Thursday, March 16, 2017

Part #2: From Baptist Warrior to Friendly Conscientious Objector

My Life Journey TimeLine--
Lifestance, Philosophies, and Spiritual Seeking

Age 17, 1964 Drastic Change #2

(For ages 4? to 17, see Part #1)

Gung-ho for Goldwater for president, promoting the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam, Christian warrior-to-be. God and Country.

BUT then the conservative Baptist edifice of ethical and political understanding came crashing down one Saturday evening at Youth for Christ when an avid Christian girl strongly disagreed with my militant support of the war including the bombing of Hai Phong, Vietnam.

I don’t think I had ever considered enemy civilians as real live people like you and me. They were all our communist enemies who needed to be destroyed for God, for Christ.

She demanded, politely, that I face what I was really saying.

She asked, Would Jesus gun down other humans? Would Jesus push the button that dropped napalm and other heavy bombs?

(In Vietnam War, the U.S. would drop more bombs than all of WWII!! At least 1,450,000 (maybe 2 million) civilians would die in the war, and millions more would be wounded. About 1,250,000 Vietnamese soldiers would die, and over 58,000 American soldiers. Also, remember many people died in Laos and Cambodia, too.)

Stunned, I kept dialoguing with her, while she emphasized for me to go back and study the Sermon on the Mount more thoroughly.

Up to age 17, it had been my understanding that in the Matthew text, Jesus was talking about personal enemies, such as a grumpy relative or the malicious next-door neighbor.

But I soon discovered, that on the contrary, Jesus was saying we ought to love the Roman soldiers (or any other enemy soldiers) who’ve invaded our country, abused us, oppressed us, killed us!

Whew! NO one else, not a single other Christian was saying ethical stuff like this. I studied the Sermon on the Mount intensely. Read various opposing views.

And I struggled immensely for months. I had already invited the Navy, Army, and Air Force recruiters out months previously to decide which military branch to join after high school; probably, the Navy like my dad and 2 of my uncles, but wanted to make a wise choice.

Now all of that was shot-to-heaven;-) by the Sermon on the Mount.

Finally at 18, contrary to everyone I knew except this one Christian family, and one former missionary (who seemed to view war similar to Desmond Doss),
I registered for the Draft as a Conscientious Objector.

I was going against my parents, my relatives, our Baptist church, nearly everyone I knew. And I lost my best friend because of my anti-war stance.
Yet, I really did think this was the way of Jesus.

Then I had to go before my draft board and answer their difficult questions about my commitment to Jesus’ ethics, etc.

Before C-O service, I worked one summer as a mission volunteer on the Cheyenne Reservation in southern Montana, near the Little Bighorn Battlefield (Custer's Last Stand).

I did youth work for Mennonite Missions and talked with a new friend, a Friend, one of a Quaker family doing reconciliation work on the reservation.

The town hall, Brent Barksdale Community Center in Lame Deer, had been built years earlier by a young adult Quaker Work-Team.

After I was drafted in the spring of 1967, I got assigned to serve at mental hospital if I continued to refuse military service.

I did the C-O service at Eastern State School and Hospital in Pennsylvania, just a hop and jump of history from Washington’s infamous crossing, escaping from the British.

And also living for weeks in Haight-Asbury as a spiritual hippie who didn’t do drugs, had never tasted alcohol--but will skip all of that--
this is a philosophical timeline, not an autobiography:-)

Age 20, 1967 Here come the Quakers

Working at a mental hospital with schizophrenic, autistic, and sociopathic children and teens, (after driving my van—the Mystical Hippopotamus—across the nation to near Philadelphia).

When I visited a Baptist church there, it was shocking, and disconcerting to hear the minister claim that the King James Bible was the only Bible, etc.!

Having already long ago—when I was about 13—ceased to believe in inerrancy, and knowing that the KJB wasn’t even the most accurate Bible in translation from the Greek and Hebrew, I left early, may have even skipped out before the sermon finished. Delusionary.

Also, most Baptists were very pro-Vietnam War, and Mennonites while against the war, tended to be as literalistic as Baptists when it came to the Bible.
Where could I find liberal theists?

About then, I remembered the Quaker option, the Society of Friends came into view, me remembering the good times I had spent dialoguing with the Quakers on the Cheyenne Reservation a year earlier.

And from my first introduction to Quakerism back in 1960, at about 13, when I saw them on the TV news opposing nuclear weapons. Who were they?
They mystified me, that some Christians weren’t in favor of the atom bomb. But why? How idealistic.

Now I had the opportunity to find out more, maybe become a Friend.

One Sunday, I visited the local Friends Meetinghouse in Newtown, PA. This first experience was incredibly disappointing.

In a huge plain church, there was almost nobody there, maybe a several oldsters, and only one other young adult. I got acquainted with her by walking her part way home (coming back for my van later).

The Baptist church had been packed. Why so few Quakers?

Later I took the L-train into downtown Philly to Backbench Friends Meeting, a young adult gathering (on some of my weekends off; at the mental hospital, we worked a 10-days-on-4 days off schedule).

Then I was kicked out of my apartment because of the anti-war poster on the back window of my van, so I lived during the summer in it on a small island in a campground near Newtown, fording over
the concrete ramp, through the shallow stream morning and evening.

To be continued

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