What is “Moral Injury” and What is to be Done About It? (Part 1 of 2)

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Moral injury is a phrase being bantered about these days. The banterers define it as “the damage done to one’s conscience or moral compass when that person perpetrates, witnesses or fails to prevent acts that transgress their own moral and ethical values and codes of conduct.”

This is how Veteran’s Affairs hospitals refer to those who believed they were giving their lives to military service and end up facing terrible moral choices and decisions to obey commands of which they cannot make any sense of it in their moral compass.

Returning veterans returning from a tour of duty and those who care for them are struggling to understand and respond effectively when experiences of war result in levels of anguish, anger, and alienation. They say moral injury includes but is larger than what we have traditionally called “PTSD.”

We all know stories of service men and women who have returned from war with horrendous mental health issues. Even with the plethora of resources available for them, many will carry the damage done to their bodies and minds to the grave. “War is hell!” and the smoke stench stays with people for a long time.

That said, without underestimating the suffering of our soldiers and their families, I’d like to propose a different category of “moral injury,” the potential harm to people of conscience and their credibility who feel compelled to support and defend a morally, socially, and spiritually unhinged U.S. president.

If you think I’m exaggerating hear me out. The clinical definition again:

“Moral injury is the damage done to one’s conscience or moral compass when that person perpetrates, witnesses or fails to prevent acts that transgress their own moral and ethical values and codes of conduct.”

While I have no desire to judge or psychoanalyze anyone, I do wish to warn those who continue to look the other way every time this president makes up his own “alternative facts.” (By most accounts the number of his publicly spewed balderdashes has now exceeded the 10,000 mark. Those are Hall of Shame numbers!) Though Mr. Trump’s nonstop lying is just one of many ways to calculate his amoral character, it is high on the list of the things he does that potentially damage the psyches of his fawning fans.

I assume that most of my readers have a moral compass in fair working order, especially those whose conscience is informed by Scripture and daily conversations with its Author. I can’t imagine how anyone with a conscience who persists in unabashed alignment with Donald Trump can escape moral injury.

Both Solomon and Paul offer sage advice about such an alignment:

  • “Bad company corrupts good character. Come back to your senses.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

  • “Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.” (Proverbs 13:20 – The Message)

If confined to a boardroom or a reality television set, Mr. Trump’s antics could be viewed as relatively harmless, even entertaining. (Though I’ve never been entertained by it myself.) But transfer those same antics to the highest level of world leadership and they are repulsive and deeply damaging to the collective psyche of those who call for shame and violence to his opponents. Michael Gerson went so far as to say that “Trump’s stump speeches are not a call to arms against want; they are a call to oppose his enemies. This is not the agenda of a movement; it is the agenda of a cult.”

Then there’s the indefensible reality that though most evangelicals are not racists, his supporters have decided that “White Nationalism” is not a moral disqualification in the president of the United States. That’s something more than a compromise for party’s sake. It’s symptom of moral injury and should be treated immediately if not sooner!

“My main problem,” said author and the director of Eternal Perspective Ministries, Randy Alcorn, “is not that Donald Trump says what he thinks. . . . My problem is with what he actually thinks: especially his obsession with outward appearance, sexiness, superficiality, wealth, his own status and accomplishments, and his quickness to berate and insult people and seek revenge on his critics.” Ted Koppel calls Mr. Trump a “national Rorschach test.”

Yet according to Jerry Falwell Jr., we Christians have found our “dream president,” which says something about the current quality of Christian morality on a stage as large as Mr. Flawell’s. Moral injury has begun and continues to spread like a contagion in our country and I plead for anyone with even the slightest symptom of infection to take daily truth injections from God’s Word and get into “Redeemer’s Rehab” immediately.

We’ll leave it at that for now. In preparation for next time read these passages.


In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. I’m not just writing to improve on my typing speed! (Although it does help.) What are your thoughts, stated in “civil terms,” of course?

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