A friend recently told me about an experience her daughter recounted upon her return from an Eastern Orthodox youth retreat. In response to a question about violent video games, a priest shared the experience of an Orthodox military chaplain who had served in one of our country’s recent military actions overseas.
Given the fact that there were numerous chaplains available from other Christian groups and very few Eastern Orthodox soldiers, it was a surprise to learn how popular the Orthodox chaplain had been among the soldiers stationed there.
These soldiers were gripped by the horror of taking human life, and the Orthodox chaplain was the only one who met the men where they were and affirmed that grief was an appropriate reaction for what they had done. Though the soldiers were serving their country with honor, and though they were not sinning to kill enemy combatants, the Orthodox chaplain understood that taking another life still leaves a wound on the soul.
By contrast, I am told that the other Christian chaplains were content to merely assuage the soldiers by repeating they had done nothing wrong, reminding them that they were doing their duty and encouraging them not let be troubled by their experiences. Only the Orthodox priest had a clear understanding of the tragedy of our human condition together with an appreciation of the pain that death properly brings. By facing and identifying with the sorrow the soldiers felt, he able to help them grapple with the reality of our fallen humanity and experience the healing and redemption Christ brings.