a conscientious objection, pt. 6

I finished the essay last night...

Ever since I had felt the powerful movement in the dark, I had believed that God was in control of what was going on around me. It was easier to believe that sitting in the monastery garden than it was in a lawyer’s office in the middle of the largest naval base in the world, but I still believed it. This comforted me during the months of waiting. I found out my case was being delayed because there was a disagreement between the authorities involved. The naval lawyers wanted to avoid a trial, perhaps because they didn’t think the charges were severe enough to warrant the cost and work of a courts-martial or the bad publicity of an officer going AWOL. But the captain of my ship was insisting on a courts-martial. So the lawyers had to start the trial process and then abort it when the captain no longer had jurisdiction; this took time. I never thought any of the authorities involved had my best interests in mind. Each was pursuing the course of action that they thought was most advantageous to themselves. But through that struggle I saw God’s hand at work, freeing me.

I was amazed how it ended. I had not demanded my rights or asked for mercy. I had stated my beliefs, but never asked for CO status. Then, after four months, they offered to drop all charges and release me. With an “Other-Than-Honorable” discharge. Surprised, I accepted; I had no desire for an honorable discharge from a service I now saw as dishonorable. And I wasn’t interested in taking veterans benefits from the military. I even returned the money that the Navy had paid me during the months I had been waiting (less the amount I had to spend for food and lodging during that time). The pay officer didn’t understand when I tried to explain it to him. But I understood: I was giving to Caesar what was Caesar’s. As for me, I was no longer Caesar’s. I had been delivered by a much greater power. I was God’s.

Now my wife and I live with the Christian community at Plow Creek Farm in Illinois, offering free spiritual retreats to poor people from the city, continuing to conscientiously object, continuing to look to God for justice and mercy.

And once in a while I tell a sea story.

The whole essay is available here (Rich Text Format).