OUT OF THE NIGHT: The Spiritual Journey of Vietnam Vets by William P. Mahedy

OUT OF THE NIGHT: The Spiritual Journey of Vietnam Vets

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A combination self-help and pop theology book extrapolating from the experiences of Vietnam veterans and their return from the dark night of the soul to offer direction to all Americans who face desperation and bewilderment in the modern world. Mahedy, co-designer of the Vietnam Vet Centers, counselor, lecturer, and co-author of Right Here, Right Now: Spiritual Exercises for Busy Christians, starts from the feeling of many Vietnam vets that ""God was AWOL in Vietnam."" He demonstrates the emptiness of the American ""civil religion"" combining Jesus Christ and the John Wayne myth, and attempts to steer a path between Biblical tradition and modernity. While promising more than he actually delivers, the essence of his argument revolves around Christ's statement on the cross, ""Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."" This cry represents to Mahedy a state of the soul that recognizes that in Vietnam, ""we were simply living out in vivid terms the consequences of human freedom. We were doing it to ourselves."" Rev. Mahedy seems to come from the Berrigan school of ministry. One chapter sub-section is entitled ""Bullshit Detectors,"" and the manuscript abounds in the kind of Army obscenities familiar to Vietnam veterans, as if Mahedy were out to gain the confidence of the vets he is counseling. Missing here is any discussion in depth as to just what makes some Vietnam veterans dissolve into tears at public functions consequent to their service. Mahedy looks only to the personal nature of the killing in Asia as compared to traditional battlefield anonymity. One supposes that there must be other reasons, e.g., the juxtaposition of the 50's television-weaned children of prosperity with the real world of agony and despair in Southeast Asia. Mahedy starts with an interesting concept, but he takes the ball only halfway.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Ballantine