WHEREAS, Southern Baptists constitute one of the largest democratic and evangelical bodies of Christians in the United States; and whereas they have over 25,000 churches with more than 5,000,000 bona fide members; and whereas some 10,000 members and “messengers” (or delegates) from these churches are meeting in Annual Convention in Birmingham, Ala., May 14-18, 1941, they feel it incumbent upon them and altogether appropriate for them to declare publicly certain of their clear convictions at this time of world crisis, in order that our burdened President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and our National Government may be appraised of the sentiments and convictions of the great majority of this body of patriotic and liberty-loving citizens. While they thus record and publish their sentiments and convictions by majority vote in Convention assembled, they fully recognize and respect the inalienable right of conscientious objectors to hold and to voice contrary sentiments and conviction if they deem it wise to do so.
Therefore, Be It Resolved, by the Convention:
1. That we declare our abhorrence of war and all its insanity and brutality. We are a peace-loving people and we know of no issues, national or international, which could not be settled in fairness and equity by the orderly processes of civilized society if only the leaders of the nations were willing to practice the principles of justice, truth, and righteousness. We sincerely believe that the rank and file of our denomination, even as the rank and file of our nation and the other nations as well, much prefer that all international disputes and conflicting interests be composed by the processes of peace rather than by the arbitrament of war. But unfortunately men of evil mind and ungodly heart sometimes gain control within a nation, or nations, and with cruel and deadly intent thrust war upon the world in order to gratify their lust for glory and power and fancied gains for themselves and their associates. Such men at the present time have criminally conspired to impose their anti-social, anti-Christian, and anti-human wills upon much of the world. With fiendish force and diabolical scheming they have overrun Europe and threaten to gain the mastery over Asia and Africa. Human rights, freedoms, and liberties have promptly gone into eclipse wherever the power of these ruthless men have been established. They hold nothing as sacred, and they regard with scorn many of the treasured achievements of mankind. They deny the physical, intellectual, moral, social, economic, and spiritual rights and liberties of all who in any way oppose them. In other words, their principles and their practices are the absolute antithesis of everything we have been taught to believe is in line with the will of God, the mind of Christ and the kingdom of God on earth. If these men are allowed to attain their announced worldwide aims and goals, then many of the values which we esteem as more precious than life itself will be lost, and the world will be immeasurably impoverished socially, politically, culturally, and spiritually. We know not what course others may pursue but as for us we hold it were better to be dead than to live in a world dominated by the ideals of these modern dictators.
2. We declare our belief that some things are worth dying for; and if they are worth dying for they are worth living for; and if they are worth living for they are worth defending even unto the death. Among these are liberty under law, that sacred shrine called home, wives and children, the honor of one’s country, and last but not least freedom of worship. “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery” forged by some cruel and godless tyrant? “Forbid it Almighty God!” Thus was it prayed in other days when a tyrant sought to enslave our colonial Fathers. We believe that Almighty God made answer to that prayer through the deeds of those fathers from Lexington to Yorktown. Our Baptist Fathers opposed that tyrant and we, their spiritual descendants, are ready to oppose any other tyrant who impiously aspires to deprive us of any of our God-given and inalienable rights. Shall we have a vision of eternal values less clear than had those early American Fathers? Shall we in our strength forfeit those priceless values which they purchased with their blood and in their weakness? May Almighty God forbid that also!
3. Baptists are a democratic people–none more so. Therefore, it is nothing but natural that our deepest sympathies should go out to those democracies of the world which have been crushed for the time being or now are sorely beset by ruthless powers which are committed to the overthrow of all democracies. We are convinced that England’s heroic resistance to the Axis powers is one of the great sagas of the human Spirit. We, like the great majority of people in the United States, are in thorough sympathy with the efforts being made by our nation to reinforce England in many ways as she fights not only for her own life, but also, and incidentally, fights a terrible battle for the other democratic nations of the world. It will be most gratifying to us if these efforts of the United States to reinforce England can be multiplied and be made increasingly effective. We trust our Government to work out the wisest and most effective means to aid England, our national ally, in this titanic struggle.
We desire to register with our Government our clear conviction that the United States and her citizens should promptly cease supplying Japan with materials which enable her to continue her war of conquest against China.
We also urge our Government to quicken rather than slacken all measures needed to strengthen the defenses of the Western Hemisphere against all kinds of aggression from any and all powers which seek to undermine and to overthrow our peaceful and democratic ways of life.
4. We pledge ourselves as Christian patriots to pray earnestly unto our God and Saviour that a righteous peace may soon be granted unto all the war-ring nations: that our own nation may be spared the horrors of war, if that be the divine will, and that our nation may be used as a mighty instrument of peace and truth and righteousness and brotherhood; that Almighty God will, in the power of his might, take charge of the nations and overrule their folly and sin to the praise of his great and holy name.
WHEREAS, The nations of the world are at this moment engaged in one of the most tragic wars of human history, a war that is ruthless in its attack upon human life and upon all human values, both material and spiritual, and
WHEREAS, The role of our own nation in this international conflict becomes daily of increasing significance to all, and
WHEREAS, Not in all history has there been a greater need for divine vision and guidance on the part of these nations as each in his own way looks forward to the day when this war shall cease.
WHEREAS, The Word of God and the testimony of believers to the Living Christ point the way to divine wisdom and guidance, adequate to the needs of this grave hour, therefore,
Be it RESOLVED, That the Southern Baptist Convention, assembled in its ninety-sixth year in Birmingham, Alabama, do on this day, May 15, 1941, reaffirm its faith in the power of prayer and in the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Be it RESOLVED, That with one accord we turn to Almighty God, through Christ his Son, in humble petition for the forgiveness of whatever measure of corporate guilt may be ours with regard to the present international conflict, and, that our nation, through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ may be so yielded to the Divine Plan, that we may be effectively used in helping to bring to the nations of the world a just and righteous peace.
Be it further RESOLVED, That we invite the membership of our churches and all Christian believers throughout the world, to pray daily at a given hour, both in public and in private places, to the end that such a “just and righteous peace” may be speedily achieved. And,
Be it further RESOLVED, That as Christians we recognize that there may be honest differences of opinion about the issue in the present conflict, but we are deeply resolved that any difference shall not cause any breach in our fellowship.
Be it further RESOLVED, That the officers of this Convention constitute a committee which shall seek to carry out the spirit of this resolution, to lend itself to the advancement of such Christian ideals as should lead to the establishment and maintenance of a just and righteous peace; shall call our people everywhere in unceasing intercession, and that this committee be instructed to put this resolution into effect at once.
WHEREAS, The Southern Baptist Convention in session at Birmingham, May 16, 1941, affirmed its loyalty to the United States Government, and its devotion to the ideals of its founding fathers, and
WHEREAS, The aforesaid resolution [offered by Powhatan W. James] may be misinterpreted by some as a committal to the principle of militarism, Therefore, be it resolved that the aforesaid resolution, in no way commits the Southern Baptist Convention to an approval of war, as a recognized principle in settling international differences.
Approved, with revision. Blake Smith
E. C. Routh, for Committee