Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Ain't Gonna Study War No More. (in Person: Stephen Funk)

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Ain't Gonna Study War No More. (in Person: Stephen Funk)

Article excerpt

HE GRADUATED THREE YEARS AGO, BUT Stephen Funk's high school principal remembers him well. He was a bright student, a social activist, and, at least in one case, a totally unconvincing actor. Funk was in a play where his role required him to have a violent outburst. "The drama teacher could not get Stephen to act violently," says Elaine Packard with a laugh.

So it didn't surprise Packard much when Funk, 21, hit the spotlight last spring as the first public conscientious objector (CO) in the war against Iraq.

What did jolt many of his family and friends was when Funk signed up as a U.S. Marine Corps reservist months earlier. Funk, who grew up in Seattle, had recently left the University of Southern California and moved to the Bay Area, where he was working two jobs and planning to transfer to the University of California at Berkeley. While there, a Marine recruiter invited him to run an obstacle course.

"I thought it might be fun," Funk remembers. "I saw that day that I could learn teamwork, leadership, some discipline." Funk also admits that, in his first year away from home and out of school, he was depressed and his thinking was clouded when he decided to sign up.

It's not completely naive for young people to go into the military and not know what they're getting into, Funk says. "They don't advertise people killing people or going over to places and blowing things up. They talk about being a hero, getting money for school."

At boot camp, things became clearer. During combat training, "they were making us shout out, 'Kill, kill,' and we would get in trouble if we didn't strike out hard," Funk says. Finally he simply decided that he wouldn't do anything he thought was wrong and applied for CO status.

Although Funk, who is half Filipino, had been an activist for race issues back in Seattle, religion had never previously been a motivating factor in his desire for justice. He attended a Catholic church as a child but stopped going after his parents divorced. When he read about the Crusades during junior high, he decided the Catholic Church didn't represent him. So when he started boot camp, in the space reserved for religious affiliation on his dog tags, Funk listed "no preference."

But he did talk over his concerns about the military with Catholic chaplains. "They would say, 'Oh, just go along with it. …

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