The Washington Post this week reported that American troops returning from the battlefield are carrying monumental psychological and emotional wounds, but the systems in place to help soldiers heal aren’t working, and don’t seem to care that they’re failing veterans in need.
Added to that, news of a study from the current issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health has found that male veterans are twice as likely to commit suicide as their civilian counterparts, and that white veterans and those with 12-plus years or more of education are at an even greater risk for suicide.
Our troops are coming back from war with untreated wounds that are driving them past despair to self destruction, and we’re just not noticing. The health systems put into place to deal effectively with veterans’ health and well being issues are not functioning, and most of the rest of us are either unaware of or indifferent to their suffering.
This generation of soldiers has survived abortion, triumphed over family and peer pressure to avoid military service at all costs, volunteered to step into the gap to protect this country against its enemies, and after serving in conditions that left indelible wounds on their minds and hearts, they come back to us, in critical need of healing and restoration, and what do we do? We give them fireworks and a 4th of July parade, a few hearty handshakes, and then walk away…smug and self satisfied that we’re good Americans.
Our churches will have fine 4th of July celebrations this year. They’ll preach on freedom, victory over darkness, American superiority, and ultimate freedom in the Lord. Then we’ll all go outside, march a few flag-carrying veterans around in a parade, wave our flags, set off our fireworks, eat more than we need, maybe even drink more than we should, and talk about how much we love this country. Nice going America…
Where are the healing services, the restoration and counseling sessions, the 24/7 community support for reintegration, the prayer support, the childcare and job placement and training, and the hands-on healing involvement of communities of faith, now that we’ve seen the need and been called to step into this gap?
Church, what are *you* doing besides fireworks, nice music, parades, and picnics about these crises? As a first step, have you decided to tone down all the back-slapping, flag-waving political rhetoric–to be sensitive to the pain that your vets carry, but don’t feel safe talking about yet ?
Here’s how Jesus handled the situations he encountered
Jesus graciously welcomed them and talked to them about the kingdom of God. Those who needed healing, he healed. (Luk 9:11)
And here’s what He has to say about what we should be doing:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation.
And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’
Then those are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me–you did it to me.’
Then he will turn to the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out…You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because–I was hungry and you gave me no meal, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was homeless and you gave me no bed, I was shivering and you gave me no clothes, Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’
Then those are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’ “He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me–you failed to do it to me.’ (Matthew 25:34-46)
If the measure of our discipleship is how well we minister to human need, then human need must be the disciples’ first priority. Fireworks, picnics, and parades are good diversions and fun. But in the middle of this immediate, urgent human crisis, we’re called to something higher than fireworks, picnics, and parades, right? Church, are we up to it?