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How Chaplains, Soldiers Keep Faith During War

An article of the same title by Eve Conant in Newsweek describes how war tests the faith of chaplains and regular soldiers in Iraq. A few excerpts:

Countless soldiers-not just chaplains-have struggled with how to reconcile a God of love with a God who allows the terror of conflict. For centuries theologians and philosophers have grappled with ideas of "just war": thou shalt not kill, but under certain conditions-to prevent wider bloodshed and suffering-slaughter by armies is acceptable. Many American soldiers in Iraq wear crosses; some carry a pocket-size, camouflage New Testament with an index that lists topics such as Fear, Loneliness and Duty. U.S. troops have conducted baptisms in the Tigris. They often huddle in prayer before they go on patrol. Not everyone is comfortable with this. About 80 percent of soldiers polled in a 2006 Military Times survey said they felt free to practice their religion within the military. But the same poll found that 36 percent of troops found themselves at official gatherings at least once a month that were supposed to be secular but started with a prayer.

Many chaplains think that war strengthens their belief and the spirituality of the troops they serve. "It is the trials of life that ultimately help us to grow in our faith," says Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Trent Davis, who was deployed to Iraq in 2005. He recalls one soldier who wasn't much of a believer at home but decided to read a Psalm each day while deployed. The day the soldier started in his vehicle across the Iraqi sands was the day he read from Psalm 23: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. "After that his faith grew much deeper," says Davis.

Many soldiers suffer spiritual doubts in war, but the stresses can be especially acute for chaplains. By ministering to men and women who are struggling to keep faith, many are forced to confront their own doubt again and again. Chaplains are unarmed, but they go where the troops go. They help in any way they can.

The article focuses on a particular chaplain, Roger Benimoff, and how his experience took him to the brink of unbelief. I can't imagine what war is like, how damagiig it is to the psyche. If you've got some time, read through the discussion about Christians and non-violence on Scott Freeman's blog. I'd like to have the same conversation sometime with folks at my church. A large fraction of the men, particularly from the older generation, spent time in the military. I think it would be really interesting to discuss just war theory and the principle of non-violence and military service with them.

Trauma-Related Stress

An article in USA Today this week reports on kids in Baghdad:

About 70% of primary school students in a Baghdad neighborhood suffer symptoms of trauma-related stress such as bed-wetting or stuttering, according to a survey by the Iraqi Ministry of Health. The survey of about 2,500 youngsters is the most comprehensive look at how the war is affecting Iraqi children, said Iraq's national mental health adviser and author of the study, Mohammed Al-Aboudi. "The fighting is happening in the streets in front of our houses and schools," Al-Aboudi said. "This is very difficult for the children to adapt to." The study is to be released next month. Al-Aboudi discussed the findings with USA TODAY. Many Iraqi children have to pass dead bodies on the street as they walk to school in the morning, according to a separate report last week by the International Red Cross. Others have seen relatives killed or have been injured in mortar or bomb attacks.

A little less pride

That's the title of a letter to the editor from today's edition of our local paper. It's by Ted Killinger. You can read it here: link. He explains how people like me are opposed to the war in Iraq because we find it inconvenient. He also tells me how I'm physically, intellectually and morally inferior to our troops. I'm also, apparently, lily-livered, a sissy, and a chicken. Read it for yourself.

Gunmen Go On Rampage In Iraqi City

Even McCain has been promoting a rosier view of conditions in Iraq. If only it were true. From an article of the same title by Joshua Partlow in the Washington Post:

A day after twin truck bombings laid waste to predominantly Shiite neighborhoods in the northern Iraqi city of Tall Afar, marauding Shiite gunmen and police executed dozens of Sunnis in retaliatory attacks that many Iraqis feared might precipitate a resurgence of open sectarian warfare. The killings took place in a city once cited by President Bush as a sign of the U.S. military's success in pacifying the insurgency. Bush said in a speech almost exactly a year ago that the "example of Tall Afar gives me confidence in our strategy." But parts of the city reverted to chaos and carnage Wednesday as gunmen went door to door assassinating as many as 60 people in revenge for the previous day's truck bombings, Iraqi military and government officials said. The attack was startling for several reasons, including the alleged participation of police officers in the killings and the implication that the six-week-old Baghdad security plan might be allowing violence to metastasize outside the capital. But perhaps most ominous was the resurgence of reprisal killing at a time when U.S. and Iraqi officials have noted optimistically that Shiites have responded with restraint to recent insurgent bombings. The violence in Tall Afar follows Shiite reprisal attacks on three Sunni mosques south of Baghdad on Sunday, and it suggested to some Iraqi officials that Shiites are losing patience with government security forces.

Ghosts of Abu Ghraib

Tonight I finished watching Ghosts of Abu Ghraib (2007). It's currently playing on HBO and examines torture of prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. So disgusting. So disgusting.


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