Posted by: thebylog | January 11, 2006

An Ethical Dilemma

Since I am a Christian who believes that a Christian should not use force – privately (mano a mano) or corporately (American vs. terrorist) – yet one who believes they should engage the world, I anticipate ethical dilemmas to confront me at various points in my career.

Like one I’ve recently encountered. It goes sort of like this.

Say there is an opportunity to work at a company who works in a variety of areas. One of their main thrusts involves manufacturing and selling munitions to the U.S. military. However, they also do a lot of other kinds of work involving innocent civilian or non-violent government pursuits. Do you take a job, if the opportunity arises, which would only require work in the innocent or non-violent realms?

I’m already leaning pretty heavily in a certain direction. But I wonder what people that read my blog would say.



  1. Well, since you asked…I do have a thought or two. What is your purpose in life? What is your life’s mission? What are you trying to accomplish? Perhaps rather than putting all the focus on “right and wrong” we should look at what is most expedient. What most promotes Jesus, His Kingdom, and His program in the world? (even in the realm of statistics and higher math…)

  2. Good questions to think about, though I do believe “right and wrong” is something that needs to be fleshed out sometimes. If not, then perhaps at some point we might justify using an evil means to achieve a good end.

  3. How much does it pay? (just kidding) The “company” name doesn’t start with an “r”, does it?

  4. Actually, one of the things that makes this particular opportunity attractive is that it would probably pay very well. But that shouldn’t have any effect on the decision I make as to the morality of it all.

    No guessing games as to the company.

  5. Well dear old Ernest Bontrager up at Porter used to tell the story of a guy who was trying to get out of the war by filing as a CO. He was in line wherever it was you signed up back then and a guy comes up and asks him a question about what he would do if someone stole his pig. The CO guy made some off handed remark about doin’ him in if he dared to think about stealing his pig. He would make sure the guy paid for it and on and on he went. When he got to the counter to register the guy that asked the question was behind the counter and let him know that he would not be filing as a CO because of his answer to the hypothetical pig question.

    Soooo I said all that to say this. What if the draft came up again and you wanted to be listed as a CO? What happens when they look back at your past jobs? Theres a possibility that could keep you from enlisting as a CO. At least thats what der ole’ Bro Ernest used to tell us. He would have said a definite NO! Just a thought.

  6. That story traveled to the next generation! Not from Ern, but we were told that story too.

  7. I don’t see the issue, so long as you are working in the area of non-military projects. As a graduate student I assume that you are employed by the school to perform TA or RA work. Penn State holds a number of military contracts. One of them, from november of 2001 was $369 million for the first 5 years, with an option to add another 5 years for as much as $445 million. Other contracts appeared to be smaller, in the area of $25 million to $50 million. Aren’t you applying a double standard? The commerce system is connected in so many ways that it’s impossible to be completly seperated from any military organizations. Even our academic system is tightly integrated. I think your decision making process might be getting a little to legalistic.

  8. David, I never did say what I was leaning toward.

    In fact, what you say is basically where I’m at.

  9. You’re right. You asked an open ended question and I made the mistake of assuming what your answer was. I apologize.

  10. The type product or information you will be producing as well as it’s use could be a consideration. Whoever came up with GPS did more than the military a favor. Whoever invented the hand grenade did not.

    My grandfather did R&D for Mil Specs which I think is little different than if he’d have done it for API or SAE.

  11. Hy Byran,

    I don’t have your e-address (I could get it from John & Laura) so I’m dropping a line here. We’re looking for another tenor for The Hope Singers in September. Lloyd Kauffman is directing. Arrive in Poland Sept. 5, depart 25, approx. Choir of 25 singers. Would you be interested? Or know someone who would? Email me at


    Lavern Hershberger
    Minsk Mazowiecki
    (remember Eric from Tap? my brother)

  12. Byran,

    Here’s alink to an article with “some” relevance to your question., written by a fellow Oregonian.

    J. Mark

  13. Interestingly, I work in the same OSU research lab and library as Nathanael. We have begun our discussion of Christians and politics and he gave me a list of books that support his viewpoint. I need to take a look at them to see what he bases his arguments on, and continue the discussion.
    Definitely an interesting guy.

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