Friday, May 23, 2014

Them's fighting' words!

     Earlier this week, we held a book discussion on Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabriella Lettini's Soul Repair:  Recovering from Moral Injury after War.*  My two co-facilitators represented two very different experiences of  the military; one was a former Army brigade commander, the other a Marine Chaplain.  Both recognized the circumstances reflected in the book:  soldiers often find themselves doing things in battle that are at odds with their inner compass, and they have varying degrees of difficulty coming to grips with that disconnect.  They also had, however, different ways of using words that addressed some of the issues in the book.  And those differences got me thinking.
      The chaplain (as well as others with whom he works) shy away from the phrase "soul repair".  The word "soul" conjures up all sorts of associations for folks, and raises the issue of whether or not it can be "broken".  So, it seems that "inner conflict" is preferred.  Again, the circumstances/effects are not under debate, only the description.  The brigade commander avoided adding the "D" to PTS (Post-Traumatic Stress [Disorder]), suggesting that it is no longer considered a "disorder", but something else.  Again, the circumstances/effects were not under debate, only the words used to describe them.  The chaplain suggested a question that got at the heart of what I was hearing:  "How does our language (i.e., concerning diagnosis) affect -- or counter-effect -- people seeking treatment?"  That is, if someone doesn't consider themselves "injured", then they might not seek help.  Or, who really wants to consider themselves "disordered"?
       I then recalled a conversation with Barb, the student from Iliff School of Theology who's been working with me this year. She was preparing a sermon for a service here at DU, and asked me whether or not she could talk about "sin".  I said, "Of course!  Entirely appropriate for that service!"  She responded that some other folks had counseled her against it, saying that that language wasn't going to work these days.  I encouraged her to stand her ground.
       Now I concede that "sin" language is a bit out-of-fashion.  No one wants to be told they're a "sinner" (I suppose the truth hurts too much); such language smacks, I suppose, of old-time revival meetings and groveling before an angry deity.  But when I put that reaction to "sin" next to the reactions to the language of "injury" or "disorder", I have to wonder whether we've lost our connection with the full human condition!?  I am not necessarily a big fan of the classical western Christian concept of "original sin", but I think that most religious traditions recognize that we are NOT perfect beings.  We all fall short of some higher expectation.  We mess up.  We are hurt by so many things.  We are broken.  Yet it seems that we are loathe to admit it.
       We are loathe to admit it . . . but most of us recognize our circumstances and want to be whole.  It's a dilemma, indeed.  Yet it's a problem we need to address, given the number of folks who are hurt so badly, but never seek help until it's almost too late.  I'm not saying we need to continue to use "sin", "injury" or "disorder", but we need to come up with new, compassionate, ways of addressing our ills that (a) don't sidestep the realities we face, but (b) extend an invitation to wholeness regardless of the depth of our pain.  Any ideas?


Chaplain Gary
*(Beacon, 2012).  A recording of the discussion can be found under "Recordings of Past Discussions" at this page.

No comments:

Post a Comment