Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Military Recruiting in Public High Schools

My good friend, Dr. Mikeal Broadway, Professor of Theology and Ethics at Shaw University Divinity School, has an excellent post on his blog about the dangers of military recruiting in high schools. Be sure to check it out. For counter-recruitment resources and resources addressing the problems of youth and militarism, see the American Friends Service Committee, the Center on Conscience and War, or the Mennonite Central Committee.


September 11, 2006 - Posted by | peacemaking


  1. Michael, do you think that the military should not be allowed to recruit on high school (or college campuses) or just that the recruiters should be monitored more closely?

    Comment by D.R. | September 11, 2006

  2. As a pacifist, I would rather keep military recruiters as far from high school students as possible. College is different. There are actual brain development differences that allow college students to assess risks, see through hype, etc. better than high school youth, especially males–during high school they are absolutely flooded with testosterone.

    However, if recruiters are allowed on campus, they should be monitored closely and they should always be met with counter-recruitment literature.

    I am against Jr. ROTC classes. College ROTC classes again are a different manner–unless it’s a Christian college which should reject all military presence as incompatible with Christian values.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | September 11, 2006

  3. Dear Michael, As a Pacifist, I agree with you except that I think that it should be illegal to recruit on or near high school and college campuses. If students feel the need to join, they can approach the nearest recruiting office.

    Meanwhile, I’ll bring up my children here.

    Comment by steph | September 11, 2006

  4. So, Michael, from a pacifist perspective would you desire to have no one serve in the military at all? Would that be an ideal? And if not, shouldn’t high schoolers who have a desire to serve their country (or even a desire to get a paid education) be given an opportunity to meet with people on their campus, even as they are able to meet with college recruiters?

    Same question to you Steph.

    Comment by D.R. | September 11, 2006

  5. Well, yes, I think no one should join the military. War and its preparation are always sinful.

    But I am a civil libertarian. Until we can persuade the world to give up having militaries (which won’t happen soon), people should be free to join them. But high school students are vulnerable, as I have said, to manipulation by recruiters.

    The human brain is not finished its physical and moral development until our early 20s. To recruit before then is to prey on those vulnerable to pictures of glory, etc. rather than those who have the moral maturity to make decisions about killing for a flag.

    Also, a recruiter on a high school campus takes on the aura of school authority. Students who are used to trusting teachers as authority figures, now transfer that aura to recruiters. The recruiters get to meet with the students apart from the influence of their parents. I object to all of that.

    If I had my way, Congress could not declare any war until it had signed up every one of the children of the politicians voting for the war.

    As for education, there are alternatives and should be more. Recruiters take advantage of the poverty draft.

    That was how they got me. I was 17, had graduated early, but had no money to go to college. First generation in my family to have the opportunity to go college (university, Steph–in the U.S. the terms are used nearly interchangeably as is not the case in most of the Commonwealth nations). They promised me the moon, so to speak. But, by 19 I had become a Christian and knew I had to renounce violence, so I became a conscientious objector and paid back all the education money.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | September 12, 2006

  6. You hit the nail on the head d.r. I reject the existence of the “military” entirely. If the government want a war, let them and their children be in the front line. Money invested in the military is better spent at home on civil defence and education.

    I also consider the recruiting of students on campus, whatever age, thoroughly irresponsible and immoral. It is nauseating and breaks my heart that vulnerable and penniless bright young sparks are sucked up by those vultures and extinguished while pursuing means to further ends – more pennies.

    I know about US colleges. Unfortunately Americanisms have infiltrated our kiwified English: my old high school is now renamed Colenso College, and some tertiary institutions are called colleges though they are general technical or trade specialist training centres and not the same as universities.

    Comment by steph | September 12, 2006

  7. “To recruit before then is to prey on those vulnerable to pictures of glory,”

    ESPECIALLY, given how they recruit. This is, after all, the business of killing people and dropping bombs. To treat it as just another product to be sold using sex appeal and guilt is morally bankrupt. To do so using video games aimed at children is diabolical.

    I’m with Michael. I don’t want to ban the military. If you wish to join, I don’t want to stop you. But it ought to be marketed as what it is: An opportunity to travel to other places, meet interesting people and kill them.

    Truth, always.

    Comment by Dan Trabue | September 12, 2006

  8. And before the comment gets made, suggesting incorrectly that I think our military are a bunch of ruthless killers and that I hate them, that’s not what I said.

    I love all those who serve in the military as I love all those in the places where they travel. I don’t want to see either group have injuries or deaths. Nor do I want my beloved soldiers to have to experience the tramatic guilt that comes with killing people – especially when they kill innocent people that soldiers will tell you they inevitably do, given modern war-making.

    That is not an expression of hatred, but of love.

    Comment by Dan Trabue | September 12, 2006

  9. Just a few thoughts on what all of you have said (thanks for the honesty by the way).

    1) I know at least Dan and Michael have more knowledge on this than I do, but did the Early Church object to all military engagements and/or all military activities? It seems, from my perspective, that the Early Church only objected to service in the military by practicing Christians and that eventually changed, likely due to the change of status within the Roman empire for Christians, which seems more pragmatic than theological, especially given the words of Paul in Romans 13:1-7, where Paul explicitly states that the government is

    a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.

    Now, that seems quite extraordinary given that Paul is speaking to an audience of Christians who will one day be persecuted (or already were so) by the very government that he himself was under (through military actions). To me this sounds like Paul is suggesting that not only does the government bear the sword (power to kill and defend), but that it does so as a “minister of God” who Himself installed that government. Putting that into our situation, shouldn’t we support a government defending itself militarily (which we ourselves rule) since it is a minister of God?

    2. I am all for providing choices to high schoolers in a responsible manner — that is why I oppose sex education in the schools (because it teaches only one basic tenet – responsible sex – not abstinence). However, I do not see how such a ban on military recruitment fits into a moderate or liberal stance of separation of Church and State, given that at least a couple of you would agree for such a ban mainly on religious grounds. Please explain how this is different than a parent demanding an opt out for sex education in the public schools?

    3. I think that this extreme (might I even say “fundamentalist”) position against the military may be one reason why pacifism is not mainstream or practical, given that it does not account for evil in the world that is uncontrollable and thus requires a military presence to protect our citizens and defend our children. Wouldn’t the absence of a military also be similar to the absence of a police force? Would you advocate that as well? Also, I take issue with Dan’s statement that “[military service] ought to be marketed as what it is: An opportunity to travel to other places, meet interesting people and kill them.” I think this is a gross mischaracterization of what our military does which is possibly shaped by what we have seen with the Iraqi War. However, would you feel the same way if a military encursion ended the suffering in Darfur (likely the only strategy left with any potential now)? Also, what about the Civil War? Or WWI or WWII? Had we not ended those events militarily what would be the status of the world today? I think this is why so many Just War Theorists see complete pacifism as naive and thus not an option.

    4. I have no problem with saying that those who voted for the war should be the ones who fight in it. However, it is somewhat contradictory to make such a statement in a Democratic (or rather Representative Republic) governement, given that you and I were the ones who elected them. And before you say as a Democrat that you didn’t elect them (meaning Republicans who supported the Iraqi War), remember that whether you believe they were decieved or not, they voted for such an action, which either suggests negligence or ignorance. We can’t, unlike a socialist or communist, or fascist government, shurk our responsibility off on others as if we had nothing to do with their decisions, nor can’t affect them now.

    5. Finally, I think it is somewhat problematic to rail against an institution like the military that protects the very freedom that allows us to have such a conversation on our computers as we sit quietly in our homes or apartments with little or no fear of invading armies, Islamofacists, or even the government itself, robbing us of that freedom. As long as evil exists in this world (which the Bible clearly teaches will always be true), then the military is a necessity. Only until Christ reigns fully will the lion lay down with the lamb. Until then, God has ordained that governments be the ministers of His wrath to those who do evil. And that means we need men to carry that sword. While that is a sad fact of this fallen world, it is still a fact.

    Comment by D.R. | September 12, 2006

  10. Thanks for the thoughts, DR. I don’t have time for speaking to all you’ve addressed, but if I may take a nibble or two:

    On your point 5 (military “protects the very freedom that allows us to have such a conversation”), I disagree with your supposition.

    A responsible military may safeguard against invasion somewhat, but for the most part, it is my position that the way we use our military at least lately (in the last few decades) has made us LESS secure and as such has not protected the very freedom to have this discussion. You are free to think so, but it is not a given.

    On your point 4 (we elected them), one of the problems of our version of democracy/our republic, is that representation for all is very illusory. I have no representation. Not in the Dems, not in the Republicans.

    Folk who fall in the Green Party or Libertarian Party categories, don’t get to have a voice. As Helen Keller said, “Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between two bodies of real, though not avowed, autocrats. We choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.”

    So, it is very easy for a large number of people to be disenfranchised (one reason for such dismal voter turnout, I’d posit) and not have a voice in the doings of our gov’t. Which makes for a very sick republic.

    And so, those of us who’d complain and rabble rouse ARE embracing our responsibility to push our gov’t to do what we think it ought to do. We are NOT shirking our responsibility doing so, but embracing it.

    Out of time…

    Comment by Dan Trabue | September 12, 2006

  11. I reject the existence of the “military” in it’s current form. Off shore aggressive invasions fuel, including foreign resentment, homegrown resentment Money invested in the military is better spent at home on civil defence, home security (police) and education. I also consider the recruiting of students on campus immoral.

    Luckily my “Green” vote does count here. We do have a strong voice in this country. My country’s overseas involvement has to do more with peacekeeping. The world is no safer since the al-Qaeda attack on America. While poor Iraq was not a haven for terrorists prior to the war, it certainly is now. There needed to be a more serious effort to “engage across civilisations and faiths”, in the words of our PM. “The operation in Afghanistan drove al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan, but al-Qaeda is a hydra-headed beast”.

    She continues: “It is a very, very complex issue and at home it has made us particularly mindful of the need to work very hard on social cohesion and inclusion here, so that we don’t have younger generations of emerging communities who feel alienated and estranged.”

    Of course if you spend so much money on the military you haven’t time or finance to focus on these issues.

    If only we had no cause for this conversation… wouldn’t the planet just leap for joy if we could responsibility dispose of our computers and other cancerous idols.

    Now I am just truly wicked.

    Comment by steph | September 12, 2006

  12. And because some I never was or want to be defended by the US military, I feel far less safe because of it’s actions, even though, and thank you God, I am not American. However I feel honoured to learn from the those Americans whose courage I admire like Michael and Dan here.

    Comment by steph | September 13, 2006

  13. “And because some” is now superfluous.

    Comment by steph | September 13, 2006

  14. However tragically, someone taking himself too seriously, has missed the point, in saying “no recruiter holds a gun to anyone’s head. Today’s military is all volunteer if you do not want to go into the service don’t sign the contract”.

    Ah well wotchagonndueh? – God bless those in America and may the rest of us leave them alone.

    Comment by steph | September 13, 2006

  15. …but bless his ears and whiskers.

    Comment by steph | September 13, 2006

  16. Dan,

    I think one problem with our discussion is that I am speaking of the military in general and you are speaking about the military under George Bush. I will grant you that you have an argument about safety under this administration, though I think the threat can’t be traced immediately to the administration, but rather to the reaction of the administration to the threat of Islamofacism and 9/11. The military itself is not to blame at all (if anyone), but rather the administration. But that is not my question or my point. I believe a military is necessary, just as much as a police force is necessary. But, you are correct to point out that it is important how one uses their military. Still, if no one serves in the military, then we don’t have one and thus we are indeed less secure. Unfortunatly, diplomacy can’t solve everything and there are madmen in the world who don’t care about the rule of law or morality.

    The same is true regarding your comments. It seems you are not against military recruitment per se, but rather military recruitment under this administration. I wonder if you would be against military recruitment under Lincoln, or under Roosevelt or Truman? Or even Clinton?

    Also, not being in the United States (which I am assuming from your somewhat confusing comments), I don’t think you are able to get more than one side of the issue, especially in regard to military recruitment.

    You said, “you’ve raised so many questions, with so many presuppositions, that I have to put most of them off.” Fair enough, but I do want you to very soon deal with this statement: “The Rom. 13 argument is a misinterpretation” since it informs how most every conservative Christian I know of thinks about the military and even of God, Himself. I could care less about the other questions in comparison to that one alone.

    And again in the case with Dan and Steph, I think differentiating the military with this administration’s use of the military is an important point. And I reiterate, if there is no military recruitment, then there is no military, thus we don’t become safer, but rather we open ourselves up to additional harm, even from within our own borders.

    Yes, I have not commented on the Just Peacemaking threads, because I have not had the time to read through them and actually engage them in thought. I will try to do so soon.

    Comment by D.R. | September 13, 2006

  17. I’m thinking of the military under ANYONE.

    I will post on Rom. 13 in the future, but it takes a separate post that I cannot do in a comments section. After I finish my posts on Just Peacemaking, I will work on a series arguing for gospel nonviolence/Christian pacifism and address the misuse of Romans 13 (since the time of Augustine) then.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | September 13, 2006

  18. I have said it before and am reiterating it here in the strongest terms: “Islamofascism” is a term that is both inaccurate and a form of hate speech. I will not let it be used on my blog!

    Fascism is ALWAYS a nationalist movement. It combines government power, military power, and corporate power for nationalist ends.

    The terrorist groups that are influenced by fundamentalist, twisted forms of Islam, are NOT nationalist in character and have little interest in economics at all. So, to call them “fascist” is misleading.

    The term “Islamofascist” was coined by far right pundits in the media and blogosphere to demonize Muslims by identifying the terrorist groups as authentically Islamic(instead of a distortion of that religion) and by associating them emotionally with the Nazis (the only fascist movement most history-starved Americans remember). Initially, the Bush admin., whatever its other (MANY, MANY) faults, rejected this kind of demonization and specifically said that its war on terrorism was not a war on Islam. Now, it has reversed itself. Apparently realizing that it has completely failed (through its own stupidity) to win hearts and minds in the Islamic world, the Bushies are now jumping on the “Islamofascist” bandwagon in order to (a) score points with its own rightwing base and thus get more of them to turn out in November’s mid-term elections, and (b) to try to unite independents and conservative Democrats in swing states behind the president–also with a view to November.

    It’s a form of hate speech and unworthy, D.R., of a thoughtful conservative like yourself. There are “Christians” like Pat Robertson, Ann Coulter and others who call for torture, assassination, and state-sponsored violence. Would you like it if people started using the term “Christofascist” to describe them? I wouldn’t! My religion would have been insulted. The term Islamofascist does the same thing.

    I will remove all future comments on my blog that use such a term, just as I would other racial or religious hate-words–you know the ones I mean.

    D.R., I expect better of you. I have come to think of you as a thoughtful and reflective conservative. A fellow Christian, even if one with whom I have many disagreements. This kind of terminology is not worthy of you.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | September 13, 2006

  19. DR said:

    I think one problem with our discussion is that I am speaking of the military in general and you are speaking about the military under George Bush.

    I’ll point out what I said:

    “A responsible military may safeguard against invasion somewhat, but for the most part, it is my position that the way we use our military at least lately (in the last few decades) has made us LESS secure”

    I think Bush’s handling of the military has made us significantly less secure, but I think US military policy since AT LEAST the Cold War has been poorly designed and has led to insecurity rather than security.

    I’d suggest any time you are spending trillions of dollars on war-preparations vs maybe millions of dollars on peace-preparations, you’re planning for and will get insecurity.

    Comment by Dan Trabue | September 13, 2006

  20. Kia Ora d.r. – I also am talking of the military under anyone. WWII is irrelevant, I reject the 30 year old oxymoronic neologism Islamofascism and my point is that surely civilisation as such is grown up enough and wiser now to seek peaceful solutions.

    I am a New Zealand citizen, born and brought up in New Zealand and completing my studies in the UK. I quoted Helen Clark, our Prime Minister.

    My “somewhat confusing comments” were directed to another blogger, who I has directed a post to this post but has unfortunately missed the point, taken offence (not to mention himself too seriously) and attacked me personally along with his commenting friends. So my comment was in fact tongue and cheek as I find his reaction(predictably) amusing. Reminds me of the little boy left out in the schoolyard: poor child thinks it is all about him. Centre of the universe, bless his ears and whiskers.

    Comment by steph | September 13, 2006

  21. Michael,

    If you are talking about the military under ANYONE, at what point do we actually defend ourselves against outside invaders or to protect ourselves against future assaults against our citizens? If we have no military, isn’t that just like having no police? And again, do you want to rid cities of police? I am all for revamping the goals and actions of the military, but defunding it and basically destroying it is not an option in a world where megalomaniacs run countries, some of whom seek to destroy and overrun countries that are not at all at odds with them (remember Kuwait? What did that country ever do to Iraq except have the oil that Sadaam wanted to control?).

    Now on to “Islamofacism”.
    1) Let me offer one recent well-written article on the term and its usage – “‘Islamofascism’:
    Beware of a religion without irony”

    2) After Rodinson coined the term, it was used in 1990 by Malise Ruthven (a British non-conservative, if not an outright liberal, and especially sympathetic toward the Palestinian cause) and then it seems to have been popularized by Christopher Hitchens, who at the least is left of center, followed by Andrew Sullivan, who once was conservative, but can in no way be described as such now. Finally, I have heard numerous liberals use the term, thus to say it is a specifically “right-wing” term is completely inaccurate.

    3) It does describe a movement that is religious in nature. Imams, Sheiks, clerics, and other religious leaders are those who are in the forefront of it. These are not politicians who are inciting Muslims to terrorist acts, but rather clergy who work closely with politicians and government officials as well as corporate heads who export oil. So to divorce Islam, the religion, from those who seek to destroy the “West” through terrorists acts is to deny the very basis of the terrorists actions.

    3) Facism is a good term for what this movement is when you look at the governments of Syria and Iran, as well as the former Afganistan. In each there are governments working closely with corporations (oil-profiteers?) funding militaries and terrorist cells. This is not fiction, this is fact. The original term was coined to describe Iran, not by right wing pundits as you incorrectly asserted (see the article I linked). And it seems to rightly describe what occured in Iran and what was happening in Afghanistan, as well as what is beginning to take shape in Lebanon, as Hezbolah seeks to gain political power in order to eventually take over that country. And though we couldn’t apply it as strictly to Al-Qaeda, there is certainly an element of facism in those countries who have allowed Al-Qaeda to operate and grow.

    4) Thus, I don’t consider it to be a hate-term. In fact, I think it clearly delineates between those who emphasize different aspects of Islam, leading them to be more peaceable, and those who seek to make Sharia law the authority in every part of the world (which is clearly the end goal of men like Osama Bin Laden). Furthermore, former Muslims, including Amil Imani, Ali Sina, and Noni Darwish, have used to describe those they believe are on the fringe of Islam. And finally Muslim scholar Khalid Duran used the term himself (which some believe may actually have been the flashpoint where the term gained usage) to describe those who desire “to impose religious orthodoxy on the state and the citizenry.” Thus to say it is a hate-term, is to indict those most qualified to use the term – the followers and former followers of Islam.

    5) Finally, when I use the term, I intentionally do so in order to delineate between sects of Islam and individual followers. I think it is easy to see one use such a term and think that they look at all followers of Islam in the same way. This is simply not the case. For instance, I would never use the term to describe my friend Mohamed, who told me he detests what men like Osama Bin Laden have done to the Koran. Also, I would not oppose the use of the term “Christofacist” if is accurately described an entire sect of Christianity, not just a few individuals. But then again, were there not nations who refuse to grant their citizens religious freedom, persecuting those who convert to other religions, forcing women to wear specific clothing and granting them no rights whatsoever, and then seeking to impose these edicts under what they believe is a specific rule of law – Sharia Law, to be exact, then we would not use such a term as this.

    So, in summary, let me say this — in respect of you and your blog I will no longer use this term on your site, but I do not think this term is a form of hate speech and I do not believe it specifically indicts all of Islam, but rather does just the opposite in delineating some Muslims who, because of their understanding of the Koran and their view of Allah, act in a certain way in order to achieve an end goal of the establishment of Sharia law upon all humanity. You can think ill of me if you wish, or you can understand its usage by those like myself who think terms like Dominionist, Theocrat, and Reconstructionist are not emblematic of conservative Christianity, but are used by many (including Christians like Bruce Prescott) nonetheless, yet believe that these men and women who use this term are not hate-mongers, but rather simply trying to define movements based in ideologies that differ with their own.

    Comment by D.R. | September 14, 2006

  22. D.R., we will have to agree to disagree about the appropriateness of the term Islamofascist. Dominionist and Reconstructionist are self-chosen terms. “Theocrat” is not, but does seem to be appropriate to Dominionists/Reconstructionists like Rushdoony, Gary North, and the folks at the Institute for Christian Economics (ICE).

    I don’t know if any Baptists are pure Dominionists/Reconstructionists, but the movement has made inroads, especially among Calvinists since the original Dominionists were Calvinist. Most Baptist fundamentalists I know are not technically theocrats but do hold to a D. James Kennedy-style “Christian Nation” belief which is a huge departure from traditional Baptist views–in fact is more characteristic of those who persecuted our spiritual ancestors.

    Again, the issue of self-defense and militaries is too large for a comment section. It will have to wait until I lay out my full case for Christian nonviolence. 2 points in the meantime: 1) There are as many differences as similarities between police forces and militaries.

    2) You need to go back to my original response to you. Governments, ALL governments, are pagan. I do not expect governments to live by Christian morals. Although I think it is POSSIBLE to develop alternative tools to military defense so that, gradually, nation-states could phase out militaries–I don’t think they are likely to do this in the foreseeable future.

    So, I don’t really worry much about what would happen if America overnight disbanded its military. It ain’t gonna happen.

    My position is that CHRISTIANS are forbidden by the gospel to join militaries. When I became a Christian, I applied for and received a discharge from the U.S. Army as a conscientious objector (1983).

    But most of my public moral argument for governments, as opposed to what I say to fellow Christians, is not governed by gospel nonviolence/Christian pacifism, but my Just War Theory. This is the ethic that most of the Western world has claimed to follow at least since St. Augustine. So, I don’t have to impose my religious views–this is the ethic that is claimed by U.S. and international law. I just insist that they live up to it and call them on the carpet when they don’t. Also, I advocate Just Peacemaking practices to flesh out the “last resort” criterion of JWT.

    I don’t know Ruthven, but Christopher Hitchens should have known better on Islamofascism. Still, it does show that Christian nonviolence is not really a politically liberal idea–it makes as little sense to the Left as to the Center or Right. It is foolishness to these Gentiles.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | September 14, 2006

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