Last month the Interfaith Center at the Presidio sponsored a seminar called “Beyond Memorial Day: ”Understanding the Hidden Wounds of War.” The purpose was to begin to help religious leaders deal with the spiritual and moral wounds of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a successful event, in that vets shared their stories, helping professionals offered their wisdom, and the turn-out was much more than expected.
Evaluations of the day bear out the need for more of the same kind of opportunities. We only scratched the surface of the spiritual woundedness of many vets. There are many programs being developed to help with medical needs, etc (never enough, but they’re there), but spiritual wounds are different. And the church needs to step up to take on the necessary task of healing.
Many of us – myself included – are peaceniks from way back. Military culture has not only been foreign, but something to be avoided. But healing the wounded is not about supporting war or agreeing with any particular political position. We ourselves will have to learn how to meet the needs of these vets and their families. And for those who say there are no vets in your congregations, consider that there might be family members who are trying to cope with drastic changes in their loved ones. Also consider that many vets will not cross the threshold of a church, yet they are all around us – in schools, workplaces, on the street; how will we reach out to them with hope and healing? Consider, too, that moral and spiritual brokenness will have an impact on our society as a whole. The issue is huge and it affects each and every one of us.
This Memorial Day, we’ll honor those who have died and those who serve. But we need to also heed the call to go ‘Beyond Memorial Day’ and take seriously the spiritual and moral impact that war has had. It will take a shift in thinking for some of us; we need to get educated and sensitized to the issues. We need to learn how to relate, how to accept, how to approach topics like repentance, forgiveness, and grace.
I confess that I have been undergoing a shift in attitude, and it’s still in process. And like in so many other areas, I’m finding that it gets worse before it gets better. The more I learn, the more I find I don’t know or understand. The learning curve is steep. But the need is great.
So it’s not just a day for parades and picnics. It’s a day for prayer and purpose: how can we heal the spiritual wounds of war? It should be the prayer of us all.