Teaching Peace During Multi-Generation War

For the first time in U.S. history, soldiers are deploying to a war that began before they were born. Today’s youth and emerging adults have grown up in a world of endless war, fear, and resurgent nationalism. Yet they are open to new possibilities and increasingly engaged. The earliest Adventists spoke against war and bearing of arms, and in favor of peace and justice. Can this generation rediscover that vision?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/2020/teaching-peace-during-multi-generation-war
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Is peace always justice?


No…”peace” can come from fear, repression…or even complacency.

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Peace isn’t always justice, that is true. But violence isn’t necessarily an appropriate response either.

We had no choice but to use force to oppose Hitler. There are times when aggression must be halted. Biblical Israel demonstrates that in bloody detail. I have always felt that the old testament was a poor example of how to deal with conflict. It is so uncharacteristic of what Jesus would have done.

I was a white-coat. I never felt that we did anything special. But I have utter and complete regard for Desmond Doss, who I feel was a true patriot of our country, but at the same time, an exemplary example of what a true Christian should be. No one who studies the life of Desmond Doss could come away without understanding what God truly wants from us in these circumstances. I have been dismayed at how, in recent years, Adventists have become disinterested in being non-combatants. I have always felt that service to our country can be carried out through saving lives just as importantly as taking them.

I agree. But, who is the “we” that you are referring to? Non-Adventists? Non-Christians? If everyone wanted to be a non-combatant, who would be left to take out the Hitlers? If you feel very strongly about being a non-combatant, that is your right. But your dismay that “Adventists have become disinterested in being non-combatants” seems to imply that Adventists should only be non-combatants, while others should be the ones who do the most dangerous job of fighting the Hitlers of this world. If an Adventist feels called to be one of the combatants, why the dismay? Not everyone has the same call…SDA or not.

I do understand that anyone can be in danger whatever their job may be, if they are in the field, including any type of medical personnel.


My husband was a White Coat as well.

My feeling is that each individual deals with aggression toward them on a personal level; but there is no excuse for not defending the innocent. If someone else’s life is in danger I would like to think I would react to save them whatever it took.


When I went through basic training as a non-combatant. Our company, about 400 men, were about 99% SDA. There were a couple of Catholic Priests and maybe one or two Mennonites or Quakers.

That doesn’t sound like everyone will want to be a conscious objector. But I do understand your point. If there is no one to stand up to the Hitlers, there is a problem. I just don’t think it is a legitimate problem. Certainly, it wasn’t in Viet Nam and now it is an all voluntary military. If I were of age to be in the service and wanted to participate. I would make 100% sure that I could be in a non-combatant position or I simply wouldn’t join.

For me, this isn’t about being in danger, but about causing danger. I was not a CO because I was afraid I would be killed on the battlefield. There were many in my basic training company that were killed in Viet Nam. As a matter of statistical fact, the two highest instances of fatality in that conflict were officers and medics. So being a medic was not a way of being out of harm’s way. But, it had everything to do with a person’s conscience.

I agree, that’s why I stated that medical personnel were also in harms way.

Yes, Vietnam was a terrible time. A couple of my friends lost siblings during the Vietnam War, and my cousin was killed there too. Sad, tumultuous times. Thank you for serving. Were you in Vietnam? I wasn’t totally sure if you were sent there or not by your comment.

No, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I was a white-coat, which is mentioned in the article we are commenting on.

I might also add, that I understand that some people must be the ones who carry weapons and fight. But in this aggressive world of ours, I am absolutely sure there will always be enough of them. There needs to be someone there also who is willing to drag their damaged bodies off the killing fields and put them back together again.

I too lost several friends in that war that I went through training with. I find today, the most difficult thing to resolve is the fact that we lost 55 thousand men for relatively no reason. The country fell to the communists several years later, but now the country of Viet Nam has overthrown the communists as well and is an independent socialist/capitalist state. So they got to where we would have wanted them to be even though we pulled out. But not because of the lives of those 55,000 plus the countless injured and the thousands of men who came home but couldn’t cope and took their own lives. That is the very thing we are seeing now. I just read that 125,000 service men have taken their own lives after returning from combat after 9/11. That’ over twice as many as we lost in Viet Nam.

That is the unspoken tragedy of war.

War is an insane way to resolve conflict.

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I couldn’t agree more that the Vietnam War was a total waste of those 55,000 lives. It’s infuriating. The endless wars that we have been in for decades are beyond senseless. IMO, these are “bankers wars”.

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The motive for beginning wars or responding to wars is usually where most of the controversy exists. In this article there is a motive of teaching peace. Having been attacked as our nation was on 9/11 we had a very justifiable reason for responding to defend our country. What initiated the attack on 9/11 is probably debatable depending on if you speak with U.S.A. citizens or citizens from Islamic nations. Either way, it was not an appropriate action. Now we need to be very careful on how we explain peace and how it is obtained when we speak with our young people in this great nation. Peace can, and at times must, be obtained through strength or God would not have performed such tragedies during old testament biblical times. The stories of David show this, as well as other patriarchs. These stories are shared in children’s SS classes and story time/hours in church and in books. I like to avoid these when talking with children under 10 simply because the brain development has barely reached the ability to be logical.
I must say that I am so very proud of having a USA president that is opposed to chasing after wars but instead believes strongly in peace through strength, and uses our countries strength with wisdom. And, I will add that I believe it is ok to bear arms when necessary for protection and defense. It would probably be wise for some deacons to carry concealed firearms during church gatherings too. Peace with common sense is something to be taught to our young people too.

Thanks for this peace piece. Let me just make one observation which pertains to the commentaries as well. The “we” that the article and the commentators espouse sounds like “we as Adventists”, but in reality it is an ethnocentric “we as U.S.-Adventists”. That makes me from Europe wonder whether you are talking about your faith community or your nation. I can’t tell the difference, honestly. I also can’t see a global perspective for a global church here. And that leaves me somewhat bewildered with the traditional position of non-combatancy. How are you non-combatant by engaging in a combatancy-system like the military (by medical, technical or spiritual support)? Are we happy when two Adventists sign up for each of the two opposing sides in an armed conflict as long as they just stitch together what their combatant comrades left behind? Is that peacemaking?
When I was drafted at the end of the 80s, I refused to join the military and had to serve 20 instead of 15 months doing social work (ambulance driving and so on). But I wasn’t part of the military which was important to me. Luckily my country offered that solution. I think there should be a conscientious decision as to whether one opts for the military or not. But to seek a non-combatant position within the military is still an ethical oxymoron to me.

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Thanks, Dennis. Noncombatancy is the voted position of the General Conference, not simply the North American Division. As I wanted to point out, it is part of a wholistic position that is pro-peace. We have a call to be active in the work for peace, not simply carving out a space where the individual conscience can be soothed while giving tacit acceptance to the war machine.

The US in the Vietnam era did allow for alternative service. Some Adventists participated in this, along with Quakers, Mennonites, and others who refused to be part of the military in any way. The GC included that part about individual conscience to allow pacifist Adventists this option.

There are tensions, as you indicate. Can one be part of the system?

There are some in the US that are indeed tempted by nationalism and give excuses for war, even seek to justify it.

I think your position reflects that of most of the Europeans I know, living in the shadow of how the German church embraced nationalism in the first half of the 20th century. I think Carlyle Haynes did the same thing in his pushing a vision of Adventist as super patriots. Interesting research has been done which leads me to think this was his reaction to Bureau of Investigation questioning of church officials in WW1 and censoring church publications critical of the “land beast” of Revelation with two horns like a lamb which spoke like a dragon.

I appreciate your witness. Thank you.

I was moved by the recent film, A Hidden Life, about Austrian CO Franz Jägerstätter, executed for his refusal.

I think the separation of Christianity from every form of nationalism is a critical need. Germany, Rwanda, and the US all are case studies in the danger of nationalism and rationalization.

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See Neal Wilson’s comment which I quoted: “social justice [is] intrinsic to peace.” It is the necessary foundation.

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Just because we talk a lot about peace doesn’t make us a peaceful people - especially as you have quoted - “social justice [is] intrinsic to peace. It is the necessary foundation." That doesn’t seem to include the place of women as part of social justice. I wouldn’t describe the SDA church as peaceful despite all the talk about justice.


WOW, what a true statement! I hope people will take it seriously when they vote in November, not only for POTUS but for other offices as well, including the Senate,

Does Social Justice include elimination of any kind of discrimination, even discrimination against women? This should be seriously considered during the voting in July, at the GC as well.

There has not been peace in the SDA church. The persistent discrimination of women has caused a lot of disturbance and conflict. Until discrimination is eradicated from our midst, peace will remain wishful thinking.


One of the politicians of the Vietnam era said it best, I think:

“I’m fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.” ~ Senator George McGovern


Bill Cork,

This is one of the best articles on peacemaking for the Adventist Church that I have read. Thank you so much for the personal, poignant, positive, and clear-eyed perspective. I am glad we’re on the same team. Union College did a Peace Week for about a decade, and Walla Walla has done one also.

The Afghanistan Papers proved what the Pentagon Papers and the Iraq Papers also proclaimed: War is about money and power and lies. With all of its ancillary and residual horrors, Ellen White was right in calling war Satan’s greatest triumph. Even Hitler’s rise to power was bred and fomented by WWI, the “war to end all wars.”

Let me know how I can help in your continued efforts. I’ll do whatever I can.


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