By Wm. B. Murrell
There has been much misunderstanding between brethren in England and brethren from the United States over the Christian and camel warfare. The purpose of this article is not to argue the right or wrong of any issue but simply to shed some light on the different attitudes in the two nations. Most brethren in England do not understand the options in America.
The citizen of the United States has now and has always had three choices. He can enter the armed services and bear arms, or he can declare himself a conscientious objector and be exempt from military service, or he can enter the armed services in a noncombatant role. The Englishman does not have this third choice; there is no middle ground. During World War I many a Christian man went to prison rather than fight in the war. Most of those who went to service either did not come back or were not faithful to the church when they returned. In World War II they were allowed to work “on the farm” or other similar work. I am told that just recently there is non-combat service offered in the British services but that it is in name only; that the noncom’s are trained in weaponry. Consequently most British Christians do not understand why so many members of the church from the States are in the armed services.
The World Book Encyclopedia, 1973 edition, page 777, says “The history of conscientious objection in the United States dates back to colonial times, when men had to serve in their colony’s militia …. In 1661, Massachusetts became the first colony to exempt conscientious objectors from service in its militia. Congress passed the first federal draft law during the Civil War. This law recognized conscientious objectors …. The 1940 draft law required religious training and belief’ . . . The 1948 draft law defined religious belief as belief in a ‘Supreme Being’ . . . . But Congress removed the term ‘Supreme Being’ in the 1967 law because the Supreme Court of the United States interpreted the term to include vaguely religious philosophies …. In 1970, the Supreme Court ruled that men may qualify for conscientious objector exemptions if they oppose war on strong ethical or moral grounds, even if such opposition is not based on religious belief.”
I suppose that among members of the church in the States there are not more than five per cent who believe that a Christian should bear arms in conflict; probably about ten or fifteen per cent who are opposed to any form of military service; and over eighty percent who believe in a Christian engaging in non-combat service. In England these last two percentages would be added together and ninety-five percent would be opposed to any form of military service. Why? Because the middle ground is not offered to them! For this reason, they do not understand the American viewpoint.
Among people who are not members of the church in the States there are few conscientious objectors, although their number has been rapidly growing in the past decade. This is not the case in England where many a man on the street is a conscientious objector and proud of it. In another quote from World Book, “Pacifist groups were most active between World War I and World War II, especially in Great Britain.” There is then a cultural difference that contributes to the lack of understanding of the English Christian toward the American Christian who is in the armed services.
The late Bennie Lee Fudge on the last page of his book ‘Can A Christian Kill For His Government?’ said, “God in his goodness has blessed us in America with the most considerate government known to man in its respect for the conscience of its citizens. It would make no difference in our duty to God, no matter what laws the civil power passed, but our Congress has provided for non-combatant service for the conscientious objector.” Oh how much you and I need to see and appreciate the many blessings we have. Most of us are too close to “home” to really appreciate them.
Truth Magazine XXI: 29, pp.459-460
July 28, 1977