Saturday, June 14, 2008

One Hundred Dunkers for Peace

One Hundred Dunkers for Peace was an informal association of young adults organized in 1932 dedicated to social justice and reconciliation or, in a phrase often used by them, the "Moral equivalent of war." They met at irregular intervals to learn about peace, provide each other with support in the face of antagonistic public opinion, and urge the denomination to greater peace action. Members took part in peace caravans and work camps. The publication Brethren Action kept members informed of mutual interests. The movement was one of the sources of the Brethren Volunteer Service program, founded in 1948. [Brethren Encyclopedia, pp. 974-975].

Dan West had become national director of young people's work in 1930 and wrote an article in The Gospel Messenger in June 1931 in which he raised the question: "Shall we try to keep our young people safe in the nest, making them believe exactly as we do? ... or shall we do as the eagles - push them out of the nest." His article advocated five programs for which he worked most of his life. One of his provocative statements: "When I see so much that the war makers are doing and so little that the peacemakers are doing, I wonder why the difference. Find me one hundred young persons between the ages of twenty-one and thirty who will give as much for peace as a soldier gives for war, and we will change the thinking of Congress in three years' time." [Passing On the Gift: The story of Dan West]

Kermit Eby would later recall the birth of the "Hundred Dunkers" at Winona Lake (Indiana). Dan West, John and Ben Stoner and I were convinced that the church which nurtured us has much to give the world which it was not giving. We decided that it was ours to see that it did - without the benefit of hierarchical blessing. [The Adventurous Future, 1958 Annual Conference address by Eby]

According to Glee Yoder, Dan West's biographer, "Dan was trying to keep within the church-fold young students who (1) were vitally interested in peace, (2) would need support against the pressure of public opinion in a time of national crisis, and (3) had become increasingly disgusted with the apparent impossibility of getting enough action through established channels."