When I read “Cotton Patch Evidence” the first time, this was the one chapter that made me nervous. Clarence’s ideas about the military were waaaay out there, I thought. I wasn’t sure how I felt about completely eschewing military service.
But, because of my gender, my relationship with military service always has been theoretical–I literally could take it or leave it. Regardless of what age I might have lived in, I never would have had to face the reality of a military draft.
For my husband, though, who graduated from high school in 1973–the draft was a very real thing…it was something he dreaded, something he thought about constantly, something that forced him to figure out how he really felt about war and being forced to serve in the military. Who he is as a Christian and a citizen was formed by his experience of the draft.
In many ways, the draft or the idea of military conscription is still theoretical for me…but, having read this chapter a second time, I hope that I would (or would have) had the gumption and moral clarity Clarence had when working out his own beliefs about military service.
For Clarence, the issue really was quite simple: How can one child of God, a person created in God’s image, kill another child of God, also created in God’s image? Jesus said “love your enemies.” Period. Killing someone, for Clarence, could in no way be seen as an act of love.
My favorite quote in this chapter: “If you love your friends and love your enemies, there’s no one else to hate.” That about sums the whole thing up for Clarence.
So…is the military as a whole unnecessary? I don’t think I can go there. In many ways the military serves an important purpose in the world. That doesn’t mean that everything the military does is right or even logical (the current conflicts in which our military is engaged, for example). I do know, though, that there are many faithful people serving in the military, many people fulfilling many roles who are happily living out their Christian faith in military service.
What would I have done if conscripted to serve in the military? I don’t know…I have no way of knowing. Here’s what I do know….It is good that there have been Clarence Jordans and Quakers and myriad others who have sought to be released from military service because of religious beliefs. Whether their’s is the only “christian” response to war and conscription, I don’t know. I do know that their stands against war help raise the moral question of war for ALL of us…and that is an important thing.
When the draft ended in 1973, a lot of us stopped thinking about the military and about war. If our sons didn’t have to go, there was not the same worry and concern. That’s not a statement I’m proud to make, but, unfortunately, it’s a true one. I do not want to see the draft reinstated, but I would like to see our concern come back.