Wednesday, December 05, 2012
Reborn on the Fourth of July: The Challenge of Faith, Patriotism, and Conscience
by Logan Mehl-Laituri
Reviewed by Clint Walker
When I was in seminary, I had to take a class on ethics. Toward the end of the class, each student had to write a position paper on a specific ethical topic from a Christian perspective. Many of the possible topics bored me. Finally, I developed the idea of writing about what a Christian viewpoint on war might look like. By the time I finished the class I had become something very close to a pacifist, as well as in many ways very Anabaptist in my views of church and state.
In 1994, my viewpoint placed me on the far left in Christian circles. However, as the years have passed, and new generations of Christian thinkers have begun to have influence, my ideas are not nearly as isolated from mainstream Christianity as it once was.
Last summer, I saw that IVP was going to release Reborn on the Fourth of July, which appeared as though it was going to discuss issues of war and peace from a Christian perspective. I had to have the book. And, I have now read it cover to cover.
What I discovered in Reborn on the Fourth of July is a spiritual memoir that discusses the issue of pacifism and war from a unique perspective. Logan Mehl-Laituri was a soldier that served during the War on Terror in Iraq. He entered the military enthusiastic and gung-ho to serve his country. Eventually, he was discharged from the military as a Conscientious Objector. The book tells of Mehl-Laituri's journey from his perspective.
As a biography, Reborn on the Fourth of July reads well. Mehl-Laituri keeps the pace of the story going along quickly enough that the reader will not be bored. It gives sufficient background into the author's life so that we can understand where he has come from, and gives us a little insight into what has happened after he left the military, but most of the book is about Mehl-Laituri's gradual awareness that he believed that killing people in service of his country was wrong, and his response to that conviction that he discovered.
As a book addressing the ethical issue of pacifism and just war theory, it is also helpful. Too little has been written by "soldier saints" who come to believe that serving one's nation through killing is wrong, and yet who were still soldiers and patriots at heart.
Even if you disagree with Reborn on the Fourth of July, you will find the book thoughtful and interesting. I recommend picking it up, and discussing the author's journey with friends.