Sheldon Rahn Memoir - Part 1
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University of Illinois at Springfield Norris L Brookens Library Archives/Special Collections Sheldon Rahn Memoir R129. Rahn, Sheldon b. 1918 Interview and memoir 2 tapes, 180 mins., 59 pp. WWII CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS PROJECT Rahn discusses his experiences as a pacifist during WWII and afterwards: attending Union Seminary, opposition to WWII and the draft, registering for the draft, socialist and communist parties and other political parties. Also discusses his involvement with church organizations: Metropolitan Detroit Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches. Interview by C. Arthur Bradley, 1988 OPEN See collateral file Archives/Special Collections LIB 144 University of Illinois at Springfield One University Plaza, MS BRK 140 Springfield IL 62703-5407 © 1988, University of Illinois Board of Trustees Preface 'lbis manuscript is the product of tape-reoorde:i interviews oo.n1uctGd by c. Arthur Bradley for the oral History Office on August 6, 1988. Margaret Reeder transcribed the tapes and L:i.ma Jett edited the transcript. Sheldon Rahn reviewed the transcript. Sheldon Rahn was one of the original twenty that signed the statement at union, but then one of the twelve that did not carry t:hl:"algh on refusing" to register on october 16, 1940. He was one of the four that was persuaded by Clarence Pickett of the American Frierrls service Committee to set up a year-rot.JI'rl model of the AFSC work amps by goin:'J to a new canp location at COOperstown, New York. Sheldon was bom in upstate Illinois, took a B.A. at COrnell COlleg-e in Iowa. While there he ahsoi.i::led 1m..1ch of the pacifist teach..i.rg and went to union. He was always interested in social settlement work and graduated from union seminary after the war in 194 7. While in New York City he began studies for a Masters Degree in SOCial WOrk (M.s.w.) at the Columbia university School of social Work, canpleting this degree at the Wayne state university School of Social WOrk in Detroit in 1955. His first full-time job out of seminary was as director of the social welfare Department of the Detroit Council of Churches. From that position he noved in 1959 to become the associate director of the Federation of Protestant-welfare Agencies of NYC. 'Ihen, from 1961 to 1966 he served as executive director of the SOCial Welfare Department of the National CoJncil of Churches in NYC. Mr. Rahn's major life work began when he became organizing dean of the Faculty of SOCial WOrk of Wilfrid laurier university and then, after ea.r.ni.rg a Doctor of social WOrk (D.s.w.) Degree from the university of Toronto Faculty of Social Work in 1975, continued as associate professor of Social Work in Administration, Policy and Researdl until 1984. He became professor emeritus in that year. He has oontinueQ to reside in Waterloo, ontario where Wilfrid Iaurier provides both a graduate (M.s.w.) and post-graduate degree (D.s.w.) in social work: for this golden triangle of high tech iMustry of canada. He has~ a citizen of Canada and is married to Barbara. '1he couple has three children. He is a member of numerous social work organizations ana set up in the mid-eighties both the Waterloo-wellington Branch of the united Nations Association of canada, and the WOrld community council of the Regional Waterloo Area. c. Arthur Bradley has been an Associate Conference Minister for the Illinois Conference of the United Omrch of Olrist, deployed in the central Association in Peoria, Illinois, from 1980 to the present. Dr. Bradley grew up in Shaker Heights and Oberlin, Ohio. Since 1952 he has been an ordained clergyman, first in the Corq.regationalCllristian Churches and then after the merger in the United OlUrch of <llrist. He has setVed. churches in New Hampshire and connecticut. He holds a Bachelors degree fran Harvard COllege, a .Masters of Divinity Degree from Union 'Iheological seminary, a Masters of sacred 'theology from Yale Divinity School, and a Doctor of :Rlilosophy in American studies fran New York University. Dr. Bradley is married to Jean ard they have four adult children. Readers of the oral history :memoir should bear in mind that it is a transcript of the spoken word, and that the interviewer, narrator en:i editor sought to preserve the infonnal, conversational style that is inherent in such historical sources. Sargamon State university is not respa'lSible for the factual accuracy of the :memoir, nor for views expressed therein; these are for the reader to judge. '!he manuscript nay be read, quoted ani cited freely. It nay not be reproduced in whole or in ~ by a:ey means, electronic or mechanical, without pennission in writmg fran the Oral History Office, san:Jan'C1l state university, Springfield, Illinois 62794-9243. Pacifism Backgroun:l • study Groups. Table of contents WOrld.rg for Clarence Pickett. Various Jobs. Franklin Littell. Events Isadin:j Up to Registeri.rg for the Draft. WOrld.rg at a Settlement House • Quaker WOrk cmp. camm.mist Party • • Retumin;J to union Semi.na:cy • Reinhold Niebuhr. • • Intrepretir'g sacraments . Met.r<::politan Detroit cooncil of Churches • National Council of Churches. I.eavinq National council of Churches. • Ideological Clash of National Council of Churches • world Federalists Movements • Q!IUIIE!litary. Various Political Parties • western capitalist Dem::lcracies. 1 3 6 . 7 9 .11 .14 .15 .15 .18 .19 .20 .22 .30 .34 .36 .39 .44 .45 .52 Sheldon Rahn, August 6, 1988, Waterloo, ontario, canada. c. Arthur Bradley, Interviewer. Q: You've had a chance to look at that document. How did you oc:ate to that position? I guess that is where I would like to start our conversation. What were the influences that brought you there? A: I think there were two major reasons why these men got into this discussion in 1940. one was that in the ~ious year about fifteen of us participated every -week in a SOCialist Party study Club in the labor Party tradition of denoctatic socialism. We usually met early in the llmTli.n:J before classes an1 had an hour or so at it. so David Dellin;Jer an1 all of these men who were on that sheet, I think all of them participated in that study club. Many of them -were pacifists at that ti:me, but not all. Q: Because there was that split in that socialist front, wasn't there? A: '!hat's true. So out of that I guess came a traditional democratic socialist analysis of international relations an1 the great oondemnation of capitalism as a source of-as a breeder of international tension. so that was the first source. 'lhe second source was theological; even though same of us had only been through one year, it was a very exciting year at union 'lheological seminary. Incidently I chose union because of its tradition of unremitting historicity in its approach to church histoey an1 literature of the gospels, etc. an1 I was not djsaRX>inted in~ three years there in that regard. So in one of the first year courses, the systematic theology course as a matter of fact, fran Henry Pitt van Dusen, who was then professor of theology there, dreW out the distinction between special revelation an1 general revelation or special revelation ani historical revelation. '!hat was new to 1\'e but it fitted very well with sane of nrt preliminary asmmptions an1 approach to the life of the cluJ:rch an1 its i.npact on human history. so I felt very canfortable with the historical revelation school which affinned that the creator works entirely through historical categories. '!hat 1'l'8CUlS in the family that 1 s where the creator in a sense achieves qualities of personality an1 affection, etc., which is so vital to our cohesion as a cxmnunity an1 that through political an1 economic institutions, as they involve these also, in a sense facilitating anonq those who are responsive an1 reflective about themselves and their place in histol:y at the m::anent, that the creator facilitates a kin:l of an evolution which really rests entirely upon the intelligence, the learnin;;J, the acquisition ani transmission of acc~mullated know'ledqe, education which goes right back to the beg~ of human histoJ:Y. so that idea opened, in a sense provided the un:ierlyi.n;;r assunption., I suspect for llXJSt of the other men also, as to hoW we might best Sheldon Rahn 2 Ul'Xierstand what was happenirg at the maaent in history ani be responsive to it. So the special revelation school with respect to the integrity of the resurrection story or the virgin birth story, etc., was very influential for all of us. we all took a very historical approach to the life of Jesus, to the econanic and political ani international situation in which he functioned, ani really to all aspects of church history. So with that kini of historical revelation prospective we were entirely oanfortable with trying to link ourselves in sane reasonably useful way to the historical manent. Q: But were there not people who linked themse1 ves to the historical nanent wit.hcut the idealism of t.hi.nJd.n;J that war could be abolished? '!he Reinhold Niebuhr realism began. A: Yes, that's true. '!here was frierxily but genuine tension between this group of students ani those who were stout disciples of Reinhold Niebuhr, wham we all respected greatly bUt with whan we differed at that time. You may be suxprised what has happened over the decade since in nrt case ani I don't knc::M about tr.r:f other colleagues. I was fascinated with neo-orthodoxy but I didn't embrace it at that time. Q: Do you think sane of that had to do maybe-you said you were bl:Olght up in the Brethern church which is a peace church. A: Yes, it is. Q: Would that have had sane influence upon that? A: It would have for me. I don't knc::M about the others. Oh, for me it definitely did because we were brought ~ in this farm community in northern Illinois, just outside Lanark, Illll'lOis aJ::x::ut fifteen miles from the Mississippi River. on our farm ani in our Churc:h of the Brethern COigregation the great expectation was that we should behave and respond as Jesus might have done in that given situation. Q: '!hat's right. A: And so with that st.rorq pacifist nDtif in the New Testament materials, the Gospel, the synoptic gospels in particular which record what Jesus did say ani how he did look upon sane of these thi.n:Js meant, yes, that I had a very st.rorq, umerly.i.rg pacifist conviction. Q: At the time you went to seminary did you plan to go into the Brethern ministry or you didn't know what you were? A: No, you are right, I did not knc::M. I think it was intellectual curiosity that took me to the seminary. I had a few summer pastorates under the Methodist church while I was still in college. I had enjoyed the congregations with which I had been working. so it was, yes, a real career option for me at that time. Q: At least you were ten:ting that way? BUt it wouldn't have been within the Brethern church if you were trained at union seminary, would it? Sheldon Rahn 3 A: well, not really, I was turned to union by a faculty member at: COmell COlleqe where I took my Bachelor of Arts Degree. She was a teacher of religious education. She, I guess, knew union 'lheological seminary very well. She must have sensed sane of my curiosity aram:i same issues ard she mentioned it to me. I wrote to union, to Harrison Elliott, who was also the religious education professor, the senior professor at that time who was in an active dialogue with the COlumbia university school of pragmatism in philosqny ard a very sti.nulati.n;J man. He had written me back a cordial three page letter tellinl ne a lot about the seminal:y, etc. we had never met. 'lhat, of course, meant a great deal to me to have that ki.rxi of response. SO I guess it was a cx::anbination of those factors. Q: So when you went to seminary, was Harrison Elliott same influence? A: Yes, he was. Particularly because his embracinl of much of Jc:tm. Dewey's pragmatism frau across the street at COlumbia university, but not all. An aside on this, just two weeks ago I read a little volume of John Dewey's which I happened to have in my hare library called ~ camoon Faith in which John Dewey discusses same of the religious iSSUE!S iri the J;hllosqily of pragmatism. Very pertinent to the so¢ of writing that Harrison Elliott was doirg with respect to religion~ can religious education be Christian education ani issues of that · kirxi? So you can see ani you know well it was a stilm.ll.atirg time. Q: Cb, I guess it was. A: '!his same group which studied d.Em:ICratic socialism ard Marxism as an historical approach to the interpretation of history as adapted by cienocratic socialists, there was a pericx:l when this same group stu:tied nonviolent direct action, Garrlhi's nonviolent direct action philosophy with sane care ard attention. It was a pericx:l of time when we reEd a lot about it ani discussed it a lot ard nonviolent direct action is very much an urxlerlyirg viewpoint which lies behin:i this decision not to :register or not to cooperate with the conscription act. Q: In other words it's a symbolic action sayi,m to the state that they shculd charqe its ways related to war? A: Very well put. 'lhat's exactly what it was. It grew OJ.t of same of that dj scnssion of Garrlhi ard his thinking. Q: What of that was 2q:pealirg to you? A: Well, it fit my pacifist backgrourd of the Qru:rch of the Bretllezn. At the same time it would pennit one to take an aggressive stance towards social problems. So I guess that's what made it very attractive. In a sense I think that group of fifteen or so was rethinking the history of pacifism, earlier pacifist a:r;:proa.ches to secular society. 1hey were rethinking it. I think that both the socialist interest arxi the Garrlhian interest reflected an effort to give pacifism more historical relevarx:e than it ten.1ed to have in a lot of pacifist m:>Vemeil'ts. Instead of just beirg an interpersonal logic for livirg, as a lot of the early pacifism was, "I wlll becane friems with my German friends ard we will together sign a pledge never to take up anrs," that's entirely an intm'perscmal level II Sheldon :Rahn 4 approach to the problems of international relations. I think this group sensed the inadequacies of that an:i was tryirq to search out a political dimension throUgh socialism ani a larger religious orientation through Ganjhi.' s nonviolent direct action. 'the direct action was always very important but it was not a passive awroach to the society but a genuine i.ntel:vention kini of an awroach but with those nonviolent perspectives. Q: sane in that group went on when there was not an qportunity atee the war had really gotten on ani people began chan;Jirq their minds about whether they ought to participate or not, sane of them went on to a:pply that nonviolent direct action into other areas of life. Like race relations an:i like labor disputes arxi like the cooperative m::wements and civil rights. A: Quite so. When George Houser organized the CQn:;Jress on Racial Equality (he was one of the twenty men) , this was a fundamental assunptlon. I remember one tine beirq at a conference with George Hc:A.1ser down in one of the southern states ani we had a black colleague with us. After dinner one evenirg we said, ''Well, let's just test it a little bit." 'Ihe three of us would go to this restaurant ani see what we can do. So those were very early little tentative explorations into the application of that. Q: But probably when you were in the study group those weren't • A: No, we weren't ••• Q: You were just thi.nkirg of international fields because that was the problem that was goirq to face all of you? A: '!bat's true. Q: It was obvious, you know", war was in the air, war had started in Europe in 1939. '!hat was the year you were doirq the studyirq was 1939 to 1940. A: '!hat is true. Q: can you put yourself back into that tine enough to think of hew the various parts of the news affected that study group in tenns af, well for example, the Jewish problem? A: I don't think we were aware except we knew that in Germany there was a discrimination against Jews, in enployment, in social exchan]e. But I don't believe, ani I've tried to recall occasionally before, I don't believe we had any knowledge of the severity of that. Ard that is a very sober issue for me and has been one of the facto:rs in lead.irq me to quite a different point of view. Q: I think that's true of many, many people. But lookirg back it didn •t seem to be an issue for you? A: NOt at that point, not in october of 1940. Sheldon Rahn 5 Q: 'n1en that study group kin:i of formed the base. Do ¥0'1 remember there were a lot of discussions, leadirq up to that sprJ.Iq about the peacetime draft and the kin::1s of actions that Roosevelt was t.aki.ng and those were discussed there also? can you think when you first thought of not sign.irg up for the draft? '!hat spri.rg sometime probably. A: No, I can't really recall the circumstances which lead to that discussion. Q: Did you at all durirq that time kncM anytlliig about the group of students that had moved dawn on 125th street? A: No, were they students fran sansWhere else? Q: well, Dave Delli.rger and Don Benedict. '!hey all nDVed down there out of the semi.nazy. A: Oh, at their Ashram over on 125th street. Q: No, they built it over in Newark. A: And then they built one in Newark. But they had a center over in Harlem also. Q: But you never went there or knew anytlliig about them? A: Oh yes, \\18 knew about it. As a matter of fact one of the first 1:hirqs sane of the others of us did, like walter Jackson, and Brautigan who was on the list and several others, we developed a similar canmune, I guess they 'WOUld call them nowadays, in Brooklyn, in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, which was a high delinquency area, as both an econanical livinJ base for us all. We all had enployment of different kin::1s but we shared costs in this hane Which we rented and then we made double decker bmks and we developed it; as a oamm.mity center as well. It was close to a Methodist settlemerlt house ani we collaborated as volunteer staff people at this settl~ house. Q: so this was an idea that was kin:l of arourd? A: It was arourd. It came fran c::ur Gan::lhian discussion of the Ghaniian Ashram m:wement. Q: It did? And people thought, ''Well, let's tJ:y to set one up." Did this mean a cxamton discipline, a worship discipllne? A: Yes, usually only at mealtime we 'WOUld have sc::me reading of scripture. It was a light discipline but there was an organizaticm to the day. A bit of prayer, not too nuch. Q: '!hat's interesti.rg. 'lbe one that you were participati.rg in wee with Walter Jackson and Herb Brautigan. A: '!hey were both in it for a while and I'm sor:cy I can't quickly recall just who else was involved. ' · .. ·-: ... "~-:-., Sheldal Rahn Q: Now that wc:W.d be 1941 that you lived aver there? A: It was al::lout September of 1941 that we set that up. 6 Q: What had you done the previous sunnner, the sunnner betWeen the study group ard setting up the Ashram? A: well, I might just lead that stol:y through. When we decided to leave the seminary, sane of the men of c:xJUrSe were going to refuse to register ani seni a letter to the federal government telli.ng the government where they could be founi lcnowing that the federal penitentiary offense was involved. '!he rest of us who were in the group said, ''We will register but we will drop our autanatic seminary deferment fran the draft ard go out and face whatever the music calls for in terms of draft pressures up:m us, whether we're a~lyiiq to be a ex> or whether we're nat." So I forget exactly, about Sl.X or eic1lt of us I think left ard did register for the draft. Q: You registered there at union? A: In New York, yes. Q: In New York on that october 15th date. A: I guess whatever that date was, yes. Q: You registered but then left? A: Yes, then we packed our bags ard as these dialogue meetings came to a close ani the decision was made, there was usually two or three seminary faculty members present absel:Vi.ng when we met. Harrison Elliott was very often there but others too. I dal't 1cnow that Reinhold Niebuhr was ever with us but it's quite possible. So there was general interest within the seminary. well, after the decision was made within a day or two we had a call fran Rliladelprla ani Clarence Pickett, the executive director of the American Friends SeJ:Vice COmmittee, said to us on the phone, "I've just heaJ:d by the grapevine what you've decided to do. If you don't 1cnow exactly what your next m::we is I'd like to see you tanorrow nornin:J at Grard Central Station. I'm goirg up to New Erqlani ani I have a suggestion." so several of us went down to Gram Central station ani met him the followirg nomi.rq, sat in the station. He said, ''We've just opened a new year-round work canp, Quaker work canp in Cooperstawn, New York. Year-round. First one. 'lhere' s plenty of roan for you men if you'd like to go there for one nonth, six months while you think through your next step. We wc:W.d be ha.w.f to h.avEl you do so. 11 So four or five or six of us did accept that invitation. ; we were up there fran November 1st through April, I guess of 1942. Q: No, that was 1941? A: we want in 1940 ani so yes, the most of us left by the spring of 1941. We had branched out. Quite right. So that was an excellent set'tin:1 in Which-because we 'WOUld be up at six in the noming ani from sl.X-thirty to seven we had a half hour of silent raeetin] before an open fire ard an excellent li.bral:y nearby in this old ho.lse and Sheldon Rahn 7 workin;J all day in the Farmers' COOperative there. Assi.sti.rg the farmers to develop an Econanic COOperative aroL1l'il their 'wood lots. '!hey had their am sawmill which they owned in their Producer co-op. so this was a little tenporacy effort to get a little grip on societal prcblems t.hroUgh the Producer Cooperative movement. Q: Now was this a real CPS camp? A: No, it wasn't. It was separate. Q: It was a separate thirg? It was a separate t:l'lirg that Clarence Pickett set up for you pecple? A: well it was for anybody. Q: 'Arrjt.Jr:rly who wanted to be there? A: Right am there were others there who were not frau the seminary. Q: :ait there were four of you fran the seminary? A: well I forget exactly, at least four, maybe six. SO in the spring of the following year we had an invitation from the New York city ca.mcil of Churches to come down ani for a very modest salary bebeen us to staff a united Olristian Youth MovenEnt conference on Staten Islam. We took it up. We nv::mrl down to Manhattan in an inexpensive apartment in mid-Manhattan ard again we shared our resources, etc. Ard we staffed out this conference for the New York City Council of Churches. Q: What was that, an ovemi.ght or weekerd conference? A: Ql, it was a three or four day event. Q: so you were settin;J that up ani staffed it. Was it held sanetime in May? A: saoetime in May am June sanewhere in there. Following that I took a ~ob with a o:msumer COOperative Foodstore just down the hill fran Union 'Iheological seminaJ:Y. Q: :ait you weren •t in classes at all? A: No, they had an:l I think still have a substantial consumer cooperative foodstore there. so I was a clerk, I cut cheese an:l • • • Q: Ycu've had diffm:ent kin:1s of jd:Js that year, didn't you? A: well, I tell you we were glad to fird sc:anetl'lin;J to do to get back into the stream of things. I took groceries to several faculty members at unia1 'Iheological seminary by pushi.ng' the pJSbcart up the hill, ringing the bell by the old Riverside Church. An elevator would come up from deep in the bowels of the basement and thrust two big iron doors which opened right in the sidewalk there. I would get aboani the lift with my groceries ani go dcMn ard down below. '!hey Sheldon Rahn 8 would be routed to Reinhold Niebuhr and other members of the faculty who all got their groceries fran the consumer co-op. Q: Qh J1.rj I but you didn It have the contact With them? A: Fortunately I didn't have to deliver them personally. SO I wot"ked there at the consumer Co-op. we also at that point had rented this buildil'g in Brooklyn and several of us were rrN there. Q: SO that's when you did the Red Hook business, was then? COUld we go back to the t.ilne when you were at the seminal:y in the fall of 1940? 'Ihat 1 s when the statement was hammered out. A: '!bat's right. Q: D:l you remember anyt.hj.n:J about that process of hammerirg the . statement? It was made up of largely the SOCialist Club but there! were sane others involved in that. A: All I remember is aJJoost daily meet.in:Js in a spirit of prayer am a prett"f rich vari~ of viewpoints and knoWledge about church history and social and polit~cal prci>lems within the group. '!his was all ' mi.nglirg and hooked up to the statement. Q: You don •t :know who maybe did same drafts of sane of them? A: No, I really don't. Q: D:l you remember actually signirg the statement? A: Yes, vaguely I do. Q: was it done at a mee.tirg? A: No, I think it was done, well I'm not sure. I shouldn't tJ:y 'bo outguess myself. I'm not sure just when it was done. Q: Did they care to your roan with it? A: Oh no, there 'WOUldn't be anyt:hinJ like that. It 'WOUld probabl,y be done at the meetirg. '1he statement was there and others 1mew about it and cx:W.d read it and decide whether they wished to sign it or not. Q: D:l you remember anyt:hinJ about 'WOrship services durirg that time? A: I don't recall. we had a daily chapel at the seminary and we all atterded :iniepenUmtly daily chapel and often the Vesper chapel in the afternoon, a veey small chapel in the basement of the seminary. But no, the livirg water of worship for us was at the time of our dialogue gatherin;Js when we were gettirg ready to confront sane of these decisiCI'lS. As I say there would be a bit of scripture read, very little spoken prayer. so it was a very infonnal kind of worship tihat was linked lightly with the serious discussions. Q: 'Ibis was the previous year? Sheldon F.ahn 9 A: In the fall. Q: Cb in the fall, so sanelxxiy would read sane scripture pertlaps ani maybe just a moment of silent prayer am then discussions? People p.tttirg in inp.It am sayin;J, "I think this is the way I read this." A: Yes, these were obviously the same men who had spent the previous year ••• Q: So they all knew each other? ~!hey all knew where their q>inialS were? A: Oh yes. Q: can you pick a.:ey out that you remember especially st:ron.;J who stood A: well of course, David Dellirger was very well informed in socialist history am perspectives. SO he clearly made an important contrihltion but there were others who atten:led that SOCialist Pa¢Y study group like Franklin Littell, he was a nee-orthodoX~ am at the close of WOrld war II Franklin was a chaplain in the u.s. ~. He was with the first u.s. occupation troops m::wirg into Gennany i!bi openin;r up the death camps in Ge:nnany. Franklin was in this group not as a pacifist but as a non-pacifist. Q: Yes, because you said there were socialists of various grades. A: NC1t1 Franklin was very well informed also am tended to help provide sane of the panq:tllets am study literature that we could chaw on. Q: WOUld he be informed about the Gan:lh.ian enphasis? A: Yes, but he wasn't as much interested in it. You see as a neoort: hodox Christian he did not p.It :much stock in nonviolent approadhes to institutional c::harge at the international level or to dealirg with evil as in the fo:cn of the National socialist Party of Gennany. Q: was it also the fact that it [Gharrliam nonvioleD:le] was non-au:istian? A: No, that wouldn't have been a big factor. Q: But it was the fact that it was too idealistic a way of dealing with it? A: Yes, not seen as politically relevant. Q: Not.llinJ worse than irrelevancy to the :nee-orthodox? A: 'that is right. But out of that horrifyin;J experience of help.irg to open the death canps, Franklin stayed in Gennany for several wars am helped to develq> there the ray Academy Movement, which was a m::wement in which the Gennan laymen developed ~ centers all a¢roSS Gennany to reedl1cate people who had been too much influenced by N4Zi Sheldon Rahn 10 doctrine. '!hey brought in waitresses an:i miners an:i people in var;i.ous ocx::upations. I once had the opporbmity to spend several days in one of those in Ge.rman¥ an:i to observe one of those meetirgs of the I.af Academy groups oam:ing in fran the mines, with deep-shaft miners ani middle management arxi stockholders all in the group. Q: Hew did they go abo.It that? A: well they came in arcRJ1'Xi two in the aftemoon for the lag weekeOO an:i played cards until four or so, had a drink. Maybe they were invited to go to chapel down in the basement in this Gennan mansiQ'l which had fonnerly been first a German militaJ:y headquarters arxi later a u.s. militaJ:y headquarters, a biq house. sane would go to the chapel an:i sane wouldn't. '!hey didn't have to. '!hen the next day they entered into discussion toqether aba.tt the issues that pm:plex them in the nrl.ni.rxJ iniustJ::y. Miners statixq what they were ~ aboUt, wonyirg abo.It. Right up ani down. Q: About the social :relationship of Qlristianity? A: More the issues in the mines, the wages or the corrlitions or the political stance of their mi.nin;J cozporation in Gennany. Q: What did the Qlristian-that was just to provide the open space for them to raise their issues? A: '!hat's true. Q: '!hat's what the Qlristianity ••• A: And the general fcmnat of havirg people fran all walks of life within an occupation, that was expected arxi rut beycni that it was not 0 0 0 Q: But it was not labeled Qlristian in that sense? A: well, it was not heavily labeled Qlristian an:i Weed m::st of the ecclesiastical leaders of the Lutheran Church were not pe.nnitted to come into these centers except by invitation. There was so lmlCh bittemess against them because of the collaboration of sane with the Nazis, that this new lay m:wement was quite careful in reopenin;J relationships with the established clergy. so Franklin Littell stayed to help develop that and then when he came back to the united states he became the mnnber one developer really of the entire Holocaust Fducation IlDVel'Oellt in American universities. Q: He was so overwhelmed. with that experience. A: Ciwiously. So he has developed a tremendous infrastructure of university education on the Holocaust and its .illlplications for the Qlristian tradition ani txyin;J to answer the question why did such a predanina.tely CMistian nation, why were they so soft on the anti-semitism ani other aspects of National Socialism. Not all of them rut why were so many so soft. So it's becane a tremendous research ani academic ent:.aprise in the united states ani in QmacJa. Sheldon Rahn 11 Q: An:i he came from this little group? A: He was in this study group on socialism. He was older than the rest of us. He was finishirg I think, in his third year or saoet:h.i.rg. Q: Was Roger Shinn, no, he wasn •t in there. A: Roger Shinn, of ca.m;e, was the President [of union student body) at the time I was there l:ut he wasn •t in that group. Q: Anybody else stam. rut in yoor mini? Franklin Littell ani D!vid Dellinger. A: Well, I think they were the two who were deep thinkers in this whole respect. Q: Howard Spragg? A: Yes, he was well infonned on sane of this too. Incidentally, just a few weeks ago when 'Ibronto was host to the Econanic summit, you may recall it was in the newspapers. 'Ihere was a big demcnstration daily in Toronto. one of the key figures be1:lini that denw::mstration was David Dellirger. Q: Yes, I was aware of that. A: '!hough speakirg of trying to be relevant • • • Q: Right up until today. A: Up until a few months ago. He never gives up. Q: No, not at all. He has retained his pacifism. A: His nonviolent direct action. From what little I have read al)out that liDVemal1t I wish I had an opporb.mity to sit down with David for a day because I think he ani I are l'lCM poles apart. Q: We need to cane to that. A: But it all kin:l of came to a head within seventy miles of here. Q: let's go back. You remember registering an that day at the seminal:y. Dlring the time between when the statement was issue:::l to the press ani after havin:J been signed by everybody, there was not a lot of days maybe ten, maybe fifteen days, very close. A: I guess that's right. we were fightirq that deadline, wren•t we? Q: You were fighting the deadline. A: '!hat's right, for registration for the draft. Q: '!hat's right, it was the 15th that was going to register. sene the ather people wham I •ve talked to imicated they had a lot of I. Sheldcm Rahn 12 = ~to bear on them to not go throUgh with it. Do Yf A: I do kncM that the president of the seminal:y called my parents in Iowa to tell them what was hawenin;J and to ask them if they couldn't influence me to charge my mini. But until this moment I didn't :krJ:M if a:ey of the other men had had a:ey pressure put on them. Q: You had never heani that? But you were still goirg to classes durirg that time, do you 8\lR)OSe? A: Well we went to classes really until the decision was made to withdraW fran the seminal:y. Q: so did they call you then after he called them? A: M¥ parents never did call me about that. After I made the decis1on I called my parents and spoke with my m:rt:her and father. . Said, 11'Ih.is is what we've decided to do, it's what I've decided tq do. 11 My father simply said to me on the phone, "If that is your · choice I wish you well ani support you. 11 Q: so probably Van DJsen called them after that? A: I don't really know. Q: You don't know the sequence l:ut they never called you back. A: No, my parents never even told me about this until years later. Q: so then the day came to register ani evidently sane of you had decided to go ahead ani register ani drop out? A: And tzy to find sanethin;J with a little relevance to social ••• Q: Yes, you were not goirg to that particular form of nonviolent direct action which was to not register but you wanted to find scqe. other way of doin:J that. A: sane positive contribution. Q: And there were four or five or nme of you that wanted to do that? A: I forget the exact number. Q: But evidently you had been goirg on meetirg durin:] that time? A: I think after the decision was made there were very few meetings after that. We t.erded to split, those who were goirq to register they kept in touch with each other a little bit, those who were refusin:] to register because they had to think through, anticipate similar problems in their families, etc., those of us who were goin;J to register but leave the seminary an::l give up the automatic deferral fran the draft • • • Sheldon Rahn 13 Q: I~ I'm tJ:yirq to unierstard when you discemed who was goirg to register 0 A: I think that was one of the two or three major items in eNerf dialogue meetirg we had that fall. Should we register or should we not? Q: But the people who signed the petition signed this were all not goixg to register, were they originally? A: Well that was certainly how it started. '!hen I guess those of us who decided to register an:i withdraw, this bec::ame an optional or altemative position. As I look at this list, yes, that's what hlq:pmed. so Ibnal.d Benedict refused to register, David Dellinger refused to register, George Heuser refused to register, Howard Spragg refused to register. My lnSilCl:Y might be in error but na:e correct than not. Q: No, that's right. A: Joe Bevilaqua refused to register. Now the rest of us 'Wei1t in various ways. For example, David Buz:gess went down an:i became a staff organizer for the cro in Georgia I think. '!hat was the way he was goirg to get a little grip on the situation. SO he became a labor organizer in a southem state. Q: '!hat's fairly direct action, isn't it? A: '!hat's fairly direct. I don't remember what Meredith IBl.las did for sure. Q: He didn't register. A: I'm lookirg l'lC7t'l at those who did not register. Q: But he went to jail alorq with the others. A: Ard Eldon D.u:hain went with us up to the Quaker work carrp in COOperstown, New York. Tan Keehn went with us, he was the only one who had a car in the b.mch so we rode with him. Herbert Brautigam went with us up to the canp, Walter Jackson went with us. Q: Do you remember arrt feelhgs between those that went ahead with the :ncnregistration an:i those that registered? A: '!here was absolutely no attention about it whatsoever. we were CCIIIpletely at peace with one another an:i have been through all the decades since. Yes, it was an experierx:le of course which brought us together at a level which one would never forget. Q: I guess I was aski.rg you earlier whether you remember arrt woth:tp services. What I meant was before the day of registration, was there a wrshi.p service held? A: If there was one I don't recall. Sheldon Ralm 14 Q: so you headed off to the work camp. SO maybe the next thin;J that would be helpful to me is as you did your th.inld.rg t:hrolgh, where did the cl'Jan1e fran where you -were at that tiJne at union seminaJ:y oa.nai fran, hew did that cane about? Maybe that would be a good way of go:irq about it. You said you came to a different position as the years haVe gone on. Did that start right then? A: No, that started in the 1960s, the tw::bulent sixties. Q: Well -we can acme to that later if it was that late. so the only difference then when you went to that Adiromack camp am then organized the camm..me in Brooklyn, then you were back in union seminaJ:y, was? A: Not yet. rur:irq the war I stayed out of the seminary am aftea:' work:in:J at the cooperative foodstore for maybe a year I was invited to take the responsibility for this Methodist settlement House near Ci1r CCil1l'llll'le in Brooklyn. so we had a very small c:x>r:gJ:egation am a substantial settlement halse operation. I became the director of that ani pastor of this small remnant c:x:n;rrega.tion in the heart of Red Hook section. Q: were arrx of the other people still there at that time? A: Most of them began to peel off ani find ~ similar of a little more permanent nature dur:irq that period. Q: But you staye:l on as a settlement house worker. Just the ~ settlement house work? End of side one, Tape one Q: Was any of that related to the war at all or did the war just go on aroun:i you? A: No, it was just seen as a pzogzam for the families in that rather haJ:d pressed neighborhood. Q: How' did you feel about the war dUrirq that time, just as any other American or what? A: Yes, I guess as I dimly recall I kind of kept Irrj same posture with respect to the war still feeling it was a mistake. '!his is where the prcblan arises that there should have been a different approach to Gel:many as the weimar ~lie was cxrnir.g alorg ani then the war WOUld never have been necessary. It was that kind of a rationale I was . also hangin:J on. But that didn't do much for the current situation in Europe. Q: But you did watch with • . . A: Yes, I watched ani trie:l to analyze ani keep th.inld.rg about the p:>litical ani international aspects of what all this means ard heM i i I Sheldon Rahn 15 could it have been ~ ani what should be done afterwards and all that sort of tl'lirg. Q: Had you begun thinkin;J of what could be done afterward? A: No, not really much. Q: well, you were very much involved in the day to day work of the settlement house I suppose. A: So that pretty much absorbed ani I was married by that time too. '!hat pretty much absorbed our time ani attention. Q: You married sanebody that you knew fran before? A: No, I married a yourq woman Who came up to that Quaker work canp, BaJ:bara Myers, Who was trained arx1 qat her Masters Degree frau the Bank street SChool for preschool education in Manhattan. So she was runnin;J a day care center down in Vi:.tginia, in a coal minirg OCI1lllllll1i.ty or sanewhere down there. She decided she would like to have a year of c:l1arge and she had signed up for the Quaker work camp. So after I was in CCq:lerstown, New York, at the Quaker work camp with the other nen for a few m:>nths she attived, I think, in Jantlal:y. She became llmnediately-and there were other yourq women there too. so they participated in all of these discussions. so you get to know' eveeybody in a hurry in the midst of that kind of • • • Q: What kinds of thi:rgs woold be discussed at that Quaker work aunp? '!hat was not socialism certainly? A: well it qat sane di scnssion. It was usually issues with respect to international oonflict. Q: Even at that time? well yes, that would be reasonable because America hadn •t gone to war yet. A: In 1940, that's right. Q: YCll see you were there in 1941 in the sprin:J ani -we were still debatfn:J as to whether we a.tght to go to war. Should we help Erglani ani what's gofn:J to hai:Pen at the Battle of Britain and that kind of thing? A: Yes, quite so. Q: so I can un:lerstan:i the international preoccupation. A: Yes, the Keep America out of War Movement, which had gocxi and less ~special interests workin:J in it, was very busy in New York City m that time. 'Ihe canmunist Party was very active in that period with a couple of front organizations like Citizens Political Action Ccmnittee. Again as an aside, Eldon Dlrham, who's one of the men on the list, am I had heard about the Citizens Political Action camnittee bein:.J fonned on the Columbia university canp.lS across the street. 'lhis is before we left the seminazy there but it was, I ~ it was earlier maybe that same fall, september of that year. Just art Sheldon Rahn 16 of curiosity we said, "Let's go over ani if there is a chance, let's see if we can take over this branch ani find out who's really runni.rg it. 11 So we went over to the organizirq meeting ani made sane well founded cumnents in the original discussion. When the time came to select officers he naninated. me as secretary and I was elected the secretaJ:y of a camm.mist Party controlled, Citizens Political Action camnittee but I knew exactly what it was of course before that tilDe. :axt we were just plain politically curious to knc.w hew the CCinmunist Party operates in that kind of a situation, how they wculd take over a branch organizing meetin;J, you krlow, just how they would handle it :rut also a little d.eviltl:y in it as we thc:u:3ht we'd just txy to follO!tl it up. So I was secretary for about three 1lDllths ani I learned all I needed to krlow. Q: :axt they were very crafty, were they? A: Very clever, yes, the major motion as I dimly recall after all these years was that, that the group should elect certain officers and the president of the new branch would name the executive CCII1lldttee. 'lhat kind of obvious manipulation. so they kind of had their plans as to who would be elected as an officer. It just haR;a1ed that Elda'l DJrham am I outmaneuvered them on the one office. so I met with the other officers ani listened ani it was very clear what was goin3' on. SO I resigned after a few m:mths. 9.lt that just illustrates the turt:IUl.ence in New York City with respect ani of course the camu.mist Party wanted to keep America out of the war too until Genaany attacked the Soviet union. '!hen ovemight the Ccamnun:ist Party ard all of its peace fronts charged their tune. Q: So there was never aey temptation to be a part of that party because of their obvious manip.llation? A: Ani not only that but the :oemx:ratic SOcialist Party ani DJV~ was vigorously anti-oammmist. So we in our discussions the previ4>UB year were well-oriented. to the totalitarian nature of the party, the camamist Party, ard how an:i what kin::l an:i the totalitarian nature. of the Bolshevik solution for the SOViet union. '!he hi.stol:y of all that ard the difference between democratic centralism ani genuine ~cy in organizations. we had dj scusse:i all this. Q: SO you were aware of all of this? A: For a farm boy fran Illinois ani Iowa it was news. But we got a lot of it in pretty sharp focus in that study group. Q: well you must of. You were well attuned to not beirq a carmunist? A: Oh yes 1 everybody in those days in the pacifist ard socialist circles knew exactly which other organizations were comnrunist Party run. We were constantly tJ:ying to, well we wanted to have a vigorous parallel organization so the people wouldn't join the Ccmmmist controlled fronts by default. Q: In other ~rds people who were interested in justice would not join up? Sheldon Rahn 17 A: '!hat was the stance in the United states, less so in canada. In canada I fCJUI'd when I came up twenty-two years ago there is a rath4R' acc:::atm:XIatirg attitude about united front -work with CanmUnist PartY controlled. groups ani there is to this manent. Q: They are able to work with them more easily? A: sane of them do ani they don't fret about it very nuch. '!hey usually :know which organizations in their coalition are cannnmist Party related but they do not try deliberately to set up separate ccrrpatitive organizations to keep the cammmist Party at bay ard to :minilnize their membership as 1'CD..1Ch as possible. Which in the U.s. was a deliberate policy in church ani non-church circles. Q: To absolutely get rid of them. A: '!hat's right, to fight them in p.lblic education tenns ani by 1 havirg parallel organizations that non-oc:am:m.mist people could joinj. Q: 'nrls always meant that in international relations the united states was always vigorously anti-cxmmmist. I mean it carried. over am the real question is is that a good way of tryirg to negotiate? A: well I certainly felt, ani all of us did in the non-oamunist social m::wements in the United states, we all felt that it was entirely justified. first because the cannnmist Party frart:s were~ governed by the membership. '!heir viewpoints were ocmtrolled fraQ the party fran the top am very often fran the soviet Party which 'WOl1ld dictate to the u.s. organization as to when it shcW.d charr:Je its nU.n:i on certain thin;Js. so we said that we cannot cooperate with that because their membership is not in control of their viewpoint. Ani in the labor nDVelD9l'1t that was also the rule. Q: Oh I know it was. A: Ani bitter internal struggles within the labor l'l'IOV'ement to keep the cannnmist Party fran winnin:] ocmtrol of the union. It was done as in the U.A.W. in Detroit where we lived for thirteen years ani got to :know the Reuthers well ard the labor l1¥JVE!IDBJlt well. '!his inside stcny of where the cannnmist Party was active in the Furriers union or cne or two others. we just would keep a sharp eye cut ani I still think that was cc:arpletely justifed.. But that was a part of the Demcratic SOCialist study Club assumption. They knew what the carm.mist Party was like am heM they q:mated. we all came to feel that was a genuine error. It was a kird of a SOl.1l:Ce of evil, you :know, it's not an acceptable approach to social oxqanization urder historical c.har:ge ani we will not aCXXJltlucxlate to it. Q: In some way though that same attitude is what is witnessed by Ronald Reagan's "evil empire?" A: Yes, well this is a part of Irrf new more neo-oonsezvative viewpoint. I •m not one who supports Ronald Reagan's program except in one or two areas. I think until Go:rbachev came on the scene that the SOViet Party was, you could alloost call it an evil empire. Since Sheldon Rahn 18 Gol±lachev ard the refonns that they are tryirg to make I •m prepared to take an entirely different attitude. Q: Which is what Ronald Reagan is perhaps th.i.n1dn:j? A: But now that the soviet camm.mist Party leadership across the board is freely acknc7ttledgirg its manifold sins ard wickednesses which it fran time to time has grieviously ocmnitted, I think that opens the door to a new kin::l of relationship. But onl¥ as lorg as they don't keep up their old approach to the west by usJig totalatarian controlled organizations to try ard influence Western thought. I cannot aooept that as a proper awroach to international 'WOrk. Q: In other 'WOrds you wa.tld not, for exanple there was a whole pariod there in the sixties of dialogue with camra.mist nations or dialogue with religious organizations that were controlled by eanmunists. 'lhe peace conference, the Prague Peace COnference which people would CJ'J to. 'Ihat would be sanethin;J that you would not ••• A: No, we would not participate. we would hope to see church bodies ard unions ani other bodies set up their own intemati6na.l peace conferences. '!his is, of CXJUrSe, quite different fran u.s. dialogue with the soviet govemment. Govemment to govemment dialogue, ycu can cross ideological lines you have because the soviet union is not tryirg to hide or deceive anybody as to what its political loyalties really are. It • s the secretive nature of the earlier cammmist Party front organizations that made them so insidious ani danqerous in C)Ur view. · Q: let • s go alcnJ then in tenns of the pacifism until ycu were in Red Hook then as a settlement halse director until the etxi of the war. A: '!hat's about right, I believe. Q: 'Ihen you went back to union seminal:y? A: 'Ihen I went back to finish ~ last two years at union 'lheologica.l seminary. Q: Ani did that chan;Je your pacifist viewpoint at that time? '!he veterans were back by that time? A: 'Ihat's right, but that's a far rea.c.hi.rg question ani I don't seem to quickly recall as to what ha~ at that point. Q: You were already headed towards social seNice when you went back there? Because you had done the settlement house for all those~· A: Social work, yes. Q: Ani you went back there. What kim of courses did you take to finish up? A: I had fran the beginning majored in Onn:d1 ani o::mm.mity so I finished up with lrtj major in Church ani o:mnunity. L Sheldon Rahn 19 Q: Which meant many :rrore practical courses than theological or historical courses? A: sane of both. Q: Did you have Niebuhr at that time again? A: I think I had taken my Niebuhr course in my first year. Incidentally it was a course on MarXism which Reinhold Niebuhr tau:Jht arxl practically everybody in the seminal:y took that course. It was a fascinatirg caJrSe ani that was my introduction to Marxism as an i.ntel:pretation of histoey. Q: By this time he saw MarXism, an even classical MarXism, as an ideology that was demni.c, didn't he? A: Oh yes, with respect to its current manifestation in the Bolsllevik parcy- ••• Q: But even in its original manisfestations. A: No, I think he was quite synpathetic to the Marxist inteJ:pretation of history, the dialectic • • • Q: Yes, the analysis he ooul.d go with ••• A: 'Ihe analysis of history he could go with. I fin:l to this day I can go with It¥JSt of that. Q: 'lbe constructive part of it you can •t. A: Oh yes, but the organizational expressions of it on the Bolshevik side, the carmu.mist Party side, no-that's where I think they went afoul back in 1903 when they decided to go for a c:ieroocratic centralist approach to political structure rather than a genuine membership control. 'Ihat' s when the Bolsheviks an:i the Mensheviks separated ani the CC:amm.mist Parties ani the SOCialist Parties separated ani became enemies. Q: But even socialism for Niebuhr had sane difficulties with hill\ by about that time. A: You may be right. Q: I mean he was st:artin;J to have sane difficulties with socialism. A: It could very well be. '!hat's an interestin;J point. I would have to go back ani reread sane of • • • Q: Yes, read your minutes. A: well, reread same of his later publications to catch up with that. It OCW.d very well be. He even ran in an election as a member of the SOCialist Party, Reinhold Niebuhr did. Q: Yes, he did but that was after that. Sheldon Rahn 20 A: I think you are right, he began to get a disillusionment aboUt the Socialist Party. So maybe he was just an early precursor to the neo-conservative m::wement that came in the sixties for same of us. Q: He was very Im.1Ch. a "darlint' if you want to say it that the consensus historians Arthur SChlirger an1 IJ:Vin;J Kristol even, of course, that's the neo-conservative but that was the consensus at that tilne. A: Kristol at that tiJne was nv:Jre of a liberal I think. Q: Yes, he was, he was JOOre of a liberal. A: SO I went back an1 finished Itrf degree an1 I guess I hecane DDre an:i nv:Jre preoccupied with the theoey ani practice of child developnent and pathology in human behavior, etc. , as I took courses in those tlast two years. I took a couple of courses at the New York SChool of social WOrk which were aocredited t.c:Mard Itrf Bachelor of Divinity Degree. HaVin;J gotten a taste of those two courses I, ani for a couple of other reasons which '\>1e needn't go into-actually what I had seen bein;J done in the Wasllin:3ton D. c. counc:il of Churches by a nen who was a professionally trained social worker was workin;J with the church congregations ani the church-related social ani health services in the Washington o. c. area, I was so inpressed by what he was doir'tJ I said to myself, "I believe this is where I would like to m::we as a career now that the war is over." so that's what happened. '!hen we took this job in Detroit with the Detroit counc:il of Olurches. Q: so now in that job you were primarily workin;J with health and "iffelfare institutions? A: Yes, 600 local c:on;tegations and alx:JUt 30 church-related social ani health insti'bltions ani agencies. Q: So you were doin;J also the broader church federation work too? A: we always kept the congregation as a mental health resource in the picture. All of the sacraments of the church such as the weddi.rg can be interpreted fran psydlodynami.c theory and a very inportant contribution to mental health in that that which has been prohibited by family, congregation, by culture, heterosexual tie ani relationship prior to the weddi.rg, is now given full sanction in the presence of the brethem an1 family an:i the state. 'Ibis maneJ:It in the wedd.irq while it may not be very oonsciOJS in the :m.irmt of those participatin;J is a vital nanmit in :really freeiig up the new couple to be canfortable in their heterosexual tie. To enjoy their heterosexual tie ani nat to be fearful about it as they would have been as yan¥J teenagers or sanet:hirg like that. So the same can be said of the ~ an:i the sacrament of the holy cxmnunion ani a whole host of traditional congregational religious practices have rather far reaching implications for mantal. health education. Q: At the time you were at Union the way you are describin;J where you were ac::rni.rq down in tenns of inteJ:pretin;J the sacraments seems to me different fran the neo-orthodox approach. .I Sheldon Rahn 21 A: 'Dle neo-ort:hodox ~-it is different. As you can see it's fully in tune with Dr:i histarical revelation ass\ll\'ption that God works thrcugh the family am c:xr.gregation, etc. Q: So you don •t set aside a special kind of sac:ramental or sacre:i space in a sense which is what nee-orthodoxy tended to do. A: Yes, they tried to recover saoe of that. Q: '!hat's right, maybe to say this cannot be analyzed in terms of reason in the same way. Did you feel that tension when you were at Union? A: Oh yes, I felt it at an intellec:tual. level. '!here was no a.ninr.:!Sity at all but yes, I felt it, I think I've lived with it every year since, always a bit ambivalent about that. Even though I havta always Dee.n unwilli.rq to aooept. certain aspects of the biblical repord with respect to its historical aocuracies, such as the story of tba resurrection, it obviously has fulfilled such a treD:terdals am deep hUman need that on Dr:i good days I say to Dr;iSelf, "I think it's justified even thcugh it is a lie." It represents sanething in history that did not actually happen but it is servi:rg sanething 'Yrlch humanki.rd seell.\'!:1 to want and need ard which in terms of meani.rg Is perfectly all right anyway. I mean I do believe that the creator has 0C1'11111.U'li.ties of faith which lie beycni history to which we do m:we. I do believe that but I 1m very :neJ:VOUS when I see any traditions play games with the facts, the historical record. '!hat makes me very nervtiJS. Even in the last five years there have Dean sane writers with respect to the Holocaust arrl why the German c::hurch in substantial part was wlnerable to Nazism. '!here is one viewpoint which has ~ which says that it's related in part perhaps to the fact that the .early c::hurch did not in a sense keep faith with the truth with respect to what was happe'nin:J historically. 'Ihat once a religious group is willi.rq to cx::mnit itself to ideas which are not historically true that both feet are goirg to lift off the gramd ard they are apt to float a little bit. So in Germany they were DDre vulnerable to acc:eptir.q saoe of the German Olristian wtlook because they had lost thefr foot.i:r:q in the history, which in Old 'l'estanent history .was of course very ilrportant. '!hat was all. Worki.rq fran historical experience, nt:::NI what have we learned.? What is God tellirg us here? we will stick with even th.augh they fabricate it sane in the written record too 1 the basic thrust of Old Testament th.inld.:ng was, stick by the truth of history. So the Olristian Omrch which for so many years played games with aspects of church history 1 I think was always han:ii~ by that, always vulnerable. '!he social gospel navement in the late 19th century ard the effort to retum to the study of Jesus as an historical figure was a source of great renaissance really in all P::otestant dencminations. Q: Arli so the denial of that by Nieblh.r was really ••• A: Yes, b1t I t.h.ink what he was really rea.ch.in:J for was that the meani.rg behint:i the myth is still good ard for reasons we may not be able to entirely urrlerstand. the mea.nirg is more important ard lle:r'loe the myth is defensible because it serves humanki.rd in a profound way. As I say every other day I'm willirg to .buy that too. jl Sheldon Rahn 22 Q: can -we tie that into the pacifism? so at what point did you feel that pacifism was your initial stance towards human ~ not killing each other ani wor~ that out? Where finally did that have to relate to the historical fact that human bein3& do use force on each other? You said it was in the sixties that you started to feel this? A: Yes, I think all this happene:i in the sixties for me. Q: How' did that occur? How' did you cane to that point? A: I think I must credit Franklin Littell with sane of it because he had returned by then ani we were in corresponience a bit ani I was aware of what he was doing. art in the sixties when I was working' for the National council of Churches as the executive director of the SOCial welfare Deparbnent and "If¥ predecessor had cane to this university as the new president to develop what was then Waterloo IJJ.theran University ani is rDA Wilfrid laurier university here in canada. It was whlle I was with the National council that sane of the d.enaninations began, ani this is still during the Vietnam War in the sixties, sane of the d.enaninational leadership began to flirt with the extreme left, the Black Panther m:wement ani sane ather silnilar extrema left ani they also • • • Q: '!he soo. A: Yes, that would be an example. Q: An:i you were not oc:anfortable with that? A: No, I did not accept that. I began to see sane of "If¥ liberal colleagues shiftin:;J in that direction. I also saw the civil rights :movement in which I had been actively involved in Michigan splitting a bit between those who were movin;r to the left ani those who were stay:i.n:J with the deroccratic liberal center. Q: was that the issue aver integration as q:p::sed to separatism? A: It was really the issue of affinnative action that set it off for me. Q: well maybe we ought to go back ani find out haw you were involved in the origlnal integration movement. A: When we were in Detroit with our first substantial position of responsibility for thirteen years ••• Q: '!hat started when? A: I guess it was the fall of 1949 ani in this position which I had as Director of the SOCial work Deparbnent of the Metropolitan oet.mit COUncil of Churches. I was also a consultant to the Michigan state council of Olurches which had 2500 local churches participatin;r in the state. 'l1ley had an active camnittee not only on sooial and health services but also on civil rights and plblic policy. I terDad to be called upon ani had q:porb.mities to participate in both. so eventually I became involved as a representative of the Metropolitan Sheldon Rahn 23 Detroit COUnCil of aturdles on a civil rights coalition in Detroit which included the N.A.A.C.P. arrl the U.A.W. arrl other labor unions, catholic organizations, Polish National organization, Hamtramack, ani farm organizations and the churches with denaninational social action men participating. By then a lot of these denaninatials such as the Methodists mandated that the local conference should have a position for a social action director. so the denaninations -were quite alive to civil rights in those years. SO this coalition s:i.nt>ly gave everybody a chance to work together with the state legislature on fair enployment practices act or halsing act or sane other legislation at the state level. '!his was about a seven year sustained effort to get this legislation passed. Q: 'lhe F. E. P. C. you are t.a1Jd..rg aboUt? A: Yes, F.E.P.C. So I represented the Metropolitan COUncil of Churches on that coalition and with nrt state council involvements was eventually asked to chair that coalition. so we sustained that saven year plSh ard S1.ltD9eded in getting the legislation 1:1U:Q:Jgh. Q: You were involved in the legislative side of it but there was no direct action, nonviolent action? · A: No, it was straight legislative action, m:lbilizing voter support., sitt.in;J in the bal~ of the state legislature when this bill was bein:J di flC\lSsed, :£il.onin:1 the president of united Church wanen in Bi.J:m:in:lham, Michigan to tell her that her member of the house in Michigan was t.a1Jd..rg the 'Wr01"I:J way on this bill. Could she talk to saae other churcl'n«<nen ani get him on the phone within the next six hours? 'Ihings like that. Q: '!hat ldrd of political action? 'Ihen cane alorq a tiine when the civil rights novements, I think about 1966 or 1967 when the civil rights novement began to pull apart and divide. '!hose that were DPre radically left moved ta..-lal:d black };'lCJWer ani the other ones were towaJ.:ds reparations in the church, there was the whole l:::Alsiness of reparation. A: Ch, I wasn't aware of that. Q: '!hat was when Jim Fonnan, went to Riverside Church. so that division began to occur arrl the division aver the stu:ient novement occurred earlier because the SIS became mre ani nm:e radical. '!bey moved out fran radical socialism al.nDst to anarchism. A: 'Ihat's right. Q: An:i it was that time that you began • A: Yes, that was when I began to realize, as did many others who left liberalism for neo-conservative analysis, I began to be aware that \ttlat the extreme left was willirq to sell down the river was most ~to me, the values involved. II ; ! Sheldon Rahn 24 Q: Now this was not a case of the fact that they wouldn't -work through democracy as with the camumists but it was the fact that they A: '!hat they were willirg to-well in the case of affinnative action, I had to face it here in 1967 with a faculty member I brought up fran Columbia, in the new school of social work here at this university. He was black an:i very strorgly camnitted to affinnative action ani the preferential selection for university entrance, etc. I fourrl this was a bit of a shock to me ani I put Dr:/ foot down ani refused to suppcrt it and fran my point of view so did most of the other members of the new faculty refuse to S\JR)Ort it. well that shocked me to think that anybody would try to support the view that pec:t>le should be admitted to university Education without an aoc::eptable level of oc::arpetenoe in a certain field. Q: So open admjssions was another example of the thirg ••• A. 'Ihe very integrity of the social system became involved. we said to each other, ''We will be glad to set up a preferential recruitment program for qualified canadian In::lians, canadian blacks, canadian others," which we did, ''but they have to meet the basic qualifications before we accept them into the progrmn. 11 Q: Ani that became painful? A: It was not a personally oonflictional discussion. It was a ~d ard open confrontation within the faculty in discussirg it. A difference between the two views was thoroughly aired.· Q: Now how did that relate to pacifist? A: well I nnJSt admit that I cannot seem to recall 'What the little bridge was bebt.leen Dr:/ pacifist ani • • • Q: well maybe the pacifism became irrelevant to solvirg that k:in:i of problem? A: It was in part Littell's retum ani Dr:/ full awareness of What went on. Q: In Nazi Gennany, so you really sensed a ••• A: Yes. '!his new movement to the left in the sixties also seemed to me was givirg up sane values that have to do with authority. I think it's~ to me r'DII. As with the matter of admissions to university education, this is an issue of institutional authority to set its own standards. '!hose who m::IVEd to the new left seemed to be prepared to jetison values of that kini which I thcugh.t were fun:1amental to the culture an:i its survival. 'Ihe nx:>re I looked art'll.liXi the nx:>re exanples of it I saw. I don't know if I can recall many of them rDI1 but with respect to employment my view would have been similar to that with respect to admissions. But there was a praniscuity also in the culture for adolescents an:i adults which was caning. Q: sexual nx:>res? 25 A: Sexual mores were also C'.han;Jirr.)' ani I sensed this is an issue of authority. 'llle authority of historical experience out of which in the Mosaic tradition fidelity was seen as essential ani infidelity was asld.rq for t:rcuble. 'lhat 1 s an issue of authority in reliqious tradition so that I believe I felt the :t:xn±alt kind Of qiving" out there in the li:beral CX'IliDllmity with respect to authority in the personal, family, sexual-a biq parade thJ:cugh the~ here to take aver the president's office. I watched it fran the d.1nirq roan ani I had a feelirr.)' in nr:1 bales. I don •t believe the issue they are negotiatir:g is quite matched by this kind of behavior. If it wer:e all right but it seemed to be ncre ritualistic. So all aver North America ani you ar.d I both saw what was goi.rq on there but I believe that was it, it was the issue of authority. Q: And in order to have authority you have to have power. A: You have to be prepared to assert. Q: Assert st.rerqth thJ:cugh violence, oont:rolled violence. A: I don't think that m:st authority is affil:met:l thJ:cugh violence, m:st of it is nat. M::ISt of it is affirmed by prior consent to the behavior mich the stan:1al:d calls for. '!hat 1 s a voltmtary assent but it's responsive to authority. In the case of fidelity in the ma.xria.ge, the choice is to acx:ept yes, the authority of the tradition, to accept the authority of knowledge mich relates to the whole issue of the marital pair ani conflict resolution in a ma.xria.ge. Not that every ma.xriage should continue but the im,porta.nce of it, the seriousness of it. Premarital sex, etc., all of this, the authority is mre iltplicit in our bones in the nature of human kind. As in the Old Test..ament view that if we flout it there are various forms of disaster which will overtake us. '!hat is an Old Testament theme. Q: But there are also sanctions that society • • • A: Positive sanctions to behave in a certain way. Q: And sanctions if you da1 •t behave in that was you pay the consequences. A: Yes, which is qood Old Testament theolcgy ani nat too bad for New Testament people. Q: So sanehal or ather that emphasis that you can--hc:PA can I say it? '!bat the structures of society have to be willin:J to use violenc:e to control? A: '!bat is the ultimate conclusion. In those areas where we do nat have prior ~ as to sanctions and behavior ar.d particularly in the international arena. In the international arena if we have international law which has been signed by ca.nada. ard the SOViet union, etc., and ratified by the United. states, we agree in advance to what •s expected of us in our behavior and the penalties we will accept £tan cme another if we violate it. Now that is a beautiful solution. If we have that, then the resolution of canflict between nations will in the next fifty years be pretty well institutionalized ani no Sheldon Rahn 26 OOim'b::y will have to resort to war to enforce what it considers to be its proper needs. But yes, until as in the case of inteJ:national CCil1l'lllility, until we have a sufficient body of international law ratified ani in place to facilitate a peac:eful resolution of conflicts as they inevitably oa:m-, until then if sanebody breaks out with a bad disease like the National Socialist Party did, it should be stc:g:led by, if necessary, violenc:e outside of any body of law. Now it's that charqe which eventually reocmuended itself to me. I still hate it [violence] like eveeybody did ani does. Q: But we are in an inperfect world. A: '!bat we were imperfect with respect to conflict resolution in the han:llirq of Germany's prcblem. In which case if we'd done it right the weimar Replblic might have suzvived beautifully. But what we didn •t do doesn •t help us. so yes, I do accept the importance of police authority urder law which sane pacifists do not. I acoept the authority of violenc:e in intemational and other relations in the awrehension of certain pathological lawbreakers if that is necessary ani we don't have any better way to harxlle it. so that's quite a bridqe. Erd of Side '1\lo, Tape one Q: I think it '«W.d be :uast helpful for me if we could go back to that time that you were with the Detroit Council of Churches which was your first full-time jcb ani have~ tell me a little bit about the job itself. '!hen how you related J.f you can think of 8It;f stories relatin:J to race relations ard the issues that arose durin:J that period of time. :fia.l you related to them in teJ:ms of your work ani your interests. A: I think that would be a good st.artin:J point. 'lhe Metropolitan Detroit council of Churches had several. departments just pretty well :mirrorirq the National council of Churches' structure. so there was a Department of social work or social welfare which was :fl.lrded leu:qaly by the camm.mity Chest. ~!his was true all over the united States ani it set some lilnits, obviously, as to the use of people in those positions who didn't carey the li'b.u:qical :roles oxdinarily on oarp.my time as it were. Q: You also had to be careful of sane social action in ki.n3s of things too 1 wouldn It you? A: Yes, although the Chest was quite generous in that regard. Q: '!hey felt that was an important part of it? A: '!hey penuitted me to splash over into that area a bit, public policy. Q: But the worship had to be limited.
|Title||Rahn, Sheldon - Interview and Memoir|
Pacifism and Peace Movements
World War, 1939-1945--Conscientious Objectors
|Description||Rahn discusses his experiences as a pacifist during WWII and afterwards: attending Union Seminary, opposition to WWII and the draft, registering for the draft, socialist and communist parties and other political parties. Also discusses his involvement with church organizations: Metropolitan Detroit Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches.|
|Creator||Rahn, Sheldon b. 1918|
|Contributing Institution||Oral History Collection, Archives/Special Collections, University of Illinois at Springfield|
|Contributors||Bradley, C. Arthur [interviewer]|
|Digital Format||PDF; MP3|
|Relation||WWII CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS PROJECT|
|Rights||© Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. For permission to reproduce, distribute, or otherwise use this material, please contact: Archives/Special Collections, University of Illinois at Springfield, One University Plaza, MS BRK 140, Springfield IL 62703-5407. Phone: (217) 206-6520. http://library.uis.edu/archives/index.html|
|Title||Sheldon Rahn Memoir - Part 1|
|Rights||© Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. For permission to reproduce, distribute, or otherwise use this material, please contact: Archives/Special Collections, University of Illinois at Springfield, One University Plaza, MS BRK 140, Springfield IL 62703-5407. Phone: (217) 206-6520. http://library.uis.edu/archives/index.html|
University of Illinois at Springfield
Norris L Brookens Library
Sheldon Rahn Memoir
R129. Rahn, Sheldon b. 1918
Interview and memoir
2 tapes, 180 mins., 59 pp.
WWII CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS PROJECT
Rahn discusses his experiences as a pacifist during WWII and afterwards:
attending Union Seminary, opposition to WWII and the draft, registering for the
draft, socialist and communist parties and other political parties. Also discusses
his involvement with church organizations: Metropolitan Detroit Council of
Churches and the National Council of Churches.
Interview by C. Arthur Bradley, 1988
See collateral file
Archives/Special Collections LIB 144
University of Illinois at Springfield
One University Plaza, MS BRK 140
Springfield IL 62703-5407
© 1988, University of Illinois Board of Trustees
'lbis manuscript is the product of tape-reoorde:i interviews oo.n1uctGd
by c. Arthur Bradley for the oral History Office on August 6, 1988.
Margaret Reeder transcribed the tapes and L:i.ma Jett edited the
transcript. Sheldon Rahn reviewed the transcript.
Sheldon Rahn was one of the original twenty that signed the statement
at union, but then one of the twelve that did not carry t:hl:"algh on
refusing" to register on october 16, 1940. He was one of the four that
was persuaded by Clarence Pickett of the American Frierrls service
Committee to set up a year-rot.JI'rl model of the AFSC work amps by goin:'J
to a new canp location at COOperstown, New York.
Sheldon was bom in upstate Illinois, took a B.A. at COrnell COlleg-e
in Iowa. While there he ahsoi.i::led 1m..1ch of the pacifist teach..i.rg and
went to union. He was always interested in social settlement work and
graduated from union seminary after the war in 194 7. While in New
York City he began studies for a Masters Degree in SOCial WOrk
(M.s.w.) at the Columbia university School of social Work, canpleting
this degree at the Wayne state university School of Social WOrk in
Detroit in 1955. His first full-time job out of seminary was as
director of the social welfare Department of the Detroit Council of
Churches. From that position he noved in 1959 to become the associate
director of the Federation of Protestant-welfare Agencies of NYC.
'Ihen, from 1961 to 1966 he served as executive director of the SOCial
Welfare Department of the National CoJncil of Churches in NYC.
Mr. Rahn's major life work began when he became organizing dean of the
Faculty of SOCial WOrk of Wilfrid laurier university and then, after
ea.r.ni.rg a Doctor of social WOrk (D.s.w.) Degree from the university of
Toronto Faculty of Social Work in 1975, continued as associate
professor of Social Work in Administration, Policy and Researdl until
1984. He became professor emeritus in that year. He has oontinueQ to
reside in Waterloo, ontario where Wilfrid Iaurier provides both a
graduate (M.s.w.) and post-graduate degree (D.s.w.) in social work: for
this golden triangle of high tech iMustry of canada. He has~ a
citizen of Canada and is married to Barbara. '1he couple has three
children. He is a member of numerous social work organizations ana
set up in the mid-eighties both the Waterloo-wellington Branch of the
united Nations Association of canada, and the WOrld community council
of the Regional Waterloo Area.
c. Arthur Bradley has been an Associate Conference Minister for the
Illinois Conference of the United Omrch of Olrist, deployed in the
central Association in Peoria, Illinois, from 1980 to the present.
Dr. Bradley grew up in Shaker Heights and Oberlin, Ohio. Since 1952
he has been an ordained clergyman, first in the Corq.regationalCllristian
Churches and then after the merger in the United OlUrch of