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Letter to West Milton Church of the Brethren
by Ted Studebaker
I find it difficult to write this letter, realizing that while I want to be congenial and informative, I also feel the need to express realistically some of my frustrations and thoughts concerning my present situation. Please know that I feel most fortunate to be able to work here in Vietnam as a volunteer agriculturalist for Vietnam Christian Service.
Secondly, only to my family, you as representatives of the West Milton Church of the Brethren are responsible for my thought and actions concerning conscientious objection to the military, my pacifistic views, and my volunteer service. Without the church, as skeptical as I am about it now, I might find my self in a uniform as part of a giant military machine whose reason for existence seems based on economics and a big myth. The meaninglessness, the wastefulness, and the non-necessity of this war is out-weighted only by its inhumane effects, both here and in the States.
I have an idea that most of you who hear these words are sympathetic to my thoughts and feelings. However, it saddens me to know, as beautiful as are all your intentions, that you are probably doing considerably more to further U.S. military and imperialistic policy here through the taxes you continue to pay every year, than you are toward the cause of peace and reconciliation. Since being here, I have come to see and realize the tremendous influence of the American military and U.S. Aid money that has literally been poured into this corrupt country and government.
The longer I am here and as my language ability improves, I begin to see more of the complexities of the situation. I do not pretend to understand all the whys and wherefores of this crisis, but one thing stands out clearly in my mind. This war is immoral and wrong, and the burden of blame is upon the U.S. Military, the U.S. Government, and the U.S. People. I believe there is a lot of truth in the statement that the killing and destruction will stop only when American public opinion demands it.
These are the thoughts that are heavy on my mind right now that I feel the necessity to share with you. It is my hope that reason will once again be restored in the hearts and minds of responsible men and women.
I express my appreciation to those who have shown interest in my struggles and joys here in Vietnam. Please know that I am in good health and adequate security. I would welcome your responses and comments and will do my best to respond to personal letters if you have questions. I send my best wishes and regards to all.
Working for Peace,
Viet Name Christian Service
Di Linh, Viet Nam
The above letter was reprinted in the Troy Daily News of Troy, Ohio, which prompted the following letter.
Dear Mr. Studebaker;
I read your recent letter which was printed in the Troy Daily News, and to say the least, was very disappointed.
I do not know what the Christian Service organization you work with stands for, but after reading your criticism of our nation and our government, I wonder if it is indeed "Christian."
Your comments that the war is "immoral" and the wrong side is that of America...sounds exactly like the song and dance of the communists. Apparently their propaganda has gotten to you. This is sad. ......
Mr. Studebaker, if you are a Christian, then you no doubt read the Bible. Have you read in Romans, chapter 13, and in 1 Peter, chapter 2, about honoring the government? ......
The worn out words "immoral war" are so ridiculous. Many who chant these words are themselves immoral in character, partake in sex sins, indulge in drinking, using drugs, and are indeed misfits to society. I am not classifying you in this group. God forbid that you are! But if you are indeed trying to do some service to mankind in Southeast Asia, then please, for the sake of the Vietnamese...and for God's sake, get your views straight...Study the Word of God. Search out the scriptures...
Mr. and Mrs. ############
Ted's response to the above readers of the Troy Daily News. (Written on the day he was shot, April 25, 1971)
I want to thank you for taking the time to write to me concerning the letter... Even though our views and beliefs seem very far apart concerning war, peace, and Christian responsibility, I see this as a great opportunity for me to better understand how "devout Christians," as you both must be, feel about this very important issue of our country's involvement here in Vietnam and S.E. Asia.
I feel it would be worthless for me to continue any debate by letter, since both our views seem to be unswayable, and a letter is no way to discuss such great issues.
Just one point I want to make clear to you. I do not "feel the enemy is right" any more than I feel the U.S. Military is right here. I believe strongly in trying to follow the example of Jesus Christ as best I know how. Above all, Christ taught me to love all people, including enemies, and to return good for evil, and that all men are brothers in Christ. I condemn all war and conscientiously refuse to take part in it in any active or violent way. I believe love is a stronger and more enduring power than hatred for my fellow man, regardless of who they are or what they believe...
Please know I am in excellent health and adequate security. I know I am a fortunate man and life is great to me.
Viet Name Christian Service
Di Linh, Viet Nam