Pacifism in the age of the professional military

It’s a little weird being a pacifist in the modern United States. Sure, we don’t pick fistfights, and we vote for anti-war (or at least less pro-war) politicians, but even in wartime we don’t face the hard choice of a military draft, as my grandfathers did during World War II. The military is an all-volunteer organization these days, and pacifists are free not to volunteer.

Is that all there is to peaceful living? The new issue of The Mennonite has an excellent essay by M.J. Sharp, in which he reminds his readers that pacifism means more than omitting to participate in war – it means actively helping to oppose it. M.J. recounts the story of Robert Weiss, a serviceman who came to be a conscientious objector while in the Army, and argues that those of us for whom pacifism is easy should stand up to help those for whom it is still a tough choice:

I have had many opportunities to tell the stories of our forbears, and I know from experience that those stories inspire others. But let’s make it more than our history. God is moving among some service members today as vibrantly as God moved among the early disciples and early Anabaptists. Our task is to help meld our historical understanding of Jesus’ call to peace with the fresh awakenings among those who once wielded weapons of war.