September 14, 2014


NASHVILLE (BP) -- Though Southern Baptists didn't want America to enter World War I when it broke out, they came to see it as a necessary fight to preserve liberty and morality, historians have noted at the war's 100th anniversary. One scholar added that America's victory may have helped inspire the Cooperative Program.

"Prior to America's entry into the war, there is a strong antiwar sentiment (among Southern Baptists) that 'we don't need to get involved,'" Bill Sumners, director of the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, told Baptist Press. But when President Woodrow Wilson, "who was favored by Southerners and Southern Baptists," recommended that America enter the war, Baptists "pretty well supported him. You find very little -- though there's some -- dissent about entry into the war. For the most part Southern Baptists rally to join the conflict."

In its final annual meeting before the war ended in late 1918, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a report from its Committee on World Crisis that deemed military conflict the only way to stop Germany from suppressing democracy.

If America's "entrance upon this vast enterprise had been dictated by lust of power, or gold, or land, or could be attributed justly to hate or vengefulness, the only notice which this Convention could properly take of it would be in the way of disapproval and condemnation," the report said. "But the world has never witnessed such a situation as this in which our people are placed at this solemn and critical hour. Peace-loving, coveting nothing which belonged to Germany or her allies, living in good-will with all the peoples of the world, we are now challenged to use all the measureless resources of our country, that we may help to overcome, at any cost of blood or treasure, the hateful menace of German domination of the world."

If Germany prevailed, the report warned, "the whole world will thus fall into moral chaos."

Opposing the war

The war began on July 28, 1914, a month after the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungry was assassinated by a Yugoslav nationalist, provoking a series of diplomatic maneuvers and threats. Tensions escalated in Europe as both sides called on their allies for support. Within weeks, the world's economic powers were aligned in two opposing groups with Germany and Austria-Hungry on one side and the United Kingdom, France and Russia on the other.

The next four years saw 70 million military personnel mobilized for war and more than 9 million soldiers killed, including more than 100,000 U.S. soldiers following America's entry to the war in 1917. Read More

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