Church of the Brethren Conscientious Objection in WWII
Date of Award
History, Politics and International Relations
A podcast created for HIST 248: War, Peace, and Memory
Who gets to be a hero? In the story I know, the hero slays the villain and saves the innocent and helpless victim. Is that the story you’ve heard too? Sometimes reality seems this clear cut—there are good guys and bad guys. The most obvious historical example of this for many Americans is Hitler and the Holocaust. Indeed, WWII has come to be known as the “Good War” due to its seeming lack of moral ambiguity. However, even in the Good War, there were those who refused to fight—conscientious objectors. In this episode we will lean into the difficult question of proper wartime response through the lens of conscientious objection in the small denomination of the Church of the Brethren. While we won’t find easy answers, we will explore the limits of a democracy’s ability to allow dissenting opinions, America’s hypocritical claim to be a champion of freedom, and the role of Christians in a militaristic and nationalistic world. So, here we go.
The Church of the Brethren is a denomination with 100,000 members in the US and many more around the world that traces its roots to 1708 in Germany where it was founded by Alexander Mack. Many Brethren immigrated to America in search of religious tolerance as they faced intense persecution in Europe due to their belief in adult baptism.
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Fitzkee, Marianne, "Church of the Brethren Conscientious Objection in WWII" (2022). History, Politics & International Relations Student Scholarship. 7.