I had a draft number in the Vietnam years but was not drafted, watched my son as he registered for Selective Service in the Persian Gulf War and now, at age 58, have witnessed increasing anxiety over a possible draft with the Iraq war.
Over the years, Selective Service has been just out of reach of those who would debate the pros and cons of the issue. Whenever a draft appears, it appears as a matter of urgency and necessity. Therefore the opportunities for people to consider war and killing and their part in it are minimal.
Selective Service is made more oppressive and brutal by the passivity of the people who are affected by it. Young people must be encouraged to consider and reflect before there is a draft, before they face a draft board. Conscientious Objector files that have been worked on over time are much more significant to a draft board than one put together months or even a year before facing a draft board.
I have covenanted with the youth and young adults of our parish and community to provide advice and counsel to those who would reflect along these lines. It may be that some young people would choose military service as an option. That is their right. Or they might choose to conscientiously object. That also is their right.
The missing piece is informed consent, whatever the decision. As a society, we do not do very well in encouraging our young to consider and reflect ahead of time. We should. In Grinnell, Iowa, we have formed an ecumenical group known as Conscientious Patriots. The organization is for the purpose of encouraging this reflection and for the recording of this information in an ongoing record. So far, we have 60 college students interested, 20 adults and a small number of high-schoolers.
In my own ministry, I see this as peacemaking, as facing a part of our society that tends toward brutality. I see this as promoting a more Christ-like life for us and for all in our nation.
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