Under the exemption which will be made to the draft bill, members of those religious sects which forbid participation in war, as well as clergymen and students at theological colleges, will be excused from service. That provision is practically sound, for if a man, having weighed well his decision, would honestly and actually prefer to be exposed to the insults, the personal and material injury of an insolent foreign foe, rather than defend in war his person and his property against insult and injury, then he should not be forced to take up arms in defence of that which he so little regards. Other men, who prize more highly honor and liberty, may preserve their own honor and liberty, and incidentally that of the unmartial, without his aid.
But the most acute horror of war, and the finest conscientious scruples about the value of human life should not prevent a man from undertaking work not in the nature of the grim work of the rifle and bayonet. There are many fine ways in which man, and perhaps God, (although about Him we cannot postulate), may be served without the pouring out of blood.
The nation lacks fully enough men for every service save chaplains. The experience of the warring nations has been that there are always enough chaplains. Their further experience has been that chaplains consume about as much canned marmalade and bully beef as those whose tastes are presumably more bloodthirsty. In a pinch, when face to face with necessity, a man can pray, or consign his soul to eternity without the aid of a trained intermediary.
Other service there is which calls for peaceful men. The ravages of battle leave untold numbers of the wounded, whose life or whose last comfort depends on the ministration of trained healers. Ambulance drivers, nurses, hospital attendants, they all, without even that indirect share in the devastation which we may lay on a munitions worker help in the work which is to be done in the noblest way that may be done in war.
Some of those theological students or young ministers who are yet new to their work might find here splendid opportunity for the service of man to which they have earnestly consecrated their lives. Their intelligence and facility would amend in part their lack of technical training. So also those of the Society of Friends who hold strongly to the tenets of their faith, could help their fellow-men faithfully, and earn in an inoblivious way the right to their cordial name.
Of course in such service there is more opportunity for accident or fatality. The peaceful are not spared by the blind wrath of artillery fire, nor do submarines pay homage to the Red Cross. Yet such added danger over the surety of life in peace at home will count not at all with those whose faith is so far above that granted to most poor mortals.
Unless, as we cannot believe, it prove that conscientious objectors and the like object, not to war, which is a debatable justice, but to death, which is an impartial doom, visiting the artisan no less than the soldier, and ineluctable by the cowardly as by the brave.