Conscience and Militarism

I’ve attended three conferences entitled Ethics of War and Peace that were sponsored by the U.S. military and held at West Point Military Academy. At each of them I identified myself as a pacifist when speaking in a plenary session. I shared my views with cadets and others, and heard their views. After much reflection, for the third conference I decided to wear my “LOVE YOUR ENEMIES” shirt at part of the conference as well as for lunch and during our West Point campus tour. I have definitely had some interesting discussions there, and appreciate the civility that I encounter and also appreciate that I have the academic credentials to be invited to attend. My blog is maintained to be up-to-date and has more material on this and many other topics such as my nonviolent direct action, various arrests for CD, political activism, etc.

dscn0813.JPGA sign asking “Who Would Jesus Train To Kill?” now fills the large window of my office at Villanova.  It is legible from some distance, including Mendel Field where ROTC drills, and the Augustinian Monastery.  I sent the following email to our Office for Mission Effectiveness at Villanova:

I have recently placed a new sign in the main window of my office at 352 Tolentine.  It poses a simple question, for each to answer in his/her own heart.  I am letting you know about this because I strongly believe that it serves the Villanova Mission, as follows:

“Moreover, it (Villanova) seeks to add its influence to the search for world peace and justice…” and “The University attempts to develop an environment in which students, faculty, and staff may experience a Christian intellectual and moral perspective….” 

I mention all this because my query, visible from some distance as one approaches Tolentine from the campus side of the Monastery, may generate a variety of responses.  I pray that it contributes to a meaningful dialogue among us. 

Peace,     Paul Sheldon

I later offered an Ethics for Lunch event (sponsored by the Villanova Ethics Program) entitled “Is it appropriate for a Christian Institution to Support a Military Unit on its Campus?” I was grateful to have this opportunity to present the topic publically, as a question open for discussion. Search my blog to learn more. P.s. The recently-revised Villanova Mission Statement has removed any mention of the word PEACE. I have since retired to adjunct status and had to move out of my office.

The highest accomplishment of Villanova alumnus Admiral William Fallon was his appointment to Head of U.S. Central Command, whereby he assumed full responsibility for the conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. By honoring Admiral Fallon in this manner, Villanova would be, and would be seen publicly to be, condoning war and particularly the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is hardly Christian behavior, and so we organized a graduation demonstration to make our peaceable feelings known. We distributed flyers as people arrived for graduation, and at its conclusion, a group of us paraded out holding the Villanovans For Peace banner. We had previously spoken with the University President in his office, expressing our dismay about this choice and our intention to hold a demonstration at graduation (2008).

Iraq War Not JustA new sign has been added to my office windows: “Iraq War Not Just — Augustine, Aquinas”  This sign is a result of my reading and interpretation of just/unjust war principles. Supporting documents are available at (I wish to thank Dr. Betz for his help). As with all my activities, I sincerely hope that this may generate an on-going dialogue within the Villanova community. Such dialogue is supported by the Villanova Mission Statement. For any with differing views, let me encourage you to participate in the dialogue or to post your own signs, if you wish. In this manner, Villanova can continue to grow as a vibrant and loving community.    Peace,   Paul

For some of those conscientiously opposed to war, their conscience does not allow them to even register for a military draft.  They feel that by doing so, they are supporting the military system that requires all males to register.  Attempts by the government to prosecute such conscientious resisters have not always been successful.  Thus, the government has enacted laws that, without providing any recourse to demonstrate how such registration is offensive to one’s most deeply held religious beliefs, punish those who in good conscience cannot register.  Particularly, such conscientious young males are deemed ineligible to recieve government loans that they need in order to be able to afford a higher education. In some states, the punishment for following your conscience in this regard, is that the state will not issue you a driver’s license.  Despite what would seem the patent unconstitutionality of such punishment without any hearing, the government is intent on enforcing this on all non-registrants, and  thereby lumping those religiously opposed to war with those who simply neglect to register.  In response, a fund has been established to provide educational loans for those who can demonstrate hardship on account of their refusal to register for a draft (more information is available on links to the right).

Although there is no military draft currently in effect, there is a requirement that all 18-year-old males register in the possibility for a draft.  In fact, a number of draft bills have been carefully crafted and could be quickly enacted if the political situation changed.  Another tragedy of the 9/11 variety (or something worse) would change the political climate dramatically.  The draft bills that have been prepared allow (as is demanded by the Constitution and supported by Supreme Court decisions) for alternative service for those conscientiously opposed to war.  However, it is not easy to meet the legal tests for C.O. status.  For example, one requirement is that you show some record of your conscientious objection to war.  For this reason, those who think that they would likely be conscientiously opposed to war need to be preparing a record of their thoughts and actions in this regard.  Some of the sites on the right give much more detail about this topic.  You can contact me directly for more information and counseling on this topic.

“Non-violence is not inaction. It is not discussion. It is not for the timid or weak… Non-violence is hard work. It is the willingness to sacrifice. It is the patience to succeed.” CC

“The evil the enemy may do never expresses all that he is. Nonviolence is a wager– not so much on the goodness of humanity– as on its infinite complexity.”

“It belongs to the very substance of nonviolence never to destroy or damage another person’s feeling of self worth, even an opponent’s. We all need, constantly, an advance of trust and affirmation.”

“We may never be strong enough to be entirely nonviolent in thought, word and deed. But we must keep nonviolence as our goal and make strong progress towards it.” MG

“Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.” MLK

“There is no security except in creating situations in which people do not want to harm you.”

“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” MG

“The first thing to be changed by our commitment to nonviolence will be not the system but our own lives.”

I don’t see how killing people can bring real peace. It can only bring death, hatred, fear, and preparing for the next war.

Peace Dove     There is no WAY to peace. Peace IS the way.