By Zachary Headings, Mennonite Mission Network
Refusing to fight in the wars of nations and provinces has long been a part of Anabaptist peace witness. But in our current state of near-constant war, this resistance has faded. Mennonites Against Militarism, a new resource from the Peace and Justice Support Network (PJSN), in collaboration with Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), seeks to reinvigorate the collective voice against the destructive powers of militarism.
“After so many years of so-called ‘Endless War’ that began in the aftermath of 9/11,” said Jason Boone, coordinating minister of PJSN for Mennonite Mission Network, “much of our country and even our church has grown accustomed to the exaggerated influence militarism exerts.” Boone said that because our collective attention has been turned away for so long, militarism is becoming so normalized that another way of living seems unimaginable.
“We believe a peace witness built on the teachings and life of Jesus calls us to address the pernicious influence of militarism,” Boone said.
Militarism is commonly defined by Oxford Languages as “the belief or desire of a government or people that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests.”
Titus Peachey, former director of peace education at MCC and Mennonites Against Militarism reference group member, said, “Militarism in a nation state permeates politics, economics, academic institutions, the entertainment industry, the media, national celebrations and religion, creating a mutually reinforcing web of interests that profits from fear.”
The purpose of Mennonites Against Militarism, he continued, is to inform and educate potential peacemakers about the corrosive ways that militarism has influenced many aspects of our daily lives. Economy, education, environment, entertainment — not one of these remains untouched by militarism.
“We are a small denomination, but our peace witness against militarism is known around the world,” said Sue Park-Hur, Mennonite Church USA’s denominational minister for Transformative Peacemaking. “We hope that this campaign will help to deepen our conversation as a church on the damaging impacts of militarism that intersect with our theology, economy and the environment — locally and around the world. And, in the process, we can rediscover our calling and our work as Mennonites.”
One of the concepts Mennonites Against Militarism wants to clarify is that being against militarism does not mean that one is against people who have served or are serving in the military. Mennonites Against Militarism stands against the structures and systems that have harmed those who serve as well.
Mennonites Against Militarism includes a core reference group of peacemakers from Mennonite organizations and beyond. This group has been working since early 2020 to develop resourcing and content to better inform the church about militarism’s hold on our society.
- Boone, coordinating minister of PJSN, Mission Network
- Jessica Buller, peace education coordinator, MCC
- Kathy Neufeld Dunn, associate conference minister, Western District Conference
- Hyun Hur, co-founder, ReconciliAsian
- Cyneatha Millsaps, executive director, Mennonite Women USA
- Elbert Newton, Pasadena, California
- Sue Park-Hur, denominational minister for Transformative Peacemaking, Mennonite Church USA; co-founder, ReconciliAsian
- Titus Peachey, Akron, Pennsylvania
- Clara Weybright, Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions
Members of the reference group articulate their personal reasons for resisting militarism. Millsaps said, “I have seen too many People of Color who served in the military during Vietnam, Desert Storm and now Afghanistan and Pakistan, who returned home mentally and emotionally damaged.”
The powers that be in this nation talk about how honorable it is to serve, she continued, adding that more often than not, those that serve come home to poverty, divorce, anger, and violence as a daily part of their lives — with no honor to be found.
“The level of fear in our culture [caused by militarism] requires new ways of imagining being neighbors and citizens and even brother and sisters in Christ together,” Neufeld Dunn said. That is what Mennonites Against Militarism is about — finding new ways to spread the word and love of Christ through education and resistance to militarism.
Starting October 1, Mennonites Against Militarism will illustrate the reality of what militarism does to our society, what it costs, and how it harms people, communities, and nations. The group will offer opportunities to learn about ways militarism operates. The group will also offer ways to get involved to diminish militarism’s influence.
Be on the lookout for Mennonites Against Militarism resources on social media and through webinars and other educational opportunities.