A few days ago I released my second book, For God and Country (in that order): Faith and Service For Ordinary Radicals (#ForGodandcountry on social media). It was a long time coming (over two years, in fact), but it was a work well worth the time and effort. Over the course of its development, I worked with a small publishing house that serves the Mennonite Church, USA and it was a truly ecumenical effort; being Episcopalian myself and having so many Catholic profiles in the final ‘contemporary’ segment. In it, I profile nearly 50 different Biblical warriors, military martyrs, soldier saints, and patriot pacifists (Oh yeah, and I love alliteration… and parentheses), so you can pick it up and read a few profiles or take an afternoon and read through them all.
Reflecting on my writing recently, I realized that this and Reborn on the Fourth of July, my first book with InterVarsity Press (#Reborn4thJuly on social media), are really a pair. The first is more autobiographical and focuses on my own journey of faith and its relation to my service as an Army artilleryman. The second broadens the conversation to include many others whose lives were touched by the ravages of war and have something to say about it and their own faith. In fact, you can buy R4J as an ebook as well. Whereas Reborn on the Fourth of July was about conscientious participation with faith in mind, For God and Country (in that order) is more about chaplaincy and the line between church and state as it moved throughout history.
What I hoped to accomplish as I set out to write these two books was to give those who love the troops in their lives a glimpse into what it means to be a Christian soldier. Such a weighted and seemingly ironic term, I think there is some merit to it that could stand to be explored. My own experience led me away from the military rather reluctantly, and I hear from other soldiers wrestling with faith that the military is compelling in unanticipated ways. The thrill of knowing you have committed your very life to something bigger than yourself, the experience of pushing yourself to the limit physically and mentally, and the adventure of traveling to places of danger to risk it all are things the Church is not as known for. On the other hand, the expectation that soldiers be prepared to kill for things otherwise detached from our own experience and personal beliefs can be too much to compromise. I personally drew the line at being directly responsible for ending the life of another human being, but I was very much aware that in a representative democracy that “Some are guilty, but all are responsible.”
These two books, and especially #ForGodandcountry, hopefully give readers a glimpse into what it means to be a Christian soldier. The lives I profile are never cut and dry – they ask unexpected questions and demand unconventional answers. I hope you will pick up a copy from the publishers or at your local bookstore. Do you have a soldier saint or a patriot pacifist in your life? Leave me a note in the comments, I’d love to hear stories from the front lines of your life!