The Draft and Conscientious Objection at Bethel College

<< Previous Essay || Next Essay >>

Director Knight felt there is definitely no need to panic and he strongly advised that students retain their deferment status. No assurance can be given, according to Knight, because area quotas will still have to be met and if a particular area has no one with a number below 300 then the fellow with 301 will be called. — The Clarion¹

The draft board informed me that I had used up all my appeals and hence my induction order would stand. … I appealed to the government appeal agent who read my paper and asked me some questions to ascertain my sincerity. He said that he would discuss the situation with the board and I would get further information later. The board then reconsidered my case… — Roger Wiens²

Most of my friends were supportive [of my decision to file for Conscientious Objector status], whether in agreement or not. … My girlfriend (Cambridge, Minnesota) was upset. She had a preconceived notion of CO’s from those she had met before. It took some time for her to accept the idea. After we broke up, I began dating a girl on campus. She, although not quite in full agreement with my views, agreed to appear as a witness at my hearing. Later she expressed her willingness to believe that God was leading me. — David Heikkila³

When asked to reflect on the overarching theme of the Vietnam years at Bethel College, long-time professor of History and Political Science G. William Carlson was quick to respond: the draft. “The role of the draft forc[ed] everyone — every male anyway — to wrestle with the war. I remember every day the lottery was done. Everyone went scrambling immediately to find where they were. If you were in the top fifty… was fifty enough?” For Carlson, the draft forced a debate on campus which underlined every other topic of discussion during the Vietnam decade; it was “the preeminent explanation of the brutality of the arguments” and served as the central, unifying theme of the Vietnam experience at Bethel.⁴

G. William Carlson

G. William Carlson

While the documentary record of the period does not suggest that the draft played as pivotal a role as Carlson contends, the draft was clearly a major force in students’ lives and pervaded campus culture from 1966 to 1970. Demonstrating the gallows humor that the draft inspired, a farcical essay from November 1966 narrated the author’s fictitious descent into an insane asylum as he prepared for final exams. After missing several classes and losing a girlfriend to his roommate, the author was informed by the local draft board that his student deferment had expired; his grades were too low. Finally launched into madness by the unpalatable dorm food, the piece ends on a high note: “I’m really fine now. They are going to let me out this afternoon. They have to. I’ve been drafted.”⁵ More seriously, a 1967 campus poll revealed that students ranked civil rights and Vietnam as leading national problems. The men, uniquely, were inclined toward concern for the draft.⁶

That concern is unsurprising given the substantial uptick in inductees over the previous years, and highlights one of the many reasons examining the draft at Bethel is critical: the draft was a major source of anxiety for the men on campus — and their mothers, wives, girlfriends, and female friends. Furthermore, it was an issue which placed professors and administrators in a difficult position, one which required them to serve as counselors, confidants, and occasionally, conspirators for those who chose to resist or flee the country. Importantly for Bethel, the draft also prompted serious reflection on what it meant for Christians, as self-proclaimed disciples of Christ, to follow the man who claimed to be the Prince of Peace — reflection which sometimes forced students on strength of conscience towards uncomfortable and inconvenient answers. Finally, while the two World Wars had seen the pervasive mobilization of American society towards military production, Vietnam saw no comparable public reorientation, certainly not from the generation of youthful baby-boomers for whom total war was their parents’ experience. Of all the problems the Vietnam War raised then, it was the draft which most directly affected students’ lives, claiming as it did the authority to uproot and fling young men across the globe as minute components in the American military apparatus.

The Selective Service system as it stood on the eve of the Vietnam War was the inheritor of a long history of both innovation and continuity. Although American men had faced systematic involuntary conscription as early as the Civil War, the origins of the modern draft system lie in World War I. The Selective Service Act of 1917 had established the basic organizational parameters of the modern system, including a reliance of local draft boards made up of ordinary citizens to meet quotas and adjudicate draft appeals, the principle of deferments for certain individuals, and legislative mandate which required periodic renewal. The Act also enshrined two underlying principles: the scientific management of manpower resources and the notion of an egalitarian, universal obligation for public service. Although clearly rooted in the early 20th century ethos of technocratic management and expansionary democracy, those principles continued to guide the draft system through a series of amendments to its end in 1973.⁷ The general structure of the draft, however, remained unchanged.

Lewis Hershey - AP

Lewis Hershey – AP

That continuity was ensured in large part by the system’s leader, General Lewis B. Hershey, a career military man with a background in the Indiana National Guard. Hershey was tapped by Roosevelt in 1941 to head the newly established Selective Service Administration (SSA), a post he retained until forced out by Richard Nixon in 1970, making him the longest serving head of the SSA. For perspective, Hershey, who was born in 1893, first saw military action against Mexico during a border clash in 1916; the next year he was shipped to France as part of the Allied Expeditionary Force. Hershey’s longevity allowed him to personally shape the draft within — and occasionally arguably outside of — his administration’s legislative mandate. Beginning with the 1948 renewal of the SSA system, Hershey stamped his personal views, predilections, and prejudices on the system, as a Kennedy aid tactfully noted in 1962.⁸

The result was a fairly static system. As draft historian George Flynn notes, the SSA young men encountered in the early 1960s was virtually unchanged from the system that had inducted their fathers in the 1940s. The same old faces sat behind tables in the same old buildings reading applications made on the same forms.⁹ Due to the twin influence of declining manpower needs in the 1950s and the windfall of eligible baby-boomers in the early 1960s, draft calls had steadily fallen, leading the Kennedy administration in 1962 to consider switching to an All Volunteer Force (AVF). However, the military itself resisted what it saw as an inevitable erosion of strength levels, and the effort was stillborn. Instead of an AVF, the SSA moved toward issuing more and varied types of deferments; the surplus of available men, combined with the relatively few casualties of the Korean War, had expanded the draft pool to immense proportions. In 1964, for example, nearly seventeen million men were in the eligible age cohort of eighteen-and-one-half to twenty-six.¹⁰ As a result, young men in 1962 — the year with the lowest draft call before the Americanization of the war — could hold one of nearly two dozen different classifications, most of which deferred or otherwise exempted a man from the draft.¹¹ Among the classifications most relevant to college students at a Christian college in the early 1960s were:

  • I-A: available for unrestricted military service
  • I-A-O: Conscientious Objector (CO), available for all non-combatant military service.
  • I-O: Conscientious Objector to all military service, including non-combatant
  • II-S: Deferment for college students (ended in December 1971)
  • II-D/IV-D: Deferment for divinity student or active minister

Thus, on the eve of the escalation of the Vietnam War, the basic structure of the draft system had been largely untouched since 1948, save for periodic tinkering with classifications and deferments in response to changing manpower needs and demographic shifts. Two facts are worth noting: first, the draft had operated continuously since World War Two, inducting anywhere from over half a million men in 1951 during the Korean War to as few as 82,060 in 1962. And second, the draft enjoyed a relatively high acceptance, largely due to the minuscule proportion of draftees compared to the total draft pool; as late as 1965, over sixty-one percent of senior high school students thought the draft was fair.¹² This figure would decline precipitously through the end of the decade. Yet before the protests of the 1960s the draft system was widely accepted. This central paradox of the draft — that a system of mandatory conscription once flourished in a country obsessed with individual liberty — is partially accounted for by the use of local boards; by delegating authority, the SSA wisely tapped into a vein of historic American republicanism. In doing so, it protected itself from significant reform, even through the anti-war and anti-draft protests of the 1960s. Although buffeted by waves of dissention, the draft system would persist through the entire war.


Air Force Advertisement

Air Force Advertisement

The first appearance of the Vietnam-era draft at Bethel College was innocuous enough. A small notice graced the Clarion in October 1963 reminding students to turn their form SS109 in to the registrar; failure to do so endangered II-S student deferment status.¹³ That placid acceptance of the draft at Bethel during this stage of the war extended over the next two years through the fall of 1966. Over that period, no campus publication gives any evidence of a debate over the draft. Indeed, the evidence suggests the opposite. In May 1964, the Clarion ran a recruitment ad from the U.S. Air Force. Aimed at college graduates, the ad promoted the benefits of earning a commission as an officer, either through the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), a co-curricular college program which promised tuition assistance in return for service as an officer after graduation, or through enrollment in the Air Force Officer Training School. Doing so offered trainees the thrill of “[flying] an aircraft entrusted with a vital defense mission,” as well as the pleasure of knowing they would “be helping to run an organization that’s essential to the safety of the free world.”¹⁴

Inaugural Peace Corps class in 1961 - U.S. State Department

Inaugural Peace Corps class in 1961 – U.S. State Department

A year later, the draft continued to be an insignificant issue on campus. William Coleman, a Peace Corps member recently returned from a teaching assignment in Liberia, visited the campus as part of a tour of local colleges. When a faculty member asked Coleman what his reception from students had been, he was upbeat in his assessment, commenting that students at Bethel had been the most interested and enthusiastic of all the colleges he had visited. Furthermore, not one student had yet asked whether the Peace Corps exempted one from the draft — a common question on other campuses.¹⁵ Although it is impossible to know whether Coleman’s comments were insincere flattery or accurate reporting, the tidbit about the draft rings more true than the other statements, particularly when set against the tenor of Vietnam sentiment on campus at that time, as demonstrated by a brace of Clarion articles. A May 1966 article by Doug Ring attacked anti-war protestors and pacifists, arguing that they had been co-opted by communists: “America seems to fall victim to a vicious cycle. College students protest. Communists propagandize. Their people respond by continuing the war.” Protest, Ring argued, demoralized U.S. troops in Vietnam and encouraged America’s enemies to continue to resist. Only by uniting in a common front against communism could America defeat the enemy.¹⁶ At the start of the fall semester of 1966, John Sailhamer, another student, penned a piece avowing increased military aggression. Comparing U.S. aggression in Vietnam to involvement in Korea and World War One, Sailhamer openly rejected the need for international approval, calling it a “subterfuge.” Concluding that “the United States cannot be content with waiting for peace,” Sailhamer argued that America must “make peace. And to make peace requires force.”¹⁷

David Miller burns his draft card - Syracuse New Times

David Miller burns his draft card – Syracuse New Times

The hawkishness evidenced by these articles suggests just how far Bethel was from mainstream collegiate culture through 1966. Consider two well-known cases of war opposition which Ring’s article mentioned in passing. On October 15, 1965, David Miller, a twenty-four year old activist in the Catholic Worker Movement burned his draft card on the steps of a Manhattan induction center. Arrested three days later, Miller would spend twenty-two months in federal prison after the Supreme Court ruled his actions were not symbolic speech deserving full protection. Less than a month later, a thirty-one year old Baltimore Quaker called Norman Morrison sat on the Pentagon lawn below Secretary of Defense Robert Mcnamara’s office, doused himself in gasoline, and struck a match in protest of the war. Morrison’s self-immolation was possibly in emulation of the earlier Thích Quảng Đức, a Buddhist monk who committed the same act in 1963. Beyond these extreme examples, student opposition to the war and the draft was mounting in the nation’s public universities. In March 1965, University of Michigan students conducted the first teach-in against the war; students at Berkeley burned draft cards in May. Bethel’s near-total non-participation in larger trends of increasing opposition to the draft is especially stark when contrasted with these examples. However, that September 1966 Clarion article marked an important shift at Bethel: it was the last pro-war, hawkish editorial to appear in the newspaper and heralded a shift in attitude on campus towards the war generally and the draft specifically.¹⁸

North Vietnamese Norman Morrison commemorative stamp

North Vietnamese Norman Morrison commemorative stamp

Between the fall of 1966 and the spring of 1967, some evidence of discontent of the draft began to appear at Bethel. In October, the Clarion published a two article series released by the Collegiate Press Service, an AP wire-type journalism service for college newspapers. The series, written by Roger Rapoport, documented the increasing trend of young Americans migrating to Canada to avoid the draft. The first article followed Bob Thomas (not his real name) from graduation and I-A status through his decision to migrate and his experiences since. “‘From up here,’” the article quoted Thomas saying, “‘America really looks like it’s going nuts… it’s on its way to a collective nervous breakdown.’” Once in Canada, Thomas found a job at the University of Toronto with the help of the Student Union for Peace Action, a Canadian affiliate of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). In spite of his opposition to the Vietnam War (“I think if I was in North Viet Nam I might join up. Ho is far superior to Ky”), Thomas claimed his decision was not politically motivated:

Personal freedom is the reason I came up here. I want to have the right to say no to people. I’ve got better things to do than be used like a robot-like killer dog in the Army. No one has the right to drop napalm on people. I want the right to run my own life.¹⁹

The second article focused on the efforts of Canadians and American expatriates to welcome new draft evaders. Setting the tone, Canadian Army Corporal Ron McIntosh told reporters that he’d “always thought a man had an obligation to go fight where his country tells him to,” but that “it seems… that the United States hasn’t given its boys much of an explanation on why they should go to Viet Nam. So if they want to come up here to escape the draft it’s fine with me.”²⁰

Draft evaders in Canada, 1965-74 - Northern Passage

Draft evaders in Canada, 1965-74 – Northern Passage

While Rapoport concluded the article by describing the ways in which Canadian officials welcomed evading Americans, the reality was significantly more complex. Between 1965 and 1974, nearly 26,000 American men and slightly more women migrated to Canada as part of a mass political exodus.²¹ Until 1966, the Canadian Immigration Act made no reference to the draft or military status of potential emigres. In January of that year, Tom Kent, the Deputy Minister of Immigration, drew up Operational Memorandum (OM) 117, which delineated between draft and military resisters and began the codification of Canadian policy on the issue. For draft evaders, OM117 proved beneficial, stating that “Officers will not refuse an immigrant solely on the grounds that he is known to be, or suspected of being, a draft evader.” Military evaders, on the other hand, received unwelcome news: military resisters would “not be issued a visa or granted admission until [they had] submitted proof of [their] discharge.” Years later, Kent remembered drafting the memorandum: “I just decided that persons shouldn’t be questioned about their draft status… It was made known that draft status had nothing to do with it.”²² While some forces within the Canadian government pushed for liberalization of the policy between 1966 and 1969, the fear of Canada’s powerful southern neighbor checked progress. Kent remembered, “there was a very firm view that the Americans would protest, would be angry; exactly how far it would go, et cetera, no idea, but we couldn’t, openly at least, accept deserters, treat deserters like draft evaders.”²³ And if liberalization for military evaders was a distant hope, even the directive to allow draft evaders into the country was met with resistance by line staff Canadian immigration officials; In 1969, 234 of the 353 immigration officers were Canadian military veterans.²⁴ The picture painted by the Clarion article, then, was entirely too rosey. Americans fleeing to Canada encountered a host of difficulties. Expatriates were well aware of these problems, and as the article reported, had formed a number of organizations to facilitate migration. The Student Union for Peace Action and the Fellowship for Reconciliation, a Christian pacifist group, were two the organizations Rapoport noted. The article concluded with comments by General Hershey which suggested a nonchalant attitude: “This isn’t anything new. There’s always been people who’ve left their country to avoid conscription.”²⁵

Douglas Ring as a sophomore, 1966 Spire - BUDL

Douglas Ring as a sophomore, 1966 Spire – BUDL

Because these two articles were not written by a Bethel student, they indicate few concrete facts about evolving attitudes toward the draft on campus. Yet their inclusion in the Clarion, combined with no wellspring of debate in the letters to the editor section in the issues after, suggests that attitudes were changing. The strident anticommunism and hawkishness of Doug Ring and John Sailhamer had disappeared and in its place were articles which sought to inform and document the draft debate.

While most of those who fled to Canada vehemently opposed the war and the draft and were motivated by aspect of leftist political thought, the relationship between those three variables was not always clear. An interviewee in Rapoport’s first article suggests as much, telling the reporter about a draft evader who was a “right-wing type from Arizona… He was a sort of Jeffersonian-type Democrat who didn’t want to fight in Vietnam. His parents even agreed.”²⁶ Liberalism, draft opposition, and war opposition thus did not always go hand-in-hand. In May 1967 the Clarion published an editorial by U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield, a prominent figure in the evolving evangelical left movement.²⁷ Hatfield, a Republican senator from Oregon, argued that the time had come to end the draft. The draft system as it existed in 1967 was “involuntary servitude,” and should only be the “last desperate resort for meeting military manpower needs.” Notably, Hatfield did not critique the war in any way, although he was well known for such a position. Instead, Hatfield focused on the threat the draft posed to individual liberty and to military effectiveness, suggesting that an AVF which was better paid would be a superior force. Hatfield’s conclusion — “It is time we made the firm decision to put an end to inequity, put an end to uncertainty, put an end to inefficiency, and regain for our young people the liberties the draft has taken from them” — is a conclusion that united a conservative critique of the draft with the reasoning of the left.²⁸

Mark Hatfield - Wikimedia Commons

Mark Hatfield – Wikimedia Commons

Neither the Hatfield editorial nor the pair of articles covering draft evaders in Canada directly reflect Bethel opinion. Towards the end of the spring 1967 semester, the Clarion carried an announcement which did reflect Bethel directly. John Esau, the pastor of Faith Mennonite Church, had been invited by the Social Committee to lead a discussion in the Bethel Coffeehouse on alternatives to the draft. The Clarion did not record reactions to the event, but Jill Graham, the head of the Social Committee, noted in the piece that she had heard Esau speak around the Twin Cities and was impressed with his thoughts.²⁹

As Bethel students’ views on the draft evolved, the national landscape was shifting. Hatfield’s editorial was not merely a contribution to the national discourse by a Senator, it was a salvo in the ongoing debates over the re-extension of the Selective Service Act due up in the summer of 1967. As President Johnson pursued a policy of Americanizing the ground war in Vietnam, draft calls correspondingly increased. In 1964, just over one hundred thousand men were conscripted; in 1965, over two hundred thousand were called up. Draft calls peaked for the entire war in 1966 with nearly four hundred thousand men inducted, but 1967 still saw 228,263 men drafted.³⁰ The Selective Service Act of 1967, passed in June, ended deferments for graduate school with limited exceptions for students in health fields. College and university officials offered apocalyptic warnings — Harvard’s president, Nathan Pusey, warned that the only graduate school enrollees come fall 1967 would be “the lame, the halt, the blind, and the female” — but were met with blunt dismissal.³¹

Phil Linden, 1967 Spire - BUDL

Phil Linden, 1967 Spire – BUDL

At Bethel, the changes to the draft law had few repercussions. The majority of students were unaffected, although the rules for acceptable degree progression were tightened. College student deferments ended upon the completion of a four year degree (with one quarter of the total degree credits completed each year) or upon the student’s twenty-fourth birthday, whichever came first. As most of Bethel’s students were undergraduates, the changes had little practical effect except for increasing the pressure to successfully pass courses. Seminary students retained their IV-D divinity deferment, a decision which made possible the actions of one anonymous Bethel senior. Philip Linden, who graduated with a psychology degree in 1967, remembered a classmate who enrolled in Bethel Seminary, not out of interest in a career in the pastorate, but as a means of avoiding the draft. That student, Linden recalled, was hauled before Gordon Johnson, the Seminary Dean, and dressed down for his actions. Despite Johnson’s fury over someone using seminary to escape the draft, there was little he could do.³² Perhaps the most visible change at Bethel were the periodic updates the Clarion ran to update students on the new regulations.

1965 Ann Arbor Draft Board sit-in - KingsAcademy

1965 Ann Arbor Draft Board sit-in – KingsAcademy

In October 1967 a crisis broke which had been brewing for two years. On October 15, 1965 a group of students and professors at the University of Michigan broke into the local draft board office and conducted a sit-in as part of a coordinated national protest. After thirty-nine hours, the police removed the protesters, arrested them, and charged them with trespassing. Shortly thereafter, Arthur Holmes, the Michigan state director phoned General Hershey and the two decided that the protesters should lose their student deferments and be reclassified I-A, ready for induction.³³ The decision represented the first time reclassification had been used as a punitive measure against draft protesters and set the dangerous precedent of using the draft as a tool of political censorship. Indeed, the move sparked protest from some quarters, including several congressmen and 101 law professors at nine universities who denounced Hershey’s actions as using the SSA — an administrative body — to execute a legal decision.³⁴

Vietnam protest in Washington, DC - International Staff Ride

Vietnam protest in Washington, DC – International Staff Ride

In 1967, two years after the Michigan protests, Washington DC was wracked with several hundred protesters who dumped sacks of draft cards at the Justice Department and marched from the Lincoln Memorial to the Pentagon. President Johnson activated the national guard to corral the protesters who met the crowds with drawn bayonets. Seething, Johnson phoned Hershey to find a way to punish the “s.o.b.’s”; Hershey suggested the Ann Arbor option which Johnson approved. Ten days later, Hershey in a letter to all local draft boards laid out the new policy: all those who committed acts which violated the the draft process should be reclassified. Those acts included interfering with recruitment or ROTC, turning in a draft card, and participating in a significant draft protest. The Ann Arbor policy thus became official SSA policy and was to be imposed on all men up to age thirty-five.³⁵

Johnson

Johnson

The publication of the Hershey Letter ignited a firestorm of controversy. The presidents of Princeton, Stanford, Pennsylvania, Harvard, Dartmouth, Cornell, Columbia, and Brown universities all wrote Johnson to express their outrage; several threatened to ban recruiting on campus. In response, Johnson directed the Justice Department to release a statement in December clarifying the Hershey Letter. The statement, which only furthered the controversy, supposedly clarified the line between SSA-led administrative action and criminal and civil liability handled by the courts. However, neither Johnson nor Hershey refuted the Hershey Letter, and both faced withering criticism. Senators Edward Kennedy, Philip Hart, Mark Hatfield, Jacob Javits, and Clifford Case offered a bill to overturn the directive and the National Student Association sued Hershey. With the threat of a congressional hearing into the matter looming, Johnson announced on March 31, 1968 that he would not seek a second term.³⁶

The Hershey Letter caused a substantial, three-session debate between the members of Bethel’s Student Senate. Senator L. Ray Sammons introduced a bill during the January 9, 1968 meeting which addressed the letter:

Whereas the activities of the United States Armed Forces and of the department which is by statute called the Department of Defense are not above reproach, and

Whereas certain rulings of the director of the Selective Service System can be considered intolerant, unfair, and contrary to the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America,

Be it therefore resolved by the Bethel College Student Association in Senate represented that:

  • The appearance of recruiters for either the military or peace-movements on this campus is not the be taken as a sign of endorsement by this Association.
  • Recruiters for the military should not be allowed on this campus so long as the “Hershey Letter” remains in effect.
  • If recruiters from any military or peace organization wish to operate on this campus, that one week’s public notice be required so that those who wish to peacefully oppose or counter-recruit or inform may have an opportunity to do so.
  • In no way shall this resolution be held to stifle the views or expression of these views by anyone.”³⁷

As the minutes note, Sammons

explained that the war in Viet Nam was highly debatable from religious and moral perspectives as well as from political, economic, or historical perspectives, and that it became necessary that Bethel in no way take a position on either side of the issue. He further stated that the “Hershey Letter” was an insult to the academic spirit of any educational institution and that counter-recruiters and non-violent demonstrators should have an opportunity to express their opposition to whoever is operating on campus.³⁸

L. Roy Sammons

L. Roy Sammons

Aside from fellow Senator Greg Taylor’s request for more information about the Hershey Letter, the meeting ended with no further comment.

At the next meeting of the Senate on January 18, Sammons divided the question four ways to allow each point of the resolution to be debated individually. Point one and four were passed summarily, but point three garnered more debate. Feeling that the use of “required” was too strong, Greg Taylor moved to substitute “requested,” a change which was approved. Approved as well was an amendment which struck the point after the word “requested,” much to the bewilderment of Sammons. The changes, although small, suggest the political leanings of the Senate. Likely, the language of peaceful opposition and “counter-recruit” was too charged for the right-leaning members of the Senate. Dissecting roll call votes indicates that the 1967-68 Senate had two consistently left-leaning members — Sammons and Ken Brown — several swing voters, notably Greg Taylor and Dave Shupe among others, and four hawks on the right: Tom Wilkinson, Aurora Gamboa, Bruce Mulligan, and Sheldon DeLuca.³⁹

Ken Brown, Class of '69 (History)

Ken Brown, Class of ’69 (History)

After dismissing several perfunctory matters at the start of the February 12th meeting, the Senate settled down to debate the third point in Sammons’ resolution — the line regarding military recruiters on campus. Unfortunately, the minutes reveal little content of the debate, only that “there was much discussion both in favor and against this resolution.” As the debate concluded, the Senators began amending the resolution to fit their convictions. Greg Taylor quickly stripped out the “not” of the resolution, allowing recruiters on campus; Sammons pursued him down to an amendment to an amendment to an amendment, but was defeated. Sensing that the ban could not pass the Senate, Sammons shifted towards intensifying the language condemning the Hershey Letter. In this effort, he was supported by Ken Brown and a bevy of other Senators who were successful in inserting the desired language. After a final attempt to reinsert the word “not,” Sammons (supported only by Brown) tried his usual tactic: a flurry of nine motions designed to stall the inevitable, all of which were defeated. The resolution passed ten to two and the meeting was adjourned ten to two. Although the final two votes were not enacted via roll call, there is little doubt that the two dissenters were Sammons and Brown. The final resolution, the result of three Senate sessions, read:

  1. The appearance of recruiters for either the military or peace-movements on this campus is not the be taken as a sign of endorsement by this Association.
  2. Recruiters for the military should be allowed on this campus; however, it is the opinion of the Student Association that the Hershey letter is not in the best interests of the Bethel College Student Association, the students in general, and to the country, and it is the opinion of the Student Association that the ‘Hershey Letter’ is unfair and unconstitutional.
  3. If recruiters from any military or peace organization wish to operate on this campus, then one week’s public notice be requested.
  4. In no way shall this resolution be held to stifle the views or expression of these views by anyone.⁴⁰

While hardly a ringing denouncement of the Hershey Letter and the draft, the resolution and the process by which it was arrived reveal some of the ambivalence about the draft among students. Although Sammons and Brown’s minority position was not attractive enough to secure the strong language they desired, but they were able to pull enough swing votes to secure the amendments declaring the Hershey Letter unconstitutional. And in the end, the resolution passed near-unanimously (especially considering the likelihood that the two dissenting votes were from Sammons and Brown).

Richard Westby as a sophomore, 1955 Spire - BUDL

Richard Westby as a sophomore, 1955 Spire – BUDL

Bethel’s administrators, on the other hand, felt no such ambivalence about banning the Peace literature table in February 1969 during Founders’ Week. Richard Westby, the former director of the Bethel Center (a evangelical house in Minneapolis’ Seward neighborhood that ministered to urban youth), penned a letter of protest against the ban to the Clarion in which he critiqued the attitudes held by Baptist General Conference (BGC) members about the draft: “Most people are completely ignorant of different alternatives, for the most common comment is ‘When the Army calls, you gotta go.’” It was the role of the church, Westby argued, to “help young men make moral decisions by providing literature, counsel, and opportunities to discuss the complicated social issues of war, peace, violence, draft, resistance, pacifism, international relations, communism,” as “young men of draft age are faced with a momentous moral decision…” As “silence on the part of the church only confirms the belief that the church and the military have an unwritten alliance,” Westby hoped “that the removal of the Peace literature table during Founders’ Week [was] not symbolic of our refusal to face honestly a particularly moral issue.”⁴¹ Westby never received an answer, but there are indications Bethel administrators were well aware of the problem.

The Clarion 1968-12-06 - BUDL

The Clarion 1968-12-06 – BUDL

In May 1969, President Lundquist responded to a query from the president of Trinity College about ROTC at Bethel. Trinity, like other Christian colleges, was considering implementing a program and its president wanted the input of other Christian schools before making a decision. (In the 1950s and 1960s, Wheaton and Calvin, two of the largest and most respected Christian colleges had taken opposite approaches. While the former opted to begin an ROTC program, the latter did not. As a former Navy officer during World War II, Wheaton’s president, Hudson Armerding, decided to make his school’s ROTC program mandatory for all male students.⁴²) In his response, Lundquist made clear that while Bethel had had the opportunity to add an ROTC program, it had declined, “more out of a desire to conserve our corporate energies than because of any philosophic commitment.” Lundquist’s approach to the issues a military-collegiate enterprise inevitably raised was broad and irenic. While he personally saw no difficulty involving a college institution with a program which was “seeking to serve the public good in augmenting the military preparedness of our nation,” Lundquist acknowledged that legitimate Christian answers to the question would vary depending on the individual approached. With a nod to the increased discontent on his own campus, Lundquist concluded that adding an ROTC program at Bethel would only “create needless tensions” and distract the institution from its larger aims.⁴³

Lundquist in 1968

Lundquist in 1968

Lundquist’s deduction was probably correct. The Student Senate’s reaction to the Hershey Letter had already demonstrated some desire to ban recruiting from campus and Bethel had already seen at least one recruiting event heavily protested — a coffeeshop discussion with the Army in February 1968.⁴⁴ Yet neither the Senate nor Lundquist ever banned recruiting, in spite of the outbursts of anger it sometimes caused. In 1970, Jon Fagerson, an English professor, was so overcome by his opposition to the Marine recruiting taking place in the coffeeshop that he nearly came to blows with one of the officers; the Dean had to step and and separate the two men. The incident prompted Fagerson’s apology in the Clarion the following week.⁴⁵ Similarly, recruiting inspired a letter in November of that year from Evan Anderson, class of ‘74. In a jaded and resigned tone, Anderson wrote:

God says thou shall not kill. Then why does Bethel let the Marines recruit future killers? Don’t be a hypocrite. Christians, there are no two sides to being a Christian. So don’t give me that jive about military duty, obligation or necessity. To kill is a sin, right or wrong? (Oops, I forgot, this is a Christian campus.)⁴⁶

Recruiting showed no signs of stopping; in November 1972, the Marines were back on campus, this time to no documented protest.

Hershey meets protest - Selective Service National Headquarters

Hershey meets protest – Selective Service National Headquarters

Nixon

Nixon

By 1968, the draft had achieved the status of permanent thorn in the side of the American presidency. Johnson had been arguably forced out of the race in part due to draft-related pressures, and after the November election, the incoming Nixon administration geared up to deal with draft reform. Nixon had pledged to end the draft, but only after the war in Vietnam was won, leaving a limited number of options to defuse protesters. Although Nixon’s administration attempted to address a number of critiques, the most pressing was the accusation of the systematic racism and classism of the draft. While draft historian George Flynn has argued that these supposed problems were not substantiated by the actual draft data, the accusations had great domestic political pull.⁴⁷ The issue of college deferments, which invited the accusation that the rich could buy their way out of the draft (in reality, 56 percent of college-educated men served while only 46 percent of non-college men did the same), was central in aiding calls for a lottery system to equalize draft exposure among young men. However, college deferments were also a closely defended issues by a majority in Congress. To compound the problem, Hershey opposed a lottery system, leading Nixon to plan his ouster in 1970. The General was awarded a fourth star and eased into another assignment. As Flynn described him, Hershey had become “like an embarrassing corpse in a murder mystery, which kept falling out of closets or appearing in bathtubs to the general consternation of the host.”⁴⁸

December 1 Lottery - Landscaper

December 1 Lottery – Landscaper

The system which was announced on November 26, 1969 instituted a national lottery based on birth dates. At specified drawings, men would be assigned a draft number in sequence from 1 to 365 which would determine the order of the draft calls. Each man would only be exposed to the draft during a single year window at age 19.⁴⁹ The first lottery took place on December 1, 1969 and was a mild disaster. The birth dates had been placed into capsules and then into a large glass bowl and stirred; however, they had been placed into the bowl in order, first to last, and the stirring was inadequate to thoroughly mix the dates. As a consequence, those with birthdays in the latter months of the years were significantly more likely to have lower draft numbers.⁵⁰ As a result of the debacle, Nixon was more committed than ever to end the draft and transition to an AVF. With a combination of reduced draft calls and improved control over the process, Nixon was able to reduce the importance of the draft as a source of protest.⁵¹

Maurice Lawson

Maurice Lawson

The results of the lottery were greeted at Bethel with sighs of relief for those who drew high numbers and apprehension for those who did not. G. William Carlson, a adjunct professor at the time, remembered that “everyone went scrambling immediately to find where they were. If you were in the top fifty… was fifty enough?”⁵² The Clarion announced that about 175 of the Bethel men had drawn numbers in the top third, no doubt provoking anxiety. (As an aside, my own birthday, September 26, would have given me the draft number 18 — an exceedingly low number and a guaranteed ticket to induction.) Two weeks later, Maurice Lawson, the campus pastor, organized an event for those men in order to discuss what the lottery results would mean for their lives. Lawson invited two Bethel alumni who were in the armed forces, Tom Getsch, a Navy man, and Harvey Frye, a twenty-two year veteran of the Marine Corps. The event as reported in the Clarion focused on what students — particularly Christian students — should expect from boot camp and military life in terms of challenges and opportunities. The focus on challenges Christian men might face in the military echoes a dominant theme of concern in the Conference during the same period, perhaps unsurprising, given Lawson’s close connection with the BGC (A graduate of Bethel College and then Bethel Seminary, Lawson taught English at the College for fourteen years before founding a BGC church in the Twin Cities (Olivet Church) and then pastoring another Conference church in Whittier California).⁵³ Getsch painted the Navy as a place of great opportunity: “It was a rough experience at the start but now I can say it was highly beneficial.” Likewise, Frye emphasized the experience the military could offer. The contours of the event suggest an acquiescence to the process. Getsch told students that they ought to accept whatever happened to them and to trust that it was part of God’s plan. None of the students were happy, but Lawson and the others encouraged them to make the best of the situation — certainly, no hint that draft resistance or evasion might be a possible course of action.⁵⁴

Minnesota Eight - MinnPost

Minnesota Eight – MinnPost

That muted reaction to the lottery system shows that most Bethel students were largely accepting of the draft. Absent entirely from Bethel’s campus were the kinds of radical anti-draft activities the Clarion reported early the following year. On the evening of February 28th, 1970, eight young activists broke into Twin Cities area draft offices and destroyed thousands of draft records, paralyzing Minnesota inductions for several months.⁵⁵ Five months later the group, calling itself “Beaver 55,” attempted a repeat performance in several rural Minnesotan towns. They were caught, arrested, and tried, with most serving prison sentences. Then on March 30th, the anti-draft group New Mobi encouraged students to flood draft offices with paperwork. Taking advantage of a SSA regulation that required registrants to inform their boards of changes in their “mental attitude” and a second provision that required boards to place in a registrant’s file any materials deposited, the group argued that activists could shut down the system in a paperwork war.⁵⁶ But those kinds of protests were uncommon, even on other campuses. And while no evidence suggests Bethel students took part in the Beaver or New Mobi events, several did take more radical action against the draft.

Malcolm Avey, 1967 Spire - BUDL

Malcolm Avey, 1967 Spire – BUDL

On October 17, 1969 the Clarion published a lengthy letter to the editor from a 1969 graduate, Malcolm Avey. Avey wrote from Canada, where he had lived for two months as a draft evader. “I thought that you might be interested in an article on how it is to be a dodger since a number of seniors will be thinking of this course in order to avoid the army,” Avey wrote, and proceeded to describe life in Canada. Although he encouraged students to consider the option, Avey was concerned with making sure they understood the magnitude of the decision, as well as the mentality required to succeed. Students should only leave the U.S., Avey wrote, “if they can no longer identify with it.” For those unwilling to discard their American selves and identify as Canadian, the transition would be rough, not least because in Avey’s experience, Canadians were nervous about American colonizing. However, “for those who feel the irrationalness and lawlessness of the American government and society is no great prize to give up,” Canada was a good option. Like the earlier Collegiate Press Service articles, Avey noted that he had been helped by several organizations set up to facilitate draft evasion, among them the Toronto Anti-draft Programme and the Union of American Exiles. These groups worked hard to ensure that “everything possible [was] done to make the transition from a schizophrenic America to a well-adjusted Canada as easy as possible.”⁵⁷

Avey was not the only documented Bethel student to flee to Canada. Professor G. William Carlson recalled another student who had been drafted, went through basic training, and deserted to flee to Canada. That student experienced disillusionment, depression, and despair — a common experience among American political exiles in Canada whose lives were uprooted by the draft.⁵⁸ Sam Griffith, a Bethel Conscientious Objector (CO) wrote of visiting Canada to scout out the possibility of emigrating. While he eventually decided to file for CO status, it was a decision he would not repeat — “If I could do it over again, I’d not have registered.”⁵⁹ Because of the nature of these students’ experience, little documentation exists. Carlson hints darkly that he and other professors were visited by government agents and interviewed about former students who had fled to Canada, but was unwilling to divulge more detail.⁶⁰

Fagerson and student ca. 1972 - Bethel University Digital Library

Jon Fagerson (English), an oft-mentioned student counselor – BUDL

Those stories do illustrate the difficult choices students faced in responding to the draft. Beyond the occasional protest and letter-to-the-editor that appear in the Clarion, students actually needed to come to terms with their own feelings on the draft and take appropriate action. Their options were limited and escalated rapidly in severity: abide by the system and be drafted as lottery number or classification allowed, seek deferments both honestly (by attending college if desired and possible) or dishonestly (enrolling in Seminary without the goal of entering the pastorate), file for Conscientious Objector status, go underground, or flee the country.

That Carlson has so many shadowy stories about the draft highlights the role of the professor as a guide, confidant, counselor, and friend to students as they made decisions about the draft. It was a role professors at Bethel took seriously. In December 1970, the Faculty Senate republished a seven page article by Richard Goodman entitled “A Selective Service Primer for Counselors.” The document covered the organization of the draft system, the various classifications students could receive, and the deferments available. It also gave advice on personal appearance and demeanor when appearing before the draft board, and cautioned counselors that “the philosophy of such counseling is non-directive. Draft counseling is seen as a service to the individual and as an end in itself.”⁶¹ It was an injunction that Carlson, among other faculty, took to heart, especially when it came to one group of Bethel students: the Conscientious Objectors.

The Conscientious Objectors (COs) at Bethel were a small group of students who could not reconcile their Christian faith with the demands of the draft and its entailed killing. They arrived at their stance by many different paths, but were united in opposition to the notion that Christians should participate in the violence of warfare.

The documents which form the basis of our knowledge of the Bethel COs require some explanation. As evident from his quotations throughout this article, G. William Carlson has been an invaluable source for information about Bethel during the Vietnam era. As a student from 1961-65, then as a professor of varying ranks from 1968 until his quasi-retirement in 2012 (he has taught at least one course every semester since), there are few people with a deeper institutional memory than Carlson. And as an historian and political scientist, Carlson is uniquely placed to document Bethel’s history. The basement of his house in Saint Paul contains his legendary library and files and rivals The History Center at Bethel. Thus, when I began researching the COs at Bethel, Carlson was the first person I turned to. In addition to the two hour interview he granted, Carlson dropped into my hands several thick folders of material, including his complete file of letters written to draft boards in support of CO applicants, a file of CO statements students had written for their applications, a set of surveys of Bethel COs conducted by Cedric Broughton, a student who researched the draft at Bethel in 1976, and Cedric’s completed paper.

MauriceZaffkeLetterofSupport

Cedric Broughton

Cedric Broughton

Although a treasure trove, the documents have limitations. In the first place, for as many as there are, the collection is fragmentary. Cedric’s survey list detailing the names and addresses of the men he mailed surveys to in 1976 contains the largest list of CO names — twenty — but not nearly all of those names have corresponding CO statements, survey responses, or Carlson letters to the draft board. Eight of the men did not respond to the survey and there is one response with no name and no clear match to the handwriting found in the other documents. The files contain six CO statements students made to their draft boards, and eight letters Carlson wrote for students, not all of which overlap. Additionally, some of the statements students made in their written documents suggest that Carlson was only one of six named professors who counseled students about their CO decision; it is entirely possible that these other professors have or had files pertaining to the students on my lists, or entirely different students. At the very least, I know of at least one CO student whose names appears nowhere in Carlson’s files. Finally, my dating of the materials is imprecise and in some cases impossible.

Timing Graph

CO Timings

Beyond the physical challenges, there are ethical and privacy issues. Many of the documents contain Social Security numbers and other private data which I have redacted from this study. Furthermore, I’m not certain whether the fact that these particular students were COs is a public matter; Carlson’s files were gained through his official capacity at the school and likely retain some degree of privacy expectations. Thankfully, Cedric Broughton’s work in 1976 forged a path forward. When soliciting survey responses, Cedric included a permissions release for both the survey answers and the CO statements of his subjects. Excepting one student who refused permission on both counts, all gave approval for the use of their materials. I have excluded that student’s information from this study beyond counting him in my total number of COs at Bethel. And while Cedric’s permissions did not mention the possibility of further research, I have decided that releasing one’s information in 1976, three years after the draft ended and before many of the wounds from Vietnam had healed, suggests counting on their consent to a research project in 2015 is probable.

Roger Wiens, 1967 Spire - BUDL

Roger Wiens, 1967 Spire – BUDL

Combined 1Demographically, the Bethel COs reveal few surprises. The thirteen men whose applications could be dated with some level of confidence show that Bethel’s CO activity began in 1968, peaked in 1970-71, and ended (at least those COs relevant to the Vietnam era) in 1975. This pattern roughly mirrors the data John Hagan has collected on draft evaders in Canada — albeit shifted by three years: a rapid climb, peak, then a gradual lessening in the numbers.⁶² The church backgrounds of the COs are somewhat more interesting. Eight of fourteen indicated backgrounds in the Baptist General Conference — unsurprising given the predominance of that denomination among Bethel’s student population — while one each mentioned experience in the Assemblies of God, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Evangelical Free Church, (unspecified) Lutheran church, Mennonite Brethren, and Southern Baptist Convention. Church backgrounds become somewhat more interesting when considering various motivations the COs expressed for their decision. By tabulating the different influences COs mentioned in response to an item on the Broughton survey (item 4, “Describe what influence, if any, a counselor at Bethel had upon your CO status”), we can arrive at a rough measure of the kinds of motivations students experienced. With ten incidences, Bethel professors were clearly the most influential on the students’ decisions to file for CO status. Classes and classwork were mentioned three times, and friends, personal exploration, and pre-formed beliefs were each mentioned twice. No student mentioned faith as an influence on how they arrived at their CO decision; it is probable that students assumed this influence so strongly that they did not mention it in their survey answers. Two students who indicated their CO beliefs were fully formed by the time they arrived at Bethel — Roger Wiens and Ken Rizzuti — perhaps not incidentally, were the same two who indicated a background in the Mennonite Brethren, one of the historic peace churches.

IMG_0002The professors students mentioned served in a variety of roles throughout the CO process: sounding board, counselor, agents of support and help, and pinch-hitters when appeals to the draft board went awry. As Sam Griffith remembered:

These wonderful people, and I mean that truly, allowed me time to think out loud and gave of themselves, [and] not just their time, so that I could shape my own feelings. They provided resources — [both] background materials and themselves — [to show] me avenues that needed to be explored.⁶³

Bob Goodsell

Bob Goodsell

The man mentioned most often, Roy C. “Doc” Dalton, was the chair of the history department throughout the period. Others were: Jon Fagerson (English), Art Lewis (Old Testament), James Johnson (History), and G. William Carlson (History and Political Science). It’s interesting to note that the entire History department excepting Richard Ward and Adolf Olson appear on this list. History majors were well represented among the COs, and their names appear disproportionately among the students most active in anti-war events. And while all evidence suggests professors kept their advice “non-directive,” it is not coincidental that the department most associated with heping COs through the process was one remembered as a hotbed of anti-Vietnam War sentiment. As Bob Goodsell (Class of 1975) remembered, his pursuit of a commission in the Marine Corps after graduation earned him frowns from faculty in the History and Political Science departments.⁶⁴

STRIKE Day protests - BUDL

STRIKE Day protests – BUDL

Aside from a disproportionately high number of history majors among the COs, none of their demographic information strongly distinguished the group from the rest of Bethel’s student population. The only clear factor that united the group (and hardly unexpected) was their opposition to the war. All strongly opposed the war using a variety of languages ranging from the moral reflection of a pacifistic Christianity to the Marxist language of economic reduction drawn from the New Left. Nearly half (six out of thirteen) were by their own admission heavily involved in campus anti-war activities. Harold Conrad demonstrated on Snelling Avenue as part of the STRIKE events of May 1970.⁶⁵ Sam Griffith organized a march on the Saint Paul Capitol after the Cambodian incursion.⁶⁶ Dave Shupe organized the 1969 Moratorium as Student Body President, the same Moratorium Dave Heikkila was involved in, as well as the Peace Club and the anti-Cambodian incursion teach-ins and pickets in 1970.⁶⁷ Joel Anderson remembered being angry, frustrated, and bitter at the U.S. role in Vietnam and developing “a feeling of shame as my country betrayed me, itself, and the world. There grew a feeling of hopelessness for America which still dominates my thinking and many others’ as well.”⁶⁸

David Heikkila, 1973 Spire - BUDL

David Heikkila, 1973 Spire – BUDL

Still, many other COs were reticent to link their political opposition to the war with their decision to file for CO status. Ken Rizzuti remembered keeping his views to himself as he was “particularly fearful of being associated with a fad” and Mark Steward expressed resentment at the wording Broughton’s survey used in assuming a connection between Vietnam and pacifism:

Although I took part in anti-Viet Nam demonstrations, I didn’t push my anti-war view on others unless they asked for my opinion. Viet Nam forced several Bethel students into considering the question. But somehow, I feel that our Christian basis for pacifism was not necessarily a part of the anti-Viet Nam sentiment we felt. Our opposition to the war, in other words, had many roots, whereas my anti-war convictions have one root: Jesus.⁶⁹

Indeed, Dave Heikkila outright denied any connection between Vietnam and his CO decision, saying “my feelings on the Viet Nam campaign had no bearing on the CO decision. My decision was based on the ethical and Biblical issues.” While it is difficult to accept uncritically that no such connection existed — after all, the issue of Selective Conscientious Objection had been litigated during Vietnam like no previous war — some students went to unexpected lengths to secure a CO if their position was based only on Vietnam.⁷⁰ Jack Priggen was one such student. Priggen had secured a II-S student deferment as a result of his study at Bethel, but when he drew a 354 in the December 1 lottery — leaving almost no chance he would be drafted in the coming year — Priggen initially decided to revert to I-A for the year in order to expire his eligibility. Partway through the year, Priggen had a change of heart: “I have become aware however that since I am a conscientious objector and have been for some time, I was being inconsistent by carrying a draft card with a I-A classification.”⁷¹ Although it was easier for him to simply retain the I-A classification for the remainder of 1970, Priggen felt his conscience demanded he go through the trouble of applying for CO status.

A family of WWII COs - Selective Service National Headquarters

A family of WWII COs – Selective Service National Headquarters

Beyond their opposition to the Vietnam War, the Bethel COs were also unified by their approach to the CO process, with some variation in the success they experienced. Their approach was both a reflection of their own theological priorities as mid-century evangelicals and a response to the historical constraints the CO process imposed upon applicants. Conscientious Objection has been a phenomenon associated with military conscription since the founding of the country. During World War One, COs were permitted to serve non-combatant roles within the military; a few refused any cooperation and were imprisoned and harshly treated.⁷² Only religious ministers and divinity students of the historic peace churches — the Church of the Brethren, the Friends (Quakers), and Mennonites — were granted CO status. As a consequence, the requirements for CO were designed to be satisfied by institutional membership in those churches only; individual sentiment was not taken into account and CO sentiment was validated by membership in a corporate body officially opposed to war. When the draft was reevaluated in 1940, the CO status was expanded beyond the peace churches to include those who were members of other pacifist sects and those who objected to war “based on religious training or belief.”⁷³ And during the Vietnam era, the 1971 Supreme Court ruling Gillette v. United States expanded the definition further to those opposed to war on philosophical, non-religious grounds.⁷⁴

During the majority of the Vietnam era then, in order to receive CO status, an applicant had to document through two forms, letters of support, and corroborating evidence their sincere and longstanding opposition to all forms of warfare and violence which was founded on a moral or religious principle and inculcated through religious training. In spite of wide support among religious organizations for the principle, the law did not recognize objection to specific war — the so-called “Selective Conscientious Objection” (SCO) position — seeing this as politically, not religiously or philosophically motivated.⁷⁵ Indeed, the issue of SCO was one which hovered just beyond the edges of many Bethel CO’s statements. The BGC, like other denominations, had tentatively endorsed SCO in 1966 and 1969. The decision to grant or deny the CO application was left to the local draft boards. Applicants retained the right to appeal decisions, first to the local board, and then to the district and regional office.

A unique approach to securing a ministerial deferment - BUDL

A unique approach to securing a ministerial deferment – BUDL

Practically speaking, the easiest way to obtain a CO, even with the revised laws, was through membership in an historic peace church. Consider the difficulty of proving a sincere pacifism grounded in theological commitment in light of the composition of most draft boards. Overwhelmingly, board members were older, rural, and veterans of World War II or Korea with little sympathy for pacifism. Furthermore, with little or no theological education, board members were hardly ideally placed to understand the sometimes complicated arguments COs put forward. Bethel COs responded almost uniformly to the hurdle the system imposed with a strategy highly revelatory of the theological priorities (and shatterpoints) of a mid-century evangelical subculture.

The first priority of the Bethel COs in their statements to their draft boards was to establish the Bible as an authority structure for their lives. Focusing on the inspiration and universal applicability of the Bible as a guide to morals, faith, and doctrine, the Bethel COs took great care to convey a deep level of respect and adherence to the Bible. Having established the Bible as the bedrock of faith, the Bethel COs moved towards developing an understanding of how to read the Bible. In most cases, students constructed a literalist, dispensationalist hermeneutic, positioning the New Testament as the inheritor and successor to the Old. In other words, where the two conflicted, the New Testament took precedence as the latest installment in a progressive revelation of the gospel. This construction allowed several COs to sidestep various counter-arguments centering on Israel’s Old Testament participation in divinely sanctioned warfare.

Al Mullin, 1973 Spire - BUDL

Al Mullin, 1973 Spire – BUDL

Having rooted the source of their religious convictions in the Bible and having explicated how the Bible should be read, the Bethel COs turned toward establishing their own credibility as followers of Jesus. Nearly all focused a substantial component of their essay on narrating a born again experience, describing how they were awakened to true faith and thus the inheritors of the promises and commandments of Jesus in the New Testament. Partially as a result of their biblicism — a doctrine which asserts the Bible is literally accurate in a plain sense and understandable by the common person — and partially as an artifact of their Baptist heritage, several of the COs de-emphasized the place of the church in their spiritual lives. Harold Conrad took this line of thought to extremes when he raised the typical fundamentalist canard that most churches are full of hypocrites, that is, Christians who only profess to follow Christ and do not live sufficiently holy lives to evidence their claims.⁷⁶ Baptists have historically been highly critical of denominationalism and have focused on the local church as the legitimate expression of the Kingdom of God; individual believers, not denominational structures, are capable of understanding and applying scripture. While the strategy of positioning the individual as personally responsible for interpreting scripture and expressing that understanding through actions was one consistent with the denominational heritage of the COs, it was precisely not what the applicants should have attempted given the history of the CO process. By distancing themselves from the theological and doctrinal heritage of their denominations, they likewise distanced themselves from exactly the kind of institutional support of their positions the draft boards sought. However, it is not clear that any of the COs understood this. Their strategy seemed more born of default evangelical assumptions about the structure of faith than a consciously thought-through strategy for passing the CO process. Indeed, several of the COs displayed striking analytical sloppiness or even poor judgement. At several points in his statement, Al Mullins seemed to struggle to separate the concept of CO convictions and born again faith. Perhaps in his mind CO status flowed so inexorably from born again faith that the conflation was not detected, but it seems unlikely that the board would have understood his testimony of acts of spiritual athleticism as evidence of prior expression of pacifist sentiment.⁷⁷ And in a display of exceedingly poor judgement, Harold Conrad ended his statement with what amounted to a textual alter call:

To anyone reading this may I tell you that 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ hung on a cross with nails in his hands and feet for you — you. Jesus loves you and will forgive you your sins if you ask him to — and follow him!⁷⁸

Conrad’s perplexing judgement was nearly equaled in humour by Al Mullins. Responding to a fairly straightforward question (“The name and present address of the individual on whom the applicant relies most for religious guidance in matters of conviction relating to his claims:”), Mullins wrote without a hint of the hilarity of his response: “I believe my greatest guide is the Holy Spirit.”⁷⁹

After establishing the vibrancy of their faith, the Bethel COs invariably embarked upon a complicated exegetical argument using mostly verses from the New Testament to prove that the proper Christian response to war was one of pacifism. While different students focused on different verses to make their arguments, all reduced essentially to Matthew 5:44: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” expressed in different ways (KJV). Harold Conrad told his board that he was

Taught to obey the Lord all my life in Sunday School – and Jesus taught only one way to treat an enemy: love him. I could not be a Christian and kill people because I would have to throw away the teachings of Christ.⁸⁰

Jack Priggen, 1973 Spire - BUDL

Jack Priggen, 1973 Spire – BUDL

While Stephen Henry concluded that “there is a fundamental incompatibility between war and the demands of my Christian faith of love toward my enemy.”⁸¹ Jack Priggen agreed, arguing that he “must believe in Christ and his teachings if [he was] to claim Him and his teachings as grounds for refusing to take part in any and all acts of violence.”⁸² Priggen then discussed the Great Commandment (“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:35-40)) as well as twelve other verses which he argued established that “Jesus develops the ethic of non-retaliation and love of enemies.”⁸³ That was a sentiment that Bill Painter also arrived at, concluding that the “prevailing atmosphere” of the entire New Testament, an atmosphere created by the teachings of Christ which called the believer to live with love as He did and to live a “qualitatively different life from those who reject him” also called the believer to a CO witness.⁸⁴ While Stephen Henry spend several pages debunking counterarguments (“render unto Caesar,” “war is a necessary evil,” the wars of the Old Testament, etc), most COs kept their statements positively focused on explaining their pacifism in light of Biblical evidence.

Maurice Zaffke, 1970 Spire - BUDL

Maurice Zaffke, 1970 Spire – BUDL

The single exception to this pattern of argumentation was Maurice Zaffke. While other CO statements were between two and five pages, Zaffke’s statement ran to fifteen typewritten pages. The statement eschewed the kind of detailed, exegetical argumentation the others prefered and opted for a grand (and somewhat sophomoric, if not uninteresting) exposition on the purpose of the church and its relation to modern society. Drawing heavily on the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, with smatterings of W.B. Auden, Paul Tillich, and Bob Dylan, Zaffke wove a complicated indictment of modern society using the full language of the Christian Left. Zaffke attacked “American Religion” as a materialist, corrupted enterprise, enslaved the military industrial complex and sold out to the values of the world. Using four characterizations of the worst elements of American Religion — its tendency to treat God as the Deus ex Machina, its willingness to relegate God to the gaps of human understanding, its eagerness to treat God as a “majesty object,” and its acceptance of cheap grace which resulted in the “decadence of personal salvation” — Zaffke pitted it against his conception of the true Church, the “community of cooperation.” Evidently, Zaffke’s notion of cooperation extended far beyond ecclesial matters. His essay quickly launched into a critique of capitalism, (unwittingly) calculated to raise the ire of his rural, old, veteran draft board members (“Capitalism accomplishes its objective by harnessing the most destructive aspect of man to the economic machine. That is, a man’s desire for himself. His desire to beat another”).⁸⁵

David Bebbington - Oklahoma Baptist University

David Bebbington – Oklahoma Baptist University

With the exception of Zaffke, all Bethel COs followed the same, straightforward strategy: establish the Bible as an authority, qualify how the Bible should be read, prove their own bona fides as born again Christian, then make an exegetical argument centering on the New Testament verses in which Jesus urges forgiveness for enemies, peacemaking, and turning the other cheek. It was a strategy that revealed much about the unconscious assumptions of these mid-century evangelicals. First, the repetition of the same narrative across six CO statements and seven years suggests a deeper unity of approach, a unity I argue is provided by the assumptions of evangelical culture. While this is hardly the place for an extended examination of the historical development of evangelical theology, it is worth noting several identifiers of evangelical theology and how they influenced the form Bethel’s CO statements took. First, the focus on the Bible as authority assumed an inerrantist understanding of scripture — the Biblicist leg of Bebbington’s quadrilateral — one not necessarily shared by the draft board readers. Conversionism (the second Bebbington distinctive) as a means to authority is also classically evangelical, and underlies the importance the Bethel COs placed on narrating their conversion experiences. Likewise, the Bethel COs reflected evangelicalism’s — and particularly Baptists’ — purposeful lack of a magisterium, an authoritative body for adjudicating the Biblical text. The result was a decentralized theology which placed the believer’s personal reading of the text above any declaration of a denomination. That in turn led to a focus on exegetical argument, an approach underlined by the assumed rationality of scripture and its perspicaciousness by the ordinary believer — a belief rooted in the American evangelical incorporation of the 18th century Scottish commonsense realist approach to text.

The result was a mixed bag. On the one hand, Bethel’s CO created statements which were accurate reflections of their own theological backgrounds and priorities. If the CO process was a contest to prove depth of feeling and sincerity, which since the reform of the system in 1940 it certainly was, the Bethel’s COs accomplished their task well. However, by largely eschewing the theological heritage of the BGC and the other faith traditions represented, the Bethel COs complicated their task. By far the easiest way to prove genuine CO conviction was to submit proof of membership in a denomination which had a documented, historic opposition to war.

BUMTF4x4

Taylor Ferda – MIACAthletics

Two COs tried to incorporate this approach into their statements in addition to the aforementioned strategy. Both Dave Heikkila and Harold Conrad looked to statements issued by the BGC during the interwar era which denounced war and violence. After reviewing several such statements, Heikkila concluded that “in short, the BGC has been refusing to cling to past positions [on war].” Conrad’s application included an article from the Bethel Seminary publication Diakrisis which was reprinted in the Clarion. The article documented the same phenomenon Heikkila identified and joined him in suggesting the BGC had a defensible pacifist heritage.⁸⁶ It is an argument taken up by recent Bethel alumni Taylor Ferda in his History Senior thesis. Like Heikkila, Conrad, and the Seminary author, Ferda concluded that the BGC had cultivated a genuine pacifist theological heritage in the 1930s. Chris Gehrz has contested that idea elsewhere, and while Ferda and the others’ arguments are interesting, I suspect Gehrz is ultimately correct; the BGC pacifist phase in the 1930s was more an aberrant symptom of the world-wide trend toward religiously-backed pacifist sentiment in the wake of World War I and did not represent a natural outgrowth of BGC theology. Having said that, both Heikkila and Conrad’s draft boards found their evidence convincing.

In many cases, Bethel’s CO had to go before their draft boards to testify. The experience was nerve-wracking. Sam Griffith recalled his appeal:

Ever sat in a room with a group of sunburn-faced farmers uncomfortable in suits and choking in the heat because their neckties were tight and knowing that you were the first country boy to present them with this dilemma? I felt like Joseph K. in The Trial by Franz Kafka.⁸⁷

Dave Shupe, 1970 Spire - BUDL

Dave Shupe, 1970 Spire – BUDL

Griffith’s appeal was approved, despite his unease. Dave Shupe, on the other hand, sailed through the process: “Obtaining the CO was no problem. I did not even have a personal appearance – probably because I was known in my small town as both upright and religious.”⁸⁸ At the opposite end of the spectrum was Joel Anderson’s experience:

My draft board, prior to my application, had never granted a 1-0 classification. The secretary to the board advised me the only way I could succeed would be to accept 1-A-0 instead. I refused. Upon appearing before the board, my answers were met with general laughter. When I proposed to read scripture I was told not to bother because they knew the Bible as well as I did. My 1-0 was denied. Dr. Dalton appeared at my appeal and convinced the board for me. The 1-0 was granted without appeal to the state board.⁸⁹

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 16.29.28In all, Bethel’s COs were fairly successful. Four were granted CO status on their first application, five more won on appeal, and four were never classified for various reasons but never served in the armed forces. Five were granted I-O status (objecting to all military service, even non-combatant), two I-A-O (available for non-combatant military service), and one each I-A (draftable) and IV-D (ministerial/divinity student deferment).

Only four performed alternative service. Joel Anderson spent two years as a secretary at Saint Paul Goodwill.⁹⁰ Roger Wiens taught with the Mennonite Central Committee for three years in Southern Africa, while Dave Shupe served as a medical records clerk at Denver General Hospital for two years.⁹¹ The experience was personally transformative:

The years in Denver crystallized my opposition to war. My conversion to pacifism was slow but permanent. When I decided, for sure, to complete my alternative service rather than resist and go to prison (5 months after beginning in Denver), I understood that I was committing myself to a lifetime of resistance to war.⁹²

Only Sam Griffith experienced any difficulties performing his alternative service. After rejecting several offers, Griffith was assigned as the personal care assistant to an elderly man. After only a few months, Griffith went “bananas,”  remembering that “Dan is the only person I dislike.” He was reassigned to a Catholic program in Davenport, Iowa, but the funding for the position never materialized. Eventually, Griffith realized he had been released from his alternative service requirement but never informed by the draft office.⁹³

Douglas Gordh, 1968 Spire - BUDL

Douglas Gordh, 1968 Spire – BUDL

The reaction COs received at Bethel depended entirely on their social circles, as evident from the wildly divergent accounts from students. According to Dave Heikkila, “the position of the CO on Bethel’s campus was that of an outsider or at best a stranger.” Yet, when pressed, Heikkila admitted that “most of [his] friends were supportive, whether in agreement or not. Many volunteered to write letters of recommendation. A small few on the floor scoffed or anonymously labelled me a ‘traitor.’”⁹⁴ Douglas Gordh had a generally poor reception: “I applied while a theological student at Bethel Seminary. There were only a couple of students who really agreed with my position. A few students were outright critical.”⁹⁵ That was similar to what Ken Rizzuti experience (“My friends at Bethel were generally Hawkish”).⁹⁶ For Joel Anderson, Harold Conrad, and Richard Olander, the reception was mixed, while Sam Griffith, Stephen Henry, Dave Shupe, Mark Steward, Roger Wiens, and Maurice Zaffke all had generally good reception.⁹⁷ Most of this group noted having few friends at Bethel, all of whom agreed with their CO friend. While most of the COs played active roles in anti-war activities on campus, at least one Bethel alumni could only recall knowing of one CO.⁹⁸

What is clear from the different responses is that COs at Bethel experienced different levels of support depending on their social circles. While many had only a few close friends who also participated in anti-war activity, several encountered resistance from students. It seems likely that most COs kept their positions relatively quiet, even if they were visibly involved in protest activities.

When the war ended in 1973, “It was a tasteless victory” for Dave Heikkila. For

when the U.S. involvement officially ended […] there was a deep sense of alienation (from Bethel people, government and some of the spiritual leaders on campus) because of the criticism, emotional wounds, and political and spiritual labels we have borne because of unthinking or unloving Christian brothers on campus. In effect, the war and the position it forced us to take separated us from others on campus.⁹⁹

With respect to the different receptions Bethel COs recorded, I think Heikkila’s assessment is about right. While more of a subtext to the larger debates about the war in general, the draft debate at Bethel raised tempers and fired emotions, enough to bring a tenured English professor to the point of physical violence against Marine recruiters.

Perhaps that sense of division is what G. William Carlson was reaching for by calling the draft the central issue of the entire Vietnam era on campus. Reading CO statements and listening across the decades to the difficult reflection and agonizing choices the draft forced students make, it is difficult not to end on a sober note. While Carlson’s story of the Bethel alumni who deserted the service and fled to Canada might have inspired derision and hatred in the late 1960s and 1970s, today the decades of cultural isolation, of bitterness and family strife that that student has endured in the intervening years seem more important than questions of the propriety of his actions as a twenty-two year old.¹⁰⁰

Amidst the detail and the stories, it is important to not lose sight of the fact that the draft was a large, bureaucratic system that arbitrated life and death for millions of young men across the country. When I consider my own draft number had I been born in 1951 (18), I find it impossibly easy to empathize with the choices Bethel students wrestled with nearly fifty years ago. That reason alone suggests how important it is to truly understand the issues the draft raised and the position of the CO. At Bethel at least, no other facet of the war so directly lays bare the grist of Vietnam.

— Fletcher Warren

<< Previous Essay || Next Essay >>


Citations

¹ “Lottery has Bethel Men Reconsidering the Future,” The Clarion 1969-12-12.
² 
Roger Wiens, “Questionnaire,” Responses to 1976 Cedric Broughton survey, Personal collection of G. William Carlson (hereafter GWC).
³ 
David Heikkila, “Questionnaire,” Responses to 1976 Cedric Broughton survey, GWC, 3.
⁴ 
William Carlson, interview by Fletcher Warren, St. Paul, 2014. Author’s personal collection.
⁵ 
Don Looser, “What Plagues College Men? – The Draft,” The Clarion 1966-11-17.
⁶ 
“Computer Finagles Bethel Gathering, Reveals Ideal Girl for Bethel Man,” The Clarion 1967-03-09.
⁷ 
George G. Flynn, The Draft, 1940-1973 (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1993), 7.
⁸ Ibid., 188; 242-3.
⁹ Ibid.
¹⁰ Ibid., 169.
¹¹ 
Selective Service System Induction Statistics, https://www.sss.gov/About/History-And-Records/Induction-Statistics, Accessed 2015-09-02.
¹² 
Flynn, The Draft, 169.
¹³ 
“Office Wants Forms,” The Clarion 1963-10-01.
¹⁴ 
Air Force Advertisement, The Clarion 1964-05-20.
¹⁵ 
“Bethel College Faculty Minutes for March 16, 1965,” Minutes, Reports, and Notices of the College Faculty, 1960-1965, The History Center: Archives of the Baptist General Conference and Bethel University (hereafter HC).
¹⁶ Doug Ring, “National Front Lacks Cohesiveness; Vietnam Differences Lead to Strife,” The Clarion 1966-05-18.
¹⁷ John Sailhamer, “Diagnosis for Vietnamese Maladies Seek Aggressive American Policies,” The Clarion 1966-09-28.
¹⁸ Cedric Broughton, “Reaction at Bethel College to Military Service and the Vietnam War, 1962-1972,” History senior thesis, Bethel University, GWC, 7.
¹⁹ Roger Rapoport, “Canada Becomes ‘Haven of Release’ for American Youth Escaping Draft,” The Clarion 1966-10-27.
²⁰ Roger Rapoport, “Canadians Welcome Draft Dodgers,” The Clarion 1966-11-03.
²¹ John Hagan, Northern Passage: American Vietnam War Resisters in Canada (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), 241.
²² Ibid., 38.
²³ Ibid., 41.
²⁴ Ibid.
²⁵ Rapoport, “Canadians Welcome Draft Dodgers.”
²⁶ Rapoport, “Canada Becomes ‘Haven of Release”
²⁷ David Swartz, Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014).
²⁸ Mark Hatfield, “Fellowcitizens,” The Clarion 1967-05-04.
²⁹ “Pastor Looks at Draft Problems,” The Clarion 1967-05-18.
³⁰ Selective Service System Induction Statistics.
³¹ Flynn, The Draft, 221-2.
³² Philip Linden, interview with Fletcher Warren, Bremerton WA, 2015. Author’s personal collection.
³³ Flynn, The Draft, 183-4.
³⁴ Ibid., 184-5.
³⁵ Ibid., 215.
³⁶ Ibid., 217-9.
³⁷ “Student Senate Minutes No. 11 January 9, 1968,” Student Senate Minutes 1961-1971, Box 1, HC.
³⁸ Ibid.
³⁹ “Student Senate Minutes No. 12 January 18, 1968,” Student Senate Minutes 1961-1971, Box 1, HC.
⁴⁰ “Student Senate Minutes No. 13 February 12, 1968,” Student Senate Minutes 1961-1971, HC.
⁴¹ Richard Westby, “Peace Table Draws Praise,” The Clarion 1969-02-27Truett M. Lawson, Our Times & Our Stories: The Minnesota Baptist Conference, 1858-2008 (St. Paul, MN: The History Center, 2014), 72-73.
⁴² Thomas Askew, “The Shaping of Evangelical Higher Education Since WWII,” in Making Higher Education Christian ed. Joel Carpenter (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 142; David Swartz, “You Know Where Else They Have May-Day Military Exhibitions?” The Anxious Bench, September 30, 2015.
⁴³ Letter from Carl Lundquist to Wendell Lawhead 1969-05-09, Lundquist Presidential Papers, Box 1, Folder 1, HC.
⁴⁴ “Army Recruiters Visit Campus; Face Orderly Student Protests,” The Clarion 1968-02-22.
⁴⁵ Jon Fagerson, “Letter to the Editor,” The Clarion 1970-10-30.
⁴⁶ Evan Anderson, “Christian History: Past and Present,” The Clarion 1970-11-20.
⁴⁷ Flynn, The Draft, 229-35.
⁴⁸ Ibid., 242.
⁴⁹ Ibid., 244-6.
⁵⁰ Ibid., 248-9.
⁵¹ Ibid.
⁵² Carlson, interview by Fletcher Warren.
⁵³ 1969 Spire [Bethel Yearbook], 27.
⁵⁴ “Lottery has Bethel Men Reconsidering Future,” The Clarion 1969-12-12.
⁵⁵ “‘Beaver’ Raid Damages Draft Records Statewide,” The Clarion 1970-03-06.
⁵⁶ “Mobe Encourages Obedience to Draft in ‘Paperwork War,’” The Clarion 1970-03-20.
⁵⁷ Malcolm Avey, “Letter to the Editor,” The Clarion 1969-10-17.
⁵⁸ Carlson, interview by Fletcher Warren.
⁵⁹ Sam Griffith, “Questionnaire,” Responses to 1976 Cedric Broughton survey, GWC.
⁶⁰ Carlson, interview by Fletcher Warren.
⁶¹ Memo from Student Services Office to Faculty, December 1970, Minutes, Reports, and Notices of the College Faculty, 1965-1970, HC.
⁶² Hagan, Northern Passage, 19.
⁶³ Griffith, “Questionnaire.”
⁶⁴ Bob Goodsell to Fletcher Warren, Personal email correspondence, 2014-07-30.
⁶⁵ Harold Conrad, “Questionnaire,” Responses to 1976 Cedric Broughton survey, GWC.
⁶⁶ Griffith, “Questionnaire.”
⁶⁷ Dave Shupe, “Questionnaire,” Responses to 1976 Cedric Broughton survey, GWC; Heikkila, “Questionnaire.”
⁶⁸ Joel Anderson, “Questionnaire,” Responses to 1976 Cedric Broughton survey, GWC.
⁶⁹ Ken Rizzuti, “Questionnaire,” Responses to 1976 Cedric Broughton survey, GWC; R. Mark Steward, “Questionnaire,” Responses to 1976 Cedric Broughton survey, GWC.
⁷⁰ Flynn, The Draft, 179.
⁷¹ Jack Priggen, Conscientious Objector Statement, GWC.
⁷² Melvin Gingerich, Service for Peace, A History of Mennonite Civilian Public Service (Mennonite Central Committee, 1949), 11.
⁷³ Flynn, The Draft, 14-15.
⁷⁴ Ibid., 224.
⁷⁵ Ibid., 179.
⁷⁶ Harold Conrad, Conscientious Objector Statement, GWC.
⁷⁷ Al Mullins, Conscientious Objector Statement, GWC.
⁷⁸ Conrad, CO Statement.
⁷⁹ Mullins, CO Statement.
⁸⁰ Conrad, CO Statement.
⁸¹ Stephen Henry, Conscientious Objector Statement, GWC.
⁸² Priggen, CO Statement.
⁸³ Ibid.
⁸⁴ Bill Painter, Conscientious Objector Statement, GWC.
⁸⁵ Maurice Zaffke, Conscientious Objector Statement, GWC.
⁸⁶ Mark Olson, “Whiter Orthodoxy,” The Clarion 1970-12-11.
⁸⁷ Griffith, “Questionnaire.”
⁸⁸ Dave Shupe, Conscientious Objector Statement, GWC.
⁸⁹ Anderson, “Questionnaire.”
⁹⁰ Ibid.
⁹¹ Wiens, “Questionnaire;” Shupe, “Questionnaire.”
⁹² Ibid.
⁹³ Griffith, “Questionnaire.”
⁹⁴ Heikkila, “Questionnaire.”
⁹⁵ Douglas Gordh, “Questionnaire,” Responses to 1976 Cedric Broughton survey, GWC.
⁹⁶ Rizzuti, “Questionnaire.”
⁹⁷ Anderson, “Questionnaire;” Conrad, “Questionnaire;” Richard Olander, “Questionnaire,” Responses to 1976 Cedric Broughton survey, GWC; Griffith, “Questionnaire;” Henry, “Questionnaire;” Shupe, “Questionnaire;” Steward, “Questionnaire;” Wiens, “Questionnaire;” Zaffke,“Questionnaire.”
⁹⁸ Richard Evans to Fletcher Warren, Personal email correspondence, 2014-11-22.
⁹⁹ Heikkila, “Questionnaire.”
¹⁰⁰ Carlson, interview by Fletcher Warren.

Further Reading

Back to Top

<< Previous Essay || Next Essay >>

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: