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Fort Hood: A Chaplain Speaks

The Guideposts senior editor shares his thoughts of the tragedy at the Fort Hood army base in Texas.

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I was all set to write a blog about my kids today when this story appeared: shootings at Fort Hood Army base in Texas, at least 12 dead, 31 wounded. Details are sketchy as I write but the story shakes me deeply.

That’s because last year I worked on this story for GUIDEPOSTS: Roger Benimoff, an Army chaplain in Iraq who nearly lost his faith, his family and his life to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Roger and I talked for a long time over the course of several conversations preparing his story. He bared his soul, a ragged, damaged, searching soul. “Why do bad things happen to defenseless people?” That was the question he couldn’t answer after two tours in Iraq, after watching American soldiers and Iraqis die indiscriminately, pointlessly. After burying American soldiers, praying over their caskets.

He became angry at God. He stopped believing in God. For a time he worked as a chaplain not even believing what he was telling damaged, grieving soldiers.

He’s healing now. He left the Army and enrolled in a hospital chaplaincy program. With the help of his wife Rebekah he’s regained faith, though he’s the first to say his faith is nothing like it was before Iraq.

“As a child I was taught you don’t question God, you just go with what God says or what you think he says in the Bible,” Roger told me. “But if it’s a relationship there’s going to be conflict…It feels like God isn’t there protecting us.”

Roger never found hard and fast answers to the awful questions forced on him in Iraq. Instead he learned a new, tougher, more nuanced kind of faith. He no longer believes all questions about God are answerable. Attempts to reason through tragedy, he believes, are bound to fail. What works for him is steadfast, almost blind trust in “God’s consistency in the midst of human inconsistency.” He used the word grace many times. God as the goodness that endures in spite of, not because of, human understanding.

That’s a difficult faith for a chaplain to practice. I wonder what chaplains at Fort Hood are doing right now. They are caught in one of the fieriest crucibles of faith. Men and women have died on their watch, senselessly, and people want answers. Where’s God? Why didn’t God stop this?

Roger gave an oblique, not obviously comforting, but ultimately true and therefore immensely comforting answer to those questions: “When I was at my lowest lows, God allowed me to cry out, out of anger, frustration, need, in all the different ways that I express myself. God did not abandon me.”

Jim Hinch is a senior editor at GUIDEPOSTS. Reach him at jhinch@guideposts.org.

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