War can be an Experience of both Heaven and Hell

Many combat veterans have a love/hate relationship with their wartime experiences. They love the profound sense of purpose that their liv...

A Challenge to "Pacifists"

I received an email today from someone who objected to my reference in "Soldiers of Conscience" to the Story of the Good Samaritan.

Here is part of my response to him. I welcome feedback on my challenge. Am I off base?

My point in offering the hypothetical about the Good Samaritan is to point out that it's easy to oppose the use of violence in the abstract--when one is not personally facing it. It's easier to console victims than to prevent their victimization.

I invite you and any others who share your pacifist beliefs to practice what you preach--to disavow in your own lives both violence and the threat of violence. I challenge you to post on your windows and doors an announcement that you will neither ask nor permit the police to intervene for your protection, nor will you use any violence to protect yourselves or your property. After all, the police accomplish their mission (protecting the innocent) by using force. For good measure, wear a large pin on your shirt announcing your renunciation of any force on your behalf. Let the world know that you will not respond to violence with violence, and you will not allow anyone to do so on your behalf!

Then see what happens.

The great majority of people will applaud your idealism. But others will rob you blind. Sick pedophiles might even assault your daughter or little sister. And you will....watch? Pray for them? Call your insurance agent?

Why, after all, does a Mennonite college employ armed guards?

I don't mean to sound callous, but I've traveled the world a bit as a Soldier, and I have seen the effects of evil. Most Americans never have to face evil--thanks to national and local security forces. I wish it were so for everyone in the world.

Jesus himself was very harsh on hypocrites and self-righteous religious leaders, but he never had a harsh world for Soldiers, despite several opportunities.

I could go on, but I wonder if you will accept the challenge, and invite all your pacifist brethren to do the same. THAT could launch a movement that changes the world.

"Soldiers of Conscience" film screening

Last week I attended a screening for the documentary "Soldiers of Conscience," which addresses the moral question of killing in war. I am one of the people featured in the movie.

It's a high-quality, interesting work that will generate healthy discussion on this overlooked topic.

Some military folks find the film to be too "pro-conscientious objector," pro-pacifist. I agree that it offers (superficially) compelling arguments from several articulate COs from the current war in Iraq, but any imbalance is caused by the more-developed narrative that pacifists employ. The military profession, in contrast, doesn't have an articulated moral justification for killing in war (unless you count my unofficial writings). Consequently, in the film I'm the only military person who offers moral (rather than legal or practical) arguments. Overall, I judge the film to be "fair yet unbalanced."

I recommend it. Its national broadcast premiere is on PBS on Thursday, 16 Oct. I welcome your feedback.