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  • "If I am bound to the belief that God is in control of the cosmos, and miracles can and do happen, then there is no 'hypothetical situation' wherein God's ability to perform miracles through the faithful actions of the merciful ceases to be a possibility."

    Joshua's above words continue to resonate with us, his family, friends and acquaintances seeking to live out that same belief. Though he is no longer with us bodily, we strive to faithfully remember and testify to Joshua's witness among us, through the establishment of The Joshua Casteel Foundation and other initiatives on which we will continue to provide update through this website. Thank you for joining us.

    "The just man, though he die early, shall be at rest." (Wisdom 4:7)

    Joshua was diagnosed in early November 2011 with stage IV lung cancer (adenocarcinoma), which ultimately took his life on August 25, 2012 at the age of 32. The many of us who survive and love him will continue to pursue the heavenly justice to which Joshua (in life, and now in death) testified.

The Call for Peace Continues…

I received the following homily by Pope Francis from our good friends at Catholic Peace Fellowship at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. We are so grateful for all that they do day in and day out, year in and year out to promote the cause of peace, justice, and non-violence.

We are also so thankful as a foundation when religious leaders risk their own reputations and/or popularity by taking very unpopular stands on such important and controversial issues such as peace and non-violence, especially in the militarized culture of today’s world. It is more than rare to see such strength of conviction that stems so obviously from a heart of compassion and love as is the case with Pope Francis. He is more than a ‘breath of fresh air’ to the world, he is a true ‘gift from God’.

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Dear Friends,

Peace. We share with you Pope Francis’s words from this morning on war, peace and the Christian call.

In Christ,
The CPF Staff
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Pope Francis: The Spirit of War Draws Us Away from God

“War is a scandal to be mourned every day. We see war in the newspapers ever and we’re used to reading about it: the number of its victims is just part of our daily accounts. We hold events to commemorate the centenary of the Great War and everyone is scandalized by the many millions of dead. But today it’s the same… instead of one great war, there are small wars everywhere. When we were children in Sunday School and we were told the story of Cain and Abel, we couldn’t accept that someone would kill their own brother. And yet today millions kill their own brothers and we’re used to it: there are entire peoples divided, killing each other over a piece of land, a racial hatred, an ambition.

Think of the children starving in refugee camps… these are the fruits of war. And then think of the great dining rooms, of the parties held by those who control the arms industry, who produce weapons. Compare a sick, starving child in a refugee camp with the big parties, the good life led by the masters of the arms trade. And remember, the Pope added, that the wars, the hatred, the hostility aren’t products we buy at the market: they’re right here, in our hearts. The Apostle James gives us a simple piece of advice: ‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.’ But the spirit of war, which draws us away from God, doesn’t just reside in distant parts of the world: the spirit of war comes from our own hearts.

Let us pray for peace, for that peace which seems to have been reduced to a word and nothing more. Let us follow James’ advice: ‘Recognize your misery.’ Let us recognize that misery which breeds wars within families, within neighborhoods, everywhere. How many of us weep when we read the newspapers, when we see the dead on television? This is what Christians should do today, in the face of war: we should weep, we should mourn.”

- Homily given by Pope Francis at the Casa San Marta on February 25, A.D. 2014 (*We are grateful for the English Translation provided by News.va)

Armistice Day…Joshua’s Witness Continues On

A few nights ago a friend sent me a link to the November 7th edition of the National Catholic Reporter Magazine. The article was encouraging discussion of the role of militarism in our country and in our churches. I was shocked to see that the article featured Joshua. It offered him as an example of someone who struggled with the big question of whether or not his identity as a follower of Christ conflicted with his identity as a soldier and how he came to the conclusion while serving as an interrogator at Abu Grhaib Prison that his first allegiance was to God and the message that Christ preached of “loving one’s enemies.”

While from the outside it may have appeared that Joshua’s decision to become a conscientious objector was formed and finalized in Iraq, in reality it was a lifelong journey that had several twists and turns that God led him on to build into his life a message of love and reconciliation vs. violence and retaliation. The journey ultimately cost him his life which Joshua willingly gave with the hope that his suffering would somehow bring redemption to the Iraqi people that had been devastated by the war he had been a part of.

What I am most thankful for in this holiday season of Thanksgiving is that God gave me a son whose deep faith and trust in God gave him the courage, love, and determination to follow Christ even when it cost him everything and to proclaim Christ’s message of love all the way to the cross. And I thank God that He continues to let his voice resonate with others continuing his message of hope for a changed world, one that embraces love rather than retreating to violence. My prayer is that he will stand as a symbol of courage and hope to others in the church that one voice, one life can make a difference.

Below is the article. I hope it inspires you to think deeply and to act courageously
God’s blessings to you all this Thanksgiving season and on this Armistice Day of Remembrance..

Kristi Casteel; for The Joshua Casteel Foundation

Editorial: Questioning our assent to militarism
NCR Editorial Staff | Nov. 7, 2013
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EDITORIAL Joshua Casteel was a young man of deep and serious intent who found himself confronting two conflicting realities in 2004: his role as a soldier and interrogator at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and his growing conviction the Gospel that was increasingly capturing his heart and his imagination told him the war and occupation were unjust.
Casteel was just 32 when he died of cancer in 2012, but he left behind a legacy of struggling with huge and demanding questions that would have filled several ordinary lifetimes. As a 2009 NCR profile described him, he had traveled the distance “from conservative evangelical to ardent Roman Catholic” and “from West Point appointee to crusading pacifist.”

His life remains significant today because of the compelling questions it raises for Christians living in the most militarized country on earth and especially for those within a church that maintains the apparatus for a military archdiocese. That Archdiocese for the Military Services is now asking U.S. Catholics to support it through a national collection. The questions are raised anew, starkly, in the provocative essay by Mark Scibilia-Carver. While we would have reservations about some of Scibilia-Carver’s conclusions, he is profoundly correct to place the appeal for money for the military archdiocese directly next to the words of three popes of recent years, all of whom unqualifiedly condemn state violence and even question whether a “just war” is possible in this era. The most recent declaration is from Pope Francis: “There can be no religious justification of violence in whatever way it manifests itself.”

Long overdue in the American church is a reasoned and deep discussion of U.S. militarism, the proper use of force, the state’s responsibility to protect and defend, and the role of people of faith in all of this. To this point, Catholic teaching has had little effect in distinguishing us from any other segment of society when it comes to participation in wars and militarism.

In 2012, the United States spent more on its military — $682 billion — than the next 10 countries — China, Russia, United Kingdom, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Italy and Brazil — combined. We are trying to extricate ourselves from the second of two wars that have cost our treasury — quite apart from the annual defense budget expenditures — more than $2 trillion already. According to a study by Harvard Kennedy School Professor Linda Bilmes, the total cost of those two wars, when considering the long-term costs of providing medical care for the thousands of injured veterans, will exceed $4 trillion.

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All of that far outstrips what the U.S. pays annually on entitlements. The defense budget itself is more expensive in a given year than any other single budget item, save for Social Security. And yet the military gets a relatively free pass when talk turns to budget cutting and deficit trimming.

Does a greater threat exist to religious liberty, family life, adherence to the heart of the Gospel than to allow the state and its military recruiters unfettered and unchallenged access to our children? Would we, without question, hand over lists of those in our schools to any other institution knowing that if the recruiters are successful, the children will ultimately be schooled in the ways of violence?

Yet our bishops have nothing to say.

The collection for the military archdiocese brings the glorification of militarism into the sanctuary. It asks U.S. Catholics to give assent to militarism to a degree that is breathtaking for a Christian denomination. We hope bishops resist the idea of flyovers or singing the national anthem at Mass. No one is suggesting that Catholics anywhere should go without spiritual guidance and support. We are strongly suggesting, however, that Catholics need to challenge the church’s unquestioning compliance with the pervasive demands of U.S. militarism.

A stubborn, persistent strain runs through Catholic history, highlighted in figures such as St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis of Assisi — whose lives gain new prominence today in the papacy of Francis — of conversion from war to the ways of the nonviolent Christ. Along with heroic military chaplains, the church has also sent on the path to sainthood the Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter, who refused to join the German war effort in World War II because he found it unjust and incompatible with his understanding of the Christian Gospel. Those examples show, certainly, that the church can honor consciences variously formed and exercised.

But what kind of formation are we providing our young in this era of weapons of unimaginable destruction, in this age of drones and borderless wars, where assassination missions are carried out via robot within sovereign nations with whom we are not at war?

One of the more tragic elements in Casteel’s journey from warrior to pacifist was his failure to find a Catholic chaplain with whom he could discuss his growing reluctance to participate in war. He said he found commanding officers more sympathetic to his point of view and more willing to smooth the way to conscientious objector status than he encountered in any of the priests he consulted. Who would hesitate to hold up Casteel as possessing, in that scenario, the most compelling understanding of the Gospel?

Shouldn’t young Catholics, instead of hearing rousing support for the military from their pulpits and parish bulletins, be told that the nonviolent Christ and his command to love enemies might pose an obstacle to a military career?

This story appeared in the Nov 8-21, 2013 print issue under the headline: Questioning our assent to militarism .

Memorial

August was the month we said good-bye to Joshua last year and we did our best this year to focus on the reality of his life going on through what he left behind in his works but especially in the lives of those he touched with our Faith In Action Project.

I’m sure we all share the hope that his suffering and eventual death will not have been in vain…hence, the Joshua Casteel Foundation. But I especially need to remind myself often that his real legacy lies in who he was as a person and how that impacted everything he did and everyone whose lives he touched. This truth gives me the strength and courage to continue on while carrying within me the ongoing pain of my indescribable loss.

So, today being the one year anniversary of his memorial, I wanted to honor him in a very personal way that very simply states the character and person who was my son.  Below is a picture of a large wall hanging that I bought only a week ago.  When I saw and read it I immediately thought of Joshua as I believe it perfectly describes who he was.  It will hang in the foundation office where it will not only remind me of him but remind me to strive myself to be what it describes.

I hope you enjoy seeing it as well and that it brings fond memories to mind for you today of your relationship and interactions with Joshua and that it also inspires you to be more of the person God made you to be.

And, God’s blessings on us all and our world this weekend , as we respond to Pope Francis’ call to a day of prayer (yesterday Sept.7th) for peace in our world and no more war, especially in the wake of the horrors taking place in Syria and the Middle East. And for those of us who profess a real faith in God, may we take seriously Jesus’ words to “not return evil for evil” and to “bless those who persecute you”, to “love our enemies”.  How fitting that it came on the same weekend as the  anniversary of Joshua’s memorial. This, in and of itself, honors him and what he stood for in the best possible way. May we all carry this ongoing prayer in our hearts and in our actions.

God’s peace to you all,

Kristi and the Joshua Casteel Foundation

September 9, 2013 - 8:22 AM

Kathy Collett - Love to Josh’s family today and prayers for peace and self-sacrifice.

Faith in Action: Life and Love Go On

There is so much I would like to say about this month of Faith In Action and all that it has accomplished in people’s lives, some that we could see and much that we’ll never see until heaven. I just can’t thank God enough for inspiring those of you who took part, whether we heard from you or not, for the encouragement and inspiration you gave to those whose lives you touched and to those of us who read or heard about your projects and acts of kindness. I’ve seen first hand the impact in people’s lives and how those of us who took part have been changed, and now look at life and the opportunity to live a ‘giving’ life in a new way with our faith and desire to love revitalized.

I know that many if not most of us attempt and oftentimes succeed in living loving and meaningful lives. But I can’t help but think that the setting aside of this month to remember Joshua and focus on others and on causes that make a difference in our world hasn’t enriched us all in ways we may not have expected or imagined.

For just me alone, God used it to transform my heart and mind in my process of grieving to genuinely make this month a positive one, even amidst the obvious sorrow and loss that still exists. Each week I found myself feeling stronger and more hopeful to the point where I no longer feared August 25th arriving. While it was still difficult and I felt the very real loss and sorrow of Joshua’s absence, I was actually able to focus for the most part on his new life and the belief that his work and passions will continue on. It’s hard to put into words but I feel that God used this project and this month to take me to the next level of healing. And from where I started the month, that’s definitely a miracle. (“…there is no hypothetical situation in which God’s ability to perform miracles, through the faithful actions of the merciful ceases to be a possibility”…Joshua Casteel)

Emma (Naomi’s oldest) and I went to lunch on Sunday, the 25th and afterwards bought a white lilac tree that we’re going to plant in his memory in our front yard. Naomi, who unfortunately was sick, and I were able to make a rudimentary cross with his nickname, Yeshua, on it for his gravesite (picture above) in honor of a HUGE rustic cross which he constructed in his high school years out of old boards which he then proceeded to place on the roof for the world to see. (sound like anyone you know?)

Travis (Naomi’s husband) and I spent a long time at the gravesite talking and reflecting and then ended the day having pizza where I was able to leave our waitress a big ‘Joshua tip’. I told her it was in his memory and that I was doing it because it is what he would have done. She was so excited and appreciative and even promised me that she would ‘pay it forward’. She also so kindly tried her hardest to console and encourage me. What a blessing and a great way to end the day.

So it’s in this spirit that we post the remaining projects and words from you, our friends, and Joshua’s loving friends and supporters.

We pray that God will greatly bless you as you continue on to bless others with your faith in action.

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Shawn S.: Earlier this spring, a friend of mine who was once a Marine and has reflected with me at length about his time in the Marine Corps contacted me and gave me a newspaper article about a young former Marine. The young man featured in the article shared that he did not think there was any possibility of forgiveness or redemption for him as he considered things he had done while he was deployed to Afghanistan. I have found the address of that young man from that newspaper article and have begun writing him a letter. I have asked Joshua to pray for him.

Jill H.:  I waited for much of the month, not knowing what I should do, but thinking that something would happen and I would feel called to help someone in need. I don’t know if I was right to wait, but I definitely felt called last night. A woman I knew from graduate school at Iowa, but hadn’t spoken to in six years or so, shared a very personal post on Facebook about her first year of being a mother. Rather than a joyful account of parenting, she shared how difficult it had been, how little support she had received, the health problems that had surfaced, and that she had struggled with postpartum depression mostly on her own because of the stigma. All of this had put a strain on her relationship with her new child. She shared this because she wanted to draw attention to the myriad problems with how we support (or don’t support) new mothers in America, including shorter maternity leave and less comprehensive health care options compared to many other countries. She ended her post by saying, “I needed help. I still need help.”

I wrote her a letter, thanking her and applauding her for speaking up. And I told her I was rooting for her. I also attached a gift card for a spa, so she could enjoy some well earned relaxation. Lastly, I told her about Joshua and Faith in Action. She wrote back to me this morning, and said she was touched by the gift and honored to receive something in remembrance of Joshua.

I believe that if Joshua had been friends with this woman, he would have been a part of her support system, showing her and her child kindness and generosity at every turn. So this is how he inspired me. I hope he likes it.

Libby P.:Our elderly neighbor Jimmy was dying.  Though we visited him often, at the end when I called him, he asked that I no longer visit him, as he didn’t want me to see him like that.  At first, I respected Jimmy’s wishes.  But then I realized that his request was for my sake, and not for his.  So I visited him anyways.  I brought pictures and drawings from my kids.  It was hard to see him that way.  But I could see the joy my visits brought to him, and it was clear he was lonely.  I had the opportunity to tell him how much our family loved him, and how much we appreciated his thoughtfulness over the years.  He just passed away and we miss him, but I am so thankful for those last visits with him.  I had the chance to make him smile at the very end of his long life, when smiles were few and far between.

Julie S. – I opened the door of love today.  This door was opened to no one of much consequence within the world.  You would not recognize him/her except in your small internal places.  This had to do with myself.  I find that I have difficulty allowing God’s loving compassion to fill me.  This directly hinders my ability to be non-violent and peaceful.  I need reconciliation for myself, so I might stop the hateful ways I relate to myself and then others.  I do this in many small ways throughout the day by looking to counterfeit affections such as overeating, working too much and living too hectic of a life that does not allow for rest, renewal and God to heal me.  I find it hard to be at peace and with harmony within myself, so how do I expect to be peaceful within the world?  The harshness of the busy life I lead extends to others in seemingly small ways, but I believe accumulate in larger ways.  So…I open my door today and see a glimpse of God’s love through Joshua’s great smile so that I may have the opportunity to live my life better.  I hope this will lead to a more purposeful journey and I will be a better person so my “ripple” within the pond of life will be more peaceful, non-violent and loving…today, I am risking opening the door just a little wider.

Today I commit:

  • To being kind to myself
  • To promoting peace within myself
  • To living a more compassionate life
  • To Non-violent reconciliation when I fail
  • To Living a more purposeful life
  • To be a better person
  • To Justly deal with myself in my life’s journey
  • To Opening God’s door of love more widely day by day…..

Chad N. – I thought I would share a link related to one of the things I did to remember Joshua earlier this week: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-dying-american-soldier-s-story-bringing-awareness-to-iraq-afghan-war-lung/x/4524599. I wish it were a more perfect project, that more closely approximated the vision Joshua might have brought to such an endeavor, but I was nonetheless honored to donate to this documentary to bring awareness to the burn pits and health effects in Joshua’s memory.

Evalee  – (submitted by Kristi because of the importance of her actions in Kristi’s life) Hosted 2 Conscientious Objector’s from England speaking on peace & nonviolence. She also invited me to a luncheon to meet these two young men but I was unable to attend. She followed that up with a note to me that is representative of the encouragement she showed to both Joshua and I throughout his illness and since his death.

HB: Decided one year ago, long before our August project, to write Kristi notes of encouragement once a month in honor of Joshua and the relationship they had. She is also strongly considering joining in the “pen pal” project at Guantanamo Bay.

Sandy: Is meeting with other Japanese/American young people, as well as other ethnicities, for companionship and encouragement. Also chose to reach out to a friend in an unhealthy relationship to help her change and order her life in order to protect her and her child. She had to fly across the country to do so.

Stephanie R.: Today, I am donating a large box of boys’ clothes to friend who works in non-profit and has two boys a few years behind mine. I’m also sending her two large bags of brand new toys that I bought on clearance at target a little while back. She works at the Ronald McDonald house and I told her I am sending them for the families that stay there – for birthdays, playing while they are there or however she best sees fit.

Thompson Family:  Emma has decided that for her faith in action she would like to draw a picture and write a note to someone in an elderly care home who doesn’t get any visitors. She will take it there and ask that it be given to someone who’s in need of encouragement!

Garmai will be offering my sister-in-law an hour or two of extra help with her one year old, Blakeney, hoping to lighten her load just a bit. Blakeney LOVES Garmai!!

Travis is going to donate money to an organization helping Iraqi families rebuild, who’ve been impacted by the war. They seek to help those injured, who were not involved in any kind of warfare. These people were just living normal lives, doing normal things. One gentleman they are helping had his car run over by a US tank while driving his pregnant wife to the hospital. He lost his wife and child, and was injured in the crash as well.

My own faith in action (Naomi) is kind of multi-faceted. We’ve recently moved into an apartment complex that has been wonderful for us as a family. Its given us room to breathe, its affordable, and we face no other buildings, just a wide open corn field, which we’ve come to love. So beautiful! Our unit is made up of four 4-bedroom apartments, and in those 4 units we have a total of 14 kids running around! Our unit kind of serves as a central hub of activity, since I only know one other family well enough to allow the kids to play there. Because the kids so often come to our unit, and bring other kids from other units, we see a lot of kids who spend hours alone every day, with no supervision. We’ve already bought one little girl a swimsuit because hers got lost and she couldn’t swim otherwise, I’ve given another little girl some beginning scrapbooking supplies so that she can begin scrapbooking her photos (She was enamored with all my supplies!), and we’ve agreed to pick up one boy from school and watch him until his mom gets home from work. So, I see an ongoing faith in action of mine to be reaching out to these kids, getting to know them, loving on them, setting boundaries for them if they need to learn boundaries, as well as helping my kids learn how to relate and deal with many different types of kids and various situations!

The second part of my faith in action is a scrapbook my sister gave me several years ago that I had yet to begin. It’s called project life, and its set up to be “a year in the life…” kind of thing. Well, it’s been intimidating to find just the right focus to give it, until now. I finally think the purpose of this book for me has solidified. It is going to be my Faith in Action Year. Starting today, August 25th, I will be looking for continuous ways to live out the love that Joshua so willingly demonstrated, and that Christ modeled for us all. I look forward to it being a life-changing year for me, and I pray that I can pass on what I learn to my children, my husband, and all those I love!

Latchis Family:  James started kindergarten a week ago and we decided to put together an extra kindergarten backpack with school supplies. We donated the backpack to his school for them to use as they need to.

Mark has been with his company for 10 years and on his work anniversary he got a $150 gift card. Mark decided to hang on to the gift card until he saw someone who he thought could use it and he will give it to them in memory of Josh.

Catholic Peace Fellowship: Mass was offered in Joshua’s memory on Saturday at Saint Matthew’s Cathedral in South Bend and on Sunday at the Notre Dame Peacenet Retreat at Sacred Heart Parish Center at Notre Dame (where we gathered in October). Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy who was at the dedication of Joshua Casteel House was the presider.

Alliance Catholic Worker/Tomas: Tomorrow at liturgy will be offering a parastas (the memorial service we had for Joshua after Liturgy at the dedication) for all soldiers who have passed away especially those who have died from suicide. I know Joshua had spoken about this so we thought this might be a nice gesture for the faith in action project. On Sunday during our community meal we are going to encourage conversation about acts of kindness that we have experienced.

Catholic Peace Ministries/Jeffrey:  (from Kristi) Jeffrey has been an important encouragement to me this past year. Jeffrey and CPM work day in and day out to promote peace and non-violence and are wonderful examples of living out their faith.

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From Kristi:  I want to also thank all those who sent cards, emailed, called, or texted in remembrance of Joshua and August 25t in an attempt to encourage us and convey love and respect.  All of the acts of kindness this month made a major impact in our lives as a family and gave us the strength and inspiration to face one of the worst days of our lives in a new way, and find true inspiration and the faith to believe in redemption.

On behalf of the board of the Joshua Casteel Foundation, Rebekah, Naomi, and I (Kristi) want to thank all who participated in this month’s project. You have all been a blessing to more people and in more ways than you can imagine.

We want to end this posting with our last but definitely not least Faith In Action participant (indirectly!),  Pope Francis: The following is an excerpt from his Sunday Angelus radio address of August 18,2013. What an encouragement to all of us who desire for the church universal to take a stand on peace, with love and non-violence being at the core of Jesus’ message.  

“God has a particular face, he has a name: God is mercy, God is fidelity, he is life that is given to all of us…Jesus is our peace, he is our reconciliation! But this peace is not the peace of a grave, it is not neutrality, Jesus does not bring neutrality, this peace is not a compromise at all costs. Following Jesus means rejecting evil, egoism, and choosing the good, truth, justice, even when that requires sacrifice and renunciation of our own interests… 

[T]he true strength of the Christian is the power of truth and love, which leads to the renunciation of all violence. Faith and violence are incompatible! Faith and violence are incompatible! Instead, faith and courage go together. The Christian is not violent, but is strong. And with what strength? That of meekness, the force of meekness, the force of love.”

For it is in Dying that We Live

“Truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat dies and falls into the ground it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24

One year ago today Joshua stepped into eternity to be with his earthly and heavenly Father.  It has been a year of sadness and grief beyond imagination.  But slowly and gently God has brought us to this day in a way that has enabled us to focus on his life rather than his death.  Faith In Action was a result of that and has made this very difficult month more than bearable…one of hope.  We determined that there was no better way to honor Joshua than to use his own words and experience to express the heart and soul of who he was and the beliefs that became his life’s purpose. We hope that they will bless and inspire you.
The following was part of an email Josh sent to a friend while stationed in Iraq. It was subsequently published in Letters From Abu Ghraib (Essay Press, 2008).

Thoughts from a Christian American Soldier:

This morning I awoke wrecked by anxiety. For a full two hours I could not move. From the moment I opened my eyes all I could think of was failure, contradiction, falsity. For the past week or so I have been writing a script to help chronicle my experiences of war, and so for the past few days I have watched films such as Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, and Platoon as a means to help narrate what I experience. After watching films such as these, hearing the first-hand accounts of my forebears’ tales of war, it seems to me as if “war” is not even a term I know how to use to describe my time here in the desert. War is supposed to be the threat of being easily annihilated, not the threat of annihilating with ease.

The sacrifices made by my forebears from the Second World War are hard to comprehend. The beaches of Normandy. The winter journey to Berlin. The jungles of Guadalcanal. The massive force of destruction that they had to endure day in and day out in WWII is something I see now but in fragments in the attempts of an impoverished opposition setting off mortar attacks in one or two-round bursts every other day. One of us is killed for about every 40 of them. Or there are the inter-tribal kidnappings, the ransoms that go to fund the resistance. The chaos is real, but I view it mostly from an ivory tower. The utter contradiction and hopelessness levied against my forebears in Vietnam—well-intending American men walking footpaths each day under orders that came to embody the very barbarism they sought to overthrow—I do not palpably sense or encounter here. I have my own paradoxes of barbarism, but the gravity is altogether different. My job is often grueling and mentally and emotionally exasperating, but I live in a place with bins full of the remains of packages sent from home that simply can’t be consumed by individual soldiers. This cannot be true of everywhere on the battlefield, but in my corner of the world we have buffets with consumer response cards, air conditioning and internet cafes. I have been injured once, but only because I accidentally stabbed myself with a knife while cutting open a footlocker to pack all of the excess things I could not find a place to store in my living quarters. I am more likely to struggle from putting on weight than from losing it, from spending my money unwisely than from fear of not having a use for it, and from wasting my free time in entertainment than from waiting anxiously for the few times I am afforded it. Even the Eucharist sometimes feels like a product I am given, a thing consumed for the maintenance of morale. This experience of “war” is confusing at best.

Before I became a cadet at West Point, I read a quote of a military statesman who wrote, “I study politics and war, so that my sons may study mathematics and music.” This was written hundreds of years ago, but I read it on a brochure for an academy I was then to attend in the coming months. Long before I ever decided to leave the Academy I remember thinking it ironic that I too would be going on to study, yet again, politics and war. Would it be in the hope that one day my children might gain the opportunity to study mathematics and music? For then one must ask, “When will that day come?”

I recently made a man cry. I told him in Arabic that he was not a criminal and not a terrorist. He later told me that he had cried because it was the first time in many months an American soldier, or anyone for that matter, had told him that he was not an evil man. The next day I thundered away at a different man who sat blankly calm with the knowledge that his lies could possibly put the man who had the previous day cried openly in front of me in prison for the greater portion of his life. And now I am faced with the decision of having to abandon their cases altogether, because my job as an interrogator is not the enforcement of justice in criminal investigations, but merely obtaining intelligence relevant to the war-fighting efforts of US Forces.

The other day, one of my superiors talked to my interrogation team prior to a session. He told me, “These are the agents of Satan, gentlemen, they would rather slit your throat and die trying than spend the rest of their lives with the virgin they married the first time around—their wives.” It was now my turn to be the blank, expressionless one. This was a Christian man telling me this, obviously trying to impress upon me the reality of a Jihadist’s belief in a paradise with 70 virgins and the like. But believing that evil is real does not mean that it is okay to believe that there are those who can completely be its embodiment.  When the President stood in the National Cathedral and spoke about the moral dimensions of the war on terrorism,

it was not a moment for Christians to show solidarity in the “identification of evil,” but a moment for Christians to repent in their having objectified it in the bodies of men. To believe that there are evil men only to be destroyed is to utterly disbelieve in the power of the Resurrection. Anne Lamott wrote, “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

To the legalist-extremist Muslim, evil is something that can be eliminated by eliminating the “evil-doer.” If a woman is perceived as indecent, kill her. If a man commits apostasy, kill him. I fear that the West has also adopted this view in certain of its policies to attempt to “rid the world of terror.” Evil cannot be destroyed by the destruction of things or persons, it can only be redeemed by those willing to lay down themselves for others. Evil has no existence of itself, it is simply the consequence of an amnesiac and bereft people. Goodness forgotten is goodness perverted. We must be that much more fervent in remembering and reiterating God’s initial words over His creation: “It is Good.” When we know not what we do, God grant us the grace to forgive, so that we might in turn remember how we, too, once were forgiven.

Every day I talk with the enemy. But, I do not see an embodiment of “he who opposes goodness.” If we approach the war on terrorism with the fervor of a Christian Jihad against Islam, our battle is already lost, for we have become what we opposed and we are now the fundamentalists. Our battle is not one of flesh

and blood, but against the spiritual powers and principalities which rule this present darkness. We cannot allow ourselves to be caught up in “war mode” against a fleshly enemy, or the true enemy is already within us, and we have failed to believe in the power of a redemption which (we say) we believe has saved us. As James has told us, “faith without works is dead.”

Orwell once said that we sleep comfortably in our beds because violent men are willing to conduct violence on our behalf. Uncomfortably I have known this to be true, yet I am also quite guilty of having fallen in step with the pathology of a blood-purchased liberty and self-sanctification. My comfort and liberty must not be won by the sacrifices of a new and foreign poor now paying the price for our moral failings of diplomacy, economy and statesmanship, turning our Republic into an Empire. The memory of those who willingly died in WWII is tarnished every time we resurrect them as an analogy to our alleged “war against terror and tyranny.”

A fallen world demands the imposition of justice and the rule of law, but evil cannot be destroyed, it can only be redeemed.

In Him,

joshua