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Sunday, November 11, 2012

War: Spiritual carnage

Nagasaki Bomb (Public Domain)
When veterans return from war, their bodies and minds are often shattered.  Not enough attention has been given to these horrible outcomes, let alone to the spiritual carnage that also occurs.

That is why Benedicta Cipolla, in her Religion & Ethics Newsweekly article titled "Healing the Wounds of War," refers to war as "the ultimate spiritual crisis."  Suddenly, all of the "thou shalt nots" are up for grabs – including the staunchest of all:  Thou shalt not kill.

Although profound "moral pain" arising from the commission of "acts with real and terrible consequences" is often experienced, it is seldom discussed.  One October, the Episcopal Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, MA attempted to host a four-day monastery retreat titled "Binding Up Our Wounds."  Attendance
was zero.

Presbyterian Reverend Alan Cutter stated that his spirit was "pretty well shredded and ripped" after serving as a Navy officer in Vietnam.  He also pointed out that "in a war… you're both victim and perpetrator at the same time."  A double-whammy like that is way more than twofold the overall pain.  It's no wonder that many try to "escape rather than learn from" such intense trauma.

War not only leads to the breaking of holy commandments, but also spawns anguished questions about life's very meaning.  As did Job, veterans might desperately wonder why God would allow such suffering to run rampant.  Other soul-searching questions might include these:  "Why did my buddy die instead of me?  Why wasn't I able to save him?  Will we ever be forgiven for the atrocities we've committed?"

These may be seen as fundamentally religious questions that require religious-cultural therapies rather than strictly medical-psychological ones.


Copyright November 11, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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