This week's assessment comes from Robrecht via facebook, which was new for me! He's writing about Josh*, a devout Roman Catholic shadowrunner (futuristic mercenary for hire) with a very strict moral code not to kill unless he's defending himself or his family. He attended medical school at NYU, and as a result, he got into "shadow work" to pay his mounting tuition. He tended wounded shadowrunners before being offered a gig in Miami, Florida. He made a lot of enemies, often from his own team, as he refused to kill wounded bad guys since they weren't an immediate threat to his safety. Many times, it would have been wiser to kill them so that they wouldn't be a future threat.
Robrecht wants to know: Is it possible to remain a "good Catholic" (or at least for the character to believe he is one without being seriously deluded) while being a mercenary?
I thought this was a great question, because the juxtaposition of faith against actions has always been a prime topic in theological and philosophical debates for years...so why shouldn't it cause our characters angst and confusion?
The Apostle Paul wrote, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do" (Romans 7:15). He was talking about struggling with our sinful nature. No one would probably accuse Paul of being less than a "good Christian," yet he knew the war raging within himself.
Personally, I think making Josh a Roman Catholic mercenary is such a great internal tension-builder. We want our characters to wrestle with huge life questions, and because the value Roman Catholics place on life is so great, you've given him a doozy of a life question!
I got this from the Vatican's website, which is a quote from Saint Ambrose: "Every murder is a violation of the 'spiritual' kinship uniting mankind in one great family, in which all share the same fundamental good: equal personal dignity."
Josh's little "quirk" of not killing someone who is wounded and not about to try to kill him or his family is his concession to the sanctity of life. I mean, killing people as a mercenary isn't "good Catholicism," but when the killing can almost be justifiable as self-defense, it's a gray area. Reckless killing isn't what Josh is doing. He's very controlled and pointed about pulling the trigger, which actually errs on the side of good Catholicism. (Not sure I'm making sense here, but it sounds right to me!)
One must think about the type of people mercenaries kill, and they usually aren't the Mother Teresas of the world. I mention this because they likely are murderers themselves. I think an interesting little verse from Genesis, referring back to Cain and Abel, might serve as a internal mantra or sorts of Josh.
God put a mark on Cain, "lest any who came upon him should kill him." To review, God has punished Cain by sending him to live in the wilderness and desert where the ground will not bring forth fruit for him. But this mark he puts on him isn't to condemn him, but, according to the Catholic Church, it's to protect and defend him from those wishing to kill him. The mark is God's mercy even as he punishes, because not even a murderer loses personal dignity...and maybe that's another reason Josh refuses to kill those wounded to finish them off.
Another way to give Josh tension both internally and externally is if you give him a desire to sink roots deep down into one place, but yet his mercenary job keeps him "on the run" or "wandering." This is similar to what happened to Cain after he murdered his brother Abel. He became a "fugitive and wanderer on earth" (Gen 4:14). So maybe Josh's goal is to stay in one place and settle down, yet his punishment for the career he's chosen as a shadowrunner makes this impossible....the "curse" he must live with, similar to Cain.
Hopefully this assessment has given you something to chew on, although I'm afraid I drew more from the Catholic Church's website than from psychology. Please ask any additional questions in the comment section if you don't think I covered it well enough!