[I just came across this sermon from just over nine years ago. It says some things I still want to say. Shalom Mennonite Congregation—July 6, 2003]
As I thought about this sermon, my dad came to mind. Next month will be nineteen years since he died. I have happy memories of my dad. He was a loving father, somebody I was always proud to be associated with. But my dad was a warrior. In 1940, as a recent college grad and aspiring history teacher and coach, he decided to enlist in the Army. This was more than a year before Pearl Harbor. My dad certainly wasn’t a warmonger, but he felt a strong sense of loyalty to his country.
My dad spent four years fighting against the Japanese. He was wounded, contracted malaria, and saw his best friend (whose name was Ted) killed before his eyes. Now, I knew my dad as a gentle person. He never owned a gun—and we lived in a rural area where almost everyone did have guns—because, he said, he had seen enough guns for a lifetime.
Nonetheless, he always valued his wartime experience, though he rarely talked about it (he actually didn’t talk much about anything). One time he did speak of the war to me. I was 17 and facing the possibility of being drafted. My dad told me what a good experience he had in the Army and encouraged me to attend a military academy so I could go in as an officer instead of a flunky enlisted man. I wasn’t tempted, he didn’t push me, and we never talked about it again.
The interesting thing to me as I reflect on all this now is that my father grew up in a good Christian home. His father and one of his grandfathers were Lutheran pastors. Apparently, my father never saw a tension between being a warrior and being a Christian. I can’t imagine that I ever could have asked him about that, but I wish I had. But this is what I think. I think that my father never questioned the legitimacy of patriotism. He saw no conflict between following his government and following Jesus. I think it never occurred to him that God and Caesar might be competitors for his allegiance…. I wish it had. Continue reading “Why Pacifism?”