People of Peace in a World that Wants Us to Fight

Help me out!..I find it supremely paradoxical as a Son of the American Revolution (I count over a dozen of my ancestors among George Washington’s officers and am an engineer who has developed military weapons) that SDA’s freely exercise the freedom won by armed conflict, to declare immoral participation in the “real world” mechanism. I must insist that in this “real world” armed people are citizens and unarmed people are slaves. The posture of pacifism seems hard to justify in the “life or death” context of the complex moral decisions facing war fighters.



You are correct! People will take from the viewing of this movie whatever they choose to! Most people however, reviewers included are, captivated by the story-line of a hero. They respond positively to the heroism of an individual who on one hand could be so innocent, almost naive, as a lover, and yet so courageous and firm to principle on the other! And especially so, when this courageous adherence to principle and conscience happened in the midst of blood and thunder rarely experienced before. This is a human interest story par excellence!

Jim, an Adventist neighbor of mine was on the golf course. His new golfing buddy got talking of the movie and congratulated Jim for belonging to a faith community that produced individuals like that, when his Adventist connection was mentioned.

Another neighbor of mine, Gary, a retired Flight Engineer from the Royal Australian Air Force, and far from being a believer went to see the movie upon my recommendation. The story resonated with him very personally. He saw in the movie a story of miraculous providence. And after-all, we Adventists want people to note how big our God is, above all. If people can also note that some Adventists may be people of principle, that is a bonus.

At the same time, the movie and the wide discussion about it is one of those rare occasions when Christian principle, and more especially Adventist principle is in central and positive focus in popular culture. This must breed an increased awareness of Adventists. I for one am happy to piggyback on that with more specific messages about adherence to principle, conscience and to the principles of the Bible. Perhaps Desmond Doss is a more memorable Adventist who will live on in the popular imagination more than either Barry Black or the hawkish Ben Carson.

I even developed a 2 hour seminar that sought to highlight the importance of freedom of conscience and worship (presenting the option of the Sabbath). And the seminar also touched briefly on the original universal war of the worlds, the war to begin all wars; it also presented vignettes of the signs of the end of war and of the Peacemaker who will bring an end to war!

The movie should force Adventists to take a hard look at themselves and ask questions such as

  1. How can we nurture an individual faith that adheres to principle and conscience?
  2. How can we educate ourselves corporately to live according to those principles, even amid increasing, changing and subtle pressures to do surrender such conscientious principles?
  3. What does freedom of conscience really mean in today’s world?
  4. What does freedom of worship really mean in today’s world?
  5. How should Adventists relate themselves to the armed forces and participation in the same?
  6. How can we individually and corporately respond to the gospel call to be peacemakers?
  7. How can we present the ‘gospel of the everlasting kingdom’ to a world that is concerned about building transient worldly power?
  8. What does a Desmond Doss like stance on not carrying or touching a gun say to the gun control debate in our societies? Is is truly an intelligent stance?

As the corporate church has a policy such as “The Relationship of Seventh-day Adventists to Civil Government and War,” which stipulates “asking only that they may serve in those capacities which do not violate their conscientious conviction,” why is now the Ted Wilson administration violating those very “capacities” by not recognizing Sandra Roberts as president of SECC which is a result of the conference constituents “conscientious convictions.” What term comes to mind when someone talks “both sides of the mouth?”

Perhaps a staff member of the Ted Wilson administration who blogs with us such as @CliffordGoldstein could give us a peek into this administration’s thought process.


Cliff has a good point there. Personally I have no idea what the link is but it is apparently point out in this paragraph:

"I’m reminded of the battle lines drawn in the Adventist Church over ordination: “Just pick up the gun!” I’m also reminded of the bitter partisan divide on the American political landscape right now, mirrored in countries around the world: “Pick. Up. The. Gun!”

is women’s ordination the gun or non women’s ordination…at least there is a probability of one of two positions the second line of the American political landscape is utterly incomprehensible

Since I practically never agree with Cliff I thought this one time was actually worth noting and it gives an opportunity for Jared to tell us what he meant if he so chooses.

Having seen Hacksaw Ridge, I could not resist the urge to drop by Spectrum and see what they are making of it.

I liked the review that said Mel Gibson was invented a new genre - religious slasher movies. Certainly the action in the second half of the movie was caricatured epic story telling rather than keeping any semblance of reality. The references to SDA’ism and the portrayal of its beliefs were similarly lacking in any depth or semblance of reality. Saving Private Ryan was a much better movie, and We Were Soldiers is heads and shoulders better than that.

If you have to watch one war movie, make it We Were Soldiers.

The SdA stance on non-combatancy has changed since my childhood, but Pathfinders was always a military-wannabe and American Exceptionalism is a fundamental belief. The truth is that non-combatant medics are as much a part of the killing machine as non-combatant cooks on nuclear missile submarines and service techs in ICBM silos. Desmond Doss providing morale support to the troops so that they will climb the cliff and fry Japanese soldiers with flame throwers is enabling killers. If you want to be anti-war, join the Quakers. If you want to be pro-war, pick up the gun. If you want to be choosy, alternate between these depending on the war.

War and abortion are two horrible choices that people face. If you want to slow down the abortion rate you need to find out why birth control fails and why carrying the baby to term is sometimes a horrible option. Simply saying “abortion is killing” is too simplistic, just like saying all killing violates “Thou Shalt Not Kill” when it is obvious the original target audience of that statement did not think so.

Women’s ordination and evolution are two fights in the SdA church. You have three choices - tolerance, war, and leaving.

Fortunately Cliff Goldstein provided me with the incentive to leave over 15 years ago - and walking with God outside the SdA shackles has been great.

ps: is a list of many of the factual errors in the movie


I think the story of Desmond Doss is an inspiring one. I can’t help but think, however, it is a bit disingenuous for the SDA Churgh to capitalize on his story, when it is not actively teaching the values that led Desmond Doss to choose service as a noncombatant. I can’t help but think that people will come to our church as a result of reading this story, or seeing the movie, only to discover that we do not represent what Desmond Doss represented. This could turn out to be a negative thing for the SDA Church.

It’s true that there are individuals and a few congregations within our church that actively promote nonviolence. For the most part, however, our denomination does little to present itself as one which opposes violence.

Well now…I felt that this was one of the better pieces I’ve read on Spectrum in a while. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all agree that–no matter our side–we have too often been conditioned by our culture to “weaponize” against the “other” (and threads such as this can often be a site of that sort of fighting). Polarization and the disappearance of a center where we can have a civil conversation is a very serious issue today. We all need to be seeking more productive ways to understand one another. But, of course, if you feel you’ve been “forced to fight” against those who “infiltrate” the church with their “alien” ideas, go right ahead, Brother Goldstein. Weaponize. There may be a few Desmond Dosses (God bless them, each one) who come behind you to pick up the pieces and tend to the wounded.


And Spectrum is the place to hold these discussions…

Brother Goldstein, it’s good to see you back.

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I feel the same about the movie and yes I think the other two movies you mentioned are
far better stories of war. The SDA story line was twisted and especially Desmond’s home life
with portraying his father the way they did with his wife. The story of the gun was between Desmond’s
father and his uncle, which was the defining moment with guns for Desmond and not as shown in the

-I think to get the Hollywood kudos MG received you have to portray Desmonds home life as the father figure
having been a drunk who beats his wife, which is the agenda from the left to destroy the positon of
the man in the family as the leader and protector of the family.

I think the SDA church should be outraged with what was portrayed of Desmond Doss family. I haven’t
heard anything to the contrary except your post, and sorry you left the church.

The position of the church as a “policy” (not a “belief”) is that regarding “The Relationship of Seventh-day Adventists to Civil Government and War,” stipulates “asking only that they may serve in those capacities which do not violate their conscientious conviction,” of which the “conscientious objector” (CO)/ “conscientious cooperator” decision is left to the individual, can actually have a very negative downside. Such a policy is that of NO conviction, NO belief, as it can be defined as ‘anything,’ according to each individual.

I will relate details of one “downside” that I am familiar with. In WWII in New Zealand (and quite different from most other British Commonwealth countries, (the UK, Canada, etc.) Tribunals were set up to hear CO cases. These were civilian run courts (mainly business men with no legal training) with no judicial or military guidance or oversight.

It turns out that Quakers and Christadelphians were given almost automatic exemptions from service, because their churches actually had a strongly held and an articulated belief (creed) against any participation in war service. I.e., They actually BELIEVED “something!” (that also was “specific”). Those who were non-religious-pacifists, Adventists, and a few other churches without an articulated anti-war/killing belief were almost always not given exemptions. These pacifists, Adventists, etc. were sent to guarded barbedwire surrounded prison camps, most at high elevation in huts below zero temperatures in winter, doing hard manual labor digging drainage ditches, repairing roads by hand, etc. Some also had their families “persecuted” or were lumped in with Communists or Labor Union agitators who were usually jailed for the length of the war!

Sometimes belief in “something specific” has it’s advantages, as in my wartime example above. Also, I fear that if people do ask about the church because of the movie, that when they find we actually have NO belief, they will be highly disillusioned about the church—more than if the film or the Doss story was never told.

Having seen the movie and read most of the details of Doss’ life; for a Hollywood movie the film is actually quite close to reality (or at least about things that matter). However, I actually hope that no one actually reads those small books that are being distributed because the reality of the church’s beliefs in the movie is the opposite of the church’s actual “beliefs” today.


As a young student at PUC I went to St. Helena with a couple of other student who had recently turned 18 and registered for the draft. I registered according to the officially sanctioned position of the church and obtained my 1AO classification as an “objector.” That was my personal position at the time as well, so that was fine with me. I was glad to be of service to my country, but I disapproved of war as a means of addressing problems. I still do. Jumping into a fight is not often an effective way of solving problems, in my experience, and usually produces all sorts of unintended misery.

Even so, I grew up on a ranch where hunting was a way of life and being proficient with weapons was considered a fundamental right and obligation. Further, if someone else started a fight or bullied you, you were expected to defend yourself. I did not pick fights, but I finished a few during my years in SDA schools. As an adult, I have been involved in only a couple of very brief physical fights in which I ended unacceptable bullying.

When I had my name moved to the top of the draft list in 1962, I went into medical basic training. I was willing to serve as a medic in combat, but I was unwilling to undergo weapons training or bear arms in combat. I might not hold to that position today for some circumstances, but that was my position at the time. I was ordered several times to carry a weapon or throw simulated grenades, but I declined to do so. The NCOs who ordered me to do so were severely reprimanded by officers in my presence and that of the other low-ranking troops.

But there was violence in my basic training unit. In an effort to appropriately integrate our unit, African Americans were selected for some leadership positions. Twice our Right Guard unit leader, one an SDA, the other a Baptist, were beaten up in the night by nice Christian white boys from Nashville. I got to see first hand much obnoxious behavior by people who looked a lot like me. That continued during my service in Germany.

I have very serious reservations about being put into situations in which someone else defines who is my enemy and has the authority to order me to kill someone because of the way they look. In fact, I have much difficulty agreeing to make decisions about individuals on the basis of their identity with a group about which some generalizations are being made. So, I’m not a good candidate to be a combat soldier. There are circumstances where I think I would not hesitate to fire on someone engaged in threatening or violent acts–but I think it would only be a situation in which I could give due consideration and make the decision myself.

That said, I would like to see all citizens spend a couple of years in service to their country–but the options should not be only military combat. America could be a much more powerful and positive influence in the world if our young people received training and experience in helping people who need help than in fighting and killing those who hate us. We could be much more worthy of love and respect if we were less inclined to blow everyone away who we consider a threat.