To the Editors: This is one of those questions which good people put to you. And they mean, "worth fighting and dying for." Not just worth dying for. But what are those things?
Our Faith? That is what they mean. But are they thinking of that? In Arabia, the American oil companies now have concessions up to the year 2000. They are getting so much oil that they say they can supply all their foreign markets and have enough left for home. In order to get this oil, they have given up their religion. The colony of American workers, their wives, children, of the American oil companies, together with the United States Air Force and its families have all given up Sunday in order to keep the good will of the Arabs. They work Saturdays and Sundays and take Thursday afternoon and Friday off. They have neither chapel nor chaplain.
These representatives of America, both army and commercial, have already given up their God, have sold their Christ, in order to have "the good will of the Arabs." So don't let us talk any more of saving our Faith when we beat the drums for a war with Russia. It is a war between Empires, and neither of them is Christian.
War is deviltry. It calls for sacrifices indeed, but not at the altar of love. "Greater love hath no man than this." A great blasphemy this, to use Christ's words in connection with men going to war. They go because they are drafted, because they are afraid of what their neighbors will say, because the pay is good, because the benefits accruing afterward (the G.I. Bill of Rights) are great. And they are told by press and pulpit that they are going because they love their fellows, and they are filled with a warm glow of self-love. And then they are given their intensive training in how to escape death, how to kill.
Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his brothers, and the Russians are our brothers, the Negro is our brother, the Japanese are our brothers, the Germans, the Mexicans, the Filipinos, the Jew, the Arab.
The Italian Victory is not a victory. It is a postponement. The Church, the faithful, have not yet met the challenge. Christian Democrats achieved their ends by the threat of force, by the threat of civil war, by a tremendous show of force at the polls, armed force, not just the force of the cloister and the hearth. We have not yet paid the price of peace, given up the friendship, love, esteem of the world. The folly of the cross. We do not yet know what it means. Loving our enemy. We only fear him. We have great possessions, like the young man in the Gospel and we turn from Christ to the use of force to protect them. Not our Church, our school, our home. We have given up our Church in Arabia (it is an example). We have secularized our schools "they are just as good as the public schools" (just as bad) and we have no homes (see figures on divorce and juvenile delinquency). We are losing the battle at home, without the Russians lifting a finger.
So let's not have any more talk about God and country. The battle is for this world, for the possessions of this world.
This letter puts everything in question once more, and naturally so because Dorothy Day wrote it, and her contemporaries have learned to expect from her no compromise, no acceptance of hate, no deviation from what she considers the demands of absolute justice and charity. That is why we cannot conceal our surprise at the passage in which she lists the reasons—all blindly selfish—for which men go to war. That passage reflects an automatism, a determinism unworthy of her thinking and style; it could have been written by one who knew nothing of the human heart and who denied the soul. It could not have been written by Charles Péguy; perhaps it should not have been written by Dorothy Day.
[C.G. Paulding was Commonweal's Managing Editor at the time]
[For more of Dorothy Day's writings from Commonweal, see our full collection.]