By Janie Abel
Religious universities today are preaching a strong message to impressionable undergrads that undermines the idea that one can love God and one’s country - that Christianity and conservatism are not compatible.
This past spring, at Canisius College, a Catholic liberal arts college in Buffalo, New York, students were bombarded with anti-military rantings from the Executive Director of Fellowship of Reconciliation Mark Jackson. Jackson was invited to speak by Dr. Jonathan Lawrence, a religious studies professor in the Honors Program at Canisius, in a forum focused on the possibility of being a Christian and being in the military.
Jackson’s organization, Fellowship of Reconciliation, urges shutting down all military bases, eliminating the current “fear-based military culture” and working towards a “peaceful world community grounded in faith and nonviolent justice.” Their “I Will Not Kill” initiative seeks to gather youth support for opposition to military service.
Jackson debated the head of ROTC at Canisius, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Baker, where Jackson told his story of being a Vietnam draft dodger, or “conscientious objector,” and Baker argued that he is a devout Christian who has had positive feedback from Afghans that they appreciate the work and help that the US military has delivered.
Jackson also spoke to Lawrence’s religious studies classes, where he advocated using money spent on the US military to send refrigerators to other countries, implying that refrigerators are more useful than American soldiers.
Ann Klements, a rising senior who is the president of Canisius’ conservative student group, and a student of Dr. Lawrence’s, thought that going to a Catholic school with an ROTC program would expose her to lectures more supportive of the US military. Speaking of Fellowship of Reconciliation, she said, “Not only are they obviously liberal, they are so unrealistic and have no idea of how the world works. You can't just hold hands with terrorists.”
Luckily, Klements rallied other conservative students to attend and challenge Jackson’s lecture, so much so that they greatly outnumbered any students from peace and justice organizations on campus. Students like Klements and her club members, who receive support and guidance from Young America’s Foundation, are often the sole conservative voice at colleges dominated by socialist campus ministries. Only through these young conservatives can other students hear positive messages that their faith and appreciation of their country can coincide.
Janie Abel is a Sarah T. Hermann Intern Scholar with Young America's Foundation