If you said, Nathan Söderblom you’d be absolutely right. You’d also be a genius, because almost nobody remembers the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize (past, maybe, the last two or three). He’s fresh in my mind because I’m reading Jay Nordlinger’s book, Peace They Say: A history of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World. In considering that time between the two World Wars, I believe we can all gain some wisdom. Wisdom our young people are not being taught today.
There is a lot to say about the theories of war and peace, but in this short article I wish to draw your attention to an important distinction between a “Catholic world view” and the classic “Protestant world view” that dominated so much of 20th century Europe and still dominates today. In Söderblom’s acceptance talk he warned Europe (even as rumors of war were rising again after the end of the Great War). He said, “If a new war threatens our peace, the churches will not, this time, bless the guns. They will halt the nations in the name of Him who called Himself the Prince of Peace.” (It’s good to recall that Nathan Söderblom was a devout Lutheran minister, who became the Archbishop of Uppsala, Sweden.) His strong Christian faith made him somewhat of a rare recipient of the Peace Prize since many at that time (as well as in our modern times) were very secularistic agnostics that despised organized religion. However, even though he was one of the more religious fellows to receive this prestigious award, a crack in his religious armor that is “Protestantism” can be seen. And seeing it, we as Catholics need to be aware of it and be prepared to correct it.
Protestant Christianity began with (and has grown up with) a basic attitude in regard to the relationship between the “church” and the “state”. It is an attitude that at first glance seems so noble and true. And it is noble and true to a certain point. The attitude goes something like this: “We the church are here to serve you the state.” Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Isn’t this the message of Christ, who called his followers to serve one another? Service must be a part of Christianity; but, these words of Nathan Söderblom (now that we can read them in the context of history) reveal this crack in the Protestant Christian armor. Why? Because, as much as he wanted to curse and not bless the guns of war, the basic relationship between the Protestant church of Sweden and the State of Sweden was still the same.
By that I mean, since the church exists to serve the State, then, if the State wants the church to bless its guns, then the church will bless its guns. Indeed, this is precisely what happened when Hitler attacked Norway and Sweden. My lesson here is not about the dignity of WWII but the concept of the Church’s service to the State. So when the State “legalizes” murder under the euphemism of choice and death with dignity; or, futuristic and right side of history…this does not mean the Church must immediately roll over and “not be political”. The Church’s service needs to be conditional, not unconditional, as Protestantism has been. It is conditional on the Truth. If I were a chaplain at the time of the Nazi invasion, I would have blessed the guns, because my service to the TRUTH of human nature demands, at times, resistance against evil. What does this mean for us today?
…that God will lead us to make our nation, unlike other nations…