(The purpose of Soul Care Conversation is to create a place to generate dialogue, initiate thoughtful consideration for the challenges our veterans face each day, share ideas of veteran and family well-being and healing, and spark within all of us a call to be engaged with the veteran and caregiver community. Click here to visit the forum and join the conversation!)
Over the last several weeks we have explored the various components of spirituality, as spirituality pertains to trauma and trauma care. This week we will begin to lay the foundation toward a theology of healing and the faith community’s role in journeying with the veteran and the veteran’s family toward well-being and healing.
From the opening pages in the first book of the Torah, the Hebrew scripture tells us something has gone wrong; loving relationships have been broken, creation has been marred, humanity has been separated from God, all resulting in the need for God’s healing. Good news begins right here; God does not simply step in and by coercive force make things right. Rather, love shapes God’s activity; patient and persevering. Love becomes the “medicine” that galvanizes God’s response to a broken world.
The core ingredient of God’s healing “medicine” is restorative justice. So what is justice? According to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, the Hebrew words tsedeq and mishpat are all used to describe “justice” in the Bible. These words are interchangeable with the words for “righteousness”. The ideas of justice and righteousness are deeply intertwined in the Hebrew scripture.
However, the basic meaning of “justice” is “what is right” or “what is normal”, or the way things are supposed to be. Restorative justice is part of God’s purpose in redeeming a broken world. But justice is also about restoring our broken relationship with God. Justice relates to fairness, judgment, love, and healing of God, a Love story. All of this has great importance for the veteran.
GOD’S “MEDICINE” TOWARD HEALING
So, let’s look at this Love story. It is a journey that begins in Genesis 1, “Then God looked over all God had made, and God saw that it was excellent in every way.” However, this exceptional, superb, and tremendous story shifts drastically into a story of a broken, weak, fractured, and shattered humanity as we read in Genesis 3 of the break in the relationship between human beings and God. However, something new emerges. In Genesis 12, God calls Abraham and Sarah into a relationship as they begin a community.
God’s “medicine” for healing begins in this promise as summarized in Genesis 12:3: “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God’s calling of a people included two elements; “I will bless you”, God said, “so that you will be a blessing”. God’s healing “medicine” is in and through community.
The Love story tells of a God who responds to human brokenness with continual creativity in healing a broken world! During this journey God’s creative involvement centers on restorative justice. What does this look like?
God’s response to heal human brokenness is powerfully lived out in the midst of the Love story that comes in the saga of the Exodus. As we look at God’s involvement in restorative justice, it is interesting to note that God;
- is not a God of people in power who lord it over others
- hears the cries of those being oppressed
As the Hebrew people understand God’s involvement in restorative justice, the Torah (the Law) becomes central to their understanding of their call and their covenant with God. When God gives the Hebrews the Torah following the exodus, they understood the Torah being;
- a work of God’s grace
- a resource for ordering peaceable living in community
- a guide to wholeness that serves justice
Following the exodus, the Love story continues. However, the Hebrews did not heed the prophets and turn from injustice. The prophesied consequences came to pass in that the center of their religious life, the Temple, was destroyed. So too the center of their political life, the king’s palace, was destroyed. Additionally many Hebrews were exiled.
The prophet Jeremiah linked Israel’s conformity with the injustices to the end of their Hebrew nation. Jeremiah laments this end with profound grief. However, Jeremiah points forward by indicating God’s promises. Jeremiah’s words fortified the Hebrews to survive as a people. He encouraged them to seek the well-being of whatever society they were part of (Jeremiah 29:7) while at the same time maintaining their distinct identity as people of the Torah. God’s healing “medicine” continues as the Hebrews remember God’s blessing in order that they too may “be a blessing”.
How can the faith community “be a blessing” to the veterans and their families? Restorative justice takes on a central focus. One of the clearest and most holistic words for justice is the Hebrew shalom, which means both “justice” and “peace.” Shalom includes wholeness, or everything that makes for a person’s security, well-being, and the restoration of relationships that have been broken. Restorative justice is about repairing broken relationships both with oneself, other people, and to structures and organizations.
For a warrior that may have experienced a moral injury while in combat, it may be difficult to see how they can experience “wholeness” after what they may have done. Yet, it may be in service to others that the veteran begins to see the positive connection with others, and see this as a way to make amends. This can be done by providing support to the family of the battle-buddy who was killed or wounded. Or by connecting to an organization formed by veterans to make reparations or support refugees.
Shalom is not a passive concept, rather it is lived out in community. That is why justice always has to be social. So, restorative justice, most simply, means putting things right again — repairing and restoring broken relationships… and doing justice restores our relationship with God.
The faith community is uniquely positioned to “be a blessing” to veterans and their families who have experienced a soul wound. After wars of the past, clergy and congregational members have played a key role in helping veterans find healing of the soul. Clergy and laity through their actions have offered hope, love, patience, forgiveness, trust, and comfort. Clergy have offered words of assurance from Holy texts. Both actions and words living out the sacred Love story provide remarkable healing power.
So how can the faith community “be a blessing” to our veterans? Next week we will continue our conversation on a theology of healing…until then, thank you for the conversation.