Is the Moral Life of a Christian Compatible with the Military Life?

Not a review of Joseph E. Capizzi, Politics, Justice, and War: Christian Governance and the Ethics of Warfare (Oxford University Press, 2015), vii + 223 pgs., hardcover.

This book is part of Oxford’s Studies in Theological Ethics, a series with six other titles. The author is Professor of Moral Theology and Ethics at the Catholic University of America.

I fully intended to read and write a review of this book, especially since the first of three “central claims” listed on the first page that the author says he makes in the book is “The moral life of a Christian is compatible with the military life.” However, I quickly became disillusioned when I noticed that the book’s index had no entries for Christ, Jesus Christ, Christian, Christianity, religion, morality, the Gospel, the Bible, or Scripture. Nevertheless, I went on to read the book’s introduction, its four chapters (each of which are nicely divided into between three and six sections), and all of the book’s 424 footnotes. I saw many references to Augustine and Aquinas and modern authors on just war theory, but only five Scripture references or quotes—and three of them were in the context of Augustine’s thought. The author himself only quotes two verses of Scripture—and they are from the Old Testament. After reading Politics, Justice, and War, I cannot but conclude that it is simply yet another book on just war theory, similar to the thirty-five others I have on one of my bookshelves.

All is not lost, however.

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Since the author did not prove, let alone address, his claim that “the moral life of a Christian is compatible with the military life,” I thought that I would examine the topic. However, my claim is just the opposite of the author’s claim. I would say that the moral life of a Christian is not compatible with the military life.

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Christians are admonished to “abhor that which is evil” (Romans 12:9), “bless them” that persecute them (Romans 12:14), “live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18), “avenge not” themselves (Romans 12:19), “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21), “follow after the things which make for peace” (Romans 14:19), put away “lying” (Ephesians 4:25), “let no corrupt communication” proceed out of their mouths (Ephesians 4:29), “put away” from them “bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking” (Ephesians 5:31), “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11), “abstain from fornication” (1 Thessalonians 4:3), not “render evil for evil unto any man” (1 Thessalonians 5:15), to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22), be “slow to wrath” (James 1:19), “abstain from fleshly lusts” (1 Peter 2:11), and to “seek peace, and ensue it” (1 Peter 3:11).

Christians should be marked by their love (John 13:35; 1 Thessalonians 3:12), kindness (2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 4:32), quietness (1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:12), holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:7; 1 Peter 1:15), hospitality (Romans 12:13; Titus 1:8), meekness (Ephesians 4:2; Titus 3:2), longsuffering (Galatians 5:22; Colossians 1:11), forbearance (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13), subjection (Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 5:5), temperance (Galatians 5:23; 2 Peter 1:6), godliness (1 Timothy 2:2; 2 Peter 1:16), humility (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:5), and good works (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 3:8).

Christians should be more willing to accept suffering than to inflict it (2 Timothy 2:3, 4:5; James 5:10; 1 Peter 2:20-21, 3:17, 4:1, 16).

Christianity is the epitome of non-violence, non-aggression, and non-retaliation.

Second, what are the characteristics of military life?

Bombing countries that are no threat to the United States.

Thousands of sexual assaults reported each year.

Reciting of filthy cadences.

Fighting foreign wars.

Mutilating the dead bodies of the “enemy.”

High rates of divorce.

Rampant viewing of pornography.

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Fighting immoral wars.

LGBT Pride Month in June.

Invading other countries.

Homosexuals serving openly.

Occupying other countries.

Garrisoning the planet with bases.

Heavy use of profanity.

Launching preemptive strikes.

Women on submarines.

Transgender drill sergeants.

Neglect of family to go on long deployments.

Drone strikes that kill more civilians than “terrorists.”

Desecrating the dead bodies of the “enemy.”

Engaging in offense instead of defense.

Killing civilians and dismissing it as collateral damage.

Attacking other countries.

Making widows and orphans.

Fighting unnecessary wars.

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Destroying foreigners’ property.

Nation building.

Regime change.

Going to countries where the U.S. military has no business going.

Subjugating other countries.

Maiming foreigners who were no threat to the United States.

Serving as the president’s personal attack force.

Urinating on the dead bodies of the “enemy.”

Policing the world whether other countries like it or not.

Fighting senseless wars.

Destroying foreigners’ infrastructure.

Committing acts of genocide.

Intervening in the affairs of other countries.

Fighting wars that are not constitutionally declared.

Willful ignorance of the history of U.S. military interventions.

Blind obedience to the state.

Carrying out a reckless, aggressive, and evil U.S. foreign policy.

High rates of suicide.

Maintaining a global empire.

Helping to create terrorists because of U.S. military actions.

Supporting a network of brothels around the world.

Is the moral life of a Christian compatible with the military life? Is light compatible with darkness? Is good compatible with evil? Is morality compatible with immorality? Is purity compatible with impurity? Is decency compatible with indecency? Is holiness compatible with unholiness? Is righteousness compatible with unrighteousness? The moral life of a Christian is not compatible with the military life.