Christians and the Military

In browsing different sites today, I ran across a letter from a female reader of Andrew Sullivan’s blog, The Daily Dish.  This reader has a masters degree in moral theology from the University of Notre Dame and has decided to become a Marine Officer.  Sullivan asks: “What if the Military Were Filled with Notre Dame Grads?”

Here are a couple of snippets of this interesting letter:

I think Just War Theory is a plausible theological way to deal with the annihilation of large swaths of humanity at the hands of others, and I cannot even vaguely justify our foray into Iraq in terms of it.  Afghanistan initially may have filled some criteria, but it certainly doesn’t any longer and hasn’t for some time.   Admittedly, I had to do some ethical contortions to justify my choice to try to enter the military.  Some were pathetic: as a woman I would never technically have a combat MOS and as such would always have some moral separation from actual killing.  Others were more honestly reasoned, but none of them were in complete harmony with Catholic doctrine—how could they be?  Ultimately, I decided that I could take responsibility both for disobeying an order I found to be immoral or for making a decision that violated the very core of my conscience. 


The appeal of the military for many Catholics is obvious: we like rigor and pageantry.  We also take seriously the call to put our faith into action.  In light of our current wars, I now more than ever question the legitimacy of acting out one’s faith in military service—though I cannot bring myself to pacifism—but I think that it’s a decision best left to each individual and his or her conscience.  Mainly, I decided to join the Marines because I thought it afforded me the opportunity to make a positive impact in the world in  ways that pursing the life of an academic ethicist wouldn’t.  Ultimately, even though my job now is very different than the one I would’ve had had I managed to make it through OCS, undoubtedly I’m still in the same predicament I would have been in: hoping but unsure if what I’m doing is making the world a better place.