Exclusive: The Stream Interview With Military Chaplain Who Inspired Indivisible
The U.S. military has faced major challenges in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere since 2001. While many movies focus on those who are deployed, the forthcoming movie Indivisible examines how one military chaplain’s selfishness nearly tore his family apart.
Darren Turner is that chaplain. His story is the center of a great movie which will hit theaters on Friday, October 26. The Stream is pleased to provide an exclusive interview with Turner about faith, family, and the military. The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Repairing A Broken Man and His Family
The Stream: Darren, how true to your story is the movie? What changes were made to enhance your story?
Darren Turner: The overall storyline is true, with some of the details dramatized for the viewer. This isn’t a “biography,” but it is based on actual events, and many of the characters/situations are composite characters/situations that compressed several individuals or events into a single scene.
Some of the changes that help the viewer are the simultaneously emotional scenes both on the battlefield and on the home front. The movie displayed them simultaneously, but in reality they were spread apart.
Did any one incident during your deployment turn things for the worse? Or was it the overall experience? If it was the overall experience, what are some examples of experiences that harmed you?
It was the overall deployment. It was a “slow fade,” so to speak. Losing guys repeatedly over several months chipped away at my enthusiasm. I never lost faith in God. I knew He was real and with me, but I was challenged to expand my concept of who this wild, untamed God is as revealed both in Scripture and in experience. He is a consuming fire, a warrior, this King of kings and Lord of lords. He cannot be boxed in, and I think I had tried to do that.
What would you have done differently to come home more healed?
Hindsight is 20/20. I am truly grateful for the chaos when I returned home because it was a refining fire in me and my marriage. I don’t recommend others choose that, but if it happens, God is in it and has a purpose.
What were the warning signs that are now clear in terms of your relationship with your wife when you returned from deployment?
I was very angry, not sure at what. It didn’t take much to set me off on a rant of complaining or insults. I also went on a spending spree and bought a motorcycle and a Jeep, all in an attempt to give myself some isolated time.
Wife and kids certainly can’t ride on my motorcycle, but some of my buddies had them. That was an excuse to spend time with them rather than reconnecting with my family.
What was the reason for the short separation which you and your wife endured?
Heather was headed for divorce, but I had come to desire to fight for our marriage once I began to see the damage I was causing in my family. So I got out of the Army as a last ditch effort to have time and space to seek reconciliation, and for us it worked. Heather finally saw that I was serious about dealing with my own issues and our collective issues.
How is God at work in the lives of your family members? What is your relationship with Him today?
God is always at work, He promises to finish what He starts even when we try to go our own way. I’m so eternally thankful that the Holy Spirit doesn’t let His own get very far away from Him. Jesus has taught us forgiveness and reconciliation and humility in deeper ways, and continues to press those lessons deeper into our souls in the context of a very imperfect family.
We sin, we hurt each other’s feelings. But in that God is teaching us to listen to Him and love unconditionally.
Service member suicide has been a major issue for years. What has your experience taught you that chaplains, military superiors, and families back home can do to help service members heal mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually upon return from deployment?
Suicide is certainly a massive topic, not only in the military, but in our culture at large. Sometimes, I wonder if it is related to the reduction of valuing life in our culture. If the life of the unborn/elderly/any other undesirables is optional or disposable, what makes the life of people outside the womb any different? My conviction is that a Biblical worldview corrects the false notion that life is optional, and in turn, gives value to all life.
That being said, mental illness is real and people with mental illness induced suicidal thoughts need real, long-term help. The worldwide Church of Christ-followers can reach out to military members and simply befriend them and encourage them to tell their stories. If needed, they should help a person seek professional help if suicidal thoughts emerge.
What advice do you have for service members who are being deployed and their families back home about staying anchored with each other?
Stay anchored to each other, it’s easier now with technology. Share your days, tell your stories, talk about your dreams and plans together. Respect one another even when you don’t get what you want in the relationship.
Biblical marriages are meant to make us holy through learning to live and love with another fallen creature, but when Christ is at the center, He teaches us true relationship and true forgiveness.
What motivated you to join the military and the chaplain corps, and what motivated you to return after leaving the military?
Psalm 27 motivated me to join the military as a Chaplain. In that Psalm, King David is in a war and yet he desires the Lord’s presence more than anything. I wanted to see if the Lord would place me in a similar position to lift up His name in the midst of chaos all around. He certainly gave me that opportunity!
And the uncommon bonds of military friends and families is what drew us back to the military. There is an unspeakable, deep connection with people once you’ve been in life and death situations together, both for the service members and families.
How did deployment differ from your expectations? (If my math is correct, you deployed around the time of the Iraq surge, one of the most difficult points of that conflict.)
Yes, I was in the surge and it was much tougher than I expected or prepared for. Our Battalion lost a lot of great men, but also they did a lot of great work. Peace is not without cost, as the Cross of Christ demonstrates.