Seeing ourselves as others see us is not always easy. Even at a recent conference on Adventists and Military Service, men, and it was mostly men, cordially differed on the value, ethics and efficacy of Adventist involvement in the military, including in chaplaincy.
This highlights the real value of a recently published book reflecting on lessons learnt in the 100 years since World War I. Adventists and Military Service: Biblical, Historical and Ethical Perspectives is an initiative of the Inter-European Division Biblical Research Committee. With a diversity of styles, it leads readers through an analysis of war and violence in the Old Testament, significant passages in the New Testament, then various practical, historical and ethical issues that any Christian considering joining the military should first consider.
The book is primarily written for a Seventh-day Adventist audience, yet has research that is relevant to the larger Christian community.
Simon Colbeck is a member of The Society of Friends (Quakers) but has connected with Adventists on the issue of Conscientious Objectors in World War I. He lectures in schools and public venues on issues of war and pacifism, and has published two documentary films on Quakers and WWI, the initial one, Watford’s Quiet Heroes looking at the potentially deadly risks and challenges of being a Conscientious Objector.
“I’m impressed by the thorough analysis of scriptural references and the strongly pacifist advocacy of the writers,” Colbeck states, noting that “the rooting of pacifism in Christianity is enhanced by this kind of study.”
Colbeck was particularly impressed by Kwabena Donkor’s chapter on Ethnicity and Ethnocentricity. Writing from his own Christian heritage, he stated, “Quakers have a dubious history of both ‘Christian Imperialism’ and campaigning against slavery without much wanting freed slaves to become Quakers.”
Donker writes from a strongly African perspective bringing a richness to a book, which is otherwise written more from the context of European culture and experience. That perspective allows him to reflect on the very troubling issues surrounding the catastrophic genocide in Rwanda when, for too many, tribal allegiance took precedence over faith, resulting in brother killing Adventist brother.