On Military Culture


A thoughtful post on Hallowed Ground got me to thinking. Many of my family members served in the military in previous generations. I have a step-niece and maybe some distant cousins serving today. I’ve known many military folks and their families. My liturgy committee chair is a retired air force officer, just the finest sort of man one could know dedicated to God, family, and Church.

What I was reflecting upon was my own experience getting into Catholic high school. I confess a grave naivete as a youth, but I also found, like the author of Hallowed Ground, a disturbing sense that this was not how it should be. Unlike Mr Culbreath though, I didn’t pack up and leave.

One HG commenter suggested, “Beyond the obvious cultural rot, I would suggest that this is partially the function of having a “volunteer” (underclass) military.”

Heh. Death metal, lynch mobs, the Borgias: haven’t we always had rot? And underclass people being blamed for crudity? Who finances pornography in the world? Fox network and movies? Do the Sopranos live in hovels? Conscription is really the answer for the depraved portions of the culture of the military?

This was the beginning of my consideration of pacifism as the only reasonable expression I found for living the Christian faith in the world. Face it: people didn’t invent a code of honor just because it added to the allure of soldiering. Military leaders saw it as a necessary balance for the cruel things a fighter must see and do to do the job. Today, all bets are off. The president condones torture when it aligns with military objectives. He summarily dismisses captured enemies as non-military non-combatants and believes a unilateral decision is within his power. People in power can’t even take responsibility for wrongdoing under their command. Are neocons admitting that Rummy and his generals part of the moral underclass?

I suppose it is possible for good Catholics to be military people today. If so, God bless them. I couldn’t do it. The disintegration of ethics from the top down is seriously disturbing–or should be so. We always have a choice to refuse to cooperate with it. Maybe it’s become a moral imperative.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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