“Unjust, Immoral, Illegal”: Some American Christian and Jewish Responses to Selective Conscientious Objection in the Vietnam War.


Trond Nerland


The American discourse on conscience and war during the Vietnam War era gave rise to many complex moral and religious dilemmas. One of these is the question whether individuals should refuse to serve in wars they sincerely believe to be unjust. Another question is whether the state should allow for legal exemption from military service of persons with such scruples. A third is whether religious denominations should support individuals objecting to a particular war, and not all wars as traditional pacifists. In approaching these questions my project will focus on the intradenominational treatment of these crucial and complex ethical issues in three major American religious denominations.

The aim of my research is to examine and compare how the Lutheran Church of America, the Roman Catholic Churches, and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations approached and discussed the ethics of participating in armed conflict. In so doing the focus is on the interrelationship between ethics, conscience and war and how these denominations treated these issues in light of the Just War doctrine which has constituted a major religious/moral tradition and position on war in the western world since the times of St. Augustine.

While the research will take as its point of departure, and to a large extent consist in, an empirical investigation of how major American denominations treated and debated questions of conscience, war and the Just War tradition at a particular time in history, new knowledge about these debates in the past will necessarily be based on and illuminated through a theoretical examination of possible positions that have been considered morally viable regarding conscience, war, and military service.

Trond nerland

Cand. Philol.

Doktorgradsstipendiat Etikkprogrammet
2009 - 2012

Adresse: ILOS, Postboks 1003 Blindern, 0315 Oslo

Besøksadresse: Niels Treschows hus, 9 etg, rom: 916 NT

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Epost: trond.nerland@ilos.uio.no

Tidligere stipend fra etikkprogrammet: Nei