Amnesty for Those Who Ran Away?

Since 1971 the fourth Monday in October has been proclaimed Veterans Day, a legal holiday in the U.S. Prior to that time Armistice Day was observed on November 11. With a slight change in the title, this article is being reprinted, by permission, from the August 20, 1975 issue of The Presbyterian Journal. This is done in recognition of the occasion and as a tribute to those who served in the military rather than run away. The writer, Archibald Pipe, is director of information services of the Lord’s Day Alliance of the U.S., Atlanta, Georgia. A native of Great Britain, Pipe is now a naturalized American citizen.

One morning many years ago during the first World War, 1 was very much like Shakespeare’s schoolboy, “creeping like snail unwillingly to school.” I had just heard that my favorite teacher had registered as a conscientious objector on religious grounds. This was a personal he was also my Sunday school teacher.

When the war was over, he returned to Wales but he was not welcome in our little Welsh village. He left the country and taught school in the north of England. My father, a deacon in the local Welsh Baptist Chapel, admired the teacher for his stand, however, and he never said a harsh word against him.

Village folk forgive and forget, and my teacher eventually returned to retire to the cottage left to him by his parents. As the years rolled on, I returned all occasional visits and I used to meet him.

Some 20 years later on September 3, 1939, my wife, my son and I were attending worship services in Upper Norwood in southeast London. Because Hitler‘s armies had just invaded Poland, an elder or the church had gone to a neighboring house to hear the Prime Minister’s radio address to the people.

At the end of the prayer, the elder entered and approached the minister to tell him that war had been declared. The minitser announced this to the congregation and then led us in prayer. We attempted to focus our attention on the sermon which followed.

Before long, from a distance we could hear an air raid warning. Each district took up the alarm until our local siren wailed into life. Deciding that the men should go to their posts, and the women and children should seek the safety of air-raid shelters, the minister hastily pronounced the benediction.

Despite the fact that the warning on that beautiful Sunday morning was a false alarm, the madness of it an overwhelmed me. I decided that day I would be a conscientious objector.

I did not hold that conviction long! Once the indiscriminate bombing of London began, second thought crept in. So much death and devastation sickened me. and the turning point came during a very heavy raid. A row of houses and the south wall of our church were completely destroyed.

As air-raid wardens we knew there were folk buried beneath the rubble—some under stairways. others in airraid shelters. Making our cautious way along streets strewn with rubble and glass, in the light of incendiary bombs that were still falling. I came across the forearm of a child, the hand still clutching a doll. Within a few days I was in the Royal Air Force.

It has been said that the Vietnam war was a “different” war. How different I have been trying to figure out. Sir Winston Churchill’s typically understated comment on his audience with the pope keeps coming back to me: “The topic that bulked the largest at this audience was the danger of Communism. I have always had the greatest dislike for it.” So have I!

Yet Jane Fonda praised the Russians for their sup· port of North Vietnam. Anthony Lewis of the New York Times complained on TV of the American “blood bath” in South Vietnam, as if the fashion out of Hanoi were halos! Ramsey Clark became strangely quiet about atrocities against the Christian Church in South Vietnam.

At a Presbyterian Church US General Assembly some years ago in Montreat, I supported a chaplain‘s statement which favored U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war. Immediately afterward I was surrounded by a group of young people who questioned my sanity. One young lady was surprised that I had taken up residence in this country. and not Canada, as this country had such a “disgusting record in Vietnam.”

It is not my intention in this article to give my reasons for becoming a United States citizen—by choice! But I will say this: America is a great country. the best in the world, and it is suffering from growing pains.

One of the “twitches” of growing pains is the question of amnesty for draft dodgers and deserters. Most have voiced their opinions from Canada. One young man referred to Richard Nixon. At this time of writing, Richard Nixon has not fled the country.

Forgiveness is a tremendous attribute. It can be one of the most simple yet most complicated of actions. Jesus was emphatic in His statement to forgive, seventy times seven if necessary. I know th at Jesus Christ has the answer to all problems if we have the courage to face them. Far too often we run away, which makes forgiveness and other Christian virtues difficult to put into practice.

I dont believe in a complete amnesty which would say, “All right, fellers, come on home, all is forgiven.” The grace of forgiveness is moSt certainly demonstrated in the parable of the prodigal son. The father not only had forgiveness, but also the grace of forgiveness because his son repented.

The grace of forgiveness cannot be experienced fully without repentance. Would that those who sought amnesty had had the courage of their convictions and stood their ground. Their stand would have fe-echoed from coast to coast. But they ran away. Paul suffered much, even imprisonment because of his convictions. We shall all need Paul’s kind of courage in view of the worldwide spread of Communism.

I am concerned because the Soviet Union is still spending nearly eight per cent of its gross national product on defense, more than the United States. I am concerned when the school children in Moscow have air-raid shelter drill each week.

When I became a U.S. citizen in 1966, I came across the following taken from a speech delivered in 1944 by Judge Learned Hand to 150,000 newly naturalized Americans:

The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, nearly 2,000 years ago. taught mankind that lesson he has never learned, but has never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest.”