Review: “Soul Repair: Recovering From Moral Injury After War”

English: A folded American flag held by a Unit...

English: A folded American flag held by a United States Marine at the funeral of Douglas A. Zembiec. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have never served in the military.  I have had family and in-laws who served this country in a variety of capacities though the armed forces.  Now more than ever, the public is keenly aware of the movements and campaigns of the US military are leading in the Middle East and around the world.  New stations cover a returning solider, coming back home to a throng of people cheering and waving US flags; we get choked up when we see a solider surprising their family; we stand and clap during sporting events when a service person is recognized on the jumbo-tron.

While all of these things are wonderful expressions of thankfulness and gratitude, what about what is going on in the inside of the solider, inside their mind, their heart and their soul?  Can one ever understand what life is like in service to the country?  Can one ever understand the what life is like in the line of fire? to shoot a gun? to have bombs go off near you? to lose a friend? to kill someone?

How does one (if ever) reintegrate into a fast paced, self centered, on the go American society?

The book Soul Repair: Recovering From Moral Injury After War takes a look at the notion of moral injury in returning combat veterans.

Moral injury results from having to make difficult moral choices under extreme conditions, experiencing morally anguishing events or duties, witnessing immoral acts, or behaving in ways that profoundly challenge moral conscience and identity and the values that support them. Moral injury is found in feelings of survivor guilt, grief, shame, remorse, anger, despair, mistrust, and betrayal by authorities. In its most severe forms, it can destroy moral identity and the will to live. The struggle of combat veterans to return to civilian life can be even more difficult than serving in war and last a lifetime. (taken from http://www.brite.edu/soulrepair/)

The book profiles five different soldiers from different campaigns that the US has been involved with and their struggle with their own morality and faith and how their soul was injured during their deployment.  The book is written by Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabriella Lettini who both had family member serve in combat; both articulate that their loved ones were not the same people after their deployments.

This is an eye opening book to the pains and injury (not just physical) that combat has. I guess sub conscientiously knew it but I never connected the dots.  This text brings moral injury to the forefront, to a place where we as a society and nation are faced with it.  By hearing the stories of struggle and pain that the soldiers went through the reader is taken to a different place, into a world that most of us are not privy to.

The book states that returning combat vets are at a statsically greater risk for suicide and violence; this leads many to think that the pangs of war and combat are deeper than just what is reported on television.

Soul Repair does not hold back on its critique of the Veterans Administration and the US government for not support returning veterans.

Selected Quotes:

Moral injury results when soldiers violate their core moral beliefs, and in evaluating their behoavior negatively, they feel they no longer live in a reliable, meaningful world and can no longer be regarded as decent human beings. (page XV)

Veterans who struggle with moral injury are struggling to recover their lost sense of humanity, which they require to reintegrate into the human community. No easy shortcut can bring them home. (page 54)

Engaging in collective conversations about moral injury and war can help us all to strengthen the moral fabric of society and the connections that tie us to the rest of the world. Our collective engagement with moral injury will teach us more about the impact of our actions and choices on each other, enable us to see the world from other perspectives and chart pathways for our future. (page 114)

The Disciples of Christ in 2011 voted to look into the notion of moral injury and how the church can help veterans from all campaigns with moral injury. Thanks to a grant Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas opened the Soul Repair Center.

I support the work of the Soul Repair Center and I pray that it will be used for the healing and restoration of all people who are faced with moral injury.  The authors note that the church used to assist with the transition of those returning from war who had “shed human blood.” They had to undergo “a rehabilitation process that included reverting to the status of someone who had not yet been baptized and was undergoing training in Christian faith. … this ancient form of quarantine was required because early Christians understood that killing or participating in war, regardless of of the reasons, injured the souls of those how fought. (page xviii)”

I recommend this book to anyone who has or has had a member of their family in military combat, no matter how long ago.  Moral injury is something that has been with humanity ever since the first war broke out.

 

Book Link
5 out of 5 stars
★★★★★
In Christ,

Rev. Evan

What A Difference 3.8 Million People Make

Two months ago today I clicked publish on a post about Victoria’s Secret Spring Break Collection called “Bright Young Things.”   The aim of the letter was to let Victoria’s Secret know (as well as whomever would listen) that I disliked their marketing to a younger demographics and how they set up an unattainable standard of sexuality and beauty.

To date the letter has been read/viewed on this site nearly 3.8 million times from all around the world.  The letter is still be read today and shared over the internet.

To date the letter has been shared on Facebook over 765,000 times, on Twitter over 5100 times, almost 100 times on LinkedIn and over 550 times on Google Plus.

I want to take this time to say thank you for everything!

Because of the exposure I received, I have begun to contribute to a few websites- the Good Men Project, Sojourners and RadicalParents.com.  I am humbled and honored to contribute to these great sites.  I will try to post my articles here whenever I can.

I have been completely overwhelmed by all of this and I all of you to thank.  Without you sharing, liking, emailing and commenting- none of this would have ever happened.

I still have not had an official response from Victoria’s Secret (and I do not expect to), but another clothing company did.

About month ago Fruit of the Loom contacted me to let me know that they had seen my letter online.  They liked it and wanted to send my daughter “age appropriate” underwear.   They sent my daughter 10 pairs!  She was so excited to get them in the mail.

Fruit of the Loom

I want to take this opportunity to say a big THANK YOU to Fruit of the Loom.  Thank you for generosity and for thinking of my daughter! (The items pictured can be found here and here.)

Thank you again!  Keep reading, sharing and liking!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Disney Princesses, Merida’s Makeover, and Empowering Girls

My latest piece for Sojourners


Having a 3-year-old daughter opens your eyes to a world that you did not know existed, the world of princesses. Disney has cornered the princess market; there are currently 11 official Disney princesses, and if you are brave enough to travel to Disney World/Land or even a Disney store, you will soon find out that there is a plethora of accessories — dresses, placemats, and cups (just to name a few).

Disney has come under fire in the past for focusing only on Caucasian women — Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) and others. But over time, non-white princesses were introduced, like Mulan, Pocahontas, Jasmine, and Tiana.

Disney’s latest princess was Merida from the film Brave broke most of the Disney princess rules. She didn’t like pretty gowns, she liked to shoot bows and arrows, and her crowning glory was frizzy, wild red hair. Some people believed that Disney had finally broken the mold of the “damsel in distress” model of princesses that has been a dominant theme throughout many of the films. The trend actually started with Pocahontas and Mulan; maybe the theme of strong women role models would continue. Brave was a cute film with a wonderful message. Merida had a round face and was rough and tumble with her triplet brothers. She didn’t want fancy dresses or even want to be a princess; Merida just wanted to be Merida. She was the example of girls being girls, no matter how they look.

However, in a recent update, Disney decided to take the idea of Merida in Brave and throw it out the window. Merida, for her official induction into the Disney princess cohort, got a bit of a makeover. Merida 2.0 was taller, skinnier in the waist and had a slimmer face. Her famous bow-and-arrow set are missing, and her iconic wild hair has been tamed.

After the uproar that followed, Disney quietly pulled the newer version of Merida.

But my question for Disney stands: Why? What was so wrong with Merida that it warranted the change?

Disney made a statement with the creation of Merida, and it inspired girls around the world to live into who they wanted to be, not what society wanted them to be. Merida’s makeover told girls that, yes you can be who you want to be, but at some point you are going to have to fit in.

Brave’s director called the change “atrocious” in an interview with the Marin Independent Journal.

She continued: “When little girls say they like it because it’s more sparkly, that’s all fine and good but, subconsciously, they are soaking in the sexy ‘come hither’ look and the skinny aspect of the new version. It’s horrible! Merida was created to break that mold — to give young girls a better, stronger role model, a more attainable role model, something of substance, not just a pretty face that waits around for romance.”

Girls today need characters and princesses that are strong and powerful and reflect the society of today. I know that no one princess or character on Disney will ever be 100 percent inclusive of all people, but Disney at least needs to try.

Maybe sexualized images are more marketable, but that is not the point — empowering our girls is. I’m pleased that Disney has reversed its decision to alter one of their best examples of an empowered girl. I hope the trend of strong princesses started by this character continues.

Film Review: For The Bible Tells Me So

Film poster for For the Bible Tells Me So - Co...

Film poster for For the Bible Tells Me So – Copyright 2007, First Run Features (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most divisive topics that is dividing the Church today is the issue of homosexuality.  For decades (if not longer) this has been an issue (whether we like it or not) on the forefront of Church. Recently some denominations have had decisions and votes on whether or not to ordain open homosexuals; it has caused dissension, grief, hurt feelings and in some cases it has cost ministers their job. Many churches and even denominations have decided that in the interest of keeping everyone happy, they have not or will not broach the discussion at all.

In matters of church conflict or even church doctrine, the normal question to ask is “What does the Bible says regarding this issue?” It is a natural place to start.  However, there are varying ways on which the Bible can be interpreted and thus a problem can emerge.

The film, For The Bible Tells Me So, explores the issue of homosexuality as it relates to the Church and Christianity. This film tries to demystify the stigmas that have been placed on a certain group of people and tries to look at the issue from different angles.

Film Synopsis from forthebibletellsmeso.org:

Can the love between two people ever be an abomination? Is the chasm separating gays and lesbians and Christianity too wide to cross? Is the Bible an excuse to hate? Through the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American families — including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson — we discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. Informed by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard’s Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech, FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity.

This film dives into the Biblical text from a number of different perspectives trying to encapsulate the essence of the text as the original authors intended.  Scholars from many different denominations and faiths weigh in on this issue.

This film is presented in a way that brings in new ideas and understandings about homosexuality and how the Bible has been used and mis-used to subjugate a particular group of people. The interviewees do not hold back with their position and thought process when it comes to the controversial issue.  They are open about their feelings and in some cases have regret for the way that they treated their child when their child came out.

One of the positives of the film is that it does try to show different view points with regards to how different families  react to their children telling them they are homosexual– not all families reacted the same way then or even now.  For many it has been a journey that they have to take one day at a time.

I believe that this film is an excellent conversation starter no matter what side of the issue you are on; the key (as with many controversial topics) is that those watching must do so with open eyes, hearts and minds.  For many Christians this has become a hallmark issue; it has become the benchmark of righteousness and orthodoxy.  It is easy to hear something counter to your belief system and immediately get defensive and stop listening.  It is in those moments of struggle where we can learn and grow.  It is through difficult situations and conversations when we are able to open up to the possibilities of seeing a particular issue in a new light.

The website for the film also has two discussion guides (here and here) for further study and dialogue.

Overall, this film is well done and thought provoking.

I highly recommend it.

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars
Film Website

Watch this film on Netflix

In Christ,

Rev. Evan
(Trailer Below)


Trailer

Sojo.net gets 10,000 signatures on Victoria’s Secret Petition

A ministry colleague emailed me and told me that Sojourners had online petition encouraging Limited Brands to stop targeting young women in their marketing campaign; they cited one of the many article written about my letter in their petition information. I was honored that they asked me to write a piece about my experiences and thought process behind writing the letter to Victoria’s Secret.

Sojourners has been petitioning Victoria’s Secret to stop objectifying young girls; they have had about 10,000 people sign their online petition.  When some one signs it an email is send to Limited Brands.  According to a follow up piece on Sojo.net (see below), Victoria’s Secret has given them the same standard answers.  Catherine Woodiwiss, the author and Associate Web Editor of Sojourners, writes

This statement about “Bright Young Things” — what Sojourners has always made clear was a campaign, not a line — does not address Sojourners’ central concerns over reinforcing confusion about the value of young women, to young women. Over the action alert’s charges that oversexed objectification contributes to a culture of abuse, rape, and distorted worth, Victoria’s Secret gave no comment.

Please read the articles below and consider signing the petition.

Thanks for reading and supporting me.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


My article Link on sojo.net

Follow up article- 10,000 Emails, Victoria’s Secret Continues Business As Usual 

Consider signing the petition to tell Victoria’s Secret to stop objectifying teen girls.

Sojourners’ Bright Young– What? Campaign (via Facebook)

Reflection on Boston and West

I was in Phoenix all of last week.  I was attending a retreat for young ministers.  The retreat was jam packed and I had little time to check email and did not have any TV access at all.  It was only through twitter that I even heard about the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, the shootings in Watertown, the factory explosion in West, TX and the “man hunt.”

As information was flying across the internet I was able to catch a glimpse here and there.  As the days progressed and more and more information was being made available it was a difficult pill to swallow.  It seemed like it was an unrelenting barrage of tragic events.  Some of the people I was with in Phoenix stated that they were glad they were in Arizona during all of this, not because it was away from the action but because they knew they would be glued to their TVs while the events unfolded.

So what can we learn from these events?

First, don’t believe everything you read on the internet or hear on the news.  In the first few hours of the bombing and the West explosion, there were so many conflicting reports.  News agencies try to get the best information they can but sometimes the first information that is reported is either false or extremely over exaggerated.

Second, the human condition is alive and well.  Humans unfortunately at their core have the ability to enact violence and hatred on one another.  Whether it is racial tensions, religious objections, ideological differences, humanity can be a viscous beast. When tragedy strikes we reflect on how this could have possibly happened. We begin to think of ways this could have been prevented and sometimes that leaves us feeling empty and agitated. I know this is a dismal view when it comes to humanity, but is something that we as the human race have been trying to fix for millennia. Wars, hatred, violence, genocide and human rights violations are in our past; you don’t have to look that far to find this in history.

However, not all hope is lost. (see below)

Finally, humanity is not as flawed or selfish as we once thought. Yes, I know this might be hard to completely understand given the death in Boston (and the previous point), but I read report after report of first responders and police officers running TOWARD the blast sites in a effort to help others. Even the runners of the marathon continued to run to the local hospital to donate blood for the victims AFTER they had already ran 26.2 miles. Thousands of dollars and hundreds of supplies were collected in the days after both Boston and West. People recognized that those who fell victim to the bombings and accident at the plant did not intend for this to happen. We as a species have a great emotional gift called empathy. Our hearts break when we hear of tragedy and mourn right along with people even if we ourselves are not effected.


As a minister I began to reflect on the message of the Gospel and how that message was being played out in these cities. A colleague and ECLA minster, Rev. David H., tweeted something that stood out to me. (See below)

For me, the message of the Gospel is more about love and grace and care than anything else. Christ reminds us that his time on this earth is one marked by serving and loving than by being served. Christ’s redemptive and radical message of wholeness and grace is one that should inspire others to do the same. Christ’s message is one of self-lessness; it is a message that makes us look outside of ourselves to facilitate a world where peace, love and justice reign.

Maybe Rev. David is right… if the message of the Gospel of love and wholeness can not be shown in times of uncertainty and instability then maybe we should close up shop. However, Christian’s from all walks of life clung to the notion of God being ever present in the lives of those effected and walking right beside them.


May we continue to pray for those effected by the tragedies in Boston and West. May God’s comfort and peace and grace and wholeness be poured out.

Come Spirit Come.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

When Starbucks Is Thought Provoking…

"my morning pick me up"

“my morning pick me up” via Instagram

Today I went out to run a couple of errands and more importantly to get a haircut. For the past few days I was starting to resemble Grizzly Adams or at least a distant cousin. After I dropped off my daughter at pre-school I made my way to get my hair cut at location near the church. I arrived at 9:30, but they did not open until 10am. Not a problem… why? Two stores down is a Starbucks.

I made my way into the establishment and purchased a Grande Tribute Blend and took a seat. I read emails and tweeted and like many High School girls I took a picture of my coffee and posted it to Instagram (see above). It was posted to Twitter and Facebook and I received a comment pretty quick on Facebook.

The comment was from a colleague in ministry in Indiana– Jay. He had an interesting experience at a Starbucks when he was getting his “morning pick me up.” He just recently started a blog and I thought his first post was quite thought provoking.

Here is a snippet of the post.

What I had just experienced is commonly called “Paying it Forward.”

It sounds like a really nice gesture, and it is. But as I was going through this experience, I was quickly thinking and processing my feelings. First was obvious, FREE COFFEE!!!! Then I thought, “How long has this been going on today?” I had seen a story on the local news about how one Starbucks in town had 50 some-odd people “paying it forward.” Then I thought, “I can’t be the guy who breaks this cycle and look like a total jerk. The social pressure to continue with this trend was very high. Then after I gave her my card, I thought, “Wait a minute, what if the person behind me just ordered a $10 coffee?!?!” I obviously did not have that kind of budget.

As I fell into the social pressure that was placed upon me by complete strangers, I pulled out of the parking lot, finally with my coffee, and I thought: ”WHAT IN THE HELL WAS THAT?!”

Jay took the experience of free coffee and the guilt associated with not “paying it forward” and views it in the lens of social justice and the Christian response.  This post is an excellent example of public theology and how Christians are called to be the light of Christ to all people at all times.  Good job Jay 🙂

I highly recommend that you read the entire blog post, click here to do so.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Finding God In Tragedy: A Review of “Faith Under Fire”

On February 14-17, Bethany Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Houston, Texas will host the first annual Texas Christian Film Festival.  From now through the festival I will be posting reviews of the films shown.  You can learn more about the festival by going to TXCFF.com.


June 22, 1980 was no normal Sunday. This particular Sunday in the quiet town of Daingerfield, Texas will never be forgotten. On this date, Al King, Jr. entered the First Baptist Church and opened fire, killing seven people including a seven year old girl.

This day and the days after it are the subject of a documentary entitled “Faith Under Fire.” (Trailer Below)

This film recounts the moments that changed so many people’s lives on a typical Sunday morning in Daingerfield.   Director Sondra Martin Hicks takes the viewer on a emotion filled retelling of the tragic events.

You can hear the pain, the anguish, the heartbreak, the “what ifs”, the “why them?” and the raw emotion still after 30 years.   Hicks weaves the story of the event and the the reflection of the event in a powerful way.  At one point, the viewer is able to hear the original church audio of the moment when King entered the church and opened fire.

“Faith Under Fire” examines how faith, community, love and justice co-exist.  For some this experience brought them closer to God, for others it was years before they could return to a relationship with God.  I began to question how I would react if my child or wife was killed.  Would I call for the death penalty?  Would I chose to forgive?  Would I hate the person who did this?  Could I ever learn to “deal with it”?

During this film you hear the reaction and thoughts of the family of Al King, Jr.  It was surprising to hear their version of that fateful day.  King was cold, mean and abusive and his wife and children were powerless under his reign.  In their minds, there was nothing that could have stopped him from committing the act of violence that he did.

In the end, this film brings up so many different emotions.  But through it all, the viewer  is left with a sense of how faith even under fire can hold up and restore people.

4 of out 4 stars.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan Dolive


And You Wonder Why People Aren’t Christians: Part X (Inauguration Edition)

My latest blog on Houston Belief


I’ve said many times before that I believe that some people who were Christians and left the faith or those who reject Christianity altogether do so not because of any objection to the teachings of Jesus Christ. They object to the actions of Christians themselves.

This is just another example of how one stupid act can make all Christians look bad.

Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill in Seattle, Washington has been known for his outlandish statements. Generally he takes to the social media and makes wild statements about what it means to be follower of Christ or how a certain group of people should act.

Normally I just roll my eyes and have a good discussion with other minister friends but this time, he went too far. Now I am not saying that his previous 538 wild statements were somehow deemed “ok” by me, but I think that this one deserves special attention.

Driscoll took to the mighty Twitter on Inauguration Day and tweeted this:

Really Mark? Really? Please inform the masses in what class at Western Seminary did you learn the complex inter-workings of knowing a person’s faith? Last time I checked you and the President were not sharing a brew on the White House lawn.  So then how are you capable to judge someone’s faith and intent?  How are you able to say that he does not know God, that he does not believe in the Bible?

BIG WORDS MR. DRISCOLL, BIG WORDS.

Just another reason why people aren’t Christians and yet again it has NOTHING to do with Jesus. If the image of Christianity is one of judgment and self-righteousness, well we might as well close the doors and go home. The idea that Christians have some sort of mystical power that allows them to peer into the soul and heart of others is a stretch.  This is not the image of Christianity that I want to be promoted.

Could it possibly be Mark that the President and you might have different understandings of what it means to live out the gospel? Is it possible for the two to co-exist?  I am assuming that in your mind they can not.  This my friend is saddening.  If all of Christianity believed in your version of the gospel, it would be pretty plain and monochromatic.  But Christianity is diverse, rich and multi-layered.  Sure we can disagree on theological concepts but if the fact remains that we are doing it as a response to the Gospel and the faith that we hold dear I do not see a problem.  Sure people can take it to the extreme like Westboro Baptist, but isn’t this tweet just as extreme?

Driscoll’s words fly in the face of what Jesus actually taught in the Bible that he claims he knows but the President does not.  The problem with his words not only are they extremely judgmental, but they make all faithful followers of Christ look bad.  Not every Christian believes that the President is not a Christian, not every Christian believes in the same understanding of God, Jesus, the Bible, the authority of the Church or even sin.  Just becasue you might not have voted for the President or even like his policy choices, the President (whether you want to admit it or not) is created in the same image of God that you and I are.  Belittling the President or anyone for that matter is down right wrong.

As Christians in the 21st century we are called to become more than just talking points, cliches and tweets.  Christianity at its core is based in relational loving and caring.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

New Project!

Christine de Pizan, Multi-TaskingWhen I was living and working in Orange, Texas I had a brief stint writing religion articles for the Orange County Record.  I really enjoyed it and I liked that people were thinking and contemplating what I was writing. (It was because of the paper that I had the idea for this blog.)  Not all of the responses were glowing but the majority of people like what they read.

Since I left Orange I have been keeping up this blog and starting a new job.  I currently live and serve a church in Houston.  A few weeks ago I emailed the Religion Editor of the Houston Chronicle, the 6th largest paper in the USA.  I knew it was a long shot but I inquired if they were in need of religion columnist.  The editor wrote me back and told me that she was not looking for columnist but they needed religion bloggers for their site, houstonbelief.com.

Houstonbelief.com is site dedicated to religious bloggers from a variety of faiths.  In total there are about thirty bloggers ranging from Christians, Wiccans, Hindus, Muslims, Mormons, and Jewish.   I was honored to be asked to do this and look forward to contributing.

You can find my Houston Belief blog at http://blog.chron.com/modernfaith/  There is nothing to see at this point.  I will keep up this blog as well and maybe have some cross over pieces.

Stay tuned for more to come!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


Photo Credit:“Christine de Pizan, Multi-Tasking” available under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0 at http://flic.kr/p/7wjfaq