Monday, April 24, 2017

Moral Injury

Last week I pointed out that over the last 30 years or so, the US has killed around 3,000,000 people in the Middle East. Now, I’d like for us to think about what we’re doing to our own sons and daughters. 

A Vietnam veteran and dear brother in Christ shared this affecting video with me a couple of weeks ago.


The soldiers…they just wanna go home.

It’s a great line delivered by a great actor. And I’m sure it’s very true.

Yet many of them don’t get what they want. They don’t go home.

Thankfully, most of them do. But here’s the thing: the soldier who goes home is not the soldier who left home.

There are physical wounds. There are mental wounds. Some heal, some don’t.

And then there’s suicide.

We may quibble over how many and why veterans are killing themselves. Still, it’s alarming that,

Suicide rates within the veteran population often were double and sometimes triple the civilian suicide rate in several states. . . . Almost one out of every five suicides committed nationally is a veteran. . . [yet] veterans make up only about 10 percent of the adult population in the United States.

Something’s wrong.

That “something” is what Robert Meagher calls moral injury.

“Moral injury” has most commonly come to mean the transgression, the violation, of what is right, what one has long held to be sacred—a core belief or moral code—and thus wounding or, in the extreme, mortally wounding the psyche, soul, or one’s humanity. (Killing From The Inside Out, p. 4)

Meagher’s thesis is many war veterans are morally injured. They suffer not only from what they’ve seen, but also from what they’ve done.

He shares a scribbled note from Noah Pierce, a veteran of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Mom, I am so sorry. My life has been hell . . . I am freeing myself from the desert once and for all. . . . I am not a good person. I have done bad things. I have taken lives. Now it’s time to take mine.

Noah then shot himself in the head.

Two questions, dear reader:

1) Why is the US killing 3,000,000 people in the Middle East?

2) What’s it doing to those doing the killing?

Think about it.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Killing For Peace

Making war has apparently become as addictive to American political leaders as crack cocaine or heroin. ~Jonathan Shay 

War is big business and under our new businessman-in-chief, business is absolutely booming.


 Using poorly paid professional soldiers for profit is old hat. We all know this.

But did you know that the US has been waging war for 222 out of the last 239 years?1

Please, take a moment. Let that sink in.

Here’s something else to contemplate.

The Washington DC-based Physicians for Social Responsibility (PRS) released a landmark study [in April of 2015] concluding that the death toll from 10 years of the “War on Terror” since the 9/11 attacks is at least 1.3 million, and could be as high as 2 million. . . . In Iraq alone, the US-led war from 1991 to 2003 killed 1.9 million Iraqis; then from 2003 onwards around 1 million: totaling just under 3 million Iraqis dead over two decades.2

So, over the past 3 decades the US has slaughtered around 3,000,000 people in the Middle East—I’m guessing the vast majority of them civilian.

Again, take a moment. Let that really sink in.

Dear reader, this is the way of empire. It’s the way of “the thief” who comes to kill and destroy (John 10:10).

This is not the Way of Jesus who comes to give abundant life.

Here’s my concern…

How can people who claim to follow Jesus support the savagery of empire?

Evangelicals who self-identify as “pro-life” and yet shamelessly vote for warmongering politicians are deluding themselves. They may be anti-abortion but they’re certainly not pro-life.

I confess that I was once among this crowd—the “Christian Right.” But as I walk with Christ (I speak only of my own walk, not yours) He is leading me in a different Way.    

Jesus teaches, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). 

Yes, and they’ll be called lots of other things too.

Even so, killing our way to peace doesn’t seem to be working, does it?

__________________________


Friday, April 7, 2017

"Just War" Or Just War?

Please note: These thoughts (and others) were first published on September 13, 2013 (see here). So, no, I’m not picking on Trump. I’m simply observing that some things never change.

Dear reader, the appetite for war is voracious.

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Something to consider: How would we Americans feel if the top leaders of a country (a country we never threatened or attacked) assaulted us with missiles? 

This is precisely what our leaders did to Syria. 

Syria is in the midst of a civil war. And as is the case with many civil wars it can be more than a little challenging to know who—if anyone—is wearing the white hats. 

Furthermore, like all civil wars, innocent non-combatants are caught in the middle. (Hence the “noble rebels” are fond of fighting Assad by murdering Christians.) 

Speaking of Christians

The 16th century reformer Pierre Viret said, “There is nothing which Christians should be more wary to employ nor which is less suited to their profession [than war]” (Joel McDurmon, The Bible & War in America, p. 29). 

Yet oddly enough, it seems American Christians are often eager to beat the drums of war (especially if the President is a Republican). After all, what’s wrong with killing people when one is always on the side of the angels?

But are our wars “Just” or are they just wars? 

Reflecting on the unconscionably high rate of suicide among US veterans, Robert Emmet Meagher observes,

Every war is just, from the perspective of those waging it, and every killer is a hero, to the side they are on. That is the wall our veterans still run up against today. They are expected to deny their own pain, ignore what war has taught them, and take up their civil status as heroes. (Killing From The Inside Out, p. xv)

Jesus calls His followers to a different Way.

He says: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). 

When He speaks of the blessedness of peace-making, I don’t think He has blowing up Syrians in mind. Do you?