This past Sunday 60 Minutes broadcast a story titled “Coming home” which chronicles the physical and emotional difficulties of soldiers returning from war (Iraq and Afghanistan) and attempting to integrate back into society. As I watched I was reminded of two documentaries I reviewed which deal with similar themes, Hell and Back Again and Body of War as well as Kathryn Bigelow’s masterful study The Hurt Locker which inexplicably grossed less than 5% of the box office of the inferior film American Sniper.
But I digress…
Here’s what is most apparent in watching “Coming home”: the searing, overarching sense of purpose that the soldier finds in union with “the brotherhood” of fellow soldiers can help one endure great suffering and loss. And not only endure it, but view it favorably in light of the goods that were derived from it. The impact of the experience is evident in the fact that each soldier looks back with longing to the sense of camaraderie and joint purpose that they shared on the battlefield.
The pampered civilian can hardly begin to understand the suffering of these brave men. One soldier lost his leg after stepping on an IED (improvised explosive device). Afterwards he struggled with depression and suicide. But gradually he overcame his demons as he was rehabilitated in body, soul and mind. Scott Pelly asks him:
“Having been through everything you’ve been through, would you do it again?”
Immediately the soldier replies with his steely gaze:
“In a heartbeat. It made me the man I am today.”
Before proceeding, take one minute and thirty eight seconds to listen to the exchange:
What a shocking statement! I can’t imagine what it would be like to have my leg blasted off on the battlefield. Still less can I imagine saying that I would choose to undergo such a horrifying event “in a heartbeat” because of the impact this event had on my character.
Perhaps my problem is a lack of imagination (a lack of character?) and a failure to appreciate the extent to which great evil can result in still greater good.
Many skeptics and atheists love to raise the problem of evil as an objection to God, arguing that the presence of evil and suffering in the world provides a reason to think there is no perfectly wise, all powerful and all knowing divine being. What is more, these same folk often chide theists by asking whether the evil and suffering in the world diminishes their confidence in this perfectly wise, all powerful and all knowing divine being.
Upon hearing the testimony of this soldier, I am prompted to respond in kind. Does the testimony of people like this soldier lessen the atheist’s confidence that no God exists? I submit that it should.
To be sure, I’m not claiming that this testimony somehow makes the problem of evil disappear. But that doesn’t change the fact that this is radical testimony. If a man who suffered a horrific war injury a few short years ago can be transformed so radically that he states his willingness to endure that horror again in light of the moral goods that have come from it, who is to say that eternity may not provide s similar perspective on other inexplicable horrors that now convulse the human experience?