Reborn on the Fourth of July: The Challenge of Faith, Patriotism and Conscience (InterVarsity) was not the book Logan Mehl-Laituri, an Iraq War veteran, wanted to write. As he recently wrote on his blog,
After a few months in seminary, it became clear to me that God was calling me to write about Christian faith, military service, and national identity. In the spring of 2011, I submitted a proposal to a number of publishers that would profile a number of soldier saints and patriot pacifists. I was excited about it, put some good energy into it, and then I got rejected. A LOT.
Friends told him that he should instead share his own story, so he "wrote up a brand new proposal, sent it out and had an 'embarrassment of riches in enthusiastic publishers who gave this new project the green light.'" The reaction is telling, though not surprising. Editors—including acquisitions editors—tend to be bad at math, which is why, given the opportunity, they would reject a book profiling a dozen stories about "patriot pacifists" and publish the singular tale of an individual patriot pacifist.
Had he been able to include stories other than his own, Mehl-Laituri might have been able to achieve his goal of presenting a compelling case for pacifism. He does make the attempt, but despite being a talented and sensitive writer, he lacks the willingness to adequately engage the long and robust theological history on the subject of whether Christians can engage in just warfare. At least a half dozen times in the book, Mehl-Laituri notes an engagement on the issue with a pastor, chaplain, or Christian soldier. Each time he dismisses their view as inadequate without providing any explanation for why they ...