One Size Does Not Fit All: Spiritual Fitness Training And The 33%Posted by Emily Moskal on October 10th, 2012 – Comments Off – Posted in Uncategorized
Post by Emily Moskal
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
― Lao Tzu
Military families have emotional needs that go far above and beyond what most of us will ever deal with; in a culture that is built around being “tough”, depression is a silent killer. The top brass are taking notice, and this is a Good Thing. “Ask, Care, Escort?” Yes, yes, and oh hell yes.
There are, however, some pretty serious problems with the way this push towards recognizing the psychological demands of military service and building resilience against things like PTSD and depression is being supplemented. Enter a whole new type of assessment: Spiritual Fitness. In this test, soldiers are asked to watch a series of video testimonials from “spiritually fit” leaders who say things like:
Well I believe that it doesn’t necessarily have to be God or a Deity like that, I think it goes back to having something to… having something to believe in, you know, having purpose. Being driven… “I will see my family again.” That is purpose, that motivates, that gives people the drive to accomplish their mission.
All well and good, except the token humanist (and I don’t use those words lightly) who gave this testimony would have failed the actual test. Atheist soldiers, who put their one and only life on the line, are unlikely to respond positively to some of the other more overtly theistic “spiritual” testimonials.
You could do it alone… but it would be so much better to go with a higher power. I think that’s very important.
A) I’m not alone. I have my friends, my family, and an entire world with new people to meet, new things to see, and new ideas to explore.
B) I don’t think it’s very important to try to force a God into that picture. Been there, done that, and I have the t-shirt. It says “Reason Rally” on it.
C) Bad coffee is the only thing the military should have in common with a 12-step program.
I remember not wanting to live… I was not motivated… my commander noticed that, too. He was like, hey, you need to bring your performance up… after about two to three weeks, I started coming around and using the church as the foundation and just believing that it was gonna get better, and it started to get better.
Good for her. Not good for me. Not good for atheists in foxholes who aren’t at all conflicted about the position they take with respect to religion, or for agnostics who find very little worth exploring in religious beliefs. Lying to yourself and others for the sake of building a “spiritual community” is never healthy.
Nearly 1 in 3 Americans under the age of 30 are religiously unaffiliated. With those statistics in mind, there’s an excellent bit on PBS that speaks directly to this topic.
Rock Beyond Belief was a great step forward. It was not, by any stretch of the imagination, the end of the road.
While the VA’s website goes on and on about the positive benefits of spirituality in the healing process, the fact remains that roughly 33% of the people taking this test are going to be told that they are spiritually deficient, and recommended to counseling from someone who knows just what they should believe in order to become “healthy”. The 800 number they are given to help them develop their spiritual health leads to a suicide hotline.
Being told your apathy or outright opposition when it comes to religion makes you spiritually unfit for duty is not a morale booster. Arguably, it’s doing more harm than good for a third of our troops, who have zero incentive to rock the boat and say something about it.
We need humanist chaplains who can provide insight into the fastest growing demographic in the country, people who can give empathy and support for soldiers who are forced to confront questions about the faith they were raised in that they may never have truly come face to face with before, and it’s very unlikely to happen without civilian help. We owe the 33% within our military a debt of gratitude. Bumper stickers that say support our troops are fine. Actions that actually protect the career opportunities and emotional health of our soldiers are better.