It doesn’t take a lot of courage to be a conscientious objector — to something that everyone is objecting to. It is easier to object to racism today than it was to object to slavery in 1850. It is easier to object to slavery today than it is to object to war.
Camilo Mejia writes in Road from ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia: An Iraq War Memoir, “I was a coward, not for leaving the war, but for having been a part of it in the first place. I failed to fulfill my moral duty as a human being, and instead I chose to fulfill my duty as a soldier. What good is freedom if we are not able to live with our own actions? I am confined to prison, but I feel, today more than ever connected to all humanity. Behind these bars I sit a free man because I listened to a higher power, the voice of my conscience.”
Military conscription has not ended.
It has taken a new form.
Mejia volunteered for the military. Later he had an awakening of conscience and an awareness of the moral injury which war was inflicting on him. He became a conscientious objector to war.
In the United States, conscription has ended and we as persons are not conscripted for war. But war goes on unobstructed, because our money is conscripted. We could be conscientious objectors to war by being conscientious objectors to taxation for war.
So, why aren’t we conscientious objectors to taxation for war?
Is it because we have not been able to imagine this—that we have not been creative enough in our objection to war to see the implications of funding war? My own development of thought and conscience (obviously with critical help from others) has led me to believe that some form of war tax resistance is our moral, conscientious duty. Our peace action support group here in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, 1040forpeace.org, has decided to promote symbolic war tax resistance. We urge people to withhold $10.40 from their income tax payment and write letters to friends, family and public officials explaining why we do this as an act of conscience.
Someone has put it simply and unforgettably: “If you pray for peace, don’t pay for war.”
We believe that symbolic war tax resistance is both simple and profound, an act of courage which some consider large, and others small.
Much more information is available from the National War Tax Coordinating Committee. Bolster your courage by doing some research. You will find ways to make conscientious objection to war taxes practical, if not easy.
John K. Stoner is a member of Akron (Pa.) Mennonite Church. He is co-author of If Not Empire, What? A Survey of the Bible. This post first appeared at bible-and-empire.net.