“All Things New” was the theme this week at the Dunkirk Conference Center’s senior high camp. For me, this camp has been a lot of new experiences. Firstly, getting to know such strong leaders within the United Church of Christ reminds me of the many similarities these two sister denominations share. With slight variations on some of camp song favorites, we sang together new songs alike and new friends were made quickly. One particular conversation this week that really stuck out to me was on just war theory. I instructed the campers to divide into an invisible line “spectrum” from holy war on one side, to pacifist to the other. Giving campers the opportunity to voice where they stood laid a foundation for respectful dialogue that enlightened us all. It was clear very quickly that each person in that group felt comfortable with being vulnerable and speaking openly about how they felt. As campers began learning more about just war theory, I then introduced some key scripture references that
was to help us to examine what Jesus might of said and done in this activity. Our ending discussion concluded that Jesus was a real radical – to be killed for a cause and not retaliate against your enemies absolutely radical pacifist behavior. To enter conversations today about war and where our nation and world stands with regards to the fairness and morality of war and what Jesus would say and do can have that same radical effect on us.
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Perhaps this is why being a Christian is so challenging – to adopt Jesus’ pacifist life into today’s context means a having a new willingness to be open and vulnerable to others, untainted by the evil that weapons and other forms of violence are capable of deploring. For most, this is a new thing – it is a new, strange realm to enter when we starting asking ourselves how to be kind rather than just how to be right.
Long after that workshop, I was pleased to have several of the campers ask me more questions about the just war theory and military service. In the midst of learning more about what I think about these heavy issues, for me, facilitating others begin asking the same questions as been just as rewarding and helpful. I’ve found that there are lots of folks at that age who have either never been given the chance to engage in conversation and thought about war and peace -or- they have never been able to come out and vocalize what they think. In both cases, I see so much growth. Growth comes from trust and trust cannot come without love. From love comes compassion and being right is no longer the end goal – it’s community. It’s peace.