Traumatized Troops Lack Faith?
On a Veterans Day broadcast program, televangelist Kenneth Copeland and controversial historian David Barton told listeners that soldiers should never experience guilt or post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from military service.
Reading from Numbers 32: 20-22, Copeland said, “So this is a promise — if you do this thing, if you arm yourselves before the Lord for the war … you shall return, you’re coming back, and be guiltless before the Lord and before the nation.”
“Any of you suffering from PTSD right now, you listen to me,” Copeland said as Barton affirmed him. ”You get rid of that right now. You don’t take drugs to get rid of it. It doesn’t take psychology. That promise right there will get rid of it.”
Ah, so that’s it. Somebody tell this apparently faithless British soldier:
Peter Stone was approaching the end of a long career in the army when he witnessed an event in Croatia in 1995 that was to ruin the next decade of his life. Walking through a village, he came across three Croatian children, aged 11, nine and seven. A father of four himself, Stone’s instinct was to talk to them. He even reached into the pocket of his uniform and offered them some chocolate. Later, passing back through the village, he saw them again. They were lying in pools of their own blood by the roadside, their throats cut – punishment for speaking to the enemy.
Stone was an experienced soldier. He had served in Northern Ireland, the Falklands and Croatia. He had seen death and despair, and he had endured and pulled through explosions himself. And yet it was this singular, horrific event that was to be his unravelling. “Those children were innocent,” he says, his voice faltering, “and I could not get the memory of them out of my mind, I could not get the thoughts to go [away] that I was responsible, that if it were not for me, they would still be alive today.”
If only Barton and Copeland could have gotten to their fellow Texan Eddie Routh before he shot and killed Chris Kyle and friend, they might have turned his hurt into a halo. Here’s part of what wrecked the mind of Routh, a former US Marine:
On January 12, 2010, an earthquake devastated Haiti. Routh, along with thousands of other marines, was sent there on humanitarian duty. He was unprepared for the corpses that had been piled on the side of the road. As Routh later told his mother, “They didn’t train me to go and pick up baby bodies off the beach.” He pushed corpses into front-end loaders, which deposited the bodies into dump trucks, which were emptied into mass graves. When the marines offered survivors wooden pallets loaded with provisions, they snatched them up in seconds, and reused the pallets for shelter. Routh told his sister, “I’ve never seen people take so much so fast.”
The experience haunted Routh long after he returned. He said that his sergeant had reprimanded him for trying to give his M.R.E. and water to a Haitian boy. Jodi recalled, “He said, ‘I was strong, I could have made it. He needed some food and I didn’t give it to him, Mom.’ ” Raymond said, “That hurt him real bad. You live with that. I always taught the boy to give—give to receive.” In June, 2010, after four years in the service, Routh left active duty, as a corporal. Laura told me, “The core of him was still there, but he wasn’t the same Eddie we’ve always known growing up.”
Routh is now in jail awaiting trial, and by all accounts not remotely in his right mind. If only someone would read him those lines from the Bible, all would be well. Right?
Seriously, I’m with former USMC gunnery sergeant Joe Carter:
This isn’t the first time Copeland and Barton have been “profoundly ignorant about theology and history,” said Joe Carter, an editor and communications director for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
“But for them to denigrate the suffering of men and women traumatized by war — and to claim biblical support for their callow and doltish views — is both shocking and unconscionable,” Carter said. “Rather than downplaying the pain of PTSD, they should be asking God to heal our brothers and sisters.”
Does anybody know if either Copeland or Barton served in the US military? I have been looking online and can find nothing indicating that they have.
UPDATE: Reader Silouan, who survived both a Marine Corps training jet crash and the severe PTSD that resulted from it, and who works to help others overcome PTSD, adds in the comments section:
I’ve worked with literally thousands of veterans with PTSD. Plenty of them are men and women of deep faith. Try watching your best friend get blown up and taste their flesh that has blown on your face while you engage in a brutal firefight, and see what that does to you, Christian or not. That is raw, but that is truth. War is literally hell and the reality of it doesn’t get talked about enough. PTSD breeds deep emotions of fear, guilt and shame that are hard to overcome. You can help someone with PTSD more by living your Christian faith than you can by telling them about it. Pray for our veterans. I was recently introduced to a young man who just learned of the 11th suicide from the platoon he served with in Afghanistan. It is heartbreaking.