Opposing War Before It Starts

Andre Gingerich has finished two years of study at Swarthmore College. Under the auspices of the voluntary service program of the Mennonite Board of Missions, he is working for a year with the Sojourners housing ministry. He was interviewed for Sojourners by Danny Collum on his decision to refuse to register for the draft.

Danny Collum: As a Mennonite, you could have fairly easily chosen the conscientious objection option. How did you make the decision instead to refuse to register for the draft?

Andre Gingerich: I was brought up with a strong sense that the Christian life is a life of discipleship, and that pacifism is very central to that. Respect for the sacredness of life is very important, and the taking of life is contradictory to the Christian life.

In the summer of 1979, there was a lot of talk of reviving the draft. I was part of a mock draft board at a local church. I had just graduated from high school.

At that point it was assumed that the participants took the role of registrants trying to defend our position as conscientious objectors. I went through that in this mock board. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I was thinking there seemed to be a contradiction between us trying to find our special exemption, while all those other people out there would still be drafted and were considered beyond our concern.

As I started thinking more and more about the draft issue, a crucial part of my decision was working through it with other people. I kept in close communication with one friend in particular, named Luke, who was up in New York attending school while I was in college in Pennsylvania. We decided not to register and were working through the questions together.

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