Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian, was in some ways close to the early Quakers in his views on morality and violence. Yet he accepted the need to lie and perhaps even to kill in resistance to Hitler and the Nazi government, not rationalizing those acts as intrinsically good but taking on the responsibility before God for committing them. I am moved by his sincerity and courage.
Christmastime reflections on fallibility and infallibility, discernment and non-judgmentalism, and Quaker spirituality.
The memoir concludes with an adaptation of a piece published twenty years ago in the inaugural issue of the journal Quaker Theology.
An escape hatch is opened. Can I, in good conscience, climb through it?
The draft board holds a hearing but doesn’t listen, lays a snare that fails, and then goes silent while the FBI investigates me. While marking time, I embark on psychedelic adventures.
My letter to a priest from whom I’d requested a reference for the draft board, in which I explain that I must refuse, as Tolstoy put it, “to be ready on another’s command (for this is what a soldier’s duty actually consists of) to kill all those one is ordered to kill.”
I notify the draft board of my conscientious objection to war; the board refuses to recognize it. I quit school, leave home, and wait for the government’s ax to fall.
Two brief, closely-related sections. As I am slowly separating myself from Catholic piety, the necessity for a moral decision about war leads me ultimately to reject the Church and embrace pacifism.