Book Club Channel
A Soldier's Rebirth: A Q&A with Army Veteran Logan Mehl-Laituri
What do you want readers to take away from Reborn on the Fourth of July?
- Veterans and military are not strictly "hero" or "villain," but human. We must not lean so heavily on stereotypes of them as either a monster or a hero. Readers must see the complex character of military formation and practice in order to fully appreciate and "support" the troops. Soldiers are humans, capable of good as well as evil.
- The Bible is not uniform in its depiction of war; it is diverse and multivocal. Soldiering is complicated within the Christian canon; some centurions are celebrated and others are castigated. I try to incorporate Scripture to support both depictions so that readers are challenged to think more critically about the character of Christian soldiers, ancient and contemporary. I also want to register the centrality of Scripture for shaping our understanding of not just war, but those who fight therein.
- The issue of military and national service affects everyone. Underneath the talk of military service is really the conversation about national identity. When churches identify too much with America, they lose their Christian saltiness. On the other hand, when churches identify too much with antiwar sentiments, they often lose their ability to sympathize with, or speak credibly to, this very unique and suffering segment of our population.
- Looking more critically at military formation and cohesion can inform the church and improve its witness. The military teaches the virtues of loyalty and requires courage. The methods and intensity of initial training reflect ancient catechesis. There is a baby in the bathwater of military service that we need to be careful not to toss out. Ron Sider had a point when he asked how compelling the church might be if it were to focus as much energy and resources on Christian formation as the U.S. military does on boot camp.
- We need to "de-fang" polemical discourse on war and peace, to not fall so easily into "patriot" or "pacifist" camps—we need patriotic pacifists and conscientious participants. Putting God above country will look different; it's the understanding that the cross must be more constitutive than the flag, but the flag does have a proper, subordinate place in our lives. Following Jesus while honoring the political order that crucified him will feel upside down, like going to war without a weapon, but it is something we must be able to envision.
- That there is a conversation waiting to happen upon which real lives rely; soldiers, veterans and their families need churches actively engaging in more compassionate dialogue about faith and service. Though I wrote the book fueled by anger and disappointment, I tried to remain honest in interpreting my military experience in Christian terms. I hope doing so illustrates that love really does triumph, that God truly does seek to reconcile all things.