by Mary Roe from Signs of the Times No. 26 - Jul 2007
[Reply to Jonathan Clatworthy in Signs of the Times No. 25 - Apr 2007]

I really can't let you get away with '[conscientious objectors] claim superior moral insight by reason-trumping divine revelation alone'.

The Christian conscientious objector bases that stance on the combination of scripture (not just sayings such as 'turn the other cheek' 'vengeance is mine, says the Lord,' etc. but on the event which is central to the faith and has provided the universal symbol of it: the cross) and on reason.

The sheer cost of modern warfare in money (which could be better spent than £30,000 per two-minute shell attack in Afghanistan, for example), human lives and environmental resources make it a most unreasonable activity, especially when the grounds for the violent excesses are as tenuous as those which initiated the hell on earth which is now Iraq.

The pacifist uses reason and scripture to critique the tradition which has been steadily perverted since the pacifist days of the early church, through the plausible theory of a Just War - which is no longer relevant to modern conflict, and which is currently being subjected to major alterations which in any other field would indicate a complete break with tradition, not just the development of which Newman wrote.

I really don't know or know of any pacifist or conscientious objector who claims any subjective divine revelation or consequent 'superior moral insight'. We are the ones who are trying, against the odds in this matter, to keep the balance of the three-fold basis for faith, rather than allowing a mutated form of a mistaken 'tradition' (arrived at to accommodate and even legitimise human frailty and turn it to a virtue 'as the gentiles do') to suppress both informed study of scripture and open-minded reasoning on the subject.

There are, of course, plenty of other instances of Christians who think and act as you describe - just not conscientious objectors.


Mary Roe is a retired RE teacher, lay reader, widow of a bishop, and member of the Modern Church Council.