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Padre Steve’s Year in Review

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Well it has been a year, well almost a year unless your are like in Australia when you read this.

As Charles Dickens’ wrote, “it was the best of times” and depending who you are or where you live it could have been one, the other or both. For me it has been one of those, not that there is anything wrong with that.

But really, look at the past year, personally it has been a mixed bag for me, in the end the plusses outweigh the minuses but what can I say? Great job, back with my wife, complete PTSD meltdown, being nearly suicidal for a while, but in the end a trip to Oktoberfest, the Orioles win the AL East, the Giants win the World Series and I’m doing better. On the other hand a whole lot of people are not doing better in a lot of places in the world. I’ve written about some of the events of the year as they affected me. Not all of them would be major, but hey, this was my year. If I had a song that described the year it would be Barry Manilow’s Trying to get the Feeling Again”

On January 6th I lost a man who had shown compassion and empathy for me, Captain Tom Sitsch, US Navy retired. Captain Sitsch was a true hero who worked his way up throughout the ranks in the Navy Explosive Ordinance Demolition community, made many combat deployments and suffered untreated PTSD and TBI. He took his own life. It was a sobering time for me, as he was one of the few people who showed much compassion for me when I was falling apart in the summer of 2008. He asked me “where does a chaplain go for help?” The best I can remember was that I told him not to other chaplains or clergy. I had no idea what he was going through and after he left the Navy under a cloud in 2009 I lost contact with him. His death brought me back into contact with men I had served with and who had served with him. I wrote about that a number of times as it was such a shattering event. I wish I had known and could have been there for him. The first article I wrote about that was on January 7th and can be found here: Rest In Peace Captain Tom Sitsch USN

February was a month of reflection on the sixth anniversary of my return from Iraq, the Winter Olympics in Sochi Russia and a time of intense preparation for my first journey to Gettysburg leading the Gettysburg Staff Ride for the Joint Forces Staff College. It also was a month where we began to see the tip of the iceberg of the attempt of some Christians in Kansas to enshrine  religious intolerance in law, that article A Matter of Degree: The Taliban, Kansas, Jim Crow and Nuremberg really pissed some people off.

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I wrote a reflection about the long strange trip back from Iraq in this article The Long Strange Trip: Six Years After Returning from Iraq

In March Russia pulled off its occupation of Ukraine and Malaysian Airlines flight 370 disappeared from the face of the earth. I also led my first trip to Gettysburg and really began to sink my teeth into writing about the battle as well as many other components of the American Civil War, including the politics, ideology, economic and religious aspects of the war. But for the most enduring mystery was the disappearance of MH-370. I ended up writing a “conspiracy theory” about it, which because it hasn’t been proven wrong could possibly be right, if not maybe the basis of a great terrorism novel. That article is here  My Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-370 Conspiracy Theory

April was the beginning of baseball season, the end of Lent, Holy Week and more work on a lot of history. I wrote about civil rights, Jackie Robinson, and a whole series on a Roman Centurion in Jerusalem during the first Holy Week. I also took on former half-term Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin in this article  War Crimes are Us: I Want No Part of Sarah Palin’s Torture Loving Christianity But it was an interesting time because I was asked to do an interview about my struggle with PTSD for the Washington Times. The article about that is here Not the Cover of the Rolling Stone but the Front Page: Padre Steve Featured in Washington Times article on PTSD

In May I took another group of students to Gettysburg and did a lot more writing about that subject as well as the subject of Memorial Day. But an event occurred that caused me to reflect on the way Christians often use the power of religion in attempts to silence or shame others who are in pain. That came after I had an experience trying to get help in the Navy Mental Health system and because of how I was treated began to implode all over again. That article is here: Frightened by Christians. I also did a fair amount of reflecting on the sacrifice of others in articles about Memorial Day, including this one “The Offering We Bring…” Remembering the First Memorial Day

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In June my struggle continued and was intensified by the collapse of Iraqi forces as ISIL swept into Iraq, overrunning many of the places I had served in Al Anbar province. Looking back at all that I wrote about other subjects that month I am amazed. I wrote about the assassination of Franz Ferdinand which triggered the events leading to the outbreak of World War I in this article A Wrong Turn, a Holy Cause and Two Bullets: The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand But here is the first article that I wrote about the collapse of the Iraqi forces and reflected on all the history that we should have paid attention to in 2003 The Results of Ignoring History: The Implosion of Iraq as well as my own reflection of my time there and hope for better Inshallah Iraq (إن شاء الله) Maybe Someday things will be Better

In July I did a lot more work on Gettysburg as I got ready to take another group there in August. I reflected on Iraq, PTSD, the Declaration of Independence and in my work on Gettysburg and Civil War issues I wrote this article about some of the similarities that I see in some Tea Party ideology and that of the ante-bellum South, the Confederacy and Jim Crow. That article is here Parallels between Tea Party Ideology and the Ante-Bellum South I took another stab at the situation in Iraq in this article Iraq, ISIS and Al Qaeda: Sowing the Wind…  and this about the moral responsibility of a nation at war to those that it sends to fight its wars  “You Broke it, You Bought It” The Responsibility of a Nation at War and Broken and Unlikely to Get Better: Military Mental Health Care

In August I led another trip to Gettysburg, and I reflected on a number of subjects, but as I was struggling so much after my collapse in May I decided to write a number of new articles about PTSD, Suicide and the military mental health care system. Here are two of them No Shutting Up Until it is Fixed: Veteran and Military Mental Health Care and  Moral Injury: Betrayal, Isolation, Suicidality, & Meaninglessness; the War after the War But I also ventured into the initial police reaction in Ferguson Missouri in the article The Misuse of Force: Shock and Awe Backfires in Ferguson But one of my favorite articles to write was this one on the Gettysburg Address, something that I always find important to reflect upon Reembracing the New Birth of Freedom

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In September I made pilgrimage to Oktoberfest. However I ventured into the discussion of the new, old kind of war that we are facing again, that of religious ideology and war without mercy. That article is here Wars Without Mercy: The New Old Way of War and The Islamic State and the New, Old Nature of War

In October, of course I continued to write about Gettysburg and the Civil War, baseball and the World Series, and was inducted into my High School’s Hall of Fame, which was a great honor. But I decided to tackle some of the religious ideologues who are actively engaged in the political process and did an article about Senator Ted Cruz’s father Rafael Cruz. That is here: Rafael Cruz and the Dangerous Heresy of the Self-Annointed

In November I made my final trip for the last academic year to Gettysburg and had the honor of meeting a real hero, retired Army Colonel Walter Marm, who won the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Ia Drang, a battle made famous by the movie We Were Soldiers that reflection is here: Return from Gettysburg: Table Talk and Meeting a Hero

December was another big month, the Senate Report on the CIA torture program was released much to the chagrin of the program’s most ardent supporters including a host of “Christian” leaders. I decided to take them on in this article Conservative Christians and Torture: Wedded at the Hip

Those are just some of the highlights. I wrote about so many other things as well, and I invite you to browse the site. Like I said, all things considered I am surprised I have been so productive this year. So anyway, thank you so much for reading what I put out, for sharing it and for your wonderful comments and encouragement. So I’ll wish you well and if I don’t get anything else done later today I wish you all a happy and blessed New Year.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under History, Loose thoughts and musings, PTSD

War Crimes are Us: I Want No Part of Sarah Palin’s Torture Loving Christianity

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Well, Sarah Palin is at it again and I do have to say something. The former Alaska Governor, losing V.P. Candidate and failed reality television celebrity who can’t even hold a down a steady job with Fox News committed an act so brazenly anti-Christian and anti-American that as a Christian I have to condemn it. I wrote about this subject before in my article Baptism and Water Boarding: When Professed Christians Defile Their Own Faith to Make Cheap Political Points which I wrote almost a year ago in response to people making the same comment.

Palin said at the National Rifle Association convention Sunday April 27th that “waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists” and the crowd, many certainly God fearing Christians went wild. You see Palin and many like her believe with all their hearts that waterboarding and other techniques of “enhanced interrogation” should not only be used, but be national policy when it comes to dealing with enemies of the state. Their view is not that torture is inherently evil but might be justified in a supreme emergency to save lives, but that it should be institutionalized as a matter of judicial and military policy and publicized. Torture is considered by all civilized nations to be a war crime and crime against humanity. We set the standard for that in what we did at Nuremberg.

Justice Robert Jackson, the chief prosecutor of the Nuremberg Trials wrote:

“If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”

First I object to Palin’s use of the “baptism” to bless torture, to bless actions that our country sentenced the soldiers of Germany and Japan to death for doing after World War II. Yes, at Nuremberg, Tokyo and Manila American justices sentenced leaders both civilian and military to death for institutionalized policies of torture. People like Palin who advocate the routine use of torture as an act of national policy put our military, intelligence and diplomatic personnel as well as other citizens at greater risk should they be held captive by a state or non-state actor.

Some are speculating that she is doing this to slam John McCain, the only serving member of the Senate or Congress to have been a Prisoner of War and subjected to waterboarding as a means of torture. If so it shows that she has no grace or ability to be thankful, for without John McCain she would not be on the national political stage and the vast majority of us would have been blessed never to know who she is.

Of course for people like Palin and her cheering media supporters who have no skin in this game it doesn’t matter. They don’t serve in the military, nor intelligence or diplomatic corps, nor do they don’t volunteer in humanitarian relieve operations. In fact to them those who lose their lives because of such stupid statements, actions and policies are simply part of the cost of war.

Baptism is a sacrament of the Christian church, or in some cases considered an “ordinance.” There is a difference. Christians who view baptism as a sacrament see it as something that is the entrance into new life, it is a vehicle of God’s grace where the Holy Spirit acts in a special way to cleanse the person being baptized from sin, incorporate them into the family of faith and a chance for the Christian community to join with the Baptized in recommitting ourselves to the faith and pledging to help the new Christian in theirs. In churches where it is an ordinance; or something we do because it was commanded by Jesus it is still important. It is an outward demonstration and witness of faith that has already been received. Christians have been persecuted and even gone to their death as martyrs for what they believed about baptism in all of its forms. Thus what Sarah Palin did is not only cheap and tawdry political speech by a narcissistic self-aggrandizing diva of extremely limited intellect and zero spiritual acumen, but sacrilege that every Christian who values their faith and baptism should condemn in the strongest terms.

The sad thing is that many Christians will not condemn her nor call her into account simply because they have bought into the evil of systematized torture as an instrument of public policy. Likewise many want Palin to run again for either the Presidency or for the Senate because she embodies what they believe.

But here is the real rub. Once you make torture a part of your public policy where does it stop? Every society that has practiced it has used it not only on their military foes, but on their own people.

What Palin supports and endorses is nothing more than the evil perpetuated by every totalitarian regime that has ever existed.

For those that support her, be warned; like the non-Nazi German conservatives who initially supported Hitler but later had second thoughts you too could considered a terrorist using the methods that Palin advocates against others today. You get what you vote for…

As Martin Niemoller said after the fall of the Third Reich:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, faith, History, laws and legislation, national security, News and current events, Political Commentary

Baptism and Water Boarding: When Professed Christians Defile Their Own Faith to Make Cheap Political Points

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In the past few days I have seen quite a few people, all of whom claim to be Christians post the picture above on their Facebook pages or blogs. Bottom line up front: I think this both demeans the Christian Sacrament or Ordinance of Baptism and the rule of law. I find the above picture an attack on my Christian faith and on the rule of law. Torture never leads to freedom.

Of course the picture appeared not long after the capture of one of the two alleged Boston Marathon bombers, who happened to be Chechen Muslims. Since that time quite a few people, especially pundits, politicians and politically minded preachers, the Unholy Trinity have beating the drums of war, especially on the social media. In the name of “freedom” they advocate measures that in past times Americans have stood in judgement of at Nuremberg and which Senator John S McCain, who was a POW of the North Vietnamese called “torture.”

Funny how people, most of whom call themselves “Christian” are willing to debase and demean the faith that they supposedly profess by using the symbols of being reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Baptism and for those that do not hold that dear, the sacred honor of our nation as a nation of laws and justice.

I like social media. I read a lot of blogs from many perspectives. But try as I might I cannot fathom the shallowness of faith that equates torture with the Sacrament of new life in Christ.

The sad thing is that almost every person that I have seen post this on Facebook claims to be a Christian of some denomination, or be favorable to the Christian faith in opposition to Islam. Some of them I have known for years. I do understand wanting to prosecute terrorists and protect innocent people against terrorist schemes. I have taken and re-affirmed an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic many times in the course of a nearly 32 year military career. I have served in combat and been deployed and have for the past five years been involved in the direct care of the wounded ill and injured of war. I have no love for the actions of terrorists and their accomplices.

That being said, I also believe in the rule of law and the importance of faith. I believe that when “faith” is used as a weapon that it rapidly becomes evil. So many atrocities have been committed by Christians in the name of “faith” that it makes the crimes of Islamists terrorists pale in comparison.

To cut to the chase I don’t find it particularly funny, witty or brilliant for Christians of any denomination to compare something as important as the Sacrament of Baptism to an act of torture to be used against Moslems. In fact I find that use of this Sacrament to do so as a faithless, sacrilegious and self-defeating act, no better than the use of the Koran by Islamic extremists to justify their criminal acts.

I have held off saying anything for about a week on this. I thought that it might pass, but I see that it has taken on a new life of its own. I know that there are some that have posted this picture without thinking. There are others who will think that I am being too serious about this because they think that it is funny. But the funny thing of the nearly 1200 friends that I have on Facebook I haven’t seen one of my professed Atheist or Agnostic friends post this on their wall, nor have any of my Jewish friends. It seems that they only friends that post such an offense to the Christian faith are people who call themselves Christians.

That makes me wonder. Maybe it should make you wonder too.

If this means that some people write me off, that is fine. But I would rather err on the side of a God who loves and cares and does not hate humanity and a system of laws and government that reject the use of torture and other war crimes. If that makes me a “liberal” so be it.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, faith, philosophy, Political Commentary, Religion