An Uncompromising Book Praised By The Cardinal
Setting Our Faces Against Sin In Public Life sers HE publishers of God and Diplomacy* by the well-known diplomatic correspondent, George Glasgow, inform us the' Cardinal Hinsley has allowed it to be publicly stated that the thesis in this book commands his full agreement. This gives a high sanction to one of the most uncompromising books about modem politics and modem warfare that have yet appeared outside the ranks of political extremists. In this instance the extremism is not political; it is religious and moral. The author covers much ground and he is most careful to avoid any simple line which might involve him in the charge of being pacifist or defeatist or even idealist in an unpractical or romantic sense. His thesis is that if you leave God out of diplomacy, then diplomacy inevitably works to yoiff own destruction, and this war. in his view, is ruthlessly carrylng out God's purpose in smashing all the evil things, such as capitalism, the old diplomacy and war itself, which a well-nigh universal Godlessness has engendered. But he seems to suggest that even now there is a way of avoiding the final catastrophe if statesmen and politicians could learn the lesson which contemporary history has been shouting. That lesson is that disarmament must precede international agreement, not result from it (i) THE WAY GOD ACTS THOUGH the author is impressed by the moral difference between the British and the Germans, and though he takes seriously the signs of a return to God in an isolated and desperately struggling Empire, his indictment, if we mistake him not, is universal. It embraces not only nations as such, but individual people, good Christians included. His manner of writing occasionally suggests the revivalist mind, and he is inclined to speak of God as though God were always round the corner and ready to come out and alter the sequence or cause and effect if we ask Him. And this is certainly a better and more accurate way of regarding God than the contemporary one of politely denying His action altogether except when we desire to invoke a religious sanction for whatever we desperately seek. But when one analyses Mr. Glasgow's understanding of God's action, his real meaning becomes clearer.
Perhaps we can put it in this way. God demands that we should behave in a certain way. He demands, for example, that we should speak the truth, that we should love our neighbours as ourselves, and that we should forgive our enemies. Many of us in our private lives make some attempt to carry out these injunctions, and with the help of " God's assisting grace," our private lives are ordered towards the. good and a reasonable degree of order and happiness. God has been given a chance of helping us, and the more we try, the more we shall become aware of God's help and guidance.
Contrast this with the mode of action in international, national and business life, and contrast it with the motives and manners determining the actions of those who direct these forms of public life. In diplomacy the avowed aim is to get the better of your neighbour, and this at any cost. Lying, deceit, trickery, the arousing of jealousy, hatred. the demand for revenge among a people — all this is the normal stock-in-trade of the diplomatic shops. The inevitable result of this conception of social behaviour is an open fight between the parties whose sole concern from the beginning has been to do one another down, and a diplomatic triumph might be defined as temporarily avoiding by a piece of super-trickery that war whoa is the natural consequence of diplomatic behaviour. " Diplomacy." the author writes, " is one of the traditionally unintelligent fields of human activity. A traditional penalty is the logical and bitter result: recurrent war, sordid and selfish competition between the nations. profiting no one, blasting the earth."
The author's simple contention is that if God's law were applied to the diplomatic field, then at last we could expect the help of " God's assisting grace" and an international order could be evolved. And he makes the obvious and unanswerable point that, in view of the results of diplomacy in the past, commonsense alone suggests that it wniild be worth trying out the opposite technique.
UNIVERSAL DISARMAMENT MR. GLASGOW is well aware of the practical difficulties of the change-over, and he argues at some length for the possibility of ending this war—as a necessary preliminary to a change of heart and method—by a negotiated peace. " Any war could be stopped and all future war prevented," he writes, " if the seven great Powers of the world were to constitute themselves into a new League of Nations, whose first function would be the total, universal, and permanent disarmament of the whole world." And his proposal is that the belligerent Powers, in association with Japan, Russia—for whom he has on the whole kind words—and the United States, should conclude an armistice for total disarmament. Such disarmament would be ensured by the setting up of a permanent military commission in each country, composed of representatives of each of the other contracting parties. Each commission would carry out the total disarmament of the country to which it is assigned and remain in being permanently. Disarmament having been achieved, " the settlement of grievances by an international conference of the disarmed Powers is far more likely to be just and lasting than any peace settlement arrived at the end of a long and bitter war."
Such a proposal was in fact brought to the notice of the leading members of the diplomatic corps in the early months of the war. Their reaction is apparently summed up in the words of one of them : " It is the only hone: but it is hopeless."
Why is it hopeless? That is the fundamental problem. If the suggestion could be put to the peoples of the world by a plebiscite, we do not doubt that it would be accepted with relief by an overwhelming majority, more especially if it was accompanied by constructive economic proposals which would ensure that those who hold their jobs through the war would find equally good ones in the construction of a peaceful prosperity. Yet we know that it is hopeless. And Mr. Glasgow's whole thesis really suggests the reason why. It is the law of life that our sins must be fully expiated—which is much the same thing as saying that effect must follow cause in the natural order. The human race cannot by a sudden gesture, a mere voile-face, avoid the consequences of its behaviour. In the natural order Mr. Glasgow's proposal may become practical politics when—as he himself suggests— the methods of diplomacy have destroyed themselves, when you reach the stage that no one can get away with a lie because no one is believed, when the developments of war destroy the possibility of further war, when universal disorder has destroyed once and for all what passed for order. The only way of avoiding having to drink the bitter cup to the dregs is precisely to turn to God and make it possible for God to intervene supernaturally.
HOW THE CHRISTIAN IS INVOLVED BUT even in the supernatural order, no miracle is to be expected. For a people to turn from mammon to God is a lengthy, painful and difficult process except, maybe, when the temporal consequences of sin have been fully borne. In our modern world the process has not even begun, and everything points to the terrible truth that the full consequences of sin will easily outstrip any serious movement of return to God.
It may be suggested that already there are many God-fearing men in this country and that the country has manifested during the trials of war not only a noble spirit of self-sacrifice in great things and small, but a definite perception of the place God must hold in the councils of men. But Mr. Glasgow's own unsparing analysis of the ways of diplomacy indicates that few of us indeed have even started on the real task.
Take the simple matter of truth and mendacity. It is universally taught that to tell a lie is a sin against nature and against God, and where the matter of the lie is serious in itself and in its consequences the sin is a grave one. As regards private life this is generally accepted as true even among non-Christians, the reason being that since to lie is against nature, nature herself revolts against universal lying. That is to say, lying is self-contradictory since the practice of it leads to disbelief, and disbelief causes the lie to be useless even as a lie.
Yet international diplomacy and, still more, what is called propaganda, are largely based on the attempt to get away with the method of lying. Big lies, clever little lies, the art of under-statement, the shock of over-statement, emphasis on one truth and the suppression of the complementary truth—it is all one long attempt to lie sufficiently skilfully to get away with it. And the staggering thing about it all is that you and I, and the vast majority of professing and even devout Christians who firmly hold that serious lying is a mortal sin, accept it all without protest, willingly profit by it, praise it, and often add our own contribution to it.
To realise this and to remember that lying is only one of the many offences against God which have come to be used as perfectly proper instruments of policy in public life, especially in time of war. is to begin to understand at last why the world is galloping towards anarchy and destruction.
THE CHRISTIAN SOCIETY THIS, of course, is no new thesis, nor is it an evil peculiar to our times, though the scale on which it operates is greater since the restraints imposed by a common Christian culture and order of society have given way to the totalitarian conception of State action which differs only in degree as between the great Powers. Its reassertion in this book (at times perhaps with a certain lack of balance) once again raises the problem of whether it is better for the Christian to " opt out" of the world or work in with it in the hope of bettering it—a dilemma generally solved in practice by a feeble compromise.
We have at least to remember that our religion is social as well as personal, and the lesson of history as well as experience of fallen human nature suggests that the good society on earth will never be a society of saints but rather a society of indifferent men and indifferent Christians kept spiritually alive by the prayer, example and action of its saints and its men of spiritual life, and rightly ordered by leaders sufficiently intelligent to appreciate the values of Christianity. even though they may be poor Christians themselves.
On the other hand, in days when all semblance of a Christian order is lost in society it may well be that nothing will serve to restore spiritual life and order that fall short of a spiritual revolution comparable to that of the early days of Christianity. Signs are not wanting that God intends such a revolution, for all over the world we are beginning to find examples of Christian movements of contemplation and action that seem to break with the notion that good worldly citizenship is the highest Christian virtue. At such a time we, the weaker brethren. might well make an attempt at least to clarify our ideas and to pray that God may help us to stand by Him and His law, whatever the consequences. God and Diplomacy serves as a useful preliminary to a widely needed examination of conscience in a generally overlooked subject matter.
(* God and Diplomacy, by George Glasgow. Longmans, 7s. 6d.)