One side benefit of writing is the chance it gives writers to address pain in their own lives and personal histories. Such is the case with Annalaura Montgomery Chuang, who wrote this month’s timely cover story.
Chuang, based outside Boston, grew up in a family “where the trauma of World War II was a still-present and loaded topic.” Her grandfather survived the Bataan Death March, when some 80,000 soldiers were forced to walk 60 miles to Camp O’Donnell in the Philippines, many of them beaten, shot, and killed along the way. Her grandmother and great-aunt were also interned by Japanese forces at a Filipino camp.
So when the United States went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, “I was aware of what that might mean for our troops,” Chuang says. She got involved with a nonprofit that provides free care for any New England veteran suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury. But, she told me, “I couldn’t help wondering what more we could do as the healing community of Christ.”
As more research and media coverage have illuminated the high rates of PTSD among veterans, church and parachurch groups have ramped up practical ministry. In 2009, CT reported on groups that provide in-home care and counseling to veterans and their families. While crucial, that care can’t always address the wounds that lie deep in the soul.
Enter Warren Kinghorn, a psychiatrist whose innovative work on “moral injury” provides the crux of our cover story. “I was fascinated by the clear call that he was issuing to the church not to reduce combat trauma to a mental-health issue that can be left solely in the hands of mental-health professionals,” says Chuang. In other words, the community of Christ has a uniquely Christ-shaped role to play in healing the wounds of war.
As churches honor veterans between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July this year, they are also wise to befriend and listen to veterans in their midst. In her research, Chuang found that
churches tend to fall into two camps: the conservative ones who call veterans heroes and put them on a pedestal, and the progressive ones who opposed the wars but have nothing to say to veterans. My hope is that the church will begin to listen to our veterans and to make room for the full range of their experiences, even when what they have to say is painful or uncomfortable.
At the family picnic, in the fellowship hall, at the Communion table, we are ever in the midst of the walking wounded. But wounds that are seen have a better chance of healing than wounds that are hidden. May we stay with veterans long enough to see, to suffer alongside, and to serve.
Follow Katlyn Beaty on Twitter @KatelynBeaty
TO CONTRIBUTE Give online at ChristianityToday.com/donate or send checks (US dollars only) to: Christianity Today, Attn: Donor Relations, Box CT0615, 465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188. Christianity Today International is a 501(c)(3) organization.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.