We have received many letters in response to the cover articles in our June 14 issue and letters on the topic of Adventists and war printed in subsequent issues—so many, in fact, that we decided to present a further selection of these in this special feature.—Editors.
I wonder if those who advocate taking up arms on behalf of earthly governments realize that taking the life of another person in face-to-face combat is something seared in memory forever. The fact that in modern warfare soldiers usually don’t see the face of the man they kill is beside the point. The impression may not be as deep, but those events produce psychological scars that last for a lifetime.
I am well aware that some justify their stand for combatancy by arguing the Israelites killed and were killed in wars in Old Testament times—and that even David, “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), “shed much blood upon the earth” (1 Chron. 22:8). But this was not God’s original plan for His people. Plan A, when Israel came out of Egypt and God made a covenant with them, was “the Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Ex. 14:14, NKJV). But almost immediately Israel wanted to be “like all the nations” (see 1 Sam. 8:5).
Old Testament history records that the course of the chosen people was generally downhill until they finally came to Plan Z. At this point they rejected the Messiah and declared they had “no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). Are we not in danger of doing the same thing?
Our church as a whole has backslidden since 1974 when we gave up our noncombatancy stand. I believe the Medical Cadet Corps, or something like it, should be revived or established, and that Adventist youth should be instructed in the principles Christ taught and exemplified.
Donald E. Mansell
Medical Cadet Beginnings
Thank you for the articles, letters, and correction printed on military service and the Medical Cadet programs. However, the Medical Cadet program was not exclusive to the two colleges mentioned in the editors’ reply in the July 26 issue. La Sierra College had a very strong and active Cadet program. I remember one time when we united with the military and played our part in their war game. With flashlights, first aid, and litters we crawled around searching for injured soldiers under actual gun fire on the east side of Two Bit Mountain. It was so realistic that one of our group claimed he knew they were using live bullets, which he heard whiz over his head.
Here is a picture from our 1939-40 Meteor (the school’s annual).
Lake Elsinore, California
Views on Warfare
Much of what I read in your June 14 articles on war ignores the nature of the prolife commandment. Early translations read: “Thou shalt not kill.” During the 1940s translators moved to viewing the word “kill” as condemning “murder” and not a broad command to never take a human life, thus changing the translation of the commandment to “Thou shalt not murder.”
Law enforcement officials who may take a human life in their work of defending the innocent may well be fulfilling the commandment and not breaking the laws derived from a more accurate understanding of the commandment. The same prolife principle may be applied to warfare. This change in understanding the commandment helped Christians to see a greater unity in God’s acts during ancient times since He acted and did not command His people to sin in their following His commands to destroy certain wicked nations.
A cursory historic view of U.S. warfare shows, according to the U.S. Pentagon records, that the United States has fought 218 wars since the Revolutionary War. Only five of the wars were actually “declared” wars by Congress. Many Europeans as well as some Americans see the United States as a “Welfare-Warfare socialist state.” The barrage of constant political
babble and propaganda by U.S. supranationalists makes a real discussion, based on biblical ethics, of American political practices nearly impossible.
I would like to see such discussion about war and public and political ethics in the Adventist Review, but with more biblical substance.
Timothy D. Manning, M.Div.
Kernersville, North Carolina
For some weeks there has been correspondence from readers printed in the Letters section of the Adventist Review regarding the conscientious objectors (noncombatancy) position and the voluntary signing away of this stance to perhaps enable receiving government educational financial assistance or positioning. The majority of letters apparently object to the abandonment of this historic position (nonviolence), and advise a more open affirmation of noncombatancy by those capable of doing so. One correspondent wrote of ancient Israel and military service, but also quoted the “sword battle” words of Jesus of Nazareth.
Perhaps I am wrong, but there seems to be a silence upon the part of Adventist leadership about a course of action that can only end in confusing military-aged Adventist youth as to the potential dangers of voluntary signing and enlisting that is now and has been taking place. In the future the resulting clamor for intervention and staying of governmental prosecution for disobeying direct commands is the only outcome of the potential trap.
If nothing else this letter is to point out to those involved that the Adventist denominational structure has no legal grounds to defend or to prevent prosecution of anyone who signs away his or her conscientious objector rights and comes under governmental legal prosecution for disobeying a direct order.
Willis A. Coffeen
Walla Walla, Washington
I am grateful for the article “Young Adventists in a World of War.” Arms are a minor issue, since they are with us in a combat zone. Ninety percent of us have not had to use them in a combat situation because of the unique war we are fighting these days with VBIEDs roadside, vehicle-borne bombs. The folks in Camp Phoenix can show you a piece of shrapnel that went through wood at 150 meters. I showed this to Dr. Hart of Loma Linda University when he visited Kabul this past June.
I could say so many things to the prospective deployee. My advice is to continue and enhance your devotions, get involved in humanitarian missions, and stay in touch with your church and fellow believers. This experience is a trying time, but I have overcome thus far by studying the Bible and paralleling it with Ellen White’s writings in The Story of Redemption. Isaiah 42:16 is one of many verses I would also like to pass on. I am a Navy chief retiring at the close of this involuntary recall to active duty in six months and 12 days [of the time this was written] currently stationed in Camp Phoenix, Kabul, Afghanistan.