Friday, August 31, 2007


Frederick Douglass on War & Christianity

Below are two excerpts from Frederick Douglass' 1846 speech "My Opposition to War". The second, I think, is especially powerful.
Some people contend that they can fight in love. I have heard individuals say they could go to war in love. Yes, this foul reproach has been brought upon Christianity, and ministers have been heard to say that they could go to war in love. This was answered very well by an advocate of peace in the United States, and I am happy to inform the, good people here that advocates of peace are multiplying in the United States. (Cheers.) An advocate of peace was arguing this question with a , brother who was a minister of the gospel. The minister was against it; in fact, they were both ministers. He was asked, 'If he believed Christianity was a religion of love? If the spirit of Christ breathed love?' He admitted it—he said, 'God is love.' 'Then,' said the other, 'all that dwell in him should dwell in love.' This he admitted at once. 'Then we should do nothing but what can be done in entire consistency with love?' Of course this must be granted. 'Well,' said he, 'can you go to war in love?' 'Oh! yes.' (Laughter and cheers.) 'Can you kill an enemy in love?' 'Oh! yes. I can conceive of circumstances when I should be bound by love to kill him.' 'What, throw bomb-shells, shoot cannon, use the sword in love?' 'Yes.' 'Well,' said my good friend, 'if you can do all these things in love, what can you do in hate?' (Laughter and cheers.)

I believe, if there is one thing more than another that has brought a reproach upon the Christian religion, it is the spirit of war. Why, a little while ago, in the Congress of the United States, a member arose and proposed the appropriation of a large sum to the support of the chaplaincy in the navy. Our Congress is made up of various materials; among the number there is an infidel, the son of Robert Owen. That infidel, Mr. Owen, rose in his place at once, and opposed the proposition to support the chaplaincy; and on what ground, do you suppose? He did it, he said, on patriotic grounds. He was opposed to the introduction of the Scriptures in the navy, for, he said, 'If the principles of Christianity, if the doctrines inculcated in the New Testament are carried out in the lives of our soldiers, they would do the very opposite to that for which we enlist them in the service. (Cheers.) Instead of shooting their enemies, they would love them; instead of butchering them, they would bind up their wounds; instead of blowing them into atoms, they would seek to preserve their lives.' He added, 'I am utterly and unequivocally opposed to any support being given to the chaplaincy—they would preach the doctrines of the New Testament.' What a stain, what a blot: an infidel rising up and rebuking ministers claiming to be ministers of the God of love; rebuking them for their delinquency, and preaching a higher Christianity than those to whom he has been accustomed to look! (Cheers.)

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