Divinity Students Organize "After the Yellow Ribbon"
Duke Divinity School student Logan Mehl-Laituri, M.T.S. '13, sat quietly during a new student orientation session while a Duke counselor discussed available counseling services. Saying that no topic that was off-limits, the speaker joked that even if a Divinity School student had killed someone, they could still discuss it. While the majority of the class laughed, Mehl-Laituri, a veteran of the Iraq War who served as a paratrooper, sat silent, knowing there were veterans in the class who might have been required to kill while serving in the military.
Now a pacifist who reflects on the purpose of the military in American society, Mehl-Laituri wanted to start a discussion about how to minister to those in the armed services. “It's not a reality for students that there are veterans in the Divinity School," he said. "We don't know how to talk about ministering to people in the military."
To facilitate this discussion, Mehl-Laituri and other students from the student organization Milites Christi have organized After the Yellow Ribbon, an event over Veterans’ Day weekend Nov. 11-12 that seeks to promote conversation between the church, military, and academy.
Mehl-Laituri hopes the event will raise awareness about the church’s shortcomings in ministering to the stresses and problems of current and former military members.
“By and large the church has done a poor job of addressing the needs of soldiers, veterans, and those affected by war,” he said. “Seminarians at Duke will encounter veterans and active military, and they will be looking for a way to share their experiences.”
M.Div. student and pastor Alan Felton said "After the Yellow Ribbon" is a chance for current and future pastors to explore how to minister to a nation at war. Felton, who served in the National Guard, became a pacifist, and refused deployment in the first Gulf War, said that the event invites students to discuss and explore what it means to be a pacifist, a just-war theorist, a soldier, or a pastor to soldiers. “It’s not enough to sit at Duke and say, ‘war is bad,’” he said. “Our response must be an embodied theology, because that presumes and demands action.”
Mehl-Laituri said that the event does not intend to isolate or promote only one response to war, but rather to ask how veterans operate in the church, at Duke Divinity School, and in the world. “The Divinity School needs to have conversations about service in the time of war, the role of the church, the limits thereof, and how to articulate the relationship between military service and Christian faith,” he said.
The event features speakers from the Divinity School and United States Military Academy at West Point, as well as pacifists, conscientious objectors, active military, and local pastors. The event will also feature a concert from Christian singer/songwriter Derek Webb.
Learn more about the event and register.
Duke Divinity student Pilar Timpane created an interview series with Duke University Divinity School faculty looking at the hidden wounds of war and the Church's resources that can help those in recovery.
Stanley Hauerwas: On moral fragmentation, formation, and repair
Richard Hays: On scripture's resources for healing
Anathea Portier-Young: On the Old Testament as a resource for healing and lament
Jeremy Begbie: On the arts as a resource for healing and reintegration
Sam Wells: On healing in community and the phases of forgiveness