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Mission to repair souls and restore life

Presbyterian military chaplains urged to make moral injury recovery mission of church

August 7, 2013

The Rev. Rita Brock

The Rev. Rita Brock wants mainline denominations to take on moral injury recovery to help restore life to military veterans, civilians and the church itself. —Paul Seebeck

MONTREAT, N.C.

The Rev. Rita Nakashima Brock is on a mission to restore life in mainline denominations and for military veterans and civilians. 

As co-director for Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School, Brock wants the church to take on moral injury recovery as part of its mission. 

“No social institution can do moral injury recovery better than mainline denominations,” said Brock to nearly 100 participants at the Presbyterian Council for Chaplains and Military Personnel (PCCMP) Conference here Aug. 5-9. 

“Moral injury emerges with reflection on memories of traumatizing experiences,” she said. “Like being ordered to shoot a woman who appears to be pregnant because she is on the road coming towards you and she might have a bomb. Then finding out that’s what she was — pregnant.” 

According to Brock, moral injury has a “slow-burn quality” of negative self-judgment based on “having transgressed core moral beliefs and values, or on feeling betrayed by authorities.”  Moral injury brings anger, survivor guilt, isolation, despair and/or loss of a will to live. 

Within 10 years, Brock hopes that all religious leaders and seminarians from mainline denomination have education about moral injury as part of their training. 

“May the church become houses of lamentation and grief for our returning military veterans,” said Brock. “Bring them all the way home.” 

During her opening address at PCCMP Aug. 6, Brock shared two quotes on moral injury. One comes from Captain Tyler Broudreau (former U.S. Marine) who has lived it: “War is the foyer to hell — coming home is hell.” 

The other, from Dr. Judith Herman, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, who has studied it: “Once the symptoms of PTSD are relieved the moral questions emerge.” 

“Our religious traditions actually view moral emotions that come as the right response to immoral content,” Brock said. “We can listen non-judgmentally to their grief, isolation and fear.  Let them be angry and struggle with God and self.” 

“Instead of we civilians falling back to our positions on war — to what Congress or the president is or isn’t doing — let’s move with the veterans into lamentation to a reconstruction of core values and self worth in a moral meaning system, remembering together God’s divine love and faithfulness.” 

Find resources and information on how congregations can support military personnel and their families on the website of the Presbyterian Council for Chaplains and Military Personnel (PCCMP), or make a gift to Presbyterian Mission Agency to support PCCMP’s ministry.

  1. A compelling word which goes way beyond morally injured servicemen and women, but to all those who are seduced into believing that the answer to our individual or social problems is violence, and then acting upon it. PTSD is not just for soldiers anymore.

    by Jim Atwood

    August 14, 2013

  2. Moral injury also happens when sexual misconduct, financial malfaesance, murder, homicide and suicide happen within the membership of a congregation. Just as we respond to church fires, community tornadoes, and veterans of war, I wish we would respond to these congregations when they are harmed and injured.

    by Vern Farnum

    August 7, 2013

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