It's a question of conscience
By Darlene Warren
BIG SANDY, Texas--As you read through the pages of The Journal, you're bound to find some bit of news or church doctrine you can agree with. (If you're having trouble finding something soothing, check out the puzzle on the third page of Connections. It's rarely controversial.)
Things keep changing, don't they? Just when you think things are getting dull a whole new crop of issues springs up to keep us stirred up. How much more controversial can you get than taking part in the conscientious-objector argument, especially, in a time such as this?
I'm sure there must be as many views on this subject as there are men and women to talk about it. One view is that we as Christians shouldn't be fighting in a war, because we are the "called-out" ones, and, as such we know better. (Christians? I personally don't use that term lightly. I don't even refer to myself as Christian. That has always seemed a little too presumptuous to me. I prefer to leave that rendering to the only one qualified to make that judgment.)
It would be all right for all these other poor "unpeculiar" people to fight to defend our country, but not those who consider themselves enlightened. Can we be a Christian and still fight for our country? Do we even consider ourselves part of this country?
We don't know who God considers a Christian, so how can we know who should go out and fight or who should stay home and go to church? Should those who claim to be led by the Holy Spirit apply for conscientious objector status?
Here again, who is going to be the spirit meter reader to see who measures up? Maybe our military should be made up of just all those who have never belonged to one of the Churches of God. But what if they once belonged but lost the faith once delivered? And what if they didn't really lose it, they just temporarily misplaced it? They might wake up in the middle of a war wondering how they got there.
So many questions, so few answers. I have a 22-year-old son. Do I want to see him shipped off to fight a war on the other side of the world? Of course not. Do I think it would be wrong for him to go? No, I do not.
How many Church of God people believe in standing up for their religious beliefs? A fair amount, I would say. How many are willing to die for what they believe? Only God knows. How many are willing to die for their country and what it stands for?
Just like you, I've sat in YWCAs and Teamsters halls for years listening to fiery sermons about how the United States has "lost the pride of her power"; "we were once a great and mighty nation"; "America has won her last war." These words were spoken in shame as if to say: If only we would get out there and kick some butt, we would once again strike fear in the hearts of the rest of the world. How did that rhetoric jibe with our official church position against serving in the military?
It seems to me that a lot of Church of God members, including ministers, want the best of both worlds. They want to be able to express their true feelings when it comes to talk. They also want to be able to seek comfort behind a church policy when it suits the purpose of refusing military service--as if anyone wants to go to war.
Heroes of Flight 93
We don't know exactly what happened on United Flight 93, which went down in the Pennsylvania countryside. We may never know. What we do know is several passengers apparently were successful in averting the terrorists from steering the plane into another target. Those men were the first ones to stand up and fight back that day. They had no death wish. They had families they weren't anxious to leave behind. But they followed their conscience. Everyone on the plane was killed. How many more could have been?
How many of us have ever thought about what it would be like to lose our freedom to practice our own religion? What if the United States became another Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan, where it is illegal to read the Bible? What if the Arab world finally united and overthrew our system of government? Don't tell me it isn't possible. We've all seen what we once thought was impossible.
Now is the time for us to stop repeating and rehashing in our own minds everything we've ever heard. It's time to start thinking for ourselves and looking to God to guide our decisions, not to rely on what others would have us believe. We need to know what we believe. There is a reason it is called "conscientious objector" status. What is your conscience telling you?
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God