It seems that whenever Australian troops might  be involved in international conflict there is  talk in the media about the re-introduction of  conscription. This happened after the September  11 attacks in New York and Washington and the  commitment of Australian troops to Afghanistan.

While the threat of an invasion of Australia is very low, the possibility of conscription or some  form of enforced national service is not beyond  the realms of possibility. The international situation  can change very rapidly especially if Israel carried  out its threats to attack Iran and Iran carried out its  threats to close the vital oil routes to the West. War  in the Middle East never seems far away.

If such an event arose and conscription was reintroduced, that would not be the time for brothers  and sisters to ensure their behaviour conformed  to the standards required by Christ. We need to  prepare over a lifetime of faithful service to our  God to show that, while we sometimes fail, we  continue to strive to follow in the footsteps of our  Lord and Master.

The Defence Act of 1903 was amended in  1992 and consolidated in 1999. The Act now  has some important differences to the Act under  which Christadelphians claimed exemption from  combatant and non-combatant service in the past.

First, women as well as men are now eligible  for call-up. Christadelphians of both sexes between  the ages of 18 and 60 could be required to give  account of why they should not be conscripted into  the armed forces.

Second, the Act now prescribes that applications  for conscientious objection will be heard before  a Tribunal. The presiding member of a Tribunal  must be a legal practitioner of not less than seven  years standing.

Third, the aim of the Act is to make the atmosphere  of any hearing to determine conscientious objection  status less adversarial. The Act now stipulates  that members of a Tribunal must be capable of  ascertaining facts other than by courtroom type  methods. This could mean that applicants may  not be subjected to as arduous an examination as  applicants experienced in the past. It still means,  however, that applicants will need to present a  comprehensive  Bible-based case for exemption  supported by evidence of a life lived in conformity with the Commandments of Christ.

These new provisions, while attempting to remove  a court-like atmosphere, do not mean that the process  will not be thorough and demanding. The Act requires  that an applicant for exemption from military service  demonstrates a conscientiously held belief.

“Clearly, the Tribunal is under no obligation to  give the ‘benefit of the doubt’ to an applicant. This  places responsibility squarely on the applicant to  have a very well-prepared case, preparation for  which commences in a conscientious life well before  a Tribunal hearing.”(AACE Conscience In Action  p204 Stallard and Potter 2006)

What does this mean on a practical, day-to-day  level? Well, we can’t have it both ways! We can’t  live lives that make us a part of the world and still  claim to be servants and followers of Christ. Simple  every day things are important such as obeying the  driving laws, making sure we pay all taxes due,  obeying regulations that govern occupational health  and safety in our businesses, obtaining appropriate  licenses for pets, if required, and for fishing. Other  matters that might not have a legal basis but indicate  the type of people we are include the activities we  engage in, the computer games we play, the internet  sites we visit and the types of magazines we buy. We  cannot be a Christadelphian for a day and not expect  the skilled people on a Tribunal to see through any  hypocrisy to the person we really are. And even if  we do ‘fool’ them, we have not fooled God and can  expect consequences more far reaching than we can  possibly imagine.

It would not be at all unreasonable for a Tribunal to seek to understand the level of commitment a brother  or sister has to ecclesial activities. If we claim we are  committed members of a religious organization, where  is the evidence? Do we regularly attend religious  activities? How often does this occur? At what level  are we actually involved in activities? Do we help plan  and implement events and participate in the memorial  meeting, youth group activities, gospel witness, Sunday  School, Bible study groups, sisters’ classes, help those  less fortunate in the ecclesia, and similar activities?  There is so much an ecclesia does, what part do we  play? We cannot claim to be conscientious objectors  to military  service, even if we can present a wellargued  Bible-based case, if we do not demonstrate that  commitment through our actions.

“… now is the accepted time; behold, now is the  day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2).