Home > Uncategorized > Charles Edward Montague: The disconcerting bombs of Christian pacifism

Charles Edward Montague: The disconcerting bombs of Christian pacifism

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Charles Edward Montague: Selections on war and its aftermath

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Charles Edward Montague
From Disenchantment

“I’ve been a Christian all my life, but this war is a bit too serious.” So saying, a certain New Army recruit had folded up his religion in 1914, and put it away, as it were, in a drawer with his other civil attire to wait until public affairs should again permit of their use. He had said it quite simply. A typical working-class Englishman, literal, serious, and straight, he had not got one loop of subtlety or one vibration of irony in his whole mind. Like most of his kind he had, as a rule, left church-going to others. Like most of them, too, he had read the Gospels and found that whatever Christ had said mattered enormously: it built itself into the mind; when any big choice had to be made it was at least a part of that which decided. Not having ever been taught how to dodge an awkward home-thrust at his conscience, he felt, all unblunted, the point of what Christ had said about such things as wealth and war and loving one’s enemies. Getting rich made you bad; fighting was evil – better submit than resist. There was no getting over such doctrine, nor round it: why try?

Ever since those disconcerting bombs were originally thrown courageous divines and laymen have been rushing in to pick them up and throw them away, combining as well as they could an air of respect for the thrower with tender care for the mental ease of congregations occupied generally in making money and occasionally in making war. Yet there they lie, miraculously permanent and disturbing, as if just thrown. Now and then one will go off, with seismic results, in the mind of some St. Francis or Tolstoy. And yet it remains where it was, like the plucked Golden Bough: uno avulso, non deficit alter, ready as ever to work on a guileless mind like our friend’s.

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So, in his own way, the army chaplain, too, became a tributary brook feeding the general reservoir of disappointment and mistrust that was steadily filled by the surface drainage of all the higher ground of our British social landscape under the dirty weather of the war.

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Liberals he has, perhaps, come to figure as sombre and dry, all-round prohibitors, humanitarians but not humanists, people with democratic principles but not democratic sympathies, uncomradelike lovers of man, preaching the brotherhood of nations but not knowing how to speak without offence to a workman from their own village.

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