Today, in my series on Soul/self Care, here is an example of a group response to the problem of American militarism. The 1040forpeace.org group in Lancaster county PA, which supports conscientious objection to war taxes, sent the following letter (see text below) to the Mennonite Central Committee U.S. The concept of the letter predates the coronavirus panic and was not derailed by it.
John K. Stoner
1040 for Peace
108 South Fifth Street
Akron, PA 17501-1204
April 2, 2020
Ron Byler, MCC US Executive Director
Jesus Cruz, MCC US Program Director
Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach, MCC US Washington Office Director
Jes Stoltzfus Buller, MCC US Peace Education
Dear Ron, Jesus, Rachelle and Jes,
Because of COVID-19 we live in a time of uncharted territory which provides a new opportunity for Anabaptist denominations and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to influence and bring about change in our world. A crisis has the potential to produce real change. When that crisis occurs, the available ideas prompt the actions that are taken.
Seeking to be the Christ-like witnesses that we are called to be, we believe the COVID-19 pandemic exposes a desperate need as well as a window of opportunity to encourage the reapportionment of the U.S. budget priorities away from military spending and toward health care, economic reform, diplomacy and efforts to mitigate the climate crisis.
As members of 1040 for Peace (https://1040forpeace.org), the mission of which is to encourage U.S. taxpayers to express their opposition to U.S. military spending and imperialism, we think now is the time for MCC to re-address militarism. Underwriting war-making compromises our faith. Indeed, we suffer moral injury when we continue to participate in actions which bring harm to others. The incalculable death and destruction wreaked on the world by U.S. wars has damaged America’s soul. We cannot ignore this with impunity. Because war-making is rooted in nationalism, we call on MCC US to launch a program of anti-nationalism teaching to prevent the U.S. from becoming like WWII Germany.
MCC has a proven history of providing assistance to and building relationships of trust with people who are suffering. This is the time for MCC to redouble its efforts to draw connections to US policy and the US systems that create war, displacement and poverty. These systemic issues should not only be the focus of the Washington, DC, office of MCC US; all constituents of MCC US need to be engaged.
These systemic issues need to be addressed while U.S. citizens and politicians alike are realizing that without adequate spending in public health, the country is not secure. The United States, indeed the whole world, is at much greater risk than was previously understood. When both the world and national health are at risk, something the US military cannot appropriately address, there is insecurity.
While the current U.S. government may have enabled economic growth and prosperity for the wealthy and increased the U.S. military budget at the expense of other public-oriented programs and the poor, it is clear that a strong economy and military power do not address the needs of the world’s poor or keep America safe, especially during a pandemic like COVID-19. Therefore, we want MCC and its constituency to encourage the U.S. government to reallocate the Pentagon budget toward health care, economic reform, diplomacy and efforts to mitigate the climate crisis.
MCC US can’t do this alone. It has to collaborate and become part of larger coalitions such as the Poor People’s Campaign, the NAACP and 350.org. But MCC US can help its constituency understand the need for military budget redistribution through renewed emphases on education and political advocacy for health care, economic reform, diplomacy and the environment. MCC US can also inform and help individuals and congregations do advocacy to communicate this message to government representatives. Yes, with its historic peace church reputation, MCC US can be a powerful voice while many question whether the huge U.S. military budget keeps America safe.
As 1040 for Peace we call on MCC US to re-engage the issue of the misguided and disproportionate U.S. military budget. That budget needs to fund programs benefiting humanity as a national security issue. We urge MCC US to engage and enable public deliberation to develop alternatives to existing policies.
Might what appears politically impossible become politically inevitable? Our hope and prayer is that when COVID-19 abates, when citizens and politicians are no longer controlled as much by fear, that people will realize that without adequate spending on health care, economic reform, diplomacy and the climate crisis, the world is at risk.
Signed by the following members of 1040 for Peace:
Curtis Wesley Book, Lancaster, Pa.
Richard Boshart, Lititz, Pa.
Patrick Brady, Landisville, Pa.
Marian Buckwalter, Lititz, Pa.
Nathan B. Hege, Lititz, Pa.
Phyllis Leaman, Lancaster, Pa.
Richard Leaman, Lancaster, Pa.
Luke Martin, Lititz, Pa.
Ruth Martin, Lancaster, Pa.
Rhoda Nolt, Lititz, Pa.
H.A. Penner, Akron, Pa.
Rick Stamm, Lancaster, Pa.
John Stoner, Akron, Pa.
Leon Weber, Lititz, Pa.
cc: Michelle Armster, MCC Central States
Bruce Campbell Janz, MCC East Coast
Eric Kurtz, MCC Great Lakes
Nathan Yoder, MCC West Coast