred and suspicion; the dividing of humanity and the destruction of its sense of unity, brotherhood, and cooperation; the breakdown of international law and respect for law and order; and the loss of reverence for human life and the sense of its priceless value.
An equal number of possible good effects may be mentioned which war may at times call out: The development of courage and heroism; the call to sacrifice in the sinking of selfish individual interests for the sake of a cause; the discipline of obedience and the development of corporate action; the bringing of men out of selfish and careless lives to the facing of the great realities of God, life, death, and immortality; the awful object lesson of the results of sin, both personal and national, and the teaching of the terrible lesson that "the wages of sin is death"; the widening of men's horizons, the breaking of old molds, ruts, and restrictions and the opening of men's minds to new ideas; the chastening and mellowing influence of suffering, with its possible development of sympathy, tenderness, and unselfishness; the deepening of the sense of brotherhood within a single nation with the sinking of the false or artificial social distinctions of peace time; the strengthening of religious unity by the stripping off of nonessentials and the laying bare of the great simple fundamentals; and the new contact with the practical ministry of religion in hours of deepest need in camps, in hospitals, and on the battlefields, with the resultant strengthening hold on the great verities of the love of God, the cross of Christ, and the service of men.
It will depend upon the individual and his theories of life how he will strike the balance between these two sides of the good and evil of war. While the good effects of a war are seen more clearly after it is over, certainly during the war the vast majority of men at the front would almost unanimously agree that the preponderating influence and effect for the time being is evil.
At the beginning of the war in 1914 there was talk of a religious revival in the various countries. The churches for a time were filled. The opening of the war drove men to God. With the passing months, which have now dragged into years, many of the high ideals have gradually been lowered or lost. Men are certainly ready to listen to a living message and are probably more open than ever before in their lives to religious influences, because of their desperate need. They are between the nether and upper millstones of sin and death. On the one hand they meet the pressure of terrible temptations, and on the other they have to face the awful fact of death, unready and unprepared. But although the men are open to a religious message and to the Christian challenge presented by one who has a real message, it could hardly be maintained by anyone that there is a revival of religion at the front today.
Rather the opposite is true.
A friend of the present writer, a chaplain in charge of the religious work in one of the five armies at the front, well says:
"On the whole, I venture to say, there is not a great revival of the Christian religion at the front. Deep in their hearts is a great trust and faith in God. It is an inarticulate faith expressed in deeds. The top levels, as it were, of their consciousness, are much filled with grumbling and foul language and physical occupations; but beneath lie deep spiritual springs, whence issue their cheerfulness, stubbornness, patience, generosity, humility, and willingness to suffer and to die. There is religion about; only, very often it is not the Christian religion. Rather it is natural religion. It is the expression of a craving for security. Literally it is a looking for salvation."
It may be asked, To what extent are the men thinking of religion and discussing its problems? One friend of the writer, a young Anglican chaplain, says: "The men are not thinking at all. They are 'carrying on.' They spend hours in playing a game like House because it requires no thought." However, it would probably be fairer to say that at times all of them think about religion, although they do not talk very much about it. It is not, however, consistent thought leading to action. Rather they have moments of deep impressions, vague longings, intuitions, and hunger of heart. But the minute anyone starts a discussion or begins to attack religion, men show that they have been thinking, or that they have ideas of their own in private.
Most of them believe in God, although they do not know Him in a personal way. They believe in religion, but have not made it vital and dominant in their lives. They have a vague sense or intuition that there is a God and that He is a good God, round about and above them. He is looked upon, however, not as One whom they are to seek first, but rather as a last resort; not as a present Father and constant Friend, but as One to whom they can turn in time of need. They have a vague feeling of unworthiness, although no clear sense of sin. Yet they also have an inarticulate belief or intuition that they have tried, however brokenly or unsuccessfully, to live up to such light as they had or to some standard of their own. They feel that somehow, though they have often failed, at bottom they are not so very bad, and that God is very, very good. Their vague feeling would probably find its most accurate expression in Faber's hymn, "There's a wideness in God's mercy, like the wideness of the sea."
They revere God from afar off and in one compartment of their being, but they have never opened their lives to Him. They have a reverence for Him in the face of death, in the hour of need, and in the great crises of life. Most of them like to sing the Christian hymns on Sunday evening and have thoughts of home and of loved ones that are sacred. They do not feel that they have come into close personal relations with God, but neither do they consciously feel that they are out of relation with Him. They do not think they are altogether right with Him, but neither do they feel in the bottom of their hearts that they are wholly wrong with Him. The vast majority of them in the hour of death do not feel that they have either consciously accepted or rejected Him. They have not loved darkness rather than light, nor have they wholly chosen the light and rejected the darkness.
It will depend upon the individual how he classifies these men. Some will believe that the great love of the Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for the sheep, will somehow in the end not be thwarted in His seeking to save the lost. Not only will men differ in their judgment, but it is exceedingly difficult to pass judgment upon an individual soldier. He seems to be a different man under different circumstances. In the temptations at the base camp, he would perhaps appear to be utterly irreligious and profane. He can hardly be recognized as the same man as he prays in the hour of battle, or as he lies wounded, chastened, and sobered, in the hospital. Which situation reveals the true man?
Before us as we write lies the photograph of a young sergeant. Before the war he was an atheist, an illegitimate child, a member of the criminal class. But in the trenches he found God. Blown up by a mine, for sixteen days he lost the power of speech and of memory. He returned from the front with a deep sense of God, but with no personal, vital relationship to Christ. He eagerly welcomed the first real message that went straight to his heart, and the personal word of loving sympathy which led him to relate his deep experience of the trenches to the presence of the living Christ. All this man needed was someone to interpret to him his own experience, and bring him into the relationship with God which his own heart craved and longed for.
Beside this photograph is the card of a strongwilled, self-righteous young Pharisee, who had no use for religion in peace time, but who was driven to God by his awful conflict with sin in this war. Next comes the card of a young man who formerly had lived a proper conventional life without bad habits. The war taught him to drink and he finally became a drunkard, but in his extremity he found Christ as a personal Saviour. Next comes the card of a man who had been in a public house for thirty-two years---twenty-seven years as a bar tender and five years as a saloon keeper. He said, "I have sent men to hell with drink. I have seen women who would sell the clothes off the backs of their children or pawn their husband's clothing to get drink." Yet this man has been brought to God during the war. Many a man has found God on the field of battle, or like the thief has turned to him in the hour of death.(2)
One young soldier thus describes his experience which is typical of many another: There had been a charge, a hopeless affair from the start. He lay in the long grass between the lines, unable to move, and with an unceasing throbbing pain in his left leg and arm. A whizz-bang had caught him in both places. He just lay there, feeling strangely peaceful. Above him he could see the stars. All this bloodshed---what was the good of it? He suddenly felt terribly small and lonely, and he was so very, very weak. "God!" he whispered softly. "God everywhere!" Then into his tired brain came a new phrase--"Underneath are the everlasting arms." He sighed contentedly, as a tired child. They fetched him in at last. He will never again be sound of limb; but there is in his memory and in his heart that which may make him a staunch fighter in other fields. He has learned a new way of prayer, and the courage that is born of faith well-founded.
Fig 6. THREE HUNDRED SOLDIERS IN CROWEBORO HUT
The idea has been widely preached by many British chaplains that death in battle saves. This may be good Mohammedanism, but it is surely not the Christian message that is given to Christ's ministers to preach. The verse most often quoted in support of this theory is: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." But such a passage cannot be taken out of its context either in Christ's teaching or in the man's own life. Our Lord had said that we were to love even as He loved, that is, out of a pure and surrendered heart to lay down our life for our friends; and He added, "Ye are my friends if ye do the things which I command you." It is going far beyond the province of the Christian minister to offer any hope other than that which is offered by our Lord Himself. It is not death or a bullet or battle that saves. Christ only saves, and there is no other name given under heaven. This offer is made to all men and at all times.
But although one may not preach so dangerous and misleading a doctrine, it is nevertheless possible to realize that many a man is unconsciously more of a Christian than he knows, and that in the last day he may say with surprise: "When saw I Thee an hungered and fed Thee?"
We may turn to "A Student in Arms" for his interpretation of the feeling of the common soldier in this crisis:
"Then at last we 'got out.' We were confronted with dearth, danger, and death. . . . They, who had formerly been our despair; were now our glory. Their spirits effervesced. Their wit sparkled. Hunger and thirst could not depress them. Rain could not damp them. Cold could not chill them. Every hardship became a joke.
Never was such a triumph of spirit over matter. If it was another fellow that was hit, it was an occasion for tenderness and grief. But if one of them was hit, O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory? . . . Life? They did not value life! They had never been able to make much of a fist of it. But if they lived amiss they died gloriously, with a smile for the pain and the dread of it. What else had they been born for? It was their chance. With a gay heart they gave their greatest gift, and with a smile to think that after all they had anything to give which was of value. One by one Death challenged them. One by one they smiled in his grim visage, and refused to be dismayed. They had been lost, but they had found the path that led them home; and when at last they laid their lives at the feet of the Good Shepherd, what could they do but smile?"
It has been well said that there is much natural religion in the trenches, but that much of this religion is not Christian. What is the attitude of the men to Christ Himself ? Most of them associate Him with all that is highest and noblest in life. They link Him with God in their thought, and with themselves in their time of deepest need. Although His name with that of God is sometimes taken on their lips in profanity, there is often a deep reverence for Him. Thousands have seen the cross of Christ standing among the ruins in the villages of Belgium and Northern France, when all about seems to be battered and wrecked. The old skeptical theories and captious criticisms of pre-war days are little heard during this awful time. Generally speaking, the facts of the gospel narrative are not disputed. They believe in Christ as the revelation of God. They have no difficulty with the doctrine of the divinity of Christ and do not doubt that He is a living reality and has power to save. Their only difficulty is with their own sin. They do not know how to break from it or are unwilling to give it up.
The great need of the hour is for interpretation. On the one hand, men have had in their hours of great need a deep experience of God which they do not understand; yet on the other hand, they are gripped by the power of temptation which alone they cannot overcome. They admire the virtues of courage, generosity, and purity, but for the most part they see no connection between these and the presentation of Christ in the lives and words of those about them who profess to be Christians. What is needed is personally to relate the man to the God and Father of Jesus Christ, with Whom he has been brought face to face at the battle front. There is urgent and imperative need of the giving of that message, both in public Presentation and in the channels of personal friendship.
One chaplain says of the men: "I am sure the soldier has got religion: I am sure he has got Christianity; but he does not know he has got Christianity. I am convinced that of the hundreds of men who go into action the majority come out affected towards good rather than coarsened. They come out realizing that there are times when they cannot get on without God; they are not frightened of Him, they flee to Him with their simple cries for strength."
While another, a student who laid down his life at the front, makes this valuable suggestion as to the presentation of Christ: "When I was talking to them at these services, I always used to try to make them feel that Christ was the fulfilment of all the best things that they admired, that He was their natural hero. I would tell them some story of heroism and meanness contrasted, of courage and cowardice, of noble forgiveness and vile cruelty, and so get them on the side of the angels. Then I would try and spring it upon them that Christ was the Lord of the heroes and the brave men and the noble men, and that He was fighting against all that was mean and cruel and cowardly, and that it was up to them to take their stand by His side if they wanted to make the world a little better instead of a little worse."
The third question discussed with the men was, What is the attitude of the soldier to the churches, and what lesson has the Church to learn from the present war? Let it be said at the very outset that the writer speaks as a member of the Church and in deep sympathy with it. As the divinely constituted organization which stands for the highest human ideals, and for the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth, we all are, or ought to be, members of the Church. "With charity for all and with malice toward none," we see no ground for self-complacence on the part of any branch of the Church, and no part of it which deserves sweeping condemnation from the rest. Doubtless it will seem to many that it is unwise to confess our faults, but the men at the front are not silent, however much we may desire to be. We would do well to face the facts which this war is forcing upon our attention, however much we may dislike the searching glare of the present conflict. Obviously something is wrong. Had the Church fulfilled her divine mission, the present war between so-called "Christian" nations would have been impossible.
As was stated in the preceding chapter, according to the opinion of the majority, less than 20 per cent or one-fifth of the men are vitally related to any of the Christian communions. A series of conferences held with individuals and carefully selected groups of men and officers brought out by a general consensus of opinion the following points as representing the attitude of the men toward the churches:
1. Indifference to the Church. As one typical young sergeant, a member of the student movement, puts it: "The men simply have no time for it. They do not care for the Church because it did not care for them." There is a general feeling that the churches do not understand them or sympathize with the social and industrial disabilities of the men. They feel that the ideals of life for which the Church stands are dull, dim, and altogether unnatural; its standard of comfort and complacent respectability makes no appeal to them and they have no part or lot in it. They feel that this respectability of the Church is quite in keeping with flagrant selfishness in social and industrial relationships, that the Church is largely in the possession of the privileged classes, who monopolize it, and who have neither sought nor welcomed them within its doors.
As one representative chaplain in a most influential position in France says: "There is the plain fact that the great mass of men are out with the Christian Church, and do not look to it as being in any vital relation to life as they know it, either in peace or war. There is the deeper and sadder fact that to a very large proportion of them God Himself means little or nothing, or means something that is very unchristian. Where there is a living presentation of religion men are responsive---extraordinarily so. Put it how you will, men must be summoned to a new thought, a new outlook on life, a new attitude towards the unseen and eternal."
2. An attitude of separation and alienation from the Church. For the most part the men are largely ignorant of what the Church really is, and for this the churches are largely responsible. They believe that its message and presentation of truth are often too feminine and impractical and that its fellowship is too cold and exclusive. They do not understand the vocabulary and tone adopted frequently by preachers in speaking of religious things, and they feel that the churches are almost complete strangers to the real facts of life with which they have to deal.
It is true that the practical work of the churches in their helpful ministry through the various organizations working in the camps has brought many of the men into vital contact with religion for the first time. But the war has revealed the lack of the churches' hold upon the men in prewar times.
3. Criticism of its worldliness. The men have an unuttered belief in God, and they reverence Jesus Christ as the friend and brother and comrade of man, as the embodiment of the highest ideal they can conceive. But they feel that somehow the churches do not adequately represent Christ, that they have become merely the adjunct of the State to second its schemes and aims. Many feel that the Church has lowered its colors in the present war, that in some countries it has been little more than a recruiting station for enlistment and that its message cannot be reconciled with the Sermon on the Mount.
One sergeant thus states his convictions: "Perhaps it would be well if we out here could get up a committee of inquiry on 'Civilians and Religion' and arrive at some decision as to what is the matter with you at home. Are we to return home where the spiritual fires have been kept burning brightly, or to the blackened ashes of those great ideals of the early days of August, 1914, which have burned themselves out? Are we to return to a country in which, in spite of all the community of suffering and sorrow, the Christian churches have still their differences simmering instead of being regiments in one common Army?"
Another soldier writes: "What could not the churches do for the world if they could only connect the symbols Christ gave us with the knowledge that is within the hearts of men? There must be more known about suffering and sacrifice now in the hearts of men than at any past time. I thought once, on the Somme, that the two races facing each other in such agony were as the two thieves on their crosses reviling each other, and that somewhere between us, if we could but see Him, was Christ on His Cross."
4. The men are bewildered and repelled by the Church's divisions. There is a widespread feeling among them that there is something wrong here, that instead of representing Christ or losing themselves in the wide interests of His Kingdom, instead of concern for the winning of the world and humanity as a whole, the aims of many of the churches are petty, narrow, exclusive, and sectarian. There is a feeling among the men that far too many Christians are working for themselves or for their own particular branch of the Church, or are, as one of them puts it, "Out for their own show."
In the last hospital we visited, the young American Episcopal chaplain working with own units asked the writer to accompany him one morning to help him in cheering up the patients, giving them Testaments, meeting their needs, and answering their doubts and difficulties. While we were proceeding through one of the wards, the Nonconformist chaplain came by. The writer was speaking to a poor boy who was dying. The chaplain seemed shocked and surprised that we were speaking to one of his patients without his permission. The young Episcopal chaplain explained that he felt sure that the chaplain would not mind if we tried to help the men. Although he followed him out of the ward and tried his best to make his peace with him, the chaplain reported the matter, and we were prevented from doing personal Christian work in neighboring hospitals.
The Roman Catholic chaplain in the next hospital, a most consecrated and earnest man, has managed to get a military rule passed that no services can be held in any ward of the hospital unless every Roman Catholic patient is bodily carried out. This has successfully prevented the holding of any Christian services whatsoever, Catholic or Protestant. Throughout the entire war we have never known of a single instance of any man trying to proselytize or to divert a soldier from allegiance to his own church. We have known of men leaving the churches altogether during the war, but not one instance of a man's changing his church or being asked to do so. Yet the jealousy and suspicion of the bare possibility of men's doing so has blocked and excluded much genuine Christian work.
To give another instance---a personal friend of the writer, a young Anglican clergyman, a widely known college principal, was serving in one of the huts of a Convalescent Camp. He had made the acquaintance of the patients in some twelve wards and was going the rounds every morning telling the war news, giving oranges to the fevered, and cheering up the depressed. The Commandant came with apologies and told him that although he was doing the best Christian work in the hospital it must be discontinued, as the chaplain objected. Our friend, who was a clergyman of the same communion as the chaplain, called upon him and asked if he had any objection to the distribution of fruit. He replied that if our friend did this it would give an unfair advantage to his work as his particular organization would get the credit, and that he, as the chaplain, must "push his own show." To continue in the words of our friend: "Then I asked him if I could send the fruit through the lady workers or the hut orderlies, or the 'Tommies' who were friends of the wounded. But he refused all. So I asked him if he would distribute them if I gave them. This he agreed to, and I have sent them to him since then. But he is too busy." The oranges were not distributed, and our friend concludes: "I am out against the whole principle on which he acts. I don't think he is much to be blamed. He is one of the best; a keen, hardworking, pleasant man, zealous for his 'own show,' and in its interests doing much for the men. And in his principle of action he is not an exception, but a common type of the Anglican padre as I have met them in many lands. They are trained and encouraged to 'push their own show.' But this keenness on one's 'own show' rather than on men, is the very essence of the sin of schism, and the very root of Pharisaism. Now, as a rule, all the sects stand for their 'own show' first, and men know it. I am ashamed to be a parson today. Men were not made for any Church, but the Church for them." Here again, which of us is without sin, and who can throw the first stone at his brother, or at other branches of the sadly divided Church of Christ?
Facing the vast common need in war time with four thousand wounded patients, whom no one chaplain could visit, the whole story is obviously pathetic and sad. The writer also recalls visiting a Y M CA hut of another nationality, where the secretary was so obviously "out for his own show," and had become so engrossed in the counter of his dry canteen and his work as a money-changer, that he had forgotten all the higher interests of the men, and the high purpose for which he was there. He had become a mere secularized machine, a kind of automatic cash register, mistaking in his work the means for the end. He was just as much "out for his own show" as the three mentioned above, and it was an infinitely smaller "show."
Here we have four instances of men, each conscientious, well meaning, and earnest; each zealous for his own work and his own organization; yet each earning the pity or contempt of the great body of men outside the churches today who are out of sympathy with sectarian zeal. The saddest religious spectacle the writer ever witnessed was in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where five chapels divide that sacred spot where our Lord is supposed to have been crucified, occupied by five bodies, each claiming to be the church. The blood of their fellow Christians has been shed by the followers of these churches on this very spot, and it is a humiliating sight to see them kept apart even to this day by the Turkish bayonet alone. How many of us are working for "our own show," rather than for the Kingdom of God?
The war work of the Y M CA in America, in England, in France, and elsewhere has been made possible only by churchmen sacrificing their individual interests and losing themselves in service for the Kingdom. The Association represents the churches at work on behalf of the suffering men in the war zone. If it should claim the credit for itself as though it were a wholly independent organization, rather than the united work of the churches which have sunk their own differences to make possible this common work, this would be only a manifestation of the same spirit and more inexcusable. But such a claim it could never truly make. As a matter of fact, this united work has proved how truly Christians of various bodies can get together on a great practical issue. If, as at present, all can unite in a great lay organization, what may not the churches themselves do in the future?
Should we not in this war repent, in bitterness and deep humiliation, for our unhappy divisions and each resolve that he will work for nothing less than the whole Kingdom of God, and that no member of that Kingdom, even one of these least, shall be excluded from the love and fellowship which make us one in Him? One of the chaplains in France who has himself been in the ranks says: "I feel that in the past churches have been more anxious to get men into the Kingdom of the Church than into the Kingdom of God, with the result that very many are Pillars of the Church who are not near to the Kingdom. Out of the two battalions which I have known as a private soldier, I should say that not more than five per cent were vitally related to any of the Christian communions. It is useless making plans for the time when the boys come home, unless the Church rediscovers her Lord and Master. The Spirit-filled Church is more necessary than any modifications of organization."
Is not the whole war a call to deep humiliation to the Church of Christ and should we not all stand convicted of sin before it? So far as our saving the world is concerned and our bringing in the Kingdom of love and peace, which Christ came to establish, does not the war write in flaming judgment against us, "Thou art weighed in the balances and found wanting"? Are we not all, like the Pharisees of old, too ready to throw the first stone at someone else who we may think caused the war, instead of admitting our own guilt ?
As Arnold Freeman, in his lectures at Sheffield University, says:
"We persuade one another that it was the Kaiser, through his lust for self-glorification, who made this war. Would it be possible for one man to transform all Europe into a slaughter-house unless that same Kaiser-spirit found its response in human nature in every corner of this continent? It is the 'Kaiser' in each one of us that makes wars possible. It is because we have in every nation, and in every class, multitudes of men and women who neglect the service of their fellow-creatures in a desire for self-indulgence and self-aggrandizement, that this catastrophe has fallen upon us all. It is a case of devil-possession, and our only hope is to exorcise ourselves of the evil spirit. Our avowed intention is to cast out 'Kaiserism' in Germany by brute force. We must be no less resolute to cast it out of this country."
The Bishop of Carlisle has well said that if we were really Christians this war would not have happened. If the defense of its citizens is the work of the State, and the redemption of the world is the task of the Church, no one can deny that the State has done its work far better than the Church. In the face of this, the most pathetic spectacle that the Christian world ever witnessed, must we not wring our hands with shame and cry, "Why could we not cast it out?" The divisions, the impotence, the worldliness, the coldness, the sin and failure of the Church stand revealed in the lurid light of this war.
What a self-righteous spirit the war has bred in many of us, and what a hatred of our enemies! One has but to read the secular and religious press on both sides of the present conflict to see our sin writ large before us. Since we have such a keen vision for the mote in our brother's eye and such an eager perception of every flaw in our enemy, we can recognize this spirit most readily if we look for it first in Germany, but in doing so let us clearly recognize that every quotation can be paralleled by the press both secular and religious on our own side of the conflict. In all fairness let us state that a large proportion of the sermons which have been preached in the churches of Germany, England, and America have had a recognition of the sins of their own people. But there have been many preachers on both sides who have praised their own nation to the skies with Pharisaic self-righteousness, and have seen the enemy only with the distorted eyes of prejudice and hate.
It will not be necessary to quote here the notorious "Hymn of Hate," by Ernst Lissauer, which was distributed by the Crown Prince of Bavaria to his army. Rather let us quote from some of the sermons and poems of German pastors and the religious press. In a collection of poems published by a German pastor, Konsistorialrat Dietrich Vorwerk, there occurred the following paraphrase of the Lord's Prayer: "Though the warrior's bread be scanty, do Thou work daily death and tenfold woe unto the enemy. Forgive in merciful long-suffering each bullet and each blow which misses its mark! Lead us not into the temptation of letting our wrath be too tame in carrying out Thy divine judgment! Deliver us and our Ally from the infernal Enemy and his servants on earth. Thine is the kingdom, the German land; may we, by aid of Thy steel-clad hand, achieve the power and the glory." Fortunately, this was deleted in the later editions of this book.
The published sermons of Pastor H. Francke are also typical:
"As Jesus was treated, so also have the German people been treated. From the East the Russian threatens us. Injustice and bloody deeds of violence are his life---element, agreements and constitutions, solemnly sworn to, have no significance for him; he is stained with blood from top to toe. Germany is precisely---who would venture to deny it?---the representative of the highest morality, of the purest humanity, of the most chastened Christianity. They envy us our freedom, our power to do our work in peace. To heal the world by the German nature is to become a blessing to the people of the earth. Wherever the German spirit obtains supremacy, there freedom prevails. Here we come upon the old intimate kinship between the essence of Christianity and of Germanism. Because of their close spiritual relationship, therefore, Christianity must find its fairest flower in the German mind. Therefore we have a right to say: 'Our German Christianity---the most perfect, the most pure.' Thus the Germans are the very nearest to the Lord. Is He the God of those others? No, they serve at best Satan, the father of lies."
The Rev. J. Rump writes in the same strain:
"Against us stands the world's greatest sham of a nation, the 'English cousin,' the Judas among the nations, who betrays Germanism for thirty pieces of silver. Against us stands sensual France, the harlot amongst the peoples. Against us stands Russia, inwardly rotten, mouldering, masking its disease under outbursts of brutality. Germany shall be the Israel of the future. The Germans are guiltless, and from all sides testimonies are flowing in as to the noble manner in which our troops conduct the war. We fight---thanks and praise be to God---for the cause of Jesus within mankind. Verily the Bible is our book. It was given and assigned to us, which proclaims to mankind salvation or disaster---according as we will it."(3)
Such quotations could be multiplied not only from German war sermons, but from some that have been preached in England and America as well.(4) The Archbishop of Canterbury says: "I get letters in which I am urged to see to it that we insist upon 'reprisals, swift, bloody and unrelenting. Let gutters run with German blood. Let us smash to pulp the German old men, women and children,' and so on.:(5)
Here is Henri de Regnier's, gong of hate from France:
"I swear to cherish in my heart this hate
Till my last heart-throb wanes;
So may the sacred venom of my blood
Mingle and charge my veins!
May there pass never from my darkened brow
The furrows hate has worn!
May they plough deeper in my flesh, to mark
The outrage I have borne!
By towns in flames, by my fair fields laid waste,
By hostages undone,
By cries of murdered women and of babes,
By each dead warrior son,. . .
I take my oath of hatred and of wrath
Before God, and before
The holy waters of the Marne and Aisne,
Still ruddy with French gore;
And fix my eyes upon immortal Rheims,
Burning from nave to porch,
Lest I forget, lest I forget who lit
The sacrilegious torch!"
A poem recently written by an "Unbeliever" represents all the churches, Catholic and Protestant, Lutheran and Reformed, of the enemy and of the Allies, at last united in one message, which furnishes the recurring refrain of the poem, "In Jesus' Name go forth and slay."
With two-thirds of the world, representing more than twenty nations, already dragged into the widening vortex of the present war; with more than five millions of the finest youth of Europe already slaughtered on the battlefield, with twenty millions who have already been wounded, nearly forty millions under arms, and whole nations organized for war and the manufacture of munitions; with the flood tide of impurity and immorality which war has brought in its train; with the barbarism and cruelty, poison gas, flaming oil, and organized destruction used at present on the battlefields of Europe, is it not time for the Church to set her own house in order, to humble herself with shame in the very dust for her criminal impotence and worldliness and sin, and to return to her crucified Lord and Master?
Is it not time that we seek a new vision of His face, to renew our consecration before Him, and to seek a vital and life-giving message first for ourselves and then for the world about us? Not for "our country right or wrong," not for a Pharisaic self-righteousness, but for Christ and His suffering world, for a whole Kingdom, and a whole Church, must we reconsecrate ourselves.
As Fosdick says, "The issue was drawn: Christianity would be a failure if it did not stop slavery. And from the day that this issue was drawn, the result was assured. It was not Christianity that failed, it was slavery. . . . This, too, is a climactic day in history. For so long time the Gospel and war have lived together in ignoble amity! If at last disharmony between the spirit of Jesus and the spirit of war is becoming evident, then a great hope has dawned for the race. . . . The main issue is clear. Christianity will indeed have failed if it does not stop war.(6)
Is it not time that we turn to God in humiliation and prayer for an outpouring of His spirit and a deeply needed revival of religion? In the words of Admiral Sir David Beatty, the Commander of the British Fleet, "England still remains to be taken out of her stupor of self-satisfaction and complacency and until she be stirred out of this condition, until religious revival takes place at home, just so long will the war continue."
If at the call of nationalism the manhood of the nation has poured forth in boundless heroism and self-sacrifice, at the call of Christ cannot His Church rise again to its high vocation? If half of the zeal and passion, half of the outpouring of life and treasure, of organization and efficiency, that the State has put into this war could be thrown into the cause of the Kingdom and of the eternal verities, the world would soon be won. If Christians would but follow Christ, war, as an unbelievably brutal and barbarous anachronism, like its former savage contemporaries of slavery, the burning of witches, and the torture of the Inquisition, would be forever done away. The message with which our Lord challenges the whole Church today is that with which He began His ministry when He faced His apostate nation, "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand."
1. The songs of the men which are most popular in war time bear evidence of this unconscious virtue. They fall into three classes. There are the songs of cheer so popular in the camps today: "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Own Kit Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile," "Are We Downhearted, No," "Though Your Heart May Ache Awhile Never Mind," etc. Then there are the songs of home: "Keep the Home Fires Burning,' "Tipperary," " Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty," "Put Me on the Train to London Town," "Back Home in Tennessee," "In My Old Kentucky Home," "There's a Long, Long Trail Awinding," "Give Me Your Smile," "If You Were the Only Girl in the World," "Mother McCrae " etc. Then there are the songs of nationality: The "Marseillaise," "John Brown's Body," "When Irish Eyes are Smiling," "Come Back to Erin," "Annie Laurie," etc. Back to text.
2. See Appendix III for a typical expression of a soldier's new experience of religion at the front. Back to text.
3. Quoted in "Hurrah and Hallelujah, " pp. 116-119. Back to text.
4. It is interesting to note in this connection some words of Immanuel Kant. See Appendix 1. Back to text.
5. London Times, June 22, 1917. Back to text.
6. "The Challenge of the Present Crisis," Association Press. Back to text.
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