War wounds

The series is based on her book, Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War, co-authored with Gabriella Lettini, dean at Graduate Theological Union.

The concept of moral injury is a fairly new one, and Brock has pioneered methods to help churches and other communities support veterans through the transition from war to civilian life, including care for moral injury.

“A moral injury is a consequence of experiencing extreme conditions that challenge our moral values,” Brock said. “In extreme cases, the injury can be severe enough that entire belief systems are challenged.”

Brock said a moral injury can be concurrent with post-traumatic stress disorder but is distinct from it. PTSD is an injury to emotional and psychological well-being, whereas moral injury affects the conscience and, like PTSD, can affect decision-making, relationships and quality of life.

“It’s difficult for civilians to grasp that it takes eight weeks or more of complete immersion in a
new moral system to make a solider,” Brock said. “Killing and
destruction are celebrated, and soldiers are commended for doing their
duty when they engage in those activities. As long as they are in the
moral system, they can feel good.”

As
part of the lecture series, Brock will address what churches and
faith-based communities can do to help support the recovery process.
Most importantly, she said, communities must become places of deep
listening, allowing veterans to speak very unpleasant truths without
judgment or pat answers and without attempting to “fix” the problems.

“Storytelling
is part of the recovery process,” Brock said. “It takes training to
learn to listen deeply because our culture doesn’t typically listen that
way.”

Her lectures are based around her book.

“The book came about
because Gabriella and I were asked to contribute work to the Truth
Commission on Conscience in War that was held in New York City in 2010,”
Brock said.

The Truth
Commission on Conscience in War works with veterans to help them come
to grips with the spiritual and moral consequences of war. Brock also is
a research professor at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian
University.

She said
that problems begin when soldiers return to the moral system of their
upbringing after combat. A disconnect and struggle happens in many
veterans as they return to civilian life.

“There are extreme
cases of extreme circumstances, such as massacres and civilian
casualties, but we’re finding that survivor guilt and dealing with human
remains cause serious problems for veterans.”

The concept of survivor guilt is well-known, but Brock said the issues related to handling human remains are less publicized.

“Humans
are taught to respect dead bodies, but in war, there is not often time
to apply appropriate amounts of reverence or respect,” Brock said. “Many
times, the soldiers simply have to throw pieces into a body bag or dig
mass graves. The consequences are very traumatic.”

Brock
will give two presentations, both concluding with discussion. There
also will be a panel discussion featuring a Department of Veterans
Affairs chaplain, a combat veteran and a licensed counselor.

Greg Horton

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