Broken Spirits: A History of Spiritual Fitness Training in the United States Army since World War II Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Nieuwsma, Shenandoah
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Religious Studies
  • In 2009, the United States military mandated the teaching and promotion of “spiritual fitness” training for all personnel--over one million people. This training was part of a force-wide initiative called Comprehensive Soldier & Family Fitness (CSF2), aimed at educating soldiers about physical, social, emotional, familial, and now, spiritual well-being. The CSF2 program demonstrated that spirituality’s purchase had extended beyond rubrics of alternative healing to those of mainstream medicine. While those responsible for the program framed spirituality as an “evidence-based” treatment, some viewed the implementation of medicalized spirituality as a form of religious tyranny. The concern that the US military had entered an era of religious coercion under the aegis of spiritually-based healthcare merits serious consideration. This dissertation offers a cultural history of the authoritative production of spiritual knowledge in wellbeing projects for large-population, non-religious institutions. By tracing a genealogy of mandatory spiritual education programs in the US Army since World War II, this project explores what “spirituality” has meant in various contexts and investigates what historical and contemporary conditions have made the “spiritual fitness” requirement possible in a secular space like the US military. Additionally, this dissertation addresses the pressing social and political challenges to the freedoms of secular publics that this reconfigured notion of non-religious spirituality presents. Although the term “spirituality” is often invoked axiomatically and commonly posited as subjective (by the public and scholars alike), this project demonstrates that there are complex politics at play in the production of “spiritual” education that must not be ignored. Far more lies beneath than the rhetoric of spirituality betrays.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Numbers, Ronald
  • Wacker, Grant
  • Ochoa, Todd
  • Maffly-Kipp, Laurie F.
  • Styers, Randall
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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