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Letter July 16, 1918 from Norman Thomas to John Mott
one of the highest-minded Christian men I know, himself a former Y M C A worker, was turned over to the Y M C A secretaries for examination as to his sincerity, and his detailed account of that examination makes one feel a sense of deep humiliation that such spiritual malpractice should be possible in dealing with a Christian man. Mr Norman Angell, on hearing his letter read, remarked that it showed the progress humanity had made! Once the Church turned its heretics over to the temporal arm, now the state turns its heretics over to that very docile spiritual art, the Y M C A.
I might multiply illustrations. My point is not that the Conscientious Objectors are right – you know my opinion on that matter – but that for a Christian organization to assume toward them the attitude of the Y M C A is to come close to stultifying Christianity. It will make it very hard for Y M C A leaders in the future to talk about the absolute supremacy of Christ and the necessity of the decision of character and loyalty to conscience. Surely I need not argue this point with you, for though you do not agree with these Conscientious Objectors, in the case of some of them it was your own addresses at Northfield and elsewhere that gave them part of their spiritual background for their present stand; and as one of the founders of the Fellowship of Reconciliation in America, you are aware of some of the spiritual values involved in conscientious objection. I know the system is too big for you or any other one man to revolutionize, but is there nothing that you and others of the wise leaders can do to modify that attitude which tends, even in this hour of its popularity, to bring the Y M C A into reproach among thoughtful men? When the letters Y M C A on a banner are interpreted, as they once were, “You