“American Sniper” and Moral Injury

AMERICAN SNIPER

By Kathy Winings

kathy-winings-2Clint Eastwood’s powerful film, “American Sniper,” dares to bring to public consciousness the hidden side of war. This hidden side is the tremendous toll war takes on the moral and psychological dimension — the soul — of the men and women who serve on the front lines. The film is based on Navy Seal Chris Kyle’s autobiography by the same title and follows his experiences as one of the most lethal snipers in U.S. military history with 160 confirmed kills.

Posted in Iraq, Kyle, brilliantly played in the film by Bradley Cooper, served four tours of duty before being honorably discharged in 2009. On coming home, like many returning veterans, Kyle had the difficult task of adjusting to civilian life in Texas as a husband and father to his two children. In 2013, he and fellow veteran, Chad Littlefield, were shot and killed by another veteran, Eddie Ray Routh, while at a practice range. Routh, who had been recently discharged from a mental health facility and been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), had arranged to meet with Kyle, who was trying to help him with his depression. The poignancy of the film was heightened when Routh’s trial began as “American Sniper” was being shown across the country. Routh was convicted of the murders two days after the February 22nd Oscars telecast, and immediately sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The film brilliantly and poignantly presents the personal turmoil that a soldier faces when holding a life in the crosshairs of his or her rifle. One particularly heart-wrenching scene shows a moment of decision when Kyle has a small Iraqi boy and a woman, who we assume is his mother, in his gun sights. The young boy is given an anti-tank grenade by the hijab-clad woman and begins to walk toward the column of approaching American soldiers. Kyle is praying for the child to stop or at least indicate he means no harm. But the boy doesn’t, and Kyle must do what he is trained to do  —  shoot him. When the mother then rushes to her child, picks up the grenade and runs toward the soldiers, Kyle must shoot her as well.

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“March Madness” and a Real Spiritual Life

UVA vs Duke

by John Redmond

JohnRedmond2We are big basketball fans at my house. Every March we fill our brackets and root for our team to go all the way. I usually pick the underdogs and end up enduring a lot of “trash-talking” when they lose.

For the people who are focused on things like jobs, politics and careers and missed the text message, “March Madness” refers to the NCAA Division I national men’s and women’s tournaments of the top 68 teams (64 for women) in college basketball, “win or go home” contests with no consolation prizes. For most of these athletes, this represents the biggest stage they will ever perform on. Very few will continue on to pro basketball after college, and most of those that do will have unremarkable careers. This is their big moment!

What makes this tournament so special is the unscripted drama of ten young men or women and countless coaches, parents, students, and alumni locked in a battle that will never be replayed. Players have prepared their whole lives for this moment: morning practices, evening games, endless drills, miles of laps around the gym, that lead to a nationally televised championship game in front of a full field house of screaming fans.

Professional sports often seem like a soulless battle of technically excellent players with no feeling required. College students do not have the cynical detachment of the pros; they believe, and pour themselves into their game with raw emotion.  Victories often hang on a lucky, last second shot, the momentum swings back and forth, the fans sometimes seem to boost their team over the opponent in spite of impossible odds. This tournament sees all of these moments.

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Cultural Wars and Headwing Alternatives

Polarization

By David Eaton

david_eatonDoes the “Culture War” actually exist or is it purely a myth?

In the aftermath of the 2004 presidential election, Morris P. Fiorina of Stanford University and the Hoover Institution, published his book, Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America, in which he contends that the idea of America being a “deeply divided” nation is a specious claim. Offering copious data, Fiorina makes the case that a high percentage of Americans possess moderate viewpoints regarding social issues and politics, and as such, we are not as “deeply divided” as those on the fringes of the political/cultural spectrum (or news media) would have us believe. According to Fiorina, these fringe elements tend to confer with coteries who reinforce their particular perspectives and as such, do not represent the large, moderate and politically ambivalent demographic that seeks pragmatic solutions to problems.

This is a counter to the views of Pat Buchanan and others who have long held that America is under siege due to the encroachment of non-traditional religious (or anti-religious) influences and not-so-well intentioned multiculturalists. For Buchanan, nothing less than the soul of America is at stake. That said, Fiorina admits that there is something to the “newly emergent” idea of “Two Nations Under God.” He writes:

The culture war metaphor refers to a displacement of the classic economic conflicts that animated twentieth-century politics in the advanced democracies by newly emergent moral and cultural ones… [m]any contemporary observers of American politics believe that old disagreements about economics now pale in comparison to new divisions based on sexuality, morality and religion, divisions so deep as to justify fears of violence and talk of war in describing them.

By characterizing the idea of a culture war as a “myth,” while admitting that cultural concerns have displaced what heretofore had been conflicts born of economic concerns, is Professor Fiorina conceding that the “culture war” is more than just a metaphor?

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The Crossroads: Finding One’s Path as a Second Generation Member

crossroads1

By Jenny Cox

Jenny CoxI think many members of the second generation are standing at a spiritual crossroads. One course leads the way we’ve been going our entire lives: the way of our parents, the way of the Blessing, the way of inheriting the faith tradition we were born into. The other course lies outside, through what we fondly call the fallen world.

Kind of a scary ultimatum, isn’t it?

In a time of many transitions and new starts — life goals, career ambitions, even marriage prospects knocking at one’s door — it’s almost too much for a young person to handle at one time. All of the most critical decisions of one’s life seem to be clustered in this tender three-to-four year gap between teenagehood and college graduation. On top of that, add the fact that most young people, in their late teens and early twenties, are still desperately trying to find themselves.

Young people are especially vulnerable to the whims of the world, as they are also expected, and sometimes herded, to go to college during this pivotal, impressionable stage of their lives. I regret to say that, while colleges do provide a wealth of knowledge and opportunity, college campuses are also rife with harmful influences. In such an environment, confusion on many levels is likely to trouble a young person’s mind; some would even say this is calculated.

At college, students are presented with a smorgasbord of various ideas and intellectual concepts. While a few of these may be true, it is difficult for a young person to discern between truth and mere conjecture, between fact and theory. When a theory is well-supported and popularly acknowledged as gospel, it is easy to be compelled to go along with the common opinion that it is fact. Uneducated young people are in this position to judge a vast array of conflicting ideologies without a point of reference. If they are already uncertain about their own identity and beliefs, by what standards will they be able to judge the rest of the world, especially when that world is speaking from a position of authority and experience?

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Preparing for Our Seonghwa: Life as an Exclusively Spiritual Being

June 2005

By William Selig

William SeligWe live in a death-denying culture, the result of a human-centered worldview instead of a life centered on God. Because of the Fall, we lost not only the true understanding of life, but of death as well.

Reverend Moon said:

“I talk about death in order to teach the meaning of life. Who really knows the value of life? It is not the person who is going all out to preserve his life. The only person who really knows about life is the one who goes into the valley of death. He confirms the meaning of life as he desperately cries out to Heaven at the crossroads of life and death.” (“Understanding Life and Death,” Dec. 18, 1998)

Most people don’t think about death until we are forced by circumstances beyond our control, primarily, from illness or accident. Those fortunate enough to recover know how precious life then seems. When we assume that our life here on earth will go on as normal, we tend to take it all for granted, but when we are reminded that it has an end, then every moment and every day takes on a new and revitalized meaning.

We Are Not Alone

For the past six years, I have been working in a hospice or hospital environment. It is a precious and profoundly spiritual experience. Based on my observation, one of the biggest challenges facing a patient, particularly those in an end-of-life situation, is the sense of loneliness. Spirituality and religion offer patients a chance to reconnect to themselves, family, community, traditions, and ultimately to God.

According to the Principle, the cause for this sense of loneliness can be traced back to the Fall. By disobeying God and succumbing to temptation, our ancestors inherited the element of fear, which comes from a guilty conscience. This unnatural element has been transmitted from generation to generation. It is fear that drives people apart from one another, but most significantly, from our Creator.

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My Dream Concerning Seminary Education

UTS in snow

By Young Oon Kim

(This article originally appeared in The Cornerstone, Vol. 1, No. 8, February 1977)

Image71Some years ago, I urged Reverend Moon to start a seminary for the training of our future leaders. At first there was no way to see that dream realized but we never gave up hope. So you can imagine how happy we were with the purchase of Barrytown (1974) and the actual establishment of Unification Theological Seminary (1975). But there is more to a seminary than buildings, textbooks, the hiring of professors and selection of students. As necessary as all these are, even more important is the purpose we have and the spirit we seek to create.

In my opinion, there is no need for another theological seminary like those the traditional churches now have. What value would there be in duplicating Harvard, Union, Chicago or Princeton? We must provide something different, something extra, a superior education for a new way of life.

To help you to understand what our seminary’s function should be, could be and must be, let me briefly remind you of what education has been in the past.

Because of the numerous barbarian invasions and the fall of the Roman Empire, the church was forced to become a school teacher. In the Dark Ages there was nothing but the church available to keep the light of learning from being extinguished. Therefore in the monasteries or attached to the cathedrals, schools were set up to preserve the wisdom of the past and transmit it to the younger generation. These schools were often only modest creations but they provided the foundation for what was to follow.

As Christians, men of the Middle Ages believed that one should “love thy God…with all thy mind” like Jesus taught. Religion involves what you think as much as how you pray. So the schools were connected with the church, financed by the church and usually staffed by clergymen. In addition to such external characteristics of medieval schooling, education even in the humanities was built upon a spiritual foundation and was designed to realize a spiritual quality of life. Until our own time the motto of Harvard University was “For Christ and His Church.”

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From Unification Thought to Unification Philosophy

the-thinker

By Keisuke Noda

Keisuke_NodaUnification Thought, as systematized by the late Dr. Sang Hun Lee, is currently the only major “philosophical” exposition of the Divine Principle in the Unification Movement. While some appreciate Unification Thought, others find its contents puzzling. I am both fascinated and perplexed by Unification Thought. In this article, I articulate some critical areas to be explored in transitioning from Unification Thought (UT) to Unification Philosophy.

Self-examination

What is the heart of philosophical discourse? It is self-examination. Many may recall from high school or college the Socratic method or the emphasis on self-examination. Self-examination is intrinsic to the discipline of philosophy. Philosophy examines its points of departure, presuppositions, approaches, and processes of reasoning. It questions and tries to justify its own discourse: why, how, and where it can start, proceed, and finally conclude.

UT lacks in the area of self-examination. It is a reiteration of various truth-claims from the Divine Principle (DP) with some additional truth-claims. It presupposes various assumptions from the DP without critically examining them.

In philosophy, the reader does not necessarily share the same assumptions with the author. Yet, readers can learn from and gain irrefutable insight through the author’s rigorous process of reasoning. For this reason, non-believers can enjoy reading Augustine and gain invaluable insight and theists can learn from reading Nietzsche and Sartre, who were radical atheists. Readers learn more from honest and sharp critiques than mediocre apologetics.

The lack of critical self-examination is the most glaring deficiency of Unification Thought, which therefore makes it unattractive to some readers.

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The Heart of a Dreamer: Father’s Vision for UTS

TP & 3 Presidents

By Tyler Hendricks

tyler_hendricks_edited-1I believe that True Father did not establish Unification Theological Seminary primarily for the sake of educating Unificationist ministers. Of course, Father’s mind is 360 degrees and ministry preparation was part of the picture, but he already had fine ministry preparation with the workshop system. The main purpose for UTS, as far as I am aware, was that of teaching our leaders about what the other religions believe, so that we could, 1) have intelligent and respectful dialog; 2), help them succeed in their ministry by introducing True Parents’ spirit and truth; and 3), build coalition with them that would eventually create the foundation for what Father later came to call the spiritual “upper house” of the United Nations.

I won’t rehearse the history of that plan and the role of UTS in it, but simply say that even in failing to reach the heights of Father’s vision, UTS accomplished an incredible feat, and that the vision is still worthy and true and capable of achievement, and that its achievement—at least until the people God has prepared to partner in it (e.g., the UN) do so — would cost our movement a huge amount of money.

In the latter years of my UTS presidency, I outlined to the UTS Board of Trustees this interfaith path, including the broad stroke path that UTS was designed to take. The Board liked the path, and said to follow it. Unfortunately, they didn’t pay enough attention to the price tag (which I actually low-balled).

I also informed the Board that if they did not want to undertake that expense, there is an alternative path, and that is to learn from the grassroots Christian start-up churches and how they are educating their pastors. I’m talking about the Vineyard movement, the Calvary Chapel faith movement, Saddleback, Willow Creek, and something that emerged since then, Nelson Searcy’s Renegade Pastors; and there are many others. These churches are educating hundreds of thousands of pastors around the world, in-house and online, at very low cost. I advised the Board that going online would require care in terms of preserving the accreditation, but that the industry is changing.

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Creating a System That Reflects Our Own Values

Handsinair

by Alison Wakelin

Alison WakelinRecurrent woes are symptomatic of an underlying problem, and Unificationists are experiencing issues with stewardship of external resources. This has potential to create deep rifts unless we manage the transition from a system where a leader could remove manpower and resources from any project at a moment’s notice, and place both elsewhere. In moving beyond continued emergency status, we must establish stability and settlement in accordance with our own values.

The Western world is struggling with its relationship with the creation, just as are Unificationists. Americans and Europeans are facing a new reality of poverty and real challenges to economic growth. We find ourselves trapped in a system where governments have caused the population to become dependent on government income and support, and we seem powerless to go beyond this state of affairs.

But there are solutions, and we must look clearly, then make the requisite changes.

Firstly, women especially do not find it acceptable that any person should be impoverished and left to die by a system that demands they must work in order to survive, and yet cannot come up with enough jobs, let alone reasonable incomes. We cannot accept that humans should be thrown away because they didn’t work hard enough. A reasonable distribution is not a distant goal to be desired, but an immediate reality that must be accomplished.

When it comes to inequality, people get upset (depending on where they are in the distribution), but so far none of the attempts to put things right have worked. This is because any plan encompassing the ownership of property comes up against very deeply hidden barriers.

Historically, there was plenty of land and villages could easily be arranged so that each householder had access to land and the crops he could grow. Simple arrangements for simpler times – and simplicity is usually the best guide even when things seem to have gotten very complicated.

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