From All Saints until Veterans Day, I’m posting a blog series on soldier saints at Centurions Guild. “Ten Saints, Ten Days” explores ten lives, their context, and their relevance to soldiers today. In the Bible, the number ten signifies completion and wholeness—something many soldiers today do not feel. The moral complexity of their service is too often brushed away with a quick “thank you” or an upgrade to first class. But soldiers’ experiences, their testimonies, are part and parcel to the integrity of the church—especially in this time of war. A theologically credible account of war requires the voice of soldiers, the actual bodies that participate in it.
The Harlem Ashram (1940-1948) was a grand experiment that didn't go very far. The interracial Christian commune at Fifth Avenue and 125th Street was modeled after ashrams, or Hindu religious centers, that Gandhi had established in India. Its founders were two white men, Ralph Templin and Jay Holmes Smith, who had been Methodist missionaries in India in the 1930s. There they became interested in Gandhi's synthesis of religion, politics, and nonviolent protest. Templin and Smith were part of a cohort of American pacifists who saw Gandhi’s work as a potential model for political and religious activism in the United States.
If life is the most important thing in a political and theological belief system, then why would a person support the death penalty, back wars and oppose gun violence prevention?
Drawing on Harry S. Stout, Stanley Hauerwas argues that the Civil War became a total, unlimited war because the demand to participate assumed a sacral status.