Quaker and military chaplain Zac Moon has a unique perspective on the effects of war. He has some ideas for how we can help military service members to come home.
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- Do you consider yourself a pacifist? How does that impact the way that you relate to someone who has served in the military?
- Zac suggests that Quaker and other pacifist traditions might have a role to play in the healing that needs to take place after war.
I’m trying to hold a space where somebody can open up and become and grow and struggle in the ways that they need to, right in that moment, believing deeply that they have strengths and resources in them, and also believing that all around them is this powerful holiness that is holding them and is lifting them up. It’s the part of me that feels so Quaker as I’m doing this work, even in a strange context like the United States Marine Corps.
How Can Pacifists Supports Our Troops?
My name is Zachary Moon. I live in Denver, Colorado, and I work as a commissioned chaplain with the United States Navy.
One of the things that I’ve learned differently in this proximity to war, as a military chaplain, is that some of what needs healing after war – some of the expense that’s been paid in war, beyond all of the monetary resources – is the toll that it’s taken on thousands, really 2 million now, human bodies.
A New Paradigm For Relating To Veterans
I see us continuing to desire and seek after a programmatic solution to these costs, these traumas, these symptoms. The V.A. is this magnificent example of that, right? So, “Oh, we need this kind of therapy and all of these medications and we need these kinds of services,” and it’s all being done under this kind of hospital institution, and what’s missing there (and where I see the kind of human struggle to come back from war that the V.A. will never be able to heal or even really address) is the cost that is really in the deeper recesses of our human-ness, that can really only be processed and only be lovingly engaged through relationship.
And when I think about, “What could a Quaker Meeting do?” Or, “What could another religious community do?” I think when we’re at our best, we’re doing relationship well. The kinds of relationships where we can listen deeply to one another. The kinds of relationships where we can listen across differences, so not just having relationships with people who can all agree about the same things, but maybe folks that maybe in lots of ways I disagree with — all of that can be best engaged through relationship. The kinds of relationship that allow for the space for lots of compassion and lots of patience and lots of mercy to just be shared back and forth.
Open Ears, Open Hearts
For Quakers, I think about how powerful our meetings for memorials are. You know, the kind of deep way that we are able to hear both grief and celebration in that space. Could we hold that kind of space, that kind of depth and intentionality for someone who is grieving all of what they’ve lost as a part of their military service? But also wants an opportunity to say, “You know, I learned some things that were important that I want to find a way to carry forward, because that’s in me too.” Could we find a way to celebrate that stuff too and not just – because we’re pacifists – see it all as being evil and ugly and grotesque?
There’s some real goodness that can happen in relationship with folks who are different than who I am or who our community is, but we’ve got to be willing to do a little bit of work – take a little stock on our beliefs and our values – and really be knowledgeable about who we are, not in a way to say, “Hey, we’ve got it all figured out. Let’s take it to you and try to get you to fit into us.” But more than that, to say, “Okay, here’s the stuff that I’m dragging behind with me, and some of it’s good and some of it’s probably not that helpful, but I’ve got to be responsible for it in this relationship. But if you are talking about your military service and I’m thinking about how there weren’t weapons of mass destruction in Iraq like they said, I’m already failing you in this relationship, because I’m thinking about the wrong thing.
“What I need to be doing is turning both of my ears and my heart as open as it can be, I need to turn that to you and hear you.”
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.
15 thoughts on “How Can Pacifists Support Our Troops?”
wow—walking in the light……
Thank you Zac moon for doing the work you are engaged in as a Quaker Military Chaplin and for providing a context in your above recorded perspective that offers insight and depth to a hugely painful human condition and concern. I’m glad you are present in the lives of these men and some women, to open up your heart with together in mutually love and sharing.
I am preparing to give a talk on the personal implications of the Quaker Peace Testimony. This very inspiring video will help me greatly. Thank you.
Absolutely wonderful, so true to my experience and such a call to us all to open to the other.
Wonderful and inspirational! I wonder why on overseas military bases no service for worship as a Quaker is an option. They have services for various other faiths however exclude the Quakers. I think it would be a great help for those overseas without family and friends to have communion together as a resource for comfort.
Hello. Could somebody tell me what “V.A.” means ? Not being American, I guess at the meaning but would prefer to know precisely.
Secondly, in the course of my studies in theology in France, I have chosen to apply for a placement in military naval chaplaincy this year – I will be following two different Protestant chaplains around (1 Baptist, 1 Presbyterian). As a Quaker and pacifist, I often wonder why I chose this option, but it was absolutely clear to me that this is what I should and wanted to do. I didn’t know whether Quaker chaplains for the military existed, and I’m pleased to find that at least one does! I would love to be able to exchange further with Zac about his experience if the moderators of Quaker Speak wouldn’t mind passing him my email address.
Eric, V.A. stands for Veterans Administration. They run hospitals for veterans.
Thanks, Theresa. In peace.
Could it be that other church’s services are held within the military and not Quaker ones because neither the Church of England nor the Roman Catholic Church etc are predominantly pacifist organisations? Rarely are they to be seen protesting at Government or otherwise speaking truth to power. The way to help troops is to perhaps stop the need for their use altogether. Wars happen by design and are not a naturally occurring phenominon.
Just hearing you speak for the 5 minutes of this video, made me feel deeply the love, peace and understanding that you, Chaplain Zac Moon, relay so profoundly to all who would hear you speak. May God continue to bless your inspiring ministry with our soldiers, all veterans and their loved ones.
What a powerful testimony about spiritual healing. Thank you Zach, for your service, and for showing Quakers a way to support our veterans.
As one who worked a lot with G.I.s seeing to escape the horror of the war in Vietnam, I have always been profoundly sympathetic to the dilemmas and suffering of those who believed, at first, that there was some Noble Cause to which they were risking their lives, giving sacrificial service. Those selfless motives, of course, have been exploited by politicians (most of whom never have faced fire, or had their own kids in jeopardy) for eons.
I welcome all who have given succor and comfort to those in the military who seek to become ex-military, above-ground or otherwise. For those seeking to give compassionate counsel to the ones still in uniform, I wish them well — although I wonder how far they are permitted to go in, for instance, helping a troubled G.I. carry through on expressing their possible impulses toward Conscientious Objection. Indeed, I do know some who have felt that their call to Gospel Ministry outranked the call to be a military officer who was subject to a chain-of-command and a “mission” that is very clear about killing and destroying.
A Quaker (fellow-member of 57th Street Meeting in Chicago, where both of our memberships still reside) with whom I worked in AFSC during the Vietnam War — Alice Lynd — was the coordinator of our draft/military counseling program. Out of that experience, she authored “We Won’t Go,” still in print, I believe.
Now, she (with able assistance of her husband and fellow-lawyer Staughton Lynd) has written another volume, so far published only electronically. It is about “Moral Injury” and conscientious objection, both in the United States and Israel, setting it within the context of International Law. I strongly commend it to the attention of any who are working with, or indeed caring about, those to whom our nation (USA, in my case) has given impossibly conflicting assignments, many of which will haunt them the rest of their lives.
It is readable (and downloadable) online, hosted by “Historians Against the War,” and I hope this link can be published (or else go Google it):
The first chapter of it is now in print as a 48pp booklet, distributed by Quaker House in Fayetteville, NC, free for the cost of shipping, but with contributions welcomed for subsequent printings. The last page of it… the printed version, and the longer online version… is filled with helpful Resources for G.I. Counseling, a network that has been diminished but never gone away.
Since Friends, for generations and centuries, have reached out compassionately to those suffering from warfare, I urge that we find ways to do so now, for those who have been damaged in their souls by the contradictions and indeed atrocities that they either have witnessed or themselves carried out. This can be done without judgmentalism, without trying to convince others of our own values and choices, but rather by being present to embody something greater than the power and commands of the war-making Nation State.
Great you have found a way to work with the military mind set
How does Costa Rica with its neutrality and no army fit in are we a million
miles away from this. We have militarisation rife. The culture of war is rife
rife and the culture for peace has hardly a chance
Our UK Trident is equal to 300 Hiroshimas. How can people want to pay
for and contemplate this horror on their fellow man. One hardly hears this
mentioned. as tho there is a black out so folk are hardly mindful of this
Blessings. and. Gratitude. Michael Snellgrove
I wish you or someone like you were there when I hit the States after 13 months in Vietnam.
Thank you for your wise and loving message about how essential connections are.
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