Professor Calls for Military Chaplains to Confront Moral Injury

Dr. Martin E. Marty of the University of Chicago Divinity School recently cheered on US military chaplains who are confronting issues of moral injury.

Marty apparently came to see the issues associated with moral injury relatively recently:

A latecomer to the discourse, I became alerted to all this by the work and writings of thoughtful experts. For example, I have carefully read and now recommend Moral Warriors, Moral Wounds: The Ministry of the Christian Ethic by Wollom A. Jensen and friend James M. Childs, Jr. One is a military chaplain and the other a theological ethicist; the two provide close-up and soul-deep analyses and reports.

Dr. Jensen is a retired Navy chaplain (Captain) and an endorser for the Episcopal Church.  Marty also notes, without necessarily endorsing, the somewhat controversial Rita Nakashima Brock and others.

However, Marty focused on the issue of religion as it applies to moral injury (a point which was originally obvious, but in recent years has been obscured as people have tried to define morality apart from religion) [emphasis added]:

Most people of conscience, whether formed by faith texts or not, know so well that “thou shalt not kill.” But the military people they serve are trained and told to kill. Do the chaplains who are to interpret these canons and creeds and calls opt for one command over the other? Or, if both, how do they relate…?

We realize anew that moral injury of this sort can be fatal to individuals and cultures. Cheers for those, including the chaplains, who confront these issues.

While, as Dr. Marty says, moral injury is not “confined” to religious terms, the reason for its religious underpinnings are “obvious.” There is certainly room for a wide range of ways to help troops who experience moral injury — a range that should not be artifically restricted to non-religious means out of an unnecessary (and unwise) desire to avoid all association with religion.

US military chaplains can be not only an excellent line of defense in response to moral injury, they can also be an excellent first line of defense.

If only we let them be.