Growing in Stewardship and Witness in a Militaristic World (Mennonite Church, 1987)
Growing in Stewardship and Witness in a Militaristic World (Mennonite Church, 1987)
IntroductionWill our commitment and action toward the Mennonite Church goals for 1995 have any impact on the growing militarism of our age?
How do we live under the lordship of Jesus Christ in a society where so many human and material resources are consumed on the altar of national security?
How do we live in the community of Christ's love that others will be drawn to that freedom and joy that overcomes fear of enemies?
MilitarismMilitarism refers to the predominance of military values in a society, a policy of aggressive military preparedness, and a preference for military means for projecting national power.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his final message as president of the United States, warned Americans in 1961 of the far-reaching effects of militarism: "(The) conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence--economic, political, even spiritual--is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government ... we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society."
A quarter-century later the symptoms observed by Eisenhower have multiplied. A group of high ranking retired military officers recently studied the extent of militarism in U.S. society and concluded:
- Militarism is on the rise in the United States. The military establishment exercises increasing influence over U. S. domestic and foreign policy.
- Threats to American security have been overstated to justify military spending and an expansion of military authority:
- Huge and increasing amounts of money support military programs while civilian programs are under funded or eliminated altogether. This diversion of resources to the military threatens the American values our military is supposed to defend.
- The increasing influence of the military is reflected in American society. War and military solutions are glorified through movies, magazines, TV, and toys.
- Military concerns dominate America's foreign and domestic policies and its economy. Americans are persuaded to accept and support military actions instead of pursuing more constructive methods to promote national interests through diplomatic, economic, scientific, and cultural means.
Worldwide, over $800 billion per year is spent on military programs while one adult in three cannot read or write and one person in four is hungry. Over 100 wars have been fought since World War II, claiming about 20 million lives, almost all of them in the third world.
Three quarters of all arms exports (currently about 35 billion U.S. dollars per year) go to third world countries where military expenditures have increased at a much faster rate than in developed countries. Ninety-three countries and territories now have foreign military installations on their soil as larger powers work out their geopolitical designs abroad.
In many countries democratic government has given way to a larger role for the military, sometimes influencing policy and sometimes using torture, brutality, and political killings to control people.
Surveying the extent of militarism reminds us that "we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers ... therefore take the whole armor of God" (Ephesians 6:12-13).
Challenging Militarism Through Faithful Witness and StewardshipJoining our efforts with God's toward the 1995 goals of doubling our witness efforts and our stewardship will be a direct challenge to the pervasive militarism of our times.
- We affirm our primary allegiance to the kingdom of God, embracing every race, language, people, and nation (Revelation 5:9), including those our governments designate as enemies.
- We place our trust in God and reject the idolatry of trust in military weapons (Isaiah 31:1; Matthew 26:52).
- Let us give ourselves to deeper study, teaching, and preaching on "shalom," the biblical understanding of God's peace, justice, and salvation.
- Let us seek daily spiritual renewal which vitalizes our dependence on God and frees us from dependence on earthly security systems.
- Let us engage in persistent prayer for the rulers of the nations, both in public worship and private devotions.
- Let us acquaint ourselves with peace convictions voiced by other denominations such as recent statements by Catholic and Methodist bishops.
- Let us establish interchurch peace study groups in local communities to join other Christians in biblical study, prayer, and action.
- Let us arrange congregational studies of the spiritual dangers posed by militarism. A resource packet on militarism will be available late 1987 through the Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries and the Mennonite Central Committee. The Mennonite offices in Washington, D.C., and Ottawa, Canada, also provide information, seminars, and other resources.
- Let us seek to witness to that fullness of salvation which frees us from fear of enemies.
- Let us support efforts by MCC and others to establish personal contacts between North American and Soviet persons, as a particular response to the call of Jesus to love the enemy.
- Let us expand our support for proposed Peace Tax Fund legislation in both the United States and Canada, recognizing that legal recognition of conscientious objection to payment of taxes destined for military use will require the same patient persistence which resulted in legal recognition of conscientious objection to military service.
- Let us recognize that some of our members will be called, in the Spirit of Christ, to nonviolent direct action as a form of witness against militarism, expecting that the form and substance of such actions will be shaped in a process of congregational discernment.
- Let us seek God's leading in the formation of Christian Peacemaker Teams in response to God's call to join in the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).
- Let us prayerfully examine the practice of church organizations withholding and transmitting income taxes of church employees who themselves are conscientiously unable to pay taxes for military use. As part of that effort, we will participate in a conference planned for February 1988 for Mennonite, Brethren, and Quaker employers to share their experiences relating to tax withholding and conscience and to develop a strategy for relief of this ethical dilemma.
- Let us include efforts to change those structures and policies which create human need as part of our compassionate response to the suffering and needy around the world.
- Let us support disarmament as "preventive relief work," in view of the awful destruction which war would inflict on our neighbors worldwide.
- Let us share our goods with sisters and brothers in need (1 John 3:17) and resist North American consumerism, which depends on global economic domination supported by military power.
- Let us alter our present stewardship commitments in which we contribute more to the arms race through our taxes than we give to the work of missions and the victims of injustice.
- Let us explore the meaning of mutual aid for those Mennonite young men and women, especially in urban settings, whose best hope for education and an occupation seems to be through enlistment in the armed forces.
- Let us continue to support those whose conscience prevents them from paying taxes destined for military use or from registering with the U. S. Selective Service System.
- Let us support those whose conscience requires them to change or lose jobs because of involvement with weapons production.
ConclusionAs the Mennonite Church General Assembly, meeting on the campus of Purdue University in July 1987, we believe God's shalom, the divine gift of salvation, reconciliation, peace, justice, and wholeness in Jesus Christ, is the answer to a world of division, domination, and devotion to military security.
Seeking to be faithful stewards of the gospel and witnesses to God's peace, with God's help we will live in the security of Jesus Christ, our Savior, who came "not to destroy life, but to save" (Luke 5:29).
We pray for discernment to choose those actions which will advance God's kingdom and the courage to follow Christ's way of love. Through such obedience we pray that all may come to know Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
- The Defense Monitor, Vol. XV, Number 3, 1986.
- Ernie Regehr, Conrad Grebel College, Waterloo, Ontario.
- Ruth Leger Sivard, World Military and Social Expenditures, 1986.
- Gospel Herald, April 7, 1987, page 236.
Adopted by Mennonite Church General Assembly, 9 July 1987