**original, written by Shane Claiborne for the June 2006 newsletter for The Simple Way, can be found at http://www.thesimpleway.org/mailings/june06.pdf
It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause — the beginning of Mark Twains The War Prayer, though upon his death it would lay by his bed because his publisher refused to print it.
Beside my bunk is a pile of letters letters from prisoners, from young visionaries, from wise elders. And then there are the letters from soldiers, the letters from families who have lost their children in a war they never believed in, letters from parents whose kids came back from Iraq suicidal, depressed, addicted. And then there is a letter from a young soldier named Lucky. Lucky is the one who pointed me to Twains poem.
Let me share a piece of his letter:
16 May 2006
I have only recently become a follower of Christ, as opposed to just a believer in Christ. I have been reborn; slowly but surely, my old, dead skin is being shed and a new me is emerging. However, rebirth can be a painful, difficult process. You see, for the past six years I have served in the US Army as a Forward Observer for the Field Artillery (http://www.goarmy.com/JobDetail.do?id=45), my job position is responsible for 80% of the casualties on the battlefield (we also control Air Force Combat Jets, Attack Helicopters, Mortars and Naval Gunfire).
In a couple of months, I will deploy to Iraq for the second time… I am the victim of what is called a Stop Loss, meaning my intended date of separation from the military is getting pushed back to deploy again, I am basically being held past the time I agreed upon in my initial contract. However, over the next several weeks I will be applying for status as a Conscientious Objector.
In his words I can hear the echo of the first Christian converts who left their former lives and occupations in order to follow Jesus not able to serve two masters, not strong enough to carry the sword of Empire and the cross of Jesus. Hippolytus wrote that Baptism was the visible sign of that old life being shed and upon Baptism those who carried the sword or sculpted idols or worked in the imperial games left the things of this world in the baptismal waters and rose to a new life. I can only imagine how much faith, humility, and courage that must take for an old Centurion or a young Forward Observer.
Lucky goes on to share with prophetic vigilance how he simply can no longer serve his former master the Sword. His vision is consumed by the Cross, which teaches love for all people no matter how evil they are, a love that transcends biology or religion or nation. It is a love even for enemies and warmakers. It is this Cross for which he is willing to die, but not kill. In fact for Lucky the burden runs so deep that he cannot simply leave his fellow soldiers in the wheels of the military machine, but he will remain as a noncombatant, unable to train for war or carry a weapon, but fully prepared to disciple others in the way of the Cross, the Gospel of the Slaughtered Lamb.
Lucky is not alone. The pile of letters by my bed testifies to the voices in the wilderness of war. And the dogtags in my pocket remind me of the young soldiers who handed them to me as if they were laying down a heavy yoke, groaning amid the painful collision of their allegiences. I recall the muzzled soldiers that have desperately shared the paralysis they feel amid their discontent, for their dissent is seen as treason and is literally criminal — to denounce the war is an act of sacrilege toward their Commander in Chief, for which they could be shamed or jailed (laughing, one of them said thats why all the voices of dissent are military families, retired veterans, or dead soldiers). But as for Lucky, I told him I would be glad to protect his identity by changing his name. He told me that I could use his words and story, but under one condition that I NOT change his name, for he is not ashamed of the Gospel he professes.
He is ready to start a little underground railroad of reborn soldiers. Walking this trail of tears are the wounded souls of war who have turned their backs on the broad way leading to destruction and setting their eyes on the narrow Way that leads to life. And we will walk beside them. We are not self-righteous liberals or patriotic conservatives. We are people of the Cross. It is the gift and duty of rebirth to provide underground houses of hospitality for soldiers whose souls are wounded, college alternatives to kids who would settle for military scholarships, lawyers for soldiers gone AWOL, and safehouses for veterans lining our streets and alleys drowning out their memories with alcohol and heroine.
Lucky ends his letter with the words of our beautiful sister Dorothy Day, prophetess of peace, saying:
Dorothy asks if the Martyrs did not pray that Love would overcome Hate. That men dying for their faith, rather than killing for their faith, would save the world. I think that has become my new war cry; to love others, even if it kills me.
-Logan “Lucky” Laituri