Pacifist Confessions

Yesterday morning, Lehman audi- torium had a very special guest in the form of Vincent Harding, renowned Civil Rights leader, academic, and speaker.

Harding covered a lot of ground as he spoke about the personal events that had shaped him throughout his life, but the heart of his talk focused on his time in the military.

Harding addressed his military par- ticipation, saying, “I must add to the list of those who love me… The voice I heard while in the military.”

Harding then went on to talk about why his military experience was so im- portant to him, “I have a powerful mem- ory of being down on my stomach and shooting a rifle. I had learned to shoot targets with some accuracy and I was having a great time.

“In the midst of that I heard a voice saying, ‘So Vincent, you are enjoy- ing this. Do you realize you are being trained to kill a man?”

Harding continued saying, “So Je- sus loves the little children, but when they grow up and your country de- clares them enemies you’re going to cut their guts out?” He concluded, “I knew at that point that I could not fol- low Him [God] and develop myself as a soldier.”

Harding has done a lot to inspire through his work in the Civil Rights movement and his time spent working for peace all over the world, but for me, this story is as much of an inspiration

as anything else he has done.
As a Mennonite, I have always called myself a pacifist even though I

have never had to prove it in any way. Secretly, there is a part of me that

says pacifism is impossible.
The more I have studied history,

the louder this voice has gotten.
I regularly have to deal with the idea that there are times when the practitio- ners of pacifism would have been killed

without accomplishing anything.
In fact, there are so few examples of pacifists who got stuff done that I sometimes forget that they existed at

all. So, when I heard Vincent Harding tell his story I felt hopeful.

I was not hearing about pacifism from an idealistic college student, or somebody who had been indoctrinated from birth in the infallibility of non-violence. Instead, I was inspired by a man who had tried the military and tried non-violence but accomplished much more with non-violence.

History may not be full of men like Harding, but it is nice to be reminded that a commitment to non-violence can accomplish great things.

On a campus that deals in the theory of peaceful change, Harding’s visit can remind us that although our belief in peace may be naïve, it can also be effective.

For me and other people who aspire to Anabaptist ideals, the opportunity to see Harding is more than an opportunity to see a great speaker.

He gives us a chance to remind ourselves why we believe what we do.

-David Yoder, Co-Editor In Chief


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