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On PTSD and Total Depravity

I was reading Blackfive today (an excellent US milblog) and saw this post linked.

It’s a great piece written by a (AFAIK) non-Christian former soldier (Marine perhaps) about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. (emphasis mine)

What you need to know, first and last, is that so-called PTSD is not an illness. It is a normal condition for people who have been through what you have been through. The instinct to kill and war is native to humanity. It is very deeply rooted in me, as it is in you. We have rules and customs to restrain it, so that sometimes we may have peace. What you are experiencing is not an illness, but the awareness of what human nature is like deep down. It is the awareness of what life is like without the walls that protect civilization.

Those who have never been outside those walls don’t know: they can’t see. The walls form their horizon. You know what lays beyond them, and can’t forget it.

It got me thinking on a few things.

Firstly, just how sheltered most of us are from death in this day and age. I’ve been reading about the Black Plague, which saw 1/3rd of people in Europe killed. These days, we can go our whole lives without seeing a person die, and only knowing one or two close people who have died of something other than old age.

It’s hard imagining a whole society suffering from PTSD, but if you think about it, people must have been. Imagine the people of Israel in Joshua’s day. Imagine a Hebrew soldier, returning to his tents and his family after taking part in the slaughter of every man, woman and child in a Caananite city. Despite the justice of their actions, surely it was a hard thing to do.

Secondly and mainly, it got me thinking about Total Depravity. If you operate on the basic assumption that all people are basically and fundamentally evil, even if they superficially or outwardly seem good, the world makes a lot more sense.

We have the notion of the fundamental goodness of people drummed into our heads from a young age. We want to believe that people are good. Yet history, experience and common sense teaches us otherwise.

Of course, the idea that people are fundamentally good means the only thing keeping people from goodness is education. If we could only build a society that taught people how to live properly, people would be good, and we wouldn’t need God! When people come from a society like ours, which has this assumption, and are plunged through combat or some other traumatic experience, it must be twice the shock.

  1. slave4christ
    slave4christ05-18-2010

    I can agree that after serving in Iraq myself and seeing my far share things. It is in situations like war where we are pretty much taught to let our “primal instincts” take over. To go with out there and trust your gut. This is really doing nothing more than giving over to the flesh and allowing ourselves to live totally deprived. Paul washer once said if God left me outside His grace and to my own desires I would make Hitler look like a choir boy. Later he emphasized that often the reason some people aren’t as bad as they could be is because of God’s grace on those around them.

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