In keeping with Pope Benedict’s Easter message today on peace, here are a couple of quotations from early 19th century British Baptists on war, that offer a valuable counterpoint to the unfortunate support of many contemporary Evangelicals for militarism and imperial adventures:
“If I had money to purchase a commission for Peter, I could not do so conscientiously. Thinking as I do that War is one of the greatest plagues with which a righteous God scourges a wicked world, and that in perhaps nine instances out of ten, it is unlawful, also that every person who gets a commission in the Army does actually sell himself for the purpose of killing men wheresoever he may be sent for that purpose, and that his will must be wholly under the control of another, from whom he recieves orders, so that he is not in that instance a free agent; I cannot be accessory to Peter’s gaining a commission by my means as purchaser.”
Rev. William Carey, Letter to His Sisters, 1809
“Detesting war, considered as a trade or profession, and conceiving conquerors to be the enemies of the species, it appears to me that nothing is more suitable to the office of a Christian minister, than an attempt, however feeble, to take off the colours from false greatness, and to show the deformity which its delusive splendour too often conceals. This is perhaps one of the best services religion can do to society. Nor is there any more necessary. For, dominion affording a plain and palpable distinction, and every man feeling the effects of power, however incompetent he may be to judge of wisdom and goodness, the character of a hero, there is reason to fear, will always be too dazzling. The sense of his injustice will be too often lost in the admiration of his success.”
Rev. Robert Hall, Sermon On War, 1802
In a related vein, sort of, is the following item: William Wilberforce Freedom Ale, brewed by Westerham Brewery in Britain. They offer this description:
“Traditionally floor-malted Maris Otter pale ale malt, crystal malt and Kentish hops combine with Fairtrade Demerara sugar to produce deep gold ale, characterised by its mellow bitterness and long hoppy finish.
“The beer commemorates the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. On 25th March 1807, the British Parliament voted in favour of the abolition of the slave trade. This act of legislation was one of the most humanitarian pieces of legislation ever enacted in parliament; slaves could no longer be traded in British ships.”
So it’s a little kitschy, but it’s ale, it commemorates William Wilberforce, and part of the profits go to stop human trafficking. The brewers, besides being Evangelicals and including Bible verses on their website and products, also support fair trade and local food economy, which is also pretty nifty. I suspect Rev. Carey would have approved.