In her 2013 book Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War (co-authored with Gabriella Lettini), Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock, founding director of the Center, defines the concept this way: “Moral injury results when soldiers violate their core moral beliefs, and in evaluating their behavior negatively, they feel they no longer live in a reliable, meaningful world and can no longer be regarded as decent human beings” (xv-xvi).
While a relatively new concept, the experience of moral injury is as old as war itself, says Rev. Dr. Nancy Ramsay, the director of the Soul Repair Center and professor of pastoral theology and pastoral care at Brite. “While the term emerged to help explain the painful experience of veterans of the current wars, now we are aware that some veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam also experience the wounds of conscience that we describe by the term moral injury.”
When the Soul Repair Center opened in 2012, it focused on public education around moral injury. While they still lead that effort, they now develop new resources for religious leaders and faith communities to support veterans and others impacted by moral injury, and their families.
To that end, the Center is hosting an interreligious conference on Nov. 15, 2018, on the campus of Iliff School of Theology in Denver. The “Spiritual Care for Moral Injury: Equipping Religious Leaders and Faith Communities” conference is open to clergy, seminarians, lay leaders, and anyone else interested in supporting populations impacted by moral injury.
“We’ve got the largest number of post-combat veterans walking around the U.S. since World War II,” says Rev. Kyle Fauntleroy, Captain, CHC, USN, a retired Navy chaplain now serving as an area director at the Pension Fund of the Christian Church. “It’s up to the Church to care for God’s children who have lived and worked in profane, unimaginable environments.”
One of the many challenges in addressing this problem, which contributes to the “epidemic-level of military suicides in this country,” says Ramsay, is that the impact of moral injury “isn’t just individual. It’s relational, generational, and systemic. When a vet comes home dealing with these challenges, all of their relationships of which they’re a part are affected.” Moreover, it’s not only combat veterans that can experience moral injury, but other military personnel like nurses, doctors, and chaplains.
Certainly, moral injury can be experienced outside of war as well, but the Center’s focus has always been on supporting veterans and their families. The Center’s location on the Texas Christian University campus in Fort Worth makes this focus a strong fit, as Texas is home to several military bases and a large population of enlisted persons and veterans.
As Ramsay explains, moral injury is an issue that all individuals and faith communities need to reflect on and find ways to address. “Civilians need to pay attention to how we care for people, but also search our own selves. Our work does not include saying whether we should or shouldn’t be in war, but instead we can all reflect on what it does to us and be more aware of how of the wars our nations wage impact the individuals fighting them.”