Stephen Mansfield, a former pastor, has written several histories and biographies, including The Faith of George W. Bush and Never Give In: The Extraordinary Character of Winston Churchill. Stan Guthrie, CT's senior associate news editor, interviewed Mansfield about his latest volume, The Faith of the American Soldier, based on fresh research with hundreds of American soldiers. Guthrie also interviews authors on his own website.
Why did you write this book?
I wrote this book for three basic reasons. I come from a long line of military leaders and wanted to honor that heritage. Secondly, I am inspired by the new generation that is at war, and I hoped to capture their unique approach to faith on the battlefield. Finally, I believe the battles over the role of religion in American public life are having a profound effect on the military yet, in ways that most Americans know nothing about.
What was your methodology?
The Pentagon gave me permission to be embedded with our troops in Iraq, and I spent several weeks after Christmas 2004 interviewing soldiers at places like Camp Victory and Camp Seitz just outside of Baghdad. I also talked to officers at West Point, to soldiers just returning from combat at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and to a number of strategists and chaplains from CENTCOM at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. My research team and I interviewed a wide variety of military personnel, from wounded ex-soldiers to commanders still in the field to retired generals. It was the most fascinating research process I've ever been involved in.
What happens to the religious or spiritual beliefs of soldiers when they go to battle?
When a soldier goes into battle, he is immediately faced with the prospect of his own death, with the death ...1
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