I recently got a question by email from an online friend and fellow academic. I wanted to post it for a couple reasons; 1) It’s a great question, and 2) he drops the D from “PTSD.”
This is increasingly being done by veterans and veterans service organizations, and which I support whole heartedly. The D stands for “disorder,” which carries with it certain moral judgments, namely that the veteran is ‘disordered.’ But vets are pushing back on this claim, insisting that there is nothing out of order about expressing reasonable reactions to the unreasonable circumstances they faced in war or military service. Some vets, myself included, worry that this actually displaces or falsely concentrates blame onto a minority population, that in fact we need to seriously assess our society as a whole and whether it has become disordered. There is a lot more that could be said on this, but I’ll leave that for another post. For now, here is my friend’s question;
Logan, I got a question from someone who has a Christian friend who is suffering from post-traumatic stress. I was asked if I am aware of any books or materials that address this from a Christian perspective. I am intrigued by the question since I am increasingly convinced that PTS is a spiritual issue as much as a medical one. Are you aware of anything? If so, thanks
Well, at the risk of self-promoting, that’s what I’ve been trying to do through my writing. My own thought on it is that we have too many resources on the diagnosis, which can be dangerous because it reinforces the false idea that ‘I am my diagnosis.’ What I do, through Centurions Guild especially, is to create a constructive account to work from, so the conversation isn’t all about mental illness. So we talk about what a Christian soldier has been in church history (correcting misconceptions along the way) and then invite people to consider what it means to be a Christian soldier today. To do so, we have to privilege the voices of Christian soldiers in order to correct the narrative that directly links me with my diagnosis. Furthermore, we need to connect people with the story of salvation history to which the church bears witness, and which Christian soldiers contribute to in their own very unique way.
So that is all to say that my 2nd book especially is an attempt to do this. I failed to see this concretely when I wrote it, so you won’t find this rationale in the introduction. The point of the book is really about creating a constructive martial hermeneutic, one which displays how integral Christians soldiers are to the Church. Not for killing, but for how they embody virtues the church has failed to in the last few centuries (like loyalty, courage, etc.). My first book narrates my discovery of the living story of Christian soldiers, and also makes me want to encourage other vets to write, because putting my experience on paper (and sharing it) really helped me assign moral meaning to it (both good and bad. i could more readily see the things I did wrong and the things i did not do wrong).
I hope that helps, and that I’m not just tooting my own horn. There are really good clinical/therapeutic books out there, but I don’t usually find them satisfying in terms of rich theology. I will say, because I clearly like tooting my own horn, that I am working up a book proposal for something that will accomplish what you’re talking about, but that probably won’t happen any time soon…