From The Tribunal May 23rd 1918

_ This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918_
For further extracts go to: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

In our last issue we strongly urged our readers to procure Prof. Peake’s new boom, “Prisoners of Hope, the Problem of the Conscientious Objector.” We take the following from Chapter IV., in which Prof. Peake discusses and answers the criticism that it is base for objectors to accept the privileges of the their country and yet refuse to defend it.

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    A man may love his country with passionate intensity, he may be willing to die for it, but he ought not to sin for it. And for these men war, not simply in the act of slaughter, but in all its ramifications, is sin. It is useless to say that they are wrong. Probably no martyr has ever suffered but a large body of opinion has thought him wrong. We are up against an ultimate fact. These men are prepared to suffer the stigma and the penalty of disloyalty to their country that they may not be traitors to the King of Kings. They have not flinched when the death sentence has been pronounced, nor even when its execution seemed imminent.

It is not quite easy for us to find a good modern parallel which should exhibit the principle, detached from all the heat and prejudice in which our problem is involved. But on the question of loyalty in the time of war I recall the case of Jeremiah. When the seige of Jeruslame was in progress he advocated a pro-Bablylonian policy. He encouraged desertion to the enemy, he counselled surrender. No wonder that the military authorities demanded his punishment on the ground that he was weakening the defence of the city, or that he was flung into a noisome pit, there to perish of starvation. Not only did he undertake no military duty, he carried on an active propaganda against the war. A greatly respected Principal of a theological college once said to me that they ought to have taken him out and shot him. He was referring, of course, to the duty of the authorities from a military point of view. But had they done so, we should have seen in his murder at once a blunder and a crime. No one can have studied the career of Jeremiah with any attention and failed to recognise the loftiness and intensity of his patriotism. it was his clear-sighted devotion to his country which was the animating principle of his stop-the-war campaign. The generation which built the tombs of the prophets could send the Son of God to the Cross, and we who write our commentaries on Jeremiah, which breathe deep love and passionate admiration for the supreme figure among the prophets, may fitly ask ourselves how such a man with such a message would fare at the hands of this generation.