Clergy no longer deaf, dumb and blind to veterans

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 I thought getting the clergy involved in helping veterans would be easy….

By Chaplain Kathie STAFF WRITER

Living in Florida, knowing this state has over a million veterans and at least one church on every major street, I thought getting the clergy involved in helping veterans would be easy. I was totally wrong. A couple of years ago, I visited over 20 churches in the Orlando area. I was armed with over 20 years of information from research and living with it. I knew how churches work along with what their mission is supposed to be because I worked for a church as administrator of Christian Education. Each year for Memorial Day and Veterans Day, there are special services honoring the men and women serving this nation. Weekly prayers are offered up for all the troops. This is why I was so stunned and disheartened discovering only one out of the twenty churches responded after my visit. The pastor happened to be a veteran and a chaplain. He agreed more had to be done to help veterans in our own community. He couldn’t get involved here because he was transferring to another state. It was almost as if they have been deaf to the cries for help from their own communities.

Tracking PTSD across the country there will be a report of churches getting involved, which means they are paying attention refusing to remain uninformed. These churches are no longer denying how trauma, especially combat trauma, eats away at the soul from the simple fact PTSD is an attack against the emotional part of the brain. God is always involved in trauma. People survive it then wonder if God saved them or put them in the middle of it to suffer. Soldiers always seem to wonder where God was when this happened or that happened because they saw the worst that one human can do to another. Children used as shields, bombs blowing up women and children along with old men and the friend here one minute, killed the next one. After this they wonder how God could allow all of this to happen. Where was he? Then they question the existence of God Himself.

Most people do not have a nurtured relationship with God. They get their cues from their parents first and then whatever church their family attends. Too many have never gone to church, so their knowledge of God begins pure and simple as it develops from life. Others are subjected to sermons on how much God will punish them if they do something wrong instead of how much God loved them and they could be forgiven because of Christ paying the debt. It is easy for them to have their limited faith pulled away from them leaving them to believe they are not only totally alone but condemned to suffer.

I have no tolerance when it comes to military proselytizing. To hear a Chaplain has told a grieving soldier he is going to hell because he is not a member of the right denomination should have all of us understand how much harm is being done while they are on active duty. It leaves them with nowhere to turn topped off with being shoved away from the spiritual help they wanted.

Evangelical Chaplains Test Bounds of Faith in Military
by JEFF BRADY
July 27, 2005
The idea of a chaplain along the lines of the ecumenical Father Mulcahy of television’s M*A*S*H is fading away in the military.

The percentage of Evangelical Christian chaplains is higher than their faith’s representation in the ranks. The military directs them not to proselytize. But many say that would force them to deny a basic tenet of their faith.

One could be excused for thinking that this Bible was put out by the military. But it’s not. Holman Bible Publishers of Nashville developed, printed and distributes The Soldier’s Bible at its own expense.

Still, critics think the emblem on the front brings up legal questions — and may even violate the Constitution’s ban on government-established religion.

What’s especially troubling to some is that this particular Bible is clearly evangelical. Holman Bible Publishers is owned by the Southern Baptist Convention. On the first few pages, there’s a “Plan for Salvation” that says you must be baptized as an adult believer to have eternal life.

Printed in the back are inspirational words from military leaders such as Lt. Gen. William Boykin. He raised a few eyebrows back in 2003, when he said of his battle against a Muslim warlord in Somalia, “I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.”

Evangelicals are playing an increasing role in the military. Department of Defense statistics show that 40 percent of active duty personnel are evangelical Christians. Sixty percent of taxpayer-funded military chaplains are evangelical.

While this report is six years old, the problem has only grown leaving more to spiritual slaughter. Soldiers trying to cope after friends have committed suicide being told their friend’s soul will go to hell by a Catholic Chaplain because that is what they believe. No group is pure in any of this. Gone are the days when Chaplains took care of their own within their own faith and then took care of the leftovers as people instead of prospects.

One of the most shocking accounts came out last year when it was discovered bible codes were on weapons.

U.S. guns carrying secret Bible codes
Shot in the foot: Propaganda fear as our troops in Afghanistan are given U.S. guns carrying secret Bible codes
By PAUL THOMPSON and IAN DRURY
Last updated at 9:48 AM on 20th January 2010

British soldiers in Afghanistan are to be issued with guns inscribed with references to passages from the Bible – risking handing a propaganda victory to Muslim extremists.
The sights for the Sharpshooter assault rifle, bought this week to boost the fight against the Taliban, are etched with the characters JN8:12.
This is a reference to chapter 8 verse 12 in the book of John, which reads: ‘When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”.’

With all they are up against while deployed, is there any reason someone would not understand them turning away from the clergy at a time when they need spiritual council the most? Some churches are still blind but others see the need and do something about it.





After war, churches care for warriors

By: Martin Davis and Kimberly Loontjer
Military families need help adjusting to civilian life in areas ranging from adult education to children’s services, according to new initiatives announced last recently by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

But government agencies admit they can do only so much, especially in these tight budgetary times, to ease transitions for the two million Americans who’ve served in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. Other supports must come from relatives, friends and private organizations if those who’ve served in uniform are going to thrive back home.

Fortunately America has a rich tradition of supporting neighbors through religious congregations. Hearing a call to serve, congregations are now finding they’re uniquely equipped to provide much of what this generation of young veterans needs.

Sometimes the needs are as basic as child care. If a returning soldier veteran is hospitalized, for instance, members of Rosemount United Methodist Church in Rosemount, Minn. will give the at-home parent a break by watching the kids for a few hours. Other congregations rally volunteers to help with transportation or odd jobs. Such simple yet valuable services are typical of hundreds of burgeoning ministries to military families in America’s congregations.

By attending to basic needs, congregations give veterans more than a little help here and there. They offer opportunities for veterans to be contributors, not charity cases.

Unlike life in a war zone, where troops fight daily for big causes and risk their lives for one another, civilian life can feel insignificant or pointless by comparison. Religious communities fend off such despair by involving veterans in big causes that warrant personal sacrifices, according to David Thompson, a retired Navy chaplain and co-author of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon: Ministering to Returning Combat Veterans.

Some veterans find their way back into passionate civilian life as volunteers in ministries to returning veterans. Example: John Rodvik, a 48-year-old retired Army reservist who did tours in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan, has found a meaningful niche at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Maple Grove, Minn. There he’s helped organize dinners to honor the church’s unsung veterans and has helped raise funds for local veterans’ rehabilitation equipment.

Veterans and family members turn to church leaders for counseling. John Kunze, associate pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Lincoln, Neb., helps couples work through difficulties. Local veterans already trust Rev. Kunze from their deployment days, when church members mowed their lawns, sent care packages with sermons enclosed, and used videoconferencing during worship to connect with them in Afghanistan. With bonds of trust already established, congregations such as Messiah Lutheran are positioned to help veterans make a relatively smooth adjustment upon return.

In these initiatives and others, churches are showing that they don’t always need to arrange for specialized training, or manufacture new programs especially for veterans. But they do require resources to help them deal with the challenges. The Presbyterian Church USA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are just two examples of denominations that have much available for ministers as well as congregational leaders.
To be sure, some situations require more skills and know-how than congregations can offer. But even then, congregations have important roles to play. Pastors might, for instance, spot warning signs of trouble, such as a family that’s buckling under financial stress, or is quietly being torn apart by PTSD. For such situations, Messiah Lutheran keeps a referral list in case veterans need a mental health counselor, a lawyer or a financial planner.

There are many ways for churches to help our veterans. First they start by showing love, then letting them know someone cares about their simply basic needs just as much as they care about the big ones. If they are there to listen to the need instead of just trying to convert them. I was at an event for homeless people in Orlando. A young man came up to a group of us and talked about how he lost everything. His greatest need was to care for his baby. A pastor heard what he said as clearly as I did. He took the young man’s hands and said he wanted to pray for him. His prayer did not address the young man’s needs but was all about him accepting Christ into his life. It was almost as if the Pastor didn’t hear a word this young man said. When the Pastor walked away, the young man was stunned. I took his hands and we prayed that he would find the help he needed for him and his family. I kept listening to him until his heart was lifted again with some kind of hope.

Last night I went to a wedding rehearsal. A young couple is getting married today. The groom is a member of the National Guard. The bride helped at the church since she was a kid. They don’t have much money so when the church members heard about this, one after another stepped up to donate things and talent to help make their day as perfect as possible. I’m doing the filming so they can remember the sound of their voices when their new life together began. I talked to the groom and he told me how much it meant for so many strangers doing so much for him and his bride. They know they are loved and they are part of a community caring about their lives.

That is what the churches need to do and that is what is possible for churches to do once they refuse to remain deaf, dumb and blind to the needs of veterans and their families.

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