Conscientious Objection in the Korean Context: A Presentation at Mennonite World Conference 2015

by SeongHan KimSeong_Han_Kim_2

According to a report released by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in July 2013, (http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/refdaily?pass=52fc6fbd5&id=51e386005), of the 723 conscientious objectors being imprisoned worldwide, 9 out of 10, or 92.5 percent, are South Korean nationals. Since 1950, 17,445 Jehovah’s Witnesses in South Korea have been imprisoned for refusing military service because of their religious beliefs.

Although the Korean government now allows various forms of alternative service for selected groups of people (e.g. science-engineering-medical students, those in public service, etc.), there is no available option for conscientious objectors at this time.

According to the PEW Research Center’s report “Global Religious Landscape,” 29% of South Koreans stated that they were Christian in 2010. This included members of the world’s largest Pentecostal church, Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul. Here are some interesting facts about Christianity in South Korea: (1) there are more Presbyterians in South Korea than the U.S. (2) the largest Methodist Church in the world is located in Seoul and (3) Until recently, South Korea was the second largest missionary sending country in the world.

So Christianity definitely holds a substantial place in South Korean society. The right question then to ask from the Peace Church tradition is: Although there is a strong Christian presence in South Korea, why are conscientious objection, Christian Pacifism, and other peace-related issues not on the agenda for the Church in Korea? Perhaps a discussion of Ethnic Nationalism, Anti-Communism, and Militarism in Korean society and (even) in the Church will help answer this question.

The Korean word for ‘nation’ minjok (minzoku in Japanese, minzu in Chinese), was a neologism adopted from the contemporary nationalist discourse in Japan. The English word ‘nation’ translates into Japanese as both kokumin (people of state or belong to the state, Volk) and minzoku (ethnic group of people). Since the Yi dynasty lost state sovereignty to Japan in 1910, minjok (ethnic nation) was the only identity left for many Koreans. During the Japanese occupation, minjok functioned as a resistive identity and subversive discourse against the Japanese occupation. Many of Korean national leaders were Christian as well. In fact, Christianity and Western civilization were considered as powerful solutions for overcoming Japanese occupation. These expectations formed a unique relationship between minjok identity and Christianity in Korea.

The Korean church has had a great zeal for mission and evangelism from the very beginning. The mass evangelization campaigns and outreaches in the Korean church have a long history. However, in the middle of 1960’s, which is post-colonial context, and under the Park’s dictatorship, the mass evangelization campaign was re-introduced into Korean society.

The series of this mass evangelization campaign largely operated under the minjok bokumhwa (evangelization of nation) discourse from the mid-60s to early 90s. During this period of the time, ethnic nationalism was also the ruling ideology for the dictatorship. In general, Korean nationalism was considered an advantage point for the rapid church growth.

Korea was a victim of Imperial Japan, and even though Korea did not cause World War II, the world powers decided on the separation of Korea instead of Japan. They drew the line on 38th parallel with the USSR and US Army controlling the North and South sides of Korean peninsula. Up to this point, there were actually more Christians on the North Korean side. Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea, was once called the ‘New Jerusalem in Asia.’ However, under the Communist regime in North, many Christian fled from North to South before the Korean War began  June 25, 1950.

The Korean War was a relatively short but exceptionally bloody war. Nearly 5 million people died during the three years of the war. More than half were civilians. The war caused a lot of trauma for many Christians, especially those who fled from the North. (There is an exceptional story of forgiveness by Rev. Sohn Yangwon whose two sons were killed by the communists). But for many Christians, forgiveness and reconciliation with the communists and North Korea are unthinkable options.

On July 27, 1953, the Korean Armistice Agreement ended the Korean War. Technically, because this is an armistice, Korea is still at war. The Cold War is not over on the Korean peninsula. The politicians of both Koreas continue to use the Korean War and its aftermath as a mechanism to make policy and for personal and religious interests. Church historian Timothy S. Lee argues that the most crucial reason for the success of evangelicalism in South Korea is that “South Korean evangelicalism coalesced with the collective interests of the larger society: first with Korean nationalism and then with South Korean anticommunism.”

In this context, the Korean Church became more patriotic and lost its prophetic witness. Mandatory military service was not only protecting the nation, but was defined as the fight against communism, or a “Spiritual battle.” Even further, the Korean Church sees the military service as a good opportunity for mission/evangelization. Over the last 50 years, the Korean Church has operated huge joint efforts among denominations as part of the Military Evangelization Campaign. Many of the young man in South Korea have the opportunity to receive baptism while they receive basic military training at boot camp. These mass baptisms at boot camp are regularly practiced today.

In July 23, 2013, five high school students of Kongju High School drowned at a private boot camp on the west coast of South Korea. The five students died during a three-day Marine’s boot camp. Among twenty-three students caught by a strong current, five went missing and their bodies were discovered the next day. Although the military drill education was terminated from the high school curriculum in 2012, it is worth noting that many schools, even some elementary schools, retain military education in various forms. One way the schools do this is by sending students to private boot camps for a field trip as part of the Military Field Experience, which is a joint program between the education office and the armed forces. These activities are considered a part of physical and mental education as well. Therefore, the tragedy with the five high school students is not a single incident. Rather, it is part of a larger narrative of the militarization of the whole Korean society which sadly reflects the long history of the militarization of the educational system in South Korea.

The background I have provided about evangelicalism and militarization in South Korean society provides a context for a more personal story, about SangMin Lee, a member of the Grace and Peace Mennonite Church in Seoul, South Korea.  As a young Christian, SangMin chose to become a conscientious objector to make a public commitment to the gospel of peace. As a result, on April 30, 2014, SangMin was sentenced to 18 months in prison. He is considered the first Mennonite conscientious objector in Korea. He will be released on parole on July 30, 2015, three days after Korean Armistice Agreement Day (July 27), which is quite symbolic. However, his decision to take a stand for the Prince of Peace and his criminal record will continue to have a lasting impact on his life.

It is important that we see SangMin’s story in the broader context. Often, this context requires us to listen to history. North and South Korea are two of the most militarized countries in the world. Militarization has deep roots in both societies, resulting from past conflicts, with the involvement of many Christians from other parts of the world. Therefore, the question is: how do we as the Global Church, the body of Christ, engage and support each other in this complicated global reality?

SeongHan Kim is working on a PhD in Intercultural Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois. His research interests lie at the intersection of missiology and peace studies.

Peace on the Hill: Life after prison

headshotBy Joshua Russell

The United States currently incarcerates an estimated 2.4 million people, a staggering amount given the total global prison population. While the U.S. has only 5 percent of the world’s population, we have 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated prison population.

This disparity has attracted interest in recent years. However, too often another aspect of our criminal justice system is overlooked: most people currently in prison in the U.S. will one day be released.

Some prisoners receive life sentences without parole. However, most people that are currently incarcerated will not spend their entire lives in prison. They will return to society, and be expected to assimilate back into their communities. This is an incredibly difficult process that has been exacerbated by current policies.

People who are convicted of felonies in the United States face a myriad of less visible punishments after they leave prison. In many states felons are not allowed to vote. Many public and private employers require job applicants to indicate if they have ever been convicted of a felony, or in some cases any crime at all.

In addition, those convicted of drug-related felonies are banned in many states from ever receiving benefits such as SNAP (food stamps) and TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families). All of these policies make it more difficult for former prisoners to reintegrate into society.

The ban on public assistance affects a huge number of formerly incarcerated people the moment they leave prison. Many come from poverty, and few have assets or a job waiting on them upon their release. The denial of temporary social safety nets in the U.S. makes it even more difficult to build a new life after prison.

The combination of this ban with the difficulties of finding a job are significant contributors to the recidivism rate in the United States, which is among the highest in the world. Within three years of being released, roughly two-thirds of former inmates are back in prison.

Last month Mennonite Central Committee’s Washington Office joined with dozens of other organizations to ask Congress to lift the federal ban on SNAP and TANF. Some states have already ended this policy, but it is still far too pervasive in the U.S.

Other ways to help former prisoners reintegrate include better hiring practices. Eighteen states have “banned the box” (removed the indicator for a felony conviction) from public employment applications, and seven have banned it on both public and private applications. The federal government, however, has not.

While these changes will reduce recidivism and crime, that should not be our only motivation. As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31), and not just the ones next door. We are called to love those that our society has labelled outcasts (Matthew 25:40), particularly given the struggles that they face. Jesus does not call us to condemn those that have been in prison, but to welcome them, and to build a society that does the same.

Peace on the Hill is a monthly column in PeaceSigns written by staff of the MCC Washington Office highlighting congressional developments and detailing ways the church can continue to be engaged in the work of peace and advocacy.

Joshua Russell is Legislative Assistant and Communications Coordinator for MCC’s Washington Office

Love is watching, waiting

By Cara EdigerCara Ediger

 

We are praying, the earth and the spirit together.

The world is shaking and trembling,

the working out of faith is coming-

Lord hear our prayers

 

We’re watching, we’re waiting

Jesus is coming soon, but when?

The world is still confused,

so we pray, we pray

for borrowed time

that one day later,

they will see the light too

 

Love is waiting, love is watching

Love is listening to our cry.

Love, hear our prayers, Lord!

 

The bride is ready,

but she does not want to leave

without her bridesmaids

the bridegroom listens to her with love

and waits with her.

 

Jesus is coming soon,

the kingdom of God is near,

and we are praising in heaven,

that all will be saved who are called,

if not now, then later,

and we will all be together again.

 

Thank you Lord, for hearing our prayers

and the groans of the earth in labor.

 

 

 

The Powers Behind the Islamic State

by Berry Friesen

Berry f
Missing from most Christian commentary about the Islamic State has been discussion of the possibility that it is a proxy army of the empire, carrying out the aims and purposes of the USA and its allies.

This suggestion may surprise some readers. After all, isn’t the USA bombing the Islamic State?

Yes, it is. But that does not end the discussion. When an empire engages in a war for survival, we can safely assume it fights to win. But when its survival is not at stake, it may find it advantageous to fight on both sides so that neither emerges victorious and the entire region is disorganized and open to imperial exploitation. In such situations, success does not require victory, but only fragmentation and the absence of effective opposition.

Since the presidency of Jimmy Carter, the Mideast and its oil have been a strategic priority of the USA. For forty years, the USA has been committed to being the dominant power in the region. Toward that end, it has established permanent bases in the Mideast; entered into strategic alliances with Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States; isolated and stigmatized Iran; encouraged Iraq to attack Iran and later Kuwait; launched a war of aggression against Iraq; occupied Afghanistan on a permanent basis; and deployed lethal force against Iran, Yemen and Syria. As many as five million Middle East residents have died as a result of these actions.

Obviously, the USA does whatever is “necessary” to maintain Mideast dominance. Is the Islamic State one of its tools to accomplish this? Much evidence suggests it is.

The organization known today as the Islamic State was already highly visible in Iraq during the years leading up to and immediately following the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011. Its actions included many car bombs aimed to kill Shiite civilians and facilitate prison breaks. The point is that U.S. officials were well-acquainted with this group three-to-four years ago.

In April, 2013, the Islamic State formally merged with al-Qaeda in Syria (called the Nusra Front) for the purpose of bringing down the Syrian government. During the last half of 2013, its fighters took control of many smaller towns and cities in eastern Syria. In January 2014, it seized Raqqa, Syria’s largest city in the east and made it the center of its operations. By June of last year, it had captured vast expanses of Syria and Iraq, including Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.

The USA and its allies did little to stop this aggression. But in July, 2014, after mainstream media headlined Islamic State massacres of Yazidi civilians, U.S. officials responded with alarm. Secretary of Defense Hagel hyped the Islamic State as “a force that is sophisticated. It’s dynamic, it’s strong, it’s organized, it’s well-financed, it’s competent. And it is a threat to our allies all over the Middle East. It’s a threat to Europe. It’s a threat to every stabilized country on Earth, and it’s a threat to us.” President Obama promptly sent U.S. troops back to Iraq. By August U.S. planes were bombing Islamic State positions and by September the U.S. had assembled a 40-nation coalition to defeat the Islamic State.

The abrupt change in the U.S. response was bizarre. It suggested the U.S. wanted the Islamic State to succeed, but only up to a point.

This past May, we learned that since at least August, 2012, the Pentagon had been expecting something like the Islamic State to emerge in eastern Syria. I quote from a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report: “If the situation unravels [in eastern Syria], there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria, and this is exactly what the supporting powers [Western countries, the Gulf states, Turkey] to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime” (emphasis added).

In other words, at least three years ago, the Pentagon anticipated and hoped for the emergence of something like the Islamic State.

During that time, support from the USA and its allies has included money, arms, supplies and open borders. This began at least as early as 2011, soon after the NATO attack on Libya, with the shipment of Libyan arms into Syria. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador killed in Benghazi, was giving oversight to that CIA operation in the days just before his death.

Wealthy supporters living in Sunni-dominated countries, especially Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, provided cash—perhaps in the billions. This financial support has been widely reported and openly discussed by U.S. officials, but continues without serious U.S. objection even today. Of course, the Gulf States have long supported jihadi violence, beginning with the mujahedeen (including Osama bin Laden) during the final months of the Carter Administration and continuing ever since. British researcher Nafeez Ahmed traces this 35-year history in his article, “Islamic State is the cancer of modern capitalism.”

Earlier this year, mainstream media in Germany and the U.S. confirmed that every day, convoys of trucks with supplies for the Islamic State cross Turkey’s southern border. Chechnyan recruits from southern Russia and Uyghur recruits from western China also cross that border to join the Islamic State’s army. Of course, Turkey is part of NATO and an ally of the USA; if U.S. officials wanted to end the violence of the Islamic State, it would persuade Turkey to close its borders to this traffic.

In May, U.S. Special Forces raided the eastern Syria office of the Islamic State official responsible for smuggling the oil that has become a major source of revenue for the Islamic State, amounting to several million dollars a day. Records seized in that raid revealed that Turkish buyers accounted for most of the oil sales and that high-ranking Turkish government officials gave oversight to the commerce.

Last week, Turkey ended a successful two-year ceasefire with Kurdish separatists in Syria, Iraq and Turkey. It arrested hundreds of Kurdish activists in Turkey and launched scores of bombing raids on Kurdish positions in Syria and Iraq. What is the significance of this? The Kurds have been highly effective battlefield opponents of the Islamic State. By attacking the Kurds, a key U.S. ally is making sure that the Islamic State remains strong.

A small example communicates vividly the phony nature of Western opposition to the Islamic State. In May, after the Islamic State captured Ramadi, the capital of Al Anbar province located about 65 miles west of Baghdad, it held a victory parade on a sunny day under skies controlled entirely by the USA and its allies. You would think such a spectacle would have been bombed, but it wasn’t. And the pictures of the triumphant and seemingly unstoppable Islamic State parading through Ramadi showed up on all the U.S. news shows that very evening.

In short, it appears that part of the reason the Islamic State is scary and powerful is because the USA wants it to be scary and powerful. And indeed, when we look at the impact the Islamic State is having in the Middle East, we immediately notice that it is weakening the same governments that U.S. officials want weakened: Syria, Lebanon and Iraq (directly) and Iran (indirectly). Israel and Saudi Arabia have no problems with the Islamic State.

What should Christian peacemakers do about this? Very simply, talk about it with one another, in our congregations and with anyone who will listen. The Islamic State is so successful because it is supported by the West to serve Western interests. Peace will not come until we bring this dirty secret out into the light of day.

Balancing Acts – Little Things

tom b

Editor’s Note: Tom Beutel, a regular contributor to PeaceSigns, is Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Balancing Acts is a monthly feature of PeaceSigns.

by Tom Beutel

This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride,

excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.

Ezekiel 16:49 (NRSV)

It can probably be argued that most of us, intentionally or not, see issues relating to the environment as somewhat less important than those relating to matters of violence, oppression, injustice or spiritual well-being. But, a “peace ethic” calls us to embrace peace with creation as intentionally and as seriously as peace with God, self and others. And, really, peace with the creation involves peace with God, self and others: the creation is God’s handiwork, and we all are a part of it.

Issues relating to the creation such as clean water, clean air, healthy ecosystems, and sustainability are based on theological as well as practical grounds. We honor God who created all things when we use and enjoy His creation responsibly and with thanks. We maintain or improve the quality of life for ourselves and others when we care properly for creation.

In June Pope Francis issued an encyclical addressing global warming and its impact on the creation including people, especially the poor. The Pope laid the responsibility for environmental degradation due to global warming squarely at the feet of human culture and lifestyle.

While slamming a slew of modern trends — the heedless worship of technology, our addiction to    fossil fuels and compulsive consumerism — the Pope said humanity’s “reckless” behavior has pushed the planet to a perilous “breaking point.”  http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/18/world/pope-francis-climate-technology-encyclical/

The practical implications of global warming are obvious: melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels, animal and insect migration, increase in precipitation and strong storms. http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/gw-effects/

While the impact of these changes ultimately affects all of us, it is felt most by those living in places vulnerable to flooding due to sea level rise and other climate change effects; often the very poorest. According to the most recent report by the United Nation’s climate panel, “People who are socially, economically, culturally, politically, institutionally or otherwise marginalised are especially vulnerable to climate change.” (the guardian.com) Climate change, brought about by the way we choose to live, is inconsistent with peace-making, either with God or with our neighbor, or ultimately with ourselves.

The problem is not only practical, it is also spiritual. While Pope Francis points the finger at businesses, politicians, and others in positions of power, he also attributes much of the responsibility for the environmental crisis to human sinfulness, in particular to our idolatrous relationship with technology.

Francis saves his most challenging questions for modern consumers, arguing that humanity has become     enamored of another apple — and this time no Eve or serpent are around to take the fall. The temptation may have shifted from a forbidden fruit to cutting edge technology, but the sin remains the same: hubris. (http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/18/world/pope-francis-climate-technology-encyclical/)

For us as individuals the problems of climate change may seem daunting. But, the problem is in part the cumulative effect of many small decisions we make – or do not make – every day. Changes that we make in “little things” can make a big difference.

As an example, consider the standby power used by typical home electrical devices and appliances. Many devices and appliances are not really “off” when we turn them off. For example, when we turn off a TV using the remote it is really in standby mode so that we can turn it back on with the remote. Standby power, though small, like other “little things” can accumulate into a big thing!

Here is an example: Consider a computer with LCD display, multifunction inkjet (scanner, copier, printer), and DSL modem. Together they consume an average power of approximately 29 watts in standby mode. If left in standby for 1 hour, that is .029 KWH (kilowatt-hours) – not much, really. This   combination would use about .232 KWH in one night and 85.7 KWH in a year. Now, if one-fourth of the 320,000,000 people in the US do this for one year, the amount of electricity used would be 685,600,000 KWH annually, just for this combination of devices.

What can you do? Put all electrical devices that you turn off (or should turn off) on plug strips and turn off the plug strips before going to bed.

This is just one example of a “little thing” we can do to cut energy use and help reduce global warming. Then encourage others to do the same.

For more information on this issue here are a few links:

  • CNN News Pope Francis: “Revolution: needed to combat climate change

http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/18/world/pope-francis-climate-technology-encyclical/

  • CNN: You’re making this island disappear (watch the video “Climate Migration”)

http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2015/06/opinions/sutter-two-degrees-marshall-islands/

  • National Geographic: Effects of Global Warming

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/gw-effects/

  • Guardian: Climate Change: the poor will suffer most

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/31/climate-change-poor-suffer-most-un-report

  • EPA; What can you do at home?

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/home.html25

Standby Power http://standby.lbl.gov/standby.html

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Peace is a Global Thing

Keith 1By Keith M. Lyndaker

This month, I had the opportunity to attend Mennonite World Conference in Harrisburg, PA. Perhaps you were able to attend as well. While there I was reminded that we are a global church and that there is wonderful peacebuilding work occuring worldwide every day. In this issue, we highlight some of that work. I hope you will find the reflections inspiring and an encouragement to build new relationships with our brothers and sisters all over the world. May all of us continue to see ourselves as world citizens by remembering that being faithful in the small things impacts the world at large.

Faithful Witness Amid Endless War

by Berry Friesen

Berry f

It is time for a conversation to start: how do we Anabaptists living in the USA bear faithful witness to the Way of Jesus to our friends and neighbors, to our children and grandchildren, while living in a nation perpetually at war?

This conversation is not about the government; it is about us and our faithfulness to the witness of Jesus.

John the Revelator repeatedly equated Jesus’ “witness” with the “word of God” (Rev. 1:2, 1:9, 20:4).  This reminds us how important “witness” is to the work of God in the world. John described Jesus as “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:5). These are bold and shocking claims, made credible by God’s vindication of Jesus in the resurrection.

Will his faithful witness become our faithful witness?

1. Our context has changed

Those among us who are older formed views about war and the state during an era when fascism and communism threatened the world with overwhelming force. The widely-held view combined opposition to war with recognition that the state claimed a responsibility to defend itself from ideologies of conquest.

Today, it is terrorism—not any foreign power or ideology—that “explains” the frequent war-making of the USA. But as evidence increasingly shows that the US war on terror has created more terrorists, other explanations for war-making have emerged: a humanitarian “responsibility to protect” and the importance of maintaining US dominance in the world vis-à-vis Iran, Russia, China, even Venezuela.

A century ago, the rivalry among the mighty nations of Europe plunged the world into a horrific war. Many historians say that nothing important was at stake. Nevertheless, through propaganda and deceit, those who wanted war mobilized public support for war. A great evil in itself, that war opened the door to even greater evils later in the 20th century and nearly extinguished the witness of Jesus within Europe.

Are we living today in a similar context?

2. The witness of the Bible

The Hebrew prophets preached against the worship of any god but YHWH. They also described the pathway to idolatry: greed, the desire to be esteemed, a reliance on coercive power and threats of violence.

Jesus reflected that prophetic tradition. He did not attempt to reform the Roman Empire. Instead, he called people to a new social and political reality, the Kingdom of God.

Paul focused on large urban settings where Roman officials and propaganda were a constant presence. Following Jesus, Paul called people to trust in the Kingdom of God instead of the empire and to stop participating in events that honored the empire (1 Cor. 10:21).

3. Naming our reality

Here is some of what we have learned over the 25 years since the Soviet Union collapsed.

  • War is a bread-and-butter issue for millions of people because it provides jobs. Our country has become addicted to the economic stimulus of war and war preparations.
  • On matters related to international affairs, war and national security, the mainstream media no longer function as independent voices seeking the truth. Instead, they report primarily what the government tells them.
  • The results of the wars pursued by the USA over the past 25 years have been horrifying. Functioning societies that provided economic and social opportunities have been destroyed. At least one million have died.
  • The violence has brought great harm to all who participated in it, including US soldiers who often carry unbearable burdens of guilt related to their involvement in war. The emotional scars from moral injuries are severe; 22 veterans commit suicide each day.
  • Many feel ashamed of the death and destruction these wars have produced, but that shame is suppressed by patriotic clichés and reminders of how indispensable the USA is to the future of the world.
  • As congregations and as individuals, we feel overwhelmed by the scope and complexity of these realities. We need help from church-related agencies.

4. Imagining a faithful witness

Each follower of Jesus has something to contribute to this; being a faithful witness is a communal task, carried on via sustained reflection, shared discernment and action.

Following are suggestions for witness that can be implemented locally in the USA. We hope they will be part of this conversation.

  1. Elections are public rituals to legitimize the power exercised by government. We must question our participation in the part of this ritual that legitimizes a foreign policy based on military intimidation and war. Is our witness muddled when we act as if it is important that the next Commander-in-Chief is a Republican or a Democrat?
  1. Let us follow early church writers in dethroning the reigning empire within our worldview (see Rom. 1:24-25; 1 Cor. 2:6-8, 10:21; Eph. 2:1-3, 6:12; Phil. 3:20; Col. 1:13, 2:8-10; 1 Thess. 5:3; 1 Peter 5:8-9). This is a delicate matter, in part because our children are taught in schools the very myth of our nation’s exceptionality that faithful witnesses must lay aside.
  1. Our times of worship are absolutely vital to this work of repentance and reorientation. How might we be changed if we routinely remember the victims of US drone strikes in our times of corporate prayer?
  1. Public engagement is a necessary part of a faithful witness. This does not mean we must be “protesting” in the streets. It might mean inviting soldiers returning to our communities to join us in the healing presence of Christ.
  1. Our personal testimony is that war tax resistance is a helpful teacher as we seek to live as faithful witnesses to Jesus. For those interested in learning more, go to www.1040forPeace.org.

To repeat, it is time for this conversation to start; the faithful witness of Jesus and the well-being of our loved ones and neighbors require it. May we have the faith and courage to begin, and may agencies of the wider church also join this urgent task.

(Authored by 1040 for Peace members to promote discernment around the resolution by the same title, which will be considered by the July, 2015 Mennonite Church USA Convention. Text also available in Spanish. For more about the biblical perspective of the authors, see www.Bible-and-Empire.net.)

Berry Friesen lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and is part of the East Chestnut Street Mennonite congregation in that city. He blogs at www.bible-and-empire.net