CT Cover Story: Formed by War–Combat wounds the soul, but the gospel offers hope

At the heart of the gospel is a narrative of creation, brokenness, redemption and reconciliation, and new creation. Kinghorn turns to this narrative for a rich language and set of practices through which each war veteran can understand “what it means to be claimed by a God who created a good world.” He points out that in Jesus Christ, we have a “paradigm of mental health and flourishing.” After all, Jesus was once rumored to suffer from mental illness (Mark 3:21) and endured physical and mental anguish. The church has language and practices to foster healing for veterans: lament, confession, and reconciliation. All of these allow us to “listen, reflect, bear, and grieve” with our veterans.

The church can acknowledge that while war may sometimes be justified, says Kinghorn, it is “always a tragic manifestation of human brokenness.” We also have the hope of the Resurrection, and “the peace that is not simply the attenuation of distress but, rather, the right and ordered alignment of desire toward God and to God’s good creation.” Finally, we have the “healing resources of the community,” which can be brought to bear as we create spaces where veterans can experience reconciliation.

Churches and faith-related organizations have launched programs in recent years to better care for veterans’ mental and spiritual health. The Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas, started the Soul Repair Center in 2012 with a focus on research and recovery methods for those suffering from moral injury. They serve as a resource to educators, caregivers, employers, and religious and nonprofit organizations in general. Partners in Care, initiated by a chaplain in the Maryland National Guard and later expanded by chaplains in the Missouri National Guard, connects soldiers to their local congregations. Wheat Ridge Ministries, a Lutheran organization committed to assisting local congregations’ healthcare ministries, gave a grant to a Lutheran pastor and former Minnesota National Guard chaplain to help widely distribute his book Welcome Them Home, Help Them Heal to congregations.

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