Life Moments – How I became a pacifist

© Russell Feist, 2 August 2018

WW2 started in 1939 a few months after I commenced primary school. I learned about loyalty and fighting for the values important to us. We assembled under the national flag and sang the national anthem. The Germans, and later the Japanese, were evil. My father had fought in the first world war and now became a member of the Home Guard to protect us in the event of invasion.

Then I did military cadet training at secondary school including a couple of weeks at Linton military camp. I learned to shoot and took it for granted I’d fight if necessary.

At University I was troubled by the fact I had heard of Christians fighting and killing other Christians during the war. When I expressed my concern to a leader I really respected I was told I should be more concerned about killing non-Christians as we knew where the killed Christians were going. This horrified me. How could I kill anyone who was my brother in Christ.

Later I defended a young army officer who had been ordered by his commander to instruct his men how to kill in close combat with a bayonet. No way could he do it. Nor could I.

What does the bible say? ‘Thou shalt not kill’. Ah – but that is referring to murder. Several Hebrew stories seem to legitimise killing in the name of God if you take the stories literally. On the other hand Jesus resisted violence even when it might have saved his life. He told his follower to put his sword away. He had also said to love your enemy. I imagined telling my enemy ‘I love you – sorry I have to kill you.’

In the 1970’s I took my 11 year old daughter to the rock musical Hair, the theme of which was ’the morality of war’. On the way home she asked ‘Daddy, if there was another war would you fight?’

The moment had come.

‘No’, I replied.

I had become a pacifist.




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