My apologies for responding so long after your letter reached me. Unfortunately, I did not know of the student boxes until well into the semester, so I did not discover your letter there until sometime in October I think. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your heartfelt and timely reply. As time has passed, I have given much thought to how to begin to address the insulation of the Church from the reality of personal and painful repercussions of war, and I would like to propose an idea.
This past week, on Veterans Day (Martinmas for the Roman Catholic Church), I participated in an interfaith service on conscience in war. The service was to honor the consciences and heal moral injury of our nation’s service men and women. Last March, I was a testifier in the Riverside Church of New York City at a public hearing that commenced the Truth Commission on Conscience in War (TCCW). On November 11th, the TCCW released their recommendations based on my own testimony and that of five other combat veterans, as well as religious leaders and mental health experts. It was a good start; the first step on the long road to moral recovery for not just veterans like me, but the Church as a whole as we take stock of the last decade of war, which the World Council of Churches tragically deemed the “Decade to Overcome Violence.”
I want Duke Divinity School to lead the way in training pastors on tangible and meaningful ways in which to engage our service members as they wrestle with what their service means as Christians. DDS stands in a powerful and prophetic position to affect positive change in the way churches talk about war and peace and relate to those who fight wars in our name and with our money. DDS has a unique opportunity to make sure that no other veterans ever have to feel the shame and estrangement I did that day at orientation earlier this semester.
I am currently working with people at Sojourners and other faith communities and organizations on conscience and war, and I am hoping to plan an event next fall on Veterans Day, 2011. I want Duke Divinity School to host a local Truth Commission geared especially toward the recommendations in the TCCW Report for religious leaders and communities, which you will find marked in the Report I have included. The spiritual fruit of such a gathering has enormous potential, and I want it to flow from DDS. With your support and blessing, I think it can provide pastors and laity alike a way forward from these dark and troubling times of war and rumors of war.
If your schedule allows, I would like to speak with you more about this and my vision for a weekend conference for seminarians, pastors, scholars, and lay people (Veterans Day 2011 falls on a Friday). I am happy to also provide you, and any member of the faculty you feel would be interested, a copy of the TCCW official report as well as other documents that may be of interest. Following the delivery of this letter, I will also email you a number of relevant internet hyper links to illustrate the breadth and scope of the TCCW project.
You will find that many major news outlets have covered the two prior gatherings, and I am sure they also would be very interested to hear more about local truth commissions, especially at a major research institution with an active ROTC cadre with proximity to one of the largest military bases in North America. Furthermore, as a result of my participation in the TCCW, I have compiled a number of scholarly articles on conscience in war, selective objection/Just War, and clinical reviews of moral injury by Veterans Administration practitioners. I am happy to put together a packet to share with the DDS community to create interest and encourage participation in this exciting and transformative venture.
I look forward to being in touch with you regarding this matter.
SGT, USA 2000-2006