For the last couple of days, I have been driving around John M. Perkins for Duke Divinity’s Center for Reconciliation and their Summer Institute going on this week. It has been really enlightening listening to him in sessions as well as from the passenger seat of my car. The Spirit indeed knows no bounds; the guy is a gifted and tireless preacher. I should have had the voice memo app on my iPod running…
To kind of prep for being his personal assistant, I listened (via audiobook) to his and Shane Claiborne’s Follow Me to Freedom (Regal, 2009) on a long road trip I had the day before I began volunteering for the conference. I have been encouraged, for some time now, by a few people (most especially by Shane) to write at more length about my departure from the military as a Christian pacifist. In the 5 years since I was honorably discharged, I have been an outspoken advocate for other Christian service members in the struggle to discern between our shared faith and military service. In the last couple of days, that idea has crystallized into a reality, and InterVarsity Press has agreed to publish a theological autobiography I proposed to them earlier this year.
The language in churches has been entirely too polemic and polarizing in the realm of war and peace. When that is the case, it abandons soldiers to the violent and merciless winds of moral ambiguity, theological dyslexia, and self-condemnation. Because my particular path out of the military kind of questioned the threshold between pacifist and patriot, I have found myself critical of both sides of the aisle even as I agree with points presented by each.
To assist in this project of nuancing the legion of stark and binary dialogue, I helped found a small community we eventually called Centurion’s Guild. Now there are four of us who journey with other service members and their loved ones as they wrestle with how to serve God and country – where and when and how those allegiances are, at times, complimentary, but at others mutually exclusive. We publish a newsletter, Change of Command, which has proven to be fruitful for a number of people who cannot escape the harrowing of their conscience in regards to war and violence.
But Shane and other friends have not allowed me to forget the itch to write something more substantive and comprehensive. I tried a few ideas with a number of different publishers, but got rejected pretty uniformly. When I submitted a final proposal for something more autobiographical, two publishers said yes, and I could hear a soft whisper amid the din of school assignments, morbid headlines, and easy distractions. So I am entering a season of writing, I fear (I never learned to type, I just hunt and peck really quick).
All of this news has kind of hit rather late, and I found myself trying to find time to begin writing in the same few days I was assisting John Perkins. It was quite providential, since conversations in my car sometimes fell to my projects on faith and service. The venerable civil rights leader and gifted preacher commented a number of times on his impression that he could hear the Kingdom in my thoughts and concerns. Growing up in Orange County, CA made me painfully aware of the vanity and materialism that can motivate people. Learning theology at Duke has taught me the depths of human sin and ego, so I am also aware that those too are a part of the puzzle that is human being.
The possibility of pretension is not lost on me, but neither is the possibility for transformation. Shane wrote, in his Irresistible Revolution (Zondervan, 2006), about how writing a book somehow makes you an expert, and it can become a kind of validation for the author. Hell, I’m writing an autobiography and I’m less than 30 years old; you think I haven’t considered the irony? Besides, he also writes that there are already enough white men writing books. There are plenty of reasons not to write. Believe me, I have come up with more than enough in the last 5 years.
Like any endeavor, writing will be, for me, done with a surplus of trepidation and caution, but it is something that has sat on my chest for too long. The time has come to, as we said in the army, ‘put up or shut up.’ MLK said silence is betrayal, so I guess I better get to work. I have some awesome people guiding me along the way, and not just Shane and other rock stars, but great people who know me not as ‘that combat veteran’, or ‘the MTS student who guilt trips everyone’, but simply as Logan. The military thing is just one part of a larger whole, a whole they are helping me to become, but a part that needs expression in this season of my life. Hopefully this new responsibility is used to God’s glory and not my own.