Seek Justice

Controversy abounds today as to what constitutes a truly Christian perspective on numerous controversial topics. Accordingly, social media is filled with strong opinions and rancor ranging from the ridiculous to that worthy of serious consideration.

One directive from Scripture in this regard is actually quite unambiguous and I like to think that if we spent as much time acting on that which is consistently clear in Scripture, the world would be a far better place for it. James 1:27 states: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…”

I first met Sherri Elms and her twenty-something son and daughter on the pages of The Globe and Mail in a troubling report about how Jake and Stephanie had been denied university scholarships by an organization called Canada Company whose mandate is to offer financial assistance to children of Canadian military personnel who die serving our country.

To cite The G&M: “The rub is this: Capt. Brad Elms did not die a war hero in Afghanistan. The 51-year-old soldier, one of about 40,000 who served in Canada’s longest military operation, took his life five years after returning from the Kandahar battlefront. He had been treated on and off for major depressive disorder for about a decade. His family believes he also had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but he never sought a diagnosis because he worried it would destroy his army career.”

Canada Company denied scholarships to Captain Elms’ children because his death wasn’t considered to be “in the line of duty.” I begged to differ and took appropriate action.

As one with a vested interest in matters related to PTSD – my father treated soldiers returning from the front during World War II for “shell-chock,” and our daughter is presently in Ukraine working with army officers battling PTSD – it wasn’t difficult for me to identify an urgent need to help coordinate some support for this “widow and orphans” who live in Ontario.

I was one of several who contacted Canada Company to register our dismay at such misguided myopia in their understanding of the relationship between war and mental health. I drew to CC’s attention a book I’d just finished reading by Fred Doucette, a Canadian veteran of the 1990s Bosnia conflict, Better Off Dead: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the Canadian Armed Forces (Nimbus, 2015). His story graphically portrays the prejudice that exists in the Canadian Forces by members of the military hierarchy who consider PTSD to be inconsistent with the traditional “macho-soldier” image they view as being of paramount importance to the image they wish to portray of Canadian soldiers.

Earlier this week I was contacted by Canada Company in response to those of us who protested what we consider to be an uninformed bias against the mounting number of Canadian soldiers suffering and dying due to PTSD. They thanked me for being in touch and advised me that their organization will establish a task-force to review their decision on the Elms children taking Mr. Doucette’s recent book into consideration.

I am delighted. Far more meaningful than that, however, was the phone call I received last night from Sherri Elms who thanked me profusely on behalf of her son and daughter for working with the reporter at The Globe and Mail and others to elicit the response we earned from Canada Company.

Our conversation brought tears to my eyes as I realized—yet again—that this is a large part of what it means to be a “Christ-one” in the 21st century. Simply doing what Scripture encourages.

It reminded me also that in response to the hardness of heart consistently demonstrated by Israel in the Old Testament, God’s solution through the prophet Isaiah was as unambiguous as the words of James in the New Testament: “Stop doing wrong! Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” (Isaiah 1:16,17)

I am honored and humbled to have a small part in being obedient to the wisdom of God in this regard.