At a recent evening hosted by the Crossroads Cultural Center, a young woman in the audience asked how chaplains minister to troops of other faiths or no faith. This is a question that always comes up, and, indeed, it was one of the issues that drove us to make the film: we wanted to see for ourselves whether and how a predominantly Christian clergy in the employ of the state served the needs of a religiously diverse population. Chaplain Ken Bolin answered in a way that reminded us of the many chaplains we saw in Afghanistan and Iraq. They reached to others out, fueled by their faith to love, not judge, fellow service men and women.
The more time passes, the more I realize how very important this is. Anyone read the book Christian Nation? It is a particularly chilling dystopia because it underscores that what we have is so very valuable and, possibly, so very fragile. We take its existence for granted, but the Constitutional balance that at once guarantees our free exercise of religion and prohibits the government from establishing any one religion is delicate and finely tuned. And it needs to be protected if it is to endure. In his extremely well researched novel, author Fred Rich sets out how, through a confluence of planning and accident, a dogmatic religious faction comes to power in the US. And, yes, military chaplains play a role in this dystopia: rather than reaching out in faith-inspired love to help and comfort troops, the chaplains in this novel love only those who share their faith and help the government impose that faith on those who do not.
We are so very lucky that the world Rich describes exists within the pages of a book and not in the world we inhabit. As we approach Memorial Day, we want to thank all the chaplains and all the troops who have died upholding this delicate and oh so valuable balance in our Constitution.
We are delighted and honored to be part of “Hope for Our Veterans,” a three-part series organized by Crossroads Cultural Center
Under Fire: A Candid Look at the Military Chaplaincy
April 24th at 7:30 pm at TheCatholic University of America
(McGivney Hall, Keane Auditorium)
The event is free and open to the public — join us and spread the word!
Crossroads Cultural Center in Washington, DC, is hosting a three-part event that explores “Hope for Our Veterans.” The first (on March 21st) focused on the difficulties facing too many of our veterans upon their return and it featured Nancy Albin, co-founder of a valuable resource and source of hope: the Los Angeles Habilitation House, which helps returning veterans suffering from PTSD tackle the sometimes seemingly unsurmountable challenges to reentering the workforce.
The second event will take place April 24th and will explore the role of military chaplains with excerpts from “Chaplains Under Fire” and a discussion with Chaplain Ken Bolin (who was an infantryman before he became a chaplain) as well as documentary’s editor, Andrea Hull, and director Lee Lawrence. The evening will be moderated by Suzanne Tanzi, managing editor of Traces magazine.
Part three of the series, “The Arts and Military Healing,” will be presented by Smithsonian curator Jane Milosch on Veteran’s Day. We’ll keep you posted about the time and location.
On view for another month at the Brooklyn Museum, WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath is an amazingly effective show. It groups some 400 images taken over the last 166 years thematically — from training to deployment to combat, injuries, death, and the 1000-mile stare of returning troops. By organizing the show this way, it drives home the constants of war. The equipment and circumstances change, the realities of sending people into combat doesn’t. There are acts of bravery, tenacity, loyalty and love on the battlefield, in hospital tents, by gravestones. There is also unspeakable brutality, suffering, and devastation both individual and collective, military and civilian.
This was our take on it. If you have seen the show in Brooklyn or any of its previous venues (Museum Fine Arts, Houston; Corcoran, Washington, DC; Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles), please share your thoughts.
Humanity Explored Film Festival is up and running, and you can watch Chaplains Under Fire on-line as well as a number of other great documentaries and feature films. And, please, give the festival your feedback and spread the word. Thanks.
For all of you who ask us where you can watch “Chaplains Under Fire”– well, we are proud to announce that the documentary will be part of the next Humanity Explored film festival whose organizers, Culture Unplugged, make it easy for everyone to attend: it is on-line, free, and runs for a year. The 2013 festival will launch later this month and, in the meantime, you can still check out the 2012 films.
The Dart Society is an independent nonprofit organization of journalists who cover trauma, conflict, and human rights. In its fourth publication, it highlights range of veteran issues, often with an eye to helping the media deal with these issues more sensitively and honestly. You can read the current issue on-line — it is well worth it.
A good report from the Sydney Morning Herald about the medical care given to wounded troops in Afghanistan. The article includes a video (below) about the work of doctors in the multinational medical unit in Kandahar. On the eve of Gallipoli anniversary, it is a reminder that Australians and New Zealanders are sending troops into this war, too.
It has been an amazing privilege to contribute a chapter to War Trauma and Its Wake: Expanding the Circle of Healing which Routledge is publishing in May/June.
Here is a flyer with the table of contents in pdf form: War Trauma and Its Wake (it also offers a 20% discount on pre-orders). The chapter I contributed deals with the journey home for physically wounded troops and their families and it is greatly informed by the troops and families we got to know while making Chaplains Under Fire.
Jaye White runs a program for the United Methodist Church geared to encouraging congregations to reach out to military families. As part of this outreach program, she showed Chaplains Under Fire at the Haymount United Methodist Church in Fayetteville, NC. Here is what she reports:
We had about 35 people show up for CUF at our screening in February. There were two active duty chaplains in attendance and three retired chaplains. All of the response was positive. One woman was upset that anyone would take issue with having chaplains in the service. One of the retired chaplains pointed out that chaplains are to assure that everyone has religious freedom. Obviously there have been problems at times, but this documentary addresses the issues fairly.
We are showing the film this Thursday, March 8 at Southern Pines United Methodist Church in Southern Pines, NC at 6:30 pm. FREE Everyone welcome!
Pass the word along to anyone you know in the Southern Pines area — thanks!