US soldiers needing treatment get a dose of Christian fundamentalism instead
THE Military Religious Freedom Foundation has written a letter to the US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates about a troubling new fact of life in some parts of the military – the use of chaplains to treat mental health problems frequently encountered by soldiers during war, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The letter, sent last month, is co-signed by Paul Sullivan, the Executive Director of Veterans for Common Sense, whose organisation has received many complaints from veterans that when they sought treatment for PTSD and other mental health issues while in Iraq and Afghanistan, they were sent to chaplains who proselytized them rather than to psychologists.
The letter said:
Perhaps the most alarmingly repugnant stories are those coming in from our recent war veterans regarding the widespread practice of â€˜battlefield Christian proselytizing’.
When, on active duty, our service members sought urgently needed mental health counseling while on the battlefield and with the gun smoke practically still in their faces, they were instead sent to evangelizing chaplains, who are apparently being used with increasing frequency to provide mental health care due to the acute shortage of mental health professionals. Chaplains are not certified, professional mental health experts.
According to the reports of these veterans, the chaplains they were sent to for evaluation and treatment had the unmitigated temerity to urge, as a medicinal cure, a conversion to evangelical Christianity, and sometimes even went as far as disgustingly lacing their â€˜counseling’ with the soldiers’ need to stay on the battlefield to â€˜kill Muslims for Christ’. Even in the best cases, while the chaplains’ words of proselytizing may have provided a temporary placebo, allowing these soldiers to return temporarily to combat for the remainder of their deployment, within months of returning home from war, their â€˜temporary religious faith’ wore off as their profound mental health symptoms, quite predictably, returned in all their fury. And, again, the shortage of available mental healthcare professionals and lack of treatment exacerbated the service members’ psychological trauma.
The letter also complained that among the many types of shocking incidents and illicit and dehumanising practices reported to MRFF have been theÂ military’s teaching of creationism as an actual bona fide means of suicide prevention. It added:
For many of our veterans, the severe adverse consequences of being subjected to battlefield Christian proselytizing rather than receiving genuine mental health care have been, to just name a few, broken families, crime, drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, and particularly, even suicide.
While religious counseling may be helpful to some service members, and should certainly be available to those who specially seek religious counseling, the widespread use of evangelizing by Christian chaplains as a substitute for qualified mental health professionals is preventing many service members from getting the serious medical treatment that they desperately need and deserve, and is most likely exacerbating the unprecedented, unbridled suicide epidemic.
It’s just as specious and heinous as having these proselytizing military chaplains substitute for military combat trauma surgeons.
Another alarming matter is that, due to the heavy promotion by the military of sectarian Christian religious ‘solutions’ to mental health problems, non-religious, even moderately religious, service members struggling with mental health issues or contemplating suicide may not seek the help they need because they think they will just get evangelical, fundamentalist Christianity rammed down their throats if they do.