Synopses & Reviews
In 2009, a group of VA mental health professionals published an article on the idea that soldiers returning from war may suffer not only from PTSD, but from "moral injury" as well. PTSD, of course, is a medical term; it is formally considered an anxiety disorder, and treatment of PTSD focuses on the use of antidepressants and therapy. PTSD is not discussed, and certainly not treated, in terms of the ethics and consciences of those who are in war zones. The VA psychologists, trying to make sense of what they were seeing among returning vets that PTSD did not seem to cover, described an extreme distress brought about by "perpetrating, failing to prevent, or being witness to acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations." They concluded that vets often suffer from PTSD and also moral injury.
Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabriella Lettini, who both grew up in families deeply affected by war, have been working closely with vets on the idea of moral injury -- what it looks like, how vets cope with it, and what can be done to heal the damage inflicted on soldiers' consciences. In Soul Repair, the authors tell the stories of five veterans of wars from Vietnam to our current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, to show their experiences of moral injury, their experiences upon returning home from war, questions of reparations, learning to live with moral injury, its effect on families, and the community and ritual processes that have gradually helped them with their moral injuries. In addition to describing the concept of moral injury, the book will discuss multiple approaches to dealing with moral injury and will include a resources section.
Soul Repair is a book for veterans, their families, medical professionals who are treating them, and the vets' religious communities who are seeking to help returning veterans readjust to civilian life and cope with their sense of moral injury.
"In this appeal to Americans to take more seriously the psychic wounds of war and high suicide rate of veterans, Brock (Saving Paradise) and Lettini (Homosexuality) move beyond post-traumatic stress disorder to what they understand as a distinct category of injury: the moral toll of war. Ordinary people with everyday consciences often become deeply troubled when they have to kill, even for 'good' reasons, and especially when the victims are women and children in ill-defined war zones. While PTSD can be cured or resolved through psychotherapy, moral wounds often become more acute as soldiers recover from traumatic stress. The authors question the efficacy of rationalizing away moral injury should we not instead interrogate what it means for humans to violate their consciences? The book lets veterans tell their stories. Each veteran has a distinct social location e.g., white, black, or Latino, Vietnam or Iraq war vet but their sagas tend to melt together. The book's strength lies, however, not in the narratives but in the authors' eloquent and unflinching discourse on war's problematic moral core." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Rita Nakashima Brock
is research professor and codirector of the Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School, Ft. Worth, Texas. She is the author, with Rebecca Ann Parker, of Proverbs of Ashes
and Saving Paradise
. She lives in Oakland, California.
Gabriella Lettini is Dean of the faculty and Aurelia Henry Reinhardt Professor of Theological Ethics and Studies in Public Ministry at Starr King School for the Ministry–Graduate Theological Union. She lives in Berkeley, California.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: I Became a Soldier
Chapter 2: Killing Changes You
Chapter 3: Coming Home is Hell
Chapter 4: I Will Live with Moral Injury the Rest of My Life
Chapter 5: Soul Repair
Resources for Further Study