Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Feast of Paul Jones, September 4

Merciful God, who sent your beloved Son to preach peace to Those who are far off and to those who are near: Raise up in this and every land witnesses, who, after the example of your servant Paul Jones, will stand firm in proclaiming the Gospel of the Prince of Peace, our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Paul Jones was the Episcopal Bishop of Utah from 1916 to 1918. You'll note those years coincide with the entry of the United States into World War I.

Those who believe in the Just War Theory commonly point to WWII as one of the examples of a (potentially) just war. However, WWII was linked inextricably to WWI. In fact, WWII was in many ways a continuation of WWI. And World War I was fought for no good reason at all. Europe had been militarizing and the ideology of nationalism was spreading. WWI was started by an assassination in Sarajevo, but if not for that, something else would have done it.

Paul Jones was a pacifist. This conflicted somewhat with the prevailing mood in the United States, as described in an article by The Witness:

Religious support for the war was strong even before the U.S. entered the conflict. In 1916, the Episcopal House of Bishops lauded those who promoted peace, but the bishops made it clear that Christians should be ready to serve the state in time of crisis:

"[America] must expect of every one of her citizens some true form of national service, rendered according to the capacity of each. No one can commute or delegate it; no one can be absolved from it. National preparedness is a clear duty."

Paul Jones, on the other hand, called war "unchristian".

Even if I think war may sometimes be the only possible choice, I agree that war is unchristian. God cannot possibly offer blessings when God's children fight with the intent to kill and conquer. There is always some way other than armed violence. If it seems like there is no alternative to armed conflict, then it just means you missed your chance for peaceful engagement earlier on.

Paul Jones was tried by the House of Bishops and made to resign. There is no other conclusion than that they were drawn in by the nationalist and militaristic mood of the times. And so, Paul's testimony offers some lessons for us today:

ones, who died in 1941, never again served as bishop. But his work for peace continued. He was a founder of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and its secretary for 10 years. He helped found the Episcopal Pacifist Fellowship, now the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. During World War II, he helped resettle Jews and others who fled Nazi Germany, and he argued for greater understanding in relations with Japan.

Jones' legacy today may be more important than before, says David Selzer, EPF chairperson.

"In a time of particularly high patriotism, Bishop Jones was loyal to the sense of seeing the Gospel as the Gospel of peace rather than the Gospel of vengeance."

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.* 4Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

5 Then I will draw near to you for judgement; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow, and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

Malachi 3:1-5

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