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Friday, November 15, 2013

Should Even Some Of Our Soldiers Experience PTSD

In an internet discussion between TV evangelist Kenneth Copeland and David Barton is a snippet on how our soldiers should handle PTSD. To cut to the chase, both Copeland and Barton claim that none of our soldiers should be experiencing PTSD for whatever they did in fighting our country's wars. The reason given is that, according to Copeland and Barton, these soldiers have nothing to feel guilty about.

Joe Carter, from the Acton Institute and the Gospel Coalition, a person with whom I have had many strong disagreements, wrote an excellent critique of this part of the discussion (click here). He not only noted Copeland's and Barton's questionable credentials, he wrote about how the Scriptures can be misused and on the physical reality of PTSD for soldiers who have fought in numerous past wars. His comments here are well worth reading.

What I want to say here will be brief, for a change, and hopefully meaningful. Copeland and Barton use Numbers 32:20-22 as a reason to claim that our soldiers have no legitimate reason to experience PTSD. Numbers 32:20-22 tells us of how Moses told the armed men of the Hebrews that if they go out and take the land for God, then they should have a clear conscience before him and before all people because they would have done what they should have.

I will add two criticisms to Carter's comments on this segment, some withwhich Carter might at least partially disagree. The first criticism is on how both Copeland and Barton have reduced PTSD to feeling guilty. Such is an extremely gross oversimplification of what those who suffer from PTSD experience. And when they so reduce PTSD to feelings of guilt, they show gross ignorance of the traumas soldiers face in war.

Second, to make the comparison between our soldiers and the armed men of Israel in the days of Moses is to forget a whole host of differences between the two time periods. But this comparison just does not forget the differences between the two time periods and the methods of how God reveals is will to people, it assumes that America has a similar divine role in the world today that the Hebrews had in the days of Moses. The problem here is that once that role is accepted, self-criticism flies out the window as our past wrongs are either whitewashed or swept under the rug of the sins of our enemies.

It is this last problem that is a key fault of Copeland's and Barton's comments on PTSD. It is a self-congratulatory account of America's history and who Americans were founded to be. It falls in line with Barton's selective use of history to prove his claims about America's "spiritual heritage" and conditional divine destiny.  

His claims about America's Christian past and destiny make American claims to exceptionalism proof that America is ordinary. For we know from history that claiming to be special is normal. In addition, claiming to be special is the prerequisite to believing that one is privileged over all others. It is the belief in privileges that can blind anyone to their own sins. And we should note only force can restore sight to the blind here. The more we persist in our self-delusions, like those promoted by Copeland and Barton, the more we invite others to use brutality to slap us out of our slumber. 


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