I’m like Katie in this (and far different from her in many other ways). And her recent editorial, (read it please – and the entire Quaker Life issue when it’s available) has certainly stirred the Quaker pot, as evidenced on Quaker Life’s Facebook page. As I pondered what she wrote, I was reminded of a section of my book Sacred Compass that deals with this issue to some extent – the issue being, in my eyes, how Quakers (indeed how Christians of all stripes) have arrived at different conclusions about how to live out the peace testimony. And how we can learn to respect another’s decision if we trust that God is working in others as God is working with us.
My friend Bob Gosney, who I met in seminary a few years later, found his way opening very differently. After initially not registering for the draft, he registered and applied for conscientious-objector status. He felt his participation in war went against his call to live in love and with nonviolence toward others, so he acted to keep himself out of the war. But Bob’s application for conscientious-objector status was denied, and he refused induction into the military. He didn’t flee to Canada to avoid prosecution, but rather stayed and took his lumps. He found himself in federal district court facing a five-year prison sentence and a ten thousand dollar fine. However, the Selective Service System had the court case dismissed and reconsidered his application. He was found to be a conscientious objector and served two years of alternate service working at a state institution for mentally handicapped people.
Mark, Bob, and I were all strongly religious. We each wanted to do what God called us to do. But we each saw a different way opening. Why was that? Was there one right way and one of us found it, while the other two messed up?