Stephen Kent

Police and the military deserve respect, even admiration. But when admiration extends to glorification, it is time to take a step back.

There have been recent articles, now a book, on the militarization of police. Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams were first formed to deal with shootouts, rescuing hostages, entering barricaded buildings. That has expanded to where these combat-attired officers armed with automatic weapons and armored vehicles are used to do low-risk business, such as serving warrants.

The entertainment industry amplifies this with television shows and movies that justify police violence, sending the idea that the only way to fight crime is to give more power to the police. It results in a culture that celebrates violence for entertainment’s sake.

The Christian presumption is against violence. Christians are called to a nonviolent way of life. That is difficult to do in a culture that celebrates violence. Law enforcement personnel have a difficult and dangerous job. But appreciating this is not a blanket approval of all they do.

Another concern is the militarization of sports. The San Diego Padres baseball team opened their season this year with players dressed in uniforms resembling military camouflage uniforms. The “salute to the military” also included the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band, as well as an aerial demonstration by the U.S. Navy parachute team.

What does this have to do with baseball?

Military gear on players is a far cry from when the Padres’ logo was a cheerful Franciscan friar swinging a baseball bat. Sports and military are becoming more intertwined.

“War is not a sport; it’s not entertainment; it’s not fun. And blurring the lines between sport and war is not in the best interests of our youth, who should not be sold on military service based on stadium pageantry or team marketing, however well-intentioned it may be,” wrote William Astore, retired Air Force lieutenant colonel now teaching history at the Pennsylvania College of Technology.

“We’ve created a dangerous dynamic in this country: one in which sporting events are exploited to sell military service for some while providing cheap grace for all, even as military service is sold as providing the thrill of (sporting) victory while elevating our troops to the status of ‘heroes’ (a status too often assigned by our society to well-paid professional athletes),” wrote Astore.

He makes the point that we should respect those in the military but not revel in the enjoyment of the things they must sometimes do.

While it is proper to recognize the military and law enforcement, why should we do it to the exclusion of physicians, professors, business executives, any profession that contributes to the well-being of society?

A sharp distinction must be made between the people and what they sometimes have to do to carry out their responsibilities. Anything that promotes violence as something good, something to be admired, even enjoyed, is anti-Christian.

Tolerate violence but don’t celebrate it.


Kent is the retired editor of archdiocesan newspapers in Omaha and Seattle. Contact him at: