In his pamplet, The Bible and War, published, apparently, in the mid-1940s, Mills argues that the "social gospel" of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries justified war. What he calls a new theology, "was destined to minimize if not eliminate the miraculous from the Gospel, adopt the moral influence theory of atonement, and consider the value in Jesus' teaching to be principally in their ethical content." The central purpose of the church was to build the kingdom of God on earth. Democracy was the best form of government for building this kingdom, Thus, Mills writes, most of the Christian churches supported World War I because they thought it would make the world safe of democracy (this sounds very similar to the Roman Christians fighting for the Roman Empire in order to "protect" Christianity) and be the war to end all wars.
It was neither, as Mills is quick to note. And by de-emphasizing the possibility of depravity in mankind, MIlls writes, the new theology essentially let Hitler slip under the wire.
Mills points out that many turned against pacifism because of Hitler. He quotes one former pacifist, Mr. Milne, writing in the Christian Century in 1941 saying, "I would rather go to hell for fighting than have my son brought up to think it was funny to kick a Jew in the stomach." He says that after Pearl Harbor, many theologians revised their pacifism as they witnessed atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese on the Chinese or because of German actions. Mills calls this sort of pacifism 'relativism."
The answer, he says, is not to model our actions on " a refined and cultured paganism" that says peace is ideal but rejects it as soon as some group violates our notions of civilized behavior. This leads to shifting standards and confusion, Mills says. However, "if we look to Jesus Christ, he is the same yesterday, today and forever."
Mills continues: "...war is economic folly and suicidal to civilization, but this conviction is not Christian pacifism. The pacifism of the "social gospel" ... is a light that will fail at the darkest hour. ... A conviction that is rooted in the Bible and quickened by the Spirit of God to a Christian conscience will be necessary in hours of crisis."
Do you agree that the pacifism of the social gospel is a light that will fail at the darkest hour? How do we get beyond a social gospel articulation of the peace testimony?