November 11 is Veterans Day in the United States. Those who have read my book, Choosing Life, will know that I am a pacifist going way back. So what can I say when the country is supposed to be focusing on thanking veterans for their service?
Well, first, I say thank you also. My father served in WWII. I value the courage and integrity of many in the military. The political leadership, not the military, chooses war as a tool of policy. My issue lies with the uses made of the military not with the sincerity of soldiers who believe they are fighting for their country.
Second, whatever the value or necessity of war in settling group conflicts in history, I believe that war today is unjustifiable. The risk of escalation to weapons of mass destruction and the inability to define any sort of proportionality make the old concepts of honor and just war obsolete. This reality in no way denigrates those who have served. And it is not my opinion alone — even the Pope in a recent encyclical questions whether such a thing as just war is still meaningful.
I close with an excerpt from the final “oracle” of the contemplative Catholic Father Thomas Keating to which you can listen in full here:
“In the universe, an extraordinary moment of civilization seems to be overtaking us….It’s a time of enormous expectancy and possibility. . . . This is the moment to manifest this world, by showing loving concern for poverty, loving appreciation for the needs of the world, and opportunities for accelerated development. . . . I make this humble suggestion, that now arms-making is of no significance in the world. It hinders its progress. . . . What does [God] care about who has this or other lands, when the power to begin with the truest history is coming from religion as expression of the Source that has been realized for centuries? Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, Indigenous, and Christianity—all religions—oneness is their nature. Amen.*
*From Thomas Keating, Fr. Thomas Keating’s Last Oracle (Contemplative Network: 2020), transcription (October 2018),