Posts Tagged 'War'

18 Veterans a Day are Killing Themselves

How do people change? I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, both in terms of general ‘spiritual growth’ and particularly in relation to the ever-growing amount of people in our culture that struggle with mental health issues – depression, anxiety, and ADD. Thanks to Dallas Willard (I’ve been listening to an awesome Christian Audio recording of him reading his Renovation of the Heart) I’ve been reconsidering what had been tired old biblical bromides:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge God and God will make your paths straight. (Proverbs)

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. (Romans)

How is it that our minds re-pattern, and our brains and bodies re-form? Scientists tell us that every cell in our bodies dies and is replaced with new cellular life every 12 months; it seems like we’re constantly being born again.

If what we essentially are is a pattern of in-formation and not ‘matter,’ how might what we meditate upon effect who we are? I’ve been thinking about this anew while reading up on an organization that exists to help soldiers rebuild their lives after the insanity of war.

“I have ptsd. i know when i got it — the night i killed an 8-year-old girl. her family was trying to cross a checkpoint. we’d just shot three guys who’d tried to run a checkpoint. and during that mess, they were just trying to get through to get away from it all. and we ended up shooting all them, too. it was a family of six. the only one that survived was a 13-month-old and her mother. and the worst part about it all was that where i shot my bullets, when i went to see what i’d shot at, there was an 8-year-old girl there. i tried my best to bring her back to life, but there was no use. but that’s what triggered my depression.

when i got out of the army, i had 10 days to get off base. there was no reintegration counselling. as soon as i got back, nobody gave a f — about anything except that piece of paper that said i got everything out of my room. i got out of the army, and everything went to s— from there.”Army Veteran, Michael

American troops are taking their own lives in the largest numbers since records began to be kept in 1980. The army suicide rate is now higher than that among the general American population, calculated as 20.2 per 100,000 soldiers, compared with 19.5 per 100,000 civilians. In response to this, an organization called CBE launched 411God Hope for the Heroesa high-touch, high-tech suicide prevention tool specifically designed to reach at-risk service men and women with daily 60-second inspirational mobile phone messages.

Can a scripture a day help keep the demons away from the over 300,000 active soldiers currently suffering from PTSD? The Center for Bible Engagement (CBE) says “unequivocally yes.”

Dr. Arnie Cole, a former mental health professional and CBE’s Director of Research & Development, conducted extensive research on the link between behavior and Bible reading including a 5-year study concluding that those who read or listen to the Bible at least four times a week are more likely to successfully navigate societal ills: emotional sickness, marital problems, drug dependency—all issues suffered greater by PTSD sufferers.

War is hell. Stories like this prove it:

“i had all these images floating around in my dreams, nighttime was the worst. i missed my buddies, i felt like i had abandoned them. i had been so excited to be out, i’d done my time, and it was over. i didn’t anticipate the extreme loneliness and loss of purpose i would feel. i couldn’t fall asleep without putting back a bottle of jack. i needed to numb out in order to not… think. i wasn’t sure where to turn; i felt i would scare my friends and family if they knew what i was going through. a lot of my friends from the service were going through the same thing … and we’d talk … sometimes. but it’s hard when we’re all so far away from each other. i signed up for 411God, sorta on a whim, never realizing the impact it would have–it brought me hope. i started to get strength from that little phone call each day to start looking for a job, to move home and to share a little of what was going on in my head. it’s not over. i still have horrible days, but now i have something else to think about besides my time overseas, i have something that gives me hope.” – private 1 st class, Jason.

Now if you’re like me, you’re thinking “It can’t be that simple.” And of course, it isn’t – as Jason here says, he still has horrible days. But I think it’s important for us highly-educated, nonviolent activist, psychologically-savvy NPR-listening types to realize that some things aren’t overly complicated. The repetition of inspiring or comforting passages of Scripture can have a restorative, reprogramming effect on our minds and our lives. While we should all continue to work for the swords of the military-industrial complex to be beat into the plowshares of sustainable communities, but let’s not neglect one of the important human faces of war: Returning soldiers. Befriending them, getting to know them, being willing to sit with them in uncomfortable silence: This is the ultimate high-touch restorative tool.

To Vote or Not to Vote? An Election Links Roundup

So I haven’t really posted much about electoral politics this season. (Deep inhale.) I tend to agree with Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw of Jesus For President and Ordinary Radicals notoriety that “It’s not what you do at the ballot box on November 4 that matters, but what you do with your life on November 3 and November 5 that really counts.” I started thinking this way after 9/11. I was radicalized, really, once I saw how quickly common grief over terrorist atrocities transmuted into virulent nationalism and war-drum beating. Before I knew it, I signed the Kingdom Now 95 Theses and began looking into Anabaptist and Quaker traditions of nonviolence and even anarchism. [A technical aside – how do you all feel about the Snap Previews feature? In general I like it but I don’t like how whenever I link to my main site, zoecarnate.com, it always shows the top of the page – I actually link to specific sub-sections, say, nonviolence and anarchism sections just now. Of course, this owes more to the ghetto-fabulous design of my site than Snap’s deficiencies…] I considered my friend Andy’s advice not to vote, seeing it as an act of violence against people and idolatry of the State against God (consider vote is the same root as votive, as in votive candle – or devotion. Casting the ballot as an act of worship) . But in 2004 I just couldn’t stand by – I had to vote (Andy help me).

But maybe I shouldn’t feel so bad about voting. After all, respectable anarchists like Noam Chomsky vote, sometimes. And I have a difficult time getting all Hauerwasian when listening to people like Anthony Smith, aka the Postmodern Negro, share why it’s awfully convenient (and white) to eschew voting for an ideological high ground.

Sooo I’m voting. And I’m voting for Obama. This isn’t even controversial in some quarters, as Obama’s appeal to younger Christians such as myself is pretty well-documented. Nonetheless, even Don Miller catches heat for this from some quarters, as have I. (Not that I’m equating myself with Mr. Miller) Mostly on abortion. I get that. I hope that my friends – from far-left anarchists to center-right Republicans and Libertarians – can forgive me for making what they might see as a grievous mistake.

An Email

I hope my old college buddy, whom I’ll refer to here as Billy Bob, in particular can forgive me. He just emailed me the other day after we saw each other at a frolicking-on-the-hillside reunion my alma mater has every year. Billy Bob writes:

Hey Mike,

Perhaps I’m just itching for a debate, I don’t know. But I recently ran across this letter from Huntley Brown, a black man, on why HE isn’t supporting Obama.
So help me understand… why do you support him? What is it about this man that rallies support from Christians like yourself?
Billy Bob*
*Not actual name
Now by “Christians like yourself” I don’t know if BB means “otherwise upstanding exemplars of faith and practice” or “scum-sucking, devil-worshipping, soulless maggots.” I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Here’s some of what I replied:
Thanks for asking, Billy Bob! I guess I should say first off that I am disappointed by Obama‘s stance on abortion. Really and truly. I wish he were ‘consistently pro-life‘ like me – that is, like a growing number of followers of Jesus, being against abortion, war in all forms, and the death penalty, and for life in all its forms. And I’m not particularly jazzed up about national politics in general. I lean toward anarchism really, so any trip to the ballot box is with some ambivalence. That said, I’m a rather independent voter, certainly not a party-line kinda guy, whether that party has elephants or donkeys in it. I was raised Republican, voted for Libertarian Harry Browne in 2000 (after considering Nader), and Democrat Kerry in 2004.
So why Obama? I’m a firm believer in not restating things that others have said so much better, so I’m gonna direct you now to my friend Brian McLaren. Brian’s taken a lot of heat for being so darn particular in his national election endorsement this year, but I trust his integrity in this decision. He felt like he soft-pedaled things a bit in the 2004 election, and as a result the full range of values people of faith care about weren’t really represented at the ballot box. (Not just ’cause of Brian – but, y’know, him and others like him). So he’s done this great, concise job of talking about the reasons for his support of an Obama presidency.
When it comes down to it, when I’m choosing to participate in national electoral politics, I’m pretty much a pragmatist. Do I believe Obama is the Messiah? No, but I like the guy, and I think he will be good for the this land’s imagination, this land’s psyche. Untold damage has been done to American self-perception and perception abroad. Obama-the-Man can’t possibly undo all that damage, but Obama-the-Idea can certainly inspire others to do so. I think a heightened personal ethic and community sensibility would prevail in an Obama administration, and I think he’ll be a particularly good role model for children – especially minority children. Again, I hold this in tension – I believe citizenship in God’s Kingdom utterly supersedes national boundaries – to me, nations and boundaries don’t exist. But insofar as we’re in the process of being healing balm for the nations, we are in a state of becoming – as individual nations, as a global people. We need to avail ourselves of every peaceful tool in our toolshed to be the change we need – and this year, I feel voting for Obama is one of those tools.
There ya go. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Check out these links, and write me back sometime.

Hogs and Quiches,

Mike

Since penning this email, I’ve come across Tim Keel’s very excellent thoughts in his post Election 2008: Some Perspective.

Pro-Life, from Womb to Tomb?

As I’ve reflected on the myriad of ‘values’ commitments I have, the trifecta of life, ecology, and economy keep coming into play – and really, the latter two are different ways of saying ‘life’ – life for our poor, our ecosystems, our sick, our children, and our great-great-grandchildren. Here are some significant blog posts that have helped me think and pray my way through the challenges of being for all life in an election year.

A Plea to Pro-Life Voters – Lively Dust

Pro-Life and Pro-Obama – Will Samson

Pro-life, Womb to Tomb – Sensual Jesus

Frank Schaeffer: Pro-Life and Pro-Obama – Huffington Post

‘I’m Catholic, staunchly anti-abortion, and support Obama – National Catholic Reporter

Obama, Abortion, and Friendship – Faith Dance

Where I Stand Today on Abortion – Steve Knight

…and of course there’s the Pro Life, Pro Obama website itself – which strikes me as a bit too politically schmaltzy for my tastes, but it has some helpful resources nonetheless.

Must-Reads in an Election Year or Any Year

The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder

click to enlarge

We the Purple by Marcia Ford

Torture and Eucharist by William Cavanaugh

https://i0.wp.com/www.ratzingerfanclub.com/liberalism/torture_eucharist.jpg

Anything here

America-Backed Atrocities in the Korean War Discovered: Troubling Questions

“Grave by mass grave, South Korea is unearthing the skeletons and buried truths of a cold-blooded slaughter from early in the Korean War, when this nation’s U.S.-backed regime killed untold thousands of leftists and hapless peasants in a summer of terror in 1950.” More here (AP)

Disgusting. We aided in executing over 100,000 civilians (quite possibly three times that)–including women and children–in summer of 1950, while ‘back home’ we were revving it up for the (supposed) Leave It To Beaver decade. Mass extinction, all because our peace-loving democratic ideals were ‘better’ than their socialist/democratic/communist/revolutionary ideals. Preemptive idealicide. Jesus wept.

Continue reading ‘America-Backed Atrocities in the Korean War Discovered: Troubling Questions’


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