Convictions Examined


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Convictions Examined

Our emphasis is that in conscientious objection to participation in carnal warfare, there must follow a corresponding harmony in the lifestyle of the objector. In the past, especially in the period of military draft, conscientious objectors have been closely investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in an effort to determine the validity of the objectors sincerity. Christians welcome the inquiry.

The individual’s Christian influence for good is vital if the church is to maintain her image of purity among the world. When personal conduct violates basic Christian ethics, with the guilty party demanding purity at other levels (such as non-participation in war), the integrity of the person is immediately suspect. Christian conduct is always important, but when an issue as volatile as objection to the military is involved, conduct is even more important (if this is possible) due to the sometimes unreasonable scrutiny of Christians’ lives by unbelievers.

God’s people must not be simply objectors to carnal warfare. The objection must be a conscientious objection springing from a Bible trained conscience. How else could it be a Christian objection?

The past procedure of the FBI to conduct inquiry into the conscientious objector’s background was in view of the draft. To this writer, the investigation was beneficial for all involved. It provided the government with needed information and gave the Christian individual an additional impetus to carefully watch his conduct. But even to the church at large, it added yet another dimension to the necessity of God’s people, both young and old, living above reproach. It is interesting to note of what the inquiries consisted.

The Queries

A. T. Ritchie writes: “The agents who investigated me wanted to know about many things. Had I ever been engaged in a playground fight at school? What about my habits? Did I smoke, drink, dance, or curse? They were even interested in the type of girls I dated. They seemed to have a good idea of what should characterize one who claims to be opposed to war because of the teachings of Christ.”

Nadine Smith has a brother who serves on the board which reviews conscientious objectors. He informed her that they go back to when these persons were children and then follow their steps through life, including such things as racing, partying, etc. They talk to their teachers, neighbors, classmates, and employers. He says they take into consideration what crowd they associate with, any police records, and related. But, he assures, the investigation is not to be “mean” so to speak, but only out of fairness to those who are serious about their commitment to God as opposed to those who may not be.

J. B. Lasater writes the following in Vital Doctrinal Essays. “I well remember when an FBI man came to interview me in the early 1940’s. Some of the questions he asked were: ‘Do you attend church regularly? Do you smoke? Do you attend the movies? Do you take active part in church services? When did you first begin to formulate this position as an objector? Have you ever stated publicly or written your objections to military service?’ I also remember when I reported for physical examination. I was routed to a waiting room with some others. The bench where we waited was (so innocently) well supplied with pornographic reading material, comic books, and only one or two books like Time or Reader’s Digest. There was also a sergeant at the desk supposedly filling out forms, but he could watch the actions of each of us in the room to know our reading interests. In addition to these questions, I was asked many questions from the Scriptures. They asked questions concerning places where I worked and places I previously worked. They went to neighbors asking about my life, my talk, and my companions. This vividly reminds me of 1 Tim. 4:16, Take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine; continue in them… The world observes us as we give heed to self and doctrine. They know when we become careless and let slip that doctrine which we have heard and obeyed. It is at times like these that the world renders its harsh judgment against Christians and decides we are not sincere.”

It cannot be stressed overmuch that Christian’s must live their convictions. And we here register a special emphasis directed to our young men and women who are of the age when so many things are before them as temptations. It only smacks of insincerity when one objects to involvement in carnal warfare, yet is loose and worldly in daily Christian living. These discrepancies are observed by all and only serve to generate doubt regarding one’s sincerity.

Precautions

Apart from godly living, there are a few precautions which should be taken by the sincere pacifist.

1. It would be wise to begin a file regarding objection to carnal warfare early on in a young Christian’s life—as soon as this conviction is formed, and is personal and sincere. Printed materials or any related matter could be filed. Certainly anything related to the objector’s own convictions. Date everything!

2. The pacifist should write down his convictions in a clear and concise way, making certain they are supported by the Scriptures. It could make some difference and may be to advantage to do this prior to registering at age eighteen. Although there is no place on the registration card to state one’s position, some simply make a note of their being a conscientious objector on the face of the card. The conscientious objector must know where he stands.

3. He (or she) should make certain that others know his feelings relative to war. Where possible, these convictions should be stated publicly. Ideally, every young man could teach his convictions in the public assembly of the church, even if the sermon is very brief. It is wise to note the date and place of delivery, with a notation of those who may have been present as witnesses to the stated convictions. Certainly, file a copy of notes or outline used.

4. It seems superfluous to say that an objector to carnal warfare should live a life consistent with his or her claims. Public demonstrations or protests do nothing to enhance the image of the pacifist community. It is this writer’s personal conviction that they generate prejudice and do much to harm our cause. I would strongly encourage non-participation in any such demonstration. The draft card burning of the sixties was uncalled for and only tarnished the image of even Christian objectors.

In everything, the objector must know what he believes and live what he knows.

The Light, March, 2006

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