Did God Check Out Of Vietnam?

Out of the Night, by William P. Mahedy (Ballantine, 233 pp., $15.95, hardcover). Reviewed by Col. Galen H. Meyer, a chaplain in the U.S Army Reserve and a teacher of Bible and English at South Christian High School, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“God checked out of ‘Nam because of what was goin’ on down there. I would’ve checked out, too, if I could’ve.”

These are the words of one troubled Vietnam veteran to William P. Mahedy, an Episcopal priest and former army chaplain with combat service in Vietnam. The matter-of-fact statement about God’s absence sprung from the horror the veteran saw there, and it poignantly expresses the feelings of so many veterans—that the war has left them not only aliens in their own country, but strangers to God as well. Mahedy’s book, Out of the Night, is primarily a pastoral work designed to bring reconciliation between veterans, themselves, their countrymen, and God.

Profound Moral Pain

Unlike so many counselors who see the Vietnam veterans’ malady only as a psychological problem, Mahedy perceives it as a moral-spiritual problem. The veterans who told their stories to Mahedy saw their own experience in those terms. For the most part, these men were quite unlike the stereotype of the Vietnam veteran. They had not committed atrocities; on the contrary, they served honorably by any standard.

Yet they continue to suffer, long after the war’s end, what Mahedy calls a “profound moral pain.” It is a pain, he says, “… generated by the realization that the war itself was evil and one should not have participated in it.” The journey out of the night for Vietnam veterans may begin many different ...

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