Subject No Longer Raised from Pulpits
(Lancaster PA) The historic peace churches are struggling to find a way to keep their conscientious objection to war relevant and up-to-date. Three peace church pastors acknowledged this reality in a February 8 workshop in Akron, Pennsylvania; none could recall ever preaching on the subject of conscientious objection to war taxes.
Barry Kreider is pastor of Pilgrims Mennonite in Akron, a Lancaster Conference congregation. He began resisting the payment of taxes for war in 1981, shortly after entering the work force, and has continued resisting ever since. “I attended a Keystone Bible Institute class on what a nuclear attack would do to Lancaster County and came away convinced I shouldn’t be paying to prepare for such a war,” he said.
John Yeatts, a pastor at the Grantham Brethren in Christ church in Grantham, PA, recalled how his father, a machinist, had refused to make war products during World War 2. “He was hated for it,” Yeatts said. He also reflected on two texts that frame the Bible’s discussion of taxes. “Romans 13 says ‘pay all that is due’ while Revelation 13 says ‘the beast must be resisted.’” Yeatts posed the question: which scriptural context is most like our current reality here in the United States?
Susan Gascho-Cooke is pastor of Community Mennonite in Lancaster, an Atlantic Coast Conference congregation. She noted that we in the U.S. often benefit from unjust and exploitive systems but “things are set up in such a way that we never see how those benefits came to be.” People should respond with compassion when they become more aware of injustice, she said, and be persuaded not just by appeals to moral purity.
Kreider and Yeatts agreed that neither purity nor protest resonates with church people who annually face the prospect of paying a share of the cost of America’s many wars. But witness may. “Jesus’s final instructions were that we are to be his witnesses,” said Yeatts, “and Revelation is filled with the language of witness.”
1040 for Peace sponsored the workshop. Twenty-five people attended. A workshop (download flyer .pdf) focused on the legal consequences of tax resistance is scheduled for March 15 at the Friends Meeting House in Lancaster.
Berry Friesen, Reporting