“We are in the midst of a frightful war of death and destruction. It is time for the dirge, not the joyous dance.”
As Rabbi Olan noted in his radio sermon of February 26, 1967, the war in Viet Nam was getting closer to home. Every day more American troops were fighting and dying in Southeast Asia. Our nation and its religious faith communities were divided about the justness of the war and the proportionality of suffering inflicted. Pacifists and just war theorists debated if, or under what circumstances, violence could be used to end violence- or in this case, to stop the spread of a political ideology.
Earlier in his life, Rabbi Olan was drawn to pacifism. That changed during the second World War. Concerning Viet Nam, Olan held a perhaps surprising view. If the war is indeed as just as our leaders say it is, then let us have all-out warfare! Make everyone participate in the effort.
I invite you to read (or listen to) Rabbi Olan’s sermon and then tell me what you think. Was he sincerely calling for the mobilization of the entire nation to fight the Communists in Viet Nam? Or was he really leading his listeners to question the supposed justness of the war and its disproportional costliness?
*Written by Tim Binkley*