My Background (Phil 3:4b-6)
Most of my life I’ve been an Old Testament Christian*. I wanted to be an agent of God’s justice upon the wicked, assured of my righteousness like Saul of Tarsus. My interest in the military began at an early age. I spent all my senior high school years in Marine Corps JROTC, serving as cadet commander my senior year. Graduating from the U.S Naval Academy in 1978 as a 2nd lieutenant in the Marine Corps, I went on to the Basic School at Quantico, VA then flight school at Pensacola, FL. After receiving my wings I reported to Camp Pendleton, CA where I transitioned to Cobra attack helicopters and later completed a deployment to the western Pacific with a composite helicopter squadron aboard an amphibious assault ship. I chose to leave active duty as a captain at the end of my obligation and return to North Carolina. Within a year I had joined the Army National Guard as a warrant officer and began flying Hueys and Cobras before transitioning to Apache attack helicopters, which I flew for the next 12 years until my retirement in 1999. Prior to that, in 1991 I was activated with my battalion for Desert Storm and sent to Ft. Hood, TX for trainup before deploying to Iraq. The war ended before our departure but I was prepared to kill and die for my country.
In the leadup to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, although I wasn’t as certain as the President seemed to be of Iraq’s imminence as a threat, I assumed he had much more intelligence at his disposal than the public so I gave tentative approval to the effort. The “shock and awe” campaign, followed by rapid victories on the ground that culminated in the fall of Baghdad aroused my patriotism. Later, however, when no WMD’s were found and no Iraqi support demonstrated for al Qaeda I felt utterly betrayed by the Administration. I thought, “You don’t send thousands of people to their deaths on the basis of speculation (or fabrication) but on certain imminent threat!” (To my dismay, this was not a concern to many other Christians who readily accepted other rationales.) This outrage began a long period of soul-searching and wrestling with scriptures which led ultimately to my realization on March 19, 2006 that I was now a New Testament Christian**. At that moment a burden was lifted from me I didn’t know I’d been carrying, and I was filled with a joyous inner peace. That burden was the tension that had existed between my beliefs on the use of violence and the teachings of Christ (I am unable to imagine Jesus saying “Strike your enemies before they strike you.”). Having self-righteously yearned to impose justice (vengeance) upon murderers, I failed to see that justice (as well as a desire to dominate) had become my god. Justice demands ‘an eye for an eye’ but Jesus rejected that thinking for his disciples. I became aware that by Jesus’ definition I am as a murderer and worthy of death (Matthew 5:21-22). Man’s justice is flawed; God’s justice is perfect - no one escapes it except by His grace (Psalm 37:7-9, 37).
All that to say that it's only because of Christ that I'm a pacifist. Pacifists are sometimes accused of being passive. I just want to be like my Lord; may my level of passivity conform to the example set by Jesus.
Regarding my freedoms, I neither expect nor desire others to kill for them on my behalf. Let God decide my freedoms and safeguard them. Regarding my survival, I have acknowledged to Him that the time and manner of my death are in His hands. If you are ready to die at a moment's notice you are able to treat strangers the way Jesus wants you to treat them (1 John 4:18).
I was a lifelong Republican until 2004, and a Life Member of the NRA; now I am an independent who neither automatically endorses a particular party nor feels compelled to vote for the “lesser of two evils” (a concept that implies that God forces us to choose between two sins). Neither party endorses the sanctity of life from conception to the grave, so despite the claims of anti-abortionists, neither is truly pro-life. (We say that life is an inalienable right given by God, even as we take it away - alienate it - from convicts and our enemies. If Christians can refrain from killing abortion providers they should be able to refrain from going to war.). Jesus had much to say in defense of the poor; he had nothing to say in defense of the rich. Nevertheless, both parties have good and bad propensities. The same is true for conservatives and liberals. Neither should be despised and written off as unredeemable.
In the summer and fall of 2007 I researched the historic peace churches before choosing to join the Mennonite expression of the Anabaptist tradition. Now my allegiance is to the kingdom of God and I serve at the pleasure of the King, prepared to love and die for His kingdom.
My goal: obey Christ and let God handle the consequences.
* A Christian who, when he cannot find justification in the New Testament for what he wants to believe, seeks it in the Old - a militarist Christian. (But if your worldview is based on the Hebrew Bible, are you really a Christian?). Old Testament Christians will claim to be “whole Bible” Christians.
** A Christian who, when he perceives conflict between the Old Testament and The New, goes with the New - a pacifist Christian, which should be a redundant term. I’m not suggesting that God is a pacifist - He can destroy whatever He creates. But I reject, as a model for my life, any behavior exhibited in the Old Testament that is inconsistent with the teachings of Christ.