Soul Repair: Recovering From Moral Injury after War
By Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabriella Lettini (Beacon Press, 2012)
Reviewed by Ann King-Grosh
Brock and Lettini both educate and challenge us in how we, as a “peace church”, think about and respond to those who are and those who have been in combat service and their families.
“Soul Repair”, by the very first two words of its title, confronts the materialistic nature of our Western culture and tells us that our souls can be injured. Tony Dokoupil in the Dec. 10 issue of Newsweek writes, “Soldiers are supposed to be tough, cool, and ethically confident. But what happens when they have seen and done things that haunt their consciences?”
Addressing the need for the repair of the soul sets this book apart from other works that seek to find reasons for the mental health illnesses, alarmingly high suicide rates, and sometimes insurmountable difficulties that challenge US veterans when they attempt to integrate into civilian life.
Brock and Lettini write that “research done by the Veterans Administration health professionals and veterans’ own experiences now suggest that an ancient but unaddressed wound of war” may answer the question as to why treatment for PTSD, though addressing many veterans’ suffering, has not been more successful in the treatment of mental illnesses and rising suicide rates. The authors who call this wound of war “moral injury” write, “This deep-seated sense of transgression includes feelings of shame, grief, meaninglessness, and remorse from having violated core moral beliefs”.
In their book, Brock and Lettini, tell us the stories of four veterans and their families as well as their own personal stories of growing up in families deeply affected by war. They challenge us to “deep listening” and to creating a “place of grace” for those who suffer from moral injury. They call all of us, as a society, to accept moral responsibility for all those injured by war, both veterans and those who live where US veterans have and are fighting.
We would do well to read this book and then ask ourselves, can we as Anabaptists be moved to creatively hold in tension our commitment to peace making while creating “places of grace”?