Confessions of a pacifist — Part 2


[Continued from last week.]

Following Marine Corps boot camp, I went to a six-month course at the United States Army Quartermaster School at Fort Lee, Va. During that time I was safe with my secret pacifist views. I settled in to a hectic but predictable routine during that period of time.

After several months, I was called in to the office and told that, following completion of the school, I needed to prepare for service in Vietnam. As I walked away from the building, I thought that I needed to call my parents. What would I say? “Hey, Mom and Dad, I’m going to Vietnam but, because of my readings in the New Testament, I believe that I cannot shoot another human being even to defend myself or someone else. Oh, and no one in the Marine Corps is aware that I feel and believe this way. So, if I see combat, I’ll probably die in Vietnam but I’m going to go because it’s my duty”?

But, no, I didn’t say that. In fact, as I was dialing the number, I knew I couldn’t say that. So, I decided to hang up, not make the call, and tell them nothing. I don’t recall that I was afraid. I do remember that I was resigned. I would do my duty, go where I was told, keep my pacifism to myself, and trust God for the outcome.

Not long ago, I went to lunch with a man who has seen countless assignments in either Iraq or Afghanistan. I asked him if he thought about or was afraid of getting killed. The man, a Christian who is also a genuine warrior, said, “No, not really. Oh, I am well aware that I could die. But I’m in the Lord’s hands. If I come home safe, and that gives Him glory, I’m good with that. However, if I get killed and He somehow gets glory from that, I’m okay with that too. Either way, I’m in his hands.”

I didn’t go to Vietnam. Several weeks later, I was informed that things had changed and I was no longer to worry about going. I didn’t ask questions and I still don’t know how these things work. For the time being, at least, I wasn’t going to have to shoot or to be shot. Although, since that time, I have suffered a fair amount of guilt over not going to Vietnam, at the time I just accepted it for what it was. I was there to do my duty and to obey lawful orders.

I discovered that it is relatively easy to be a pacifist when things are peaceful and all is well. I was never a brawler so I didn’t look for conflicts. Growing up in a working class neighborhood, I discovered that making friends and having a good sense of humor prevented most fights. It was the same on a Marine Base. Keeping your nose clean, doing your job, and keeping your mouth shut goes a long way in the prevention of violence.

And, then, some things changed.

[To be continued next week.]

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA between Newnan and Peachtree City ( He is the bishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Diocese of the Mid-South which consists of Georgia and Tennessee ( and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at]