Monday, January 27, 2014


Temptation of Christ - by Vasily Surikov- 1872

Noncooperation with evil is as important as cooperation with the good.  This principle of moral theology was a driving force in the work of both Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King.  It is a hard saying, with implications.   Those who take to heart Jesus’ words, to love the enemy and put away the sword, know that war is always evil.  How can we noncooperate with war, to better be God’s peace?

There are two major personal ways one can choose not to cooperate with the evil of war—by not being its soldiers or manufacturers, and by not paying taxes that support the maintenance of armies.  Neither of these methods are accepted by modern societies.  We preserve our national power and security by making military service and its industry the prime directives of public responsibility.

Our church in its Vatican II documents finally recognized that conscientious objection to war, not being a part of armies that fight for worldly kingdoms, is commendable Christian behavior.   It is not so certain what to do with the nations automatically tithed taxes that go to government war-making, especially since we persist in the theory of “just wars.   Also churches in the U.S. have exemption as institutions from these taxes, though its members don’t.  So if churches protested the payment of taxes for war, they’d call attention to their status exempt from all taxes, and risk losing it.

nce each of us has grown older than the age of usual military service, and made our individual decisions of conscience on whether or how we participate as soldiers, then we have the lifelong questions of how we handle our contribution to the military’s tax money.   Most of us tithe, much more to our military [which takes one half of our federal income tax money], than we do to our churches.

I made a decision years ago to not go to war as a soldier, trying to cooperate with the good, doing alternative service to the draft at Cristo Rey Church Community Center working for farmworker rights and services during the Vietnam War.   The first part of the position paper I wrote for my Jackson, Michigan draft board appears below.
What to do about payment of war taxes in the USA has been an ongoing difficult struggle for myself and family ever since.  There is merit in paying taxes for the common good.  There is also inherent cooperation with the evil of war, inextricably linked to our federal war taxes.   War-making continues, our most important product.  Come Holy Spirit, enlighten the hearts of your faithful.  What should we do as April 15th, Render to Caesar Day, again approaches?


This is the beginning of my answers to the Selective Service form questions for Conscientious Objectors.  They started by asking what are your beliefs that prevent you from participating in all wars.   The opening of my statement is below, as it was when I was 21, six months from graduating from MSU, 45 years ago, as the Vietnam War escalated.  I remember the writing taking a couple of months, putting the brakes to some of my studies.  Another installment follows next week.

Conscientious Objector Application – Michael McCarthy – November, 1968

II. I.        God’s love rules out the imposition of His will.
My belief in the existence of God, in itself, cries out against war as a solution to man’s problems.  Creation is evidence of a God whose love knows no limitations.  He has endowed his creatures with the task of self-sufficiency, and has given them the power of accepting or rejecting Him.  The concept of the “Chosen People” in the Old Testament and the parable of the king’s wedding feast {Matt. 22:1-10} in the New Testament both illustrate this.  God has created a people who can choose to love. Without this free choosing, loving would be impossible.  God, in his wisdom, made the world and does not impose His will upon its inhabitants thus expressing the love He would have us share.  Never in the course of salvation history has the Supreme Being forced a man to take prescription for the happiness He has planned.  Programmed goodness would be not an adoration but a parody.  If God has granted us the freedom to flaunt His plans, then we should do the same for each other.  Only in this way will we come to love one another.  War destroys the chance that this love, and the peace it brings, will ever really happen in the world.  It violently imposes the will of some upon the others.

                War is the judgment man is forbidden to make.

War says that we may live together in somewhat harmony until I consider you a threat to my security, my way of life.  The fact that we retain the right to eliminate each other as one of the tools of our human relations undermines the trusting we must build upon which love necessarily grows.  Jesus Christ has said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” {Matt. 7:1}  An exhortation to trust.  For we have no power to determine the ends of our fellow beings.  In the final sense, judgment is only found in the summation of the individual’s life.  No judgment, based on whatever ideology, can take precedence over the need for trust and love to extend to the point of self-sacrifice.

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