Following this and the next paragraph are two quotes from Tolstoy’s book “The Kingdom of God is within you”. Tolstoy fought in the Crimean War during the 1850’s. He was recognized for his courage and rose to the rank of Lieutenant. This war experience combined with his plain reading of the New Testament Gospels which reject violence led to his pacifist beliefs. Tolstoy, 1828-1910, is a highly acclaimed Russian writer who was nominated for several Nobel Prizes in Literature and Nobel Peace Prizes. Tolstoy was highly critical of the Christian Church while he fully embraced the moral teachings of Jesus as set forth in the Gospels.

The following two quotes are not Tolstoy’s words but the words of two others quoted by Tolstoy in his book. The words, however, well sum up many of Tolstoy’s views. While these words are directed towards war, undoubtedly Tolstoy would have applied the same reasoning in the domestic context. In light of the two presidential candidates trying to outbid each other on toughness towards China, and the violence exhibited by small factions of both the Left and the Right on our streets today, the words deserve reflection.

” ‘I am surprised at the way religion is carried on in this country,’ said Sir Wilfrid Lawson at the same congress [Congress of Universal Peace, 1890), London] ‘You send a boy to Sunday school, and you tell him, “Dear boy, you must love your enemies. If another boy strikes you, you mustn’t hit him back, but try to reform him by loving him.” Well. The boy stays in the Sunday school until he is fourteen or fifteen, and then his friends send him into the army. What has he to do in the army? He certainly won’t love his enemy; quite the contrary, if he can only get at him, he will run him through with his bayonet. That is the nature of all religious teaching in this country. I do not think that that is a very good way of carrying out the precepts of religion. I think if it is a good thing for a boy to love his enemy, it is good for a grown-up man.’

” ‘There are in Europe twenty-eight million men under arms,’ says Wilson, ‘to decide disputes, not by discussion, but by murdering one another. That is the accepted method for deciding disputes among Christian nations. This method is, at the same time, very expensive, for, according to the statistics I have read, the nations of Europe spent in the year 1872 a hundred and fifty million sterling on preparations for deciding disputes by means of murder. It seems to me, therefore, that in such a state of things one of two alternatives must be admitted: either Christianity is a failure, or those who have undertaken to expound it have failed in doing so. Until our warriors are disarmed and our armies disbanded, we have not the right to call ourselves a Christian nation.’ “

-Leo Tolstoy, “The Kingdom of God is Within You”, 1894.

In the last sentence, one could certainly include other religions with Christianity in our current context. This book is available online at the Internet Archives. If you scroll down on the opening page, there is a pdf version which I find much more easy to read.

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