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Caitlin Kennell Kim
Mary
Fr. Rick Malloy, SJ
General Questions
Fr. Tom Ryan, CSP
Ecumenical, Interfaith
Neela Kale
Culture, Moral Theology
Ann Naffziger, M.A., M.Div.
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Our readers asked:

Will Soldiers Go to Hell if They Kill Someone?

Neela Kale Answers:

Q: Soldiers in war are technically killing other sons and daughters of God in an effort to protect our country. Will this affect their fate on Judgment Day? Is it wrong to thank them upon their return home even though they’ve sinned?

Never hesitate to thank a returning soldier for his or her service to our country. (Thank you, veterans!) Military service cannot be reduced to any single act, and these returning veterans and their families need all the support they can get in response to their sacrifice and generosity. It is not your job to examine their consciences. Many of these men and women return home struggling with the psychological and spiritual consequences of their actions in the line of duty; they need to address these issues with the help of qualified counselors and spiritual advisors.

That said, your question raises an important issue for our collective conscience as a society, which bears the responsibility for sending its sons and daughters to war. People of all times and place have wrestled with war’s destructive effects. Is war ever justified? Is a particular act of war justified? Is military action acceptable only in self-defense? How about action to protect defenseless peoples elsewhere in the world? Or preemptive action against an impending threat? And, of course, moving from the abstract to the horrific, complex, bloody reality of our time and place: How do we assess recent U.S. military intervention in the Middle East? These questions are better confronted in our civic discourse, rather than in the interactions we have with individual veterans upon their return home. Christian witnessing for peace can be powerful, but should not come at the expense of the individual men and women who bear the cost — in their bodies and in their souls — of the devastation of war.

 
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The Author : Neela Kale
Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Rora Y

    I see a lot of extremists on this page!! Same kind of extremists that make Christians look insane, bitter, uninviting and unattractive.. Exactly how we drive people away from Christianity! I know if the right thief on the cross went to heaven I don’t see why not a soldier! We don’t qualify to heaven or not based on the fact that we sinned.. Cuz a 100% of the human race are sinners.. We qualify cuz we get back to God after we kill, cheat, steal, lie..etc
    But you know what’s a big sin?! Judging people and pointing the finger.. Especially people we never met and then decide their fate (which is God’s job).. So the answer is: we don’t know if soldiers will go to heaven or not.. We can argue that killing is a sin..just like gluttony and sloth.. But is it an unforgivable sin?! Nope it’s not!!

  • Mitchell

    Yeah, that answer was the most ignorant tripe I’ve read all day, and I was checking Fox News this morning.

    Soldiers are (mostly) people who willingly kill for money and glory. (Can’t forget that they often drag more moral people down with them through conscription.) These people are not the sort of folks that Jesus surrounded himself with. (I assume the audience is Christian.) I feel that the person answering this question should instead justify why soldiers, who terrorize and slaughter innocent human beings, should be granted entry to paradise.

    • Rora Y

      Mitchell.. What on earth are you talking about?!! Jesus did surround himself with sinners of all kinds.. Read the bible!!

  • Joe Quirion

    Simple answer: They will not go to hell based on the simple fact that hell does not exist. Neither does heaven or any of your gods. People should concentrate more on their life instead of worrying about their death and what happens afterwards. It will actually liberate you and set you free.

  • DrumminD21311

    You didn’t answer the question.

  • Hunter

    I believe that no man can absolutely no if another man will go to hell because only God does. God works in mysterious ways. I mean in Genesis God told Abram to sacrifice his son Isaac but when God saw faith in him that he would the lamb came from the bushes and God told Abram to sacrifice the lamb. Another story I know is of General Gideon, he was a Great War General who brought about 40 years or peace! Peace! And when he retired he started putting Bibles on peoples pillows and what not and the Gideon’s society was created! So all I’m saying is if God sees a greater good in anything God I’m sure will likely use it for that greater good.

  • רםנקרא כרשטקר

    No they will not and here is why. Soldiers are upholders of our most basic laws and in the bible it says that we must obey the laws of man so the weight of there actions is on the soul of the commander and chief.

    • Hunter

      Is Gods law not above the law of man?

      • George Frayer

        I see what your doing, its called twisting the bible to fit your needs. The bible clearly says to fallow the laws of man. It is not a question of who is above who. But then again you are more than likely the type to throw things at a soldier who just came home, despicable if you ask me. Cut and dry the one heald accountable is the commander and chief. (The person who gave the orgional order for war) not the soldier doing his duty.

      • DrumminD21311

        Using that logic, the Nazi commanders at concentration camps that gassed prisoners would not be responsible for their actions. You’re twisting a simple question as an excuse to attack someone.

    • Mitchell

      Wow, that’s so foolish I’m not even going to try with you.

  • Michael

    This call is simply not ours to make, but if we look at Scripture we’ll find that God looked favorably on a number of violent, and/or immoral persons. A few that come to mind are Joshua, Samson, David, Maccabees, and more recently in the time of Christ, Simon the Zealot (an assumed terrorist, yet chosen diciple).
    Furthermore, we’ll find Scriptural evidence wherein God took extreme issue with some of His ‘invaders’ for showing mercy and compassion toward the peoples they conquered.
    I must confess that at times I have found myself literally offended by the violence shown by God’s people toward others, but thankfully God has placed the judgment of these well above my pay-grade.

  • ..

    Thou shalt not kill

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Swiftright-Right/100002904084914 Swiftright Right

    I came upon this article long after it was written and long after most folks read through it but I feel compelled to post.

    When I joined the army I was what I would now call a “devoted” atheists I opposed all forms of faiths especially Christianity and Islam. While doing a rotation to the middle east I found my time split between field intelligence gathering with the infantry and high level targeting where I acted as a liaison between intell, artillery and the air force. Through out the day it was my job to pick who died what would be used to kill them and when they would be targeted.

    One day I was monitoring a group of Iraqis I had highlighted earlier that day. they were in the middle of one of their prayers and they suddenly cut off, it was the result of a JDAM detonating 50 foot over their heads. At that moment I was filled with the spirit of Jesus (although I didn’t understand it at the time) and I started a tortureus process that lead me to the Catholic Church. I happened to be rotating back home soon and I withdrew my re enlistment papers.

    Just about every day I prey for those men that I picked for death and every day i sincerely hope that Jesus will forgive me for killing our brothers.

    • Mitchell

      You’re lucky he’s a nice guy and will probably let you off, but I’m sure you’ll spend a few eons in purgatory.

    • Stella

      It will! Like he forgave st Paul. Don’t live in the past, experiences are there to make us stronger and be a better followers of our Lord. There are many Saints in the church that had a not so holy life before they let the spirit of Jesus fill them. Peace be always with you!

  • a Soldier’s wife

    I say this with love and respect. Those that have commented on Soldiers being “murders” by simply signing a contract to protect his/her nation, shame on you. Shame on you for alienating a large portion of the body of Christ that the Church represents. Only God knows what is in the hearts of those called to serve their country.

    • Mitchell

      Wow, I really love this topic.

      Please, if you would, point me to the numerous instances where Jesus exhorts his followers to take up arms in defence of their homelands. Soldiers and their masters really talk up God, so I’m sure he was on their side on this matter. Sure, you might cite Augustine, but you people are supposed to be Christians, not Augustinians, so I want to see the orders as they came straight from the top.

      • Stella

        Why don’t you show more kindness.???? If you are so antiwar? I think you enjoy putting people feelings down, and that is also killing others.

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