In Episode 11 of our podcast, I discussed religion’s curious silence on the issue of war. Soon after posting, I was happy to find a link to a call to boycott the 2016 national collection for the Archdiocese of Military Services by Bob Waldrop of the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House. I posted the link to a forum and received the following comment:
It seems to me the man is rightly opposed to unjust war.
Chaplains in the Archdiocese are very strictly non-combatants. The diocese, Archbishop Broglio, and chaplains never make military decisions.
It seems to me the man would more rightly spend his time voting for anti-war candidates next week if he feels so strongly about that issue.
What does voting actually accomplish? How much does it affect ending and preventing wars? Practically speaking, are there even any anti-war candidates that are running during this election cycle? Between the two top presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, there are none. Perhaps Jill Stein is the least likely to carry out wars as president, but she has no chance of winning the election (and she has other ethically excluding platforms).
But more importantly, while I do not think that voting is necessarily wrong, especially when it’s done to mitigate an evil, it is not an act that is deserving of any praise. It takes almost no effort (grocery shopping is a larger endeavor) and it has virtually no impact outside of the most local of elections. When millions of people are voting, the individual vote is statistically insignificant. Furthermore, it is extremely questionable as to whether the system is intended to secure an outcome that reflects the will of the people as we have seen with recent WikiLeaks revelations.
So to say, “If you don’t like it, your opportunity to make a difference is to go and vote,” seems like a punt to me. And one of the things that is missing from that is the acknowledgement that it’s not just government policy that needs to be changed, it’s the hearts and minds of people that also need to be changed. How many people out there don’t see war as a destructive attack on human life and rights? That, in my opinion, is the crux of the problem. War is viewed as just another political topic whose merits can be debated back and forth.
Why is it not better to be a messenger of peace? If you see someone unwittingly participating in evil, is there not some moral duty to make him aware of it? And so even if someone is not and cannot be involved in the decision-making process, blindly accepting the decisions that lead to something as serious as war and participating in its execution in some way is an abdication of the obligation to respect human dignity. Human authority, especially when it relies on coercion as a means to ensure it is respected, should always be questioned.