War-refusal heritage

Jan 7, 2019 by

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This is an idea for a Christian education effort to remind us what kind of denomination we are: Name Sept. 14 as the day U.S. peace churches succeeded in requesting a legal alternative to participation in war. The Burke-Wadsworth Bill was passed on Sept. 14, 1940, to avoid repeating the problems of conscientious objectors in World War I who were sent to army camps, prisons and noncombatant army service.

Publicizing Sept. 14 as a day of remembrance would be an educational tool to remind ourselves that Mennonites see Christ-following as a nonconformist movement — specifically, not supporting military solutions and endless war. The Mennonite leaders involved in petitioning the government could be named, along with recalling the harassment and threats COs endured before our request for an alternative was granted.

As memories of the military draft fade, Mennonite congregations sometimes seem unaware of, or are embarrassed by and don’t mention to new members, our war-refusal heritage. Publicizing Sept. 14 would remind our congregations that we are a church that tried to take Jesus seriously enough to draw a line we could not cross and to propose an alternative.

Stanley Bohn
North Newton, Kan.

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