Last night, Sarah Pulliam Bailey at Religion News Service reported on statements made (video here) by David Barton and Kenneth Copeland about post-traumatic stress disorder in soldiers. I am cited in the article as is Joe Carter from the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. More about those comments shortly.
On Monday — Veteran’s Day — Barton and Copeland discussed what they believe the Bible has to say about service in the military. At about 3:10 into the clip, Copeland expresses his thanks for those in the military and says he often ministers to them. Barton then says that being a soldier is a God-given gift. Copeland extends those remarks by saying that God told him to believe in war. At about 6 minutes in, Copeland says, “for over 200 years, we’ve (referring to the United States) been the judgment arm of God.” Copeland says the U.S. should get credit for stopping slavery in the world. He added that we are supposed to be acting as the judgment arm now, but we are not carrying it out. They take a side track into a discussion of “anointed police officers” but eventually get to the material on PTSD. This background is important because it demonstrates the belief of Barton and Copeland that soldiers act in God’s name.
At 9:44, Copeland claims that Numbers 32:20-22 (KJV) should be considered a “soldier’s promise.” He implies that the good soldier will come back from battle and be “guiltless before the Lord and before the nation.” Copeland, with Barton agreeing, then says (at 10:41):
Any of you suffering from PTSD right now, you listen to me. You get rid of that right now. You don’t take drugs to get rid of it. It doesn’t take psychology. That promise right there will get rid of it.
Copeland then exhorts PTSD sufferers to rebuke intrusive thoughts and other symptoms by attributing them to Satan. At 11:32, Copeland says, again with Barton agreeing:
In the name of Jesus, take your hands off my mind Satan! In Jesus name, Satan, you take your hands off of God’s property right now. You come out and come down, you stop it!
Before they go on to another set of verses, Barton interrupts, affirms Copeland’s words, and adds that many of the heroes of Hebrews 11 (Hall of Faith) were warriors. He adds that warriors who fight in a just war should be esteemed.
There is so much wrong in this broadcast, it is hard to know where to start and when to end. First, the verses are not general promises to those who fight in a just war. If Copeland would have read the entire chapter of Numbers 32, it would have been clear that these directives were issued to the tribes of Reuben and Gad. Verse 23 reads: “But if you (adult males of the tribes of Reuben and Gad) will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out.” God gave a warning to the tribes of Reuben and Gad because of their initial unwillingness to fight with the rest of the tribes for the purpose of taking the Promised Land across the Jordan.
Furthermore, the word “guiltless” as translated in the KJV is misleading. In the NIV, verse 22 reads: “then after that you shall return and be free of obligation to the LORD and to Israel, and this land shall be your possession before the LORD.” The KJV’s guiltless is better translated, “free from obligation.” In other words, God wouldn’t hold Reuben’s and Gad’s initial resistance against them if they agreed to go fight with the other tribes to take the land. However, if they didn’t fight, they would have been in obligation to God and their brethren. The word guiltless does not mean what Barton and Copeland apparently think it means.
Such constructions really annoy Southern Baptist ERLC communications director, Joe Carter. Carter told the Religious New Service:
This isn’t the first time Copeland and Barton have been “profoundly ignorant about theology and history,” said Joe Carter, an editor and communications director for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
“But for them to denigrate the suffering of men and women traumatized by war — and to claim Biblical support for their callow and doltish views — is both shocking and unconscionable,” Carter said. “Rather than downplaying the pain of PTSD, they should be asking God to heal our brothers and sisters.”
As an aside, Carter’s reaction deserves a post of its own.
Back to the topic, even though I suspect that Copeland and Barton believe they are being helpful, I have to agree with Carter. Barton’s and Copeland’s view of PTSD is dangerously naive. A good quick resource on PTSD can be found on the NIH website.
Barton and Copeland should read it.
When I watched Copeland’s exhortation to “stop it!” I immediately thought of this skit, where the therapist is about as helpful as Barton and Copeland.