I have a question about the role of men in society, particularly in the case of a hypothetical war. While I believe that we, as men, do have a role to play in society (protectors of our family would probably be just one easy guess), my understanding of our role in society is still a little limited and ambiguous.  As a male, is it my duty to fight in a war for a just cause?  Particularly, is it my God-given duty to say, go overseas and put my life, body, and mind on the line in an event that will, no doubt, be horrific?  And if not, does that make us cowards?  Would it make us non-virtuous and sinful in the eyes of the Lord?



As you say, men do have a natural role as protectors of the family.  Persons who protest that this is “gender stereotyping” are not thinking clearly; men don’t bear children, and it is irresponsible to overlook such a profound difference.  I would also say that if there were no other way to protect your family but to fight against someone, then you would be obligated to fight.  If someone pulled a knife on your wife and children and the only way to stop him was to fight, you would do so.

The question of just war, though, is a little different.  Obviously, one difference is that in war you are protecting not just your family, but the society which includes your family.  Granted, some wars need more fighters than others.  But for the protection of society against enemy soldiers, it is not necessary for everyone to be a soldier – just as for the protection of society against criminals, it is not necessary for everyone to be a police officer.  In fact, it would be detrimental to society if everyone were a soldier, because while the soldiers were off protecting society, there would be very little society left for the soldiers to protect.  Not to mention the fact that the soldiers would need someone else to send them food, weapons, and medicines.

I think some people are especially suited by talent and inclination to be soldiers (just as some people are suited by talent and inclination to be military wives).  But others are especially suited to be such things as schoolteachers, engineers, carpenters, farmers, and ministers of religion.  Suppose you ought to be a soldier and would make a bad farmer, but decided to be a farmer anyway.  You would be making a poor decision.  But suppose you were someone who ought to be a farmer and would make a poor soldier, but decided to be a soldier anyway.  This decision would be just as bad.

By the way, when I speak of being “suited by talent and inclination,” to be a soldier, I don’t mean only being aggressive and being able to shoot straight.  Just as there is a certain moral discipline in teaching, so there is a certain moral discipline in soldiering.  For example, just as a teacher must teach only what is true, a soldier must target only enemy combatants, not innocents or prisoners.

One more thing.  You said you were asking only about war “for a just cause.”  A just cause is the first condition for a just war, but it is not its only condition.  For example, the war must be waged with a right intention, at the direction of competent public authority, and with reasonable grounds to believe that it will help more than hurt.  Even when it is right to go to war, justice also requires waging it in the right ways.  That’s why I mentioned the moral discipline of not targeting noncombatants, and there are other conditions concerning how to fight too.

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