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Church Partner Resource: “War & Moral Injury” Review

War & Moral Injury

War and Moral Injury is a collection of essays written by servicemembers, poets, and chaplains. “Moral Injury” is the more recently explored phenomenon of what happens to the soul when someone witnesses or participates in an act that runs counter to their inner-sense of right and wrong: The killing of a child, the torture of a prisoner, or it may simply be participation in a war one believes has a questionable purpose. “Veterans can usually recover from horror, fear, and grief once they return to civilian life, as long as what’s ‘right’ has not been violated.” War and Moral Injury gives a penetrating view of the soul: “I’m home alive. Well, not really.” But for those who don’t know where to begin in loving a troubled veteran, one writer offers sage advice “which requires little effort: listen. Listen to the stories…provide a safe, nonjudgmental and compassionate space in which to share their experiences…” One of the most insightful ideas in this book is that, in defining and wrestling with moral injury, psychologists with no particular faith practice struggle with terms such as penance, forgiveness, and redemption. What an opportunity for the church to enter into shattered, sinful souls with love, grace, forgiveness and cleansing that only Jesus offers.

Another key area for Christians to explore with veteran friends has to do with human nature. Our culture would often have us believe that mankind is essentially good. That–with just enough education, understanding, conversations, we should be able to overcome and get past conflict, arguments, and even wars. But Christians know that we live in a very broken world. People hurt each other, and—as sinners—we know we participate personally. When servicemembers go to war, sometimes they experience the very darkest side of this brokenness when evil is restrained. Here is where Christians have a unique opportunity to come alongside a loved one struggling with moral injury. When one participates in or witnesses evil with a humanist world-view (mankind is essentially good), they are shocked and potentially lose their faith in humanity as well as good God. But what if we can help servicemembers see that what they witness or participate in at war shouldn’t surprise them? That extreme evil is exactly what we should expect, when sin is unrestrained in a world that has rebelled against our Creator. Hence, Christian servicemembers can actually have their faith strengthened as they develop a more accurate view of the world we live in. And, those who don’t know Christ can be offered complete healing, cleansing, and forgiveness from a God who experienced the deepest, darkest evil on our behalf, in the person of Jesus Christ.

— Ted Hamm, UWS Church Partnership Program Manager