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Reborn on the Fourth of July: The Challenge of Faith, Patriotism & Conscience Paperback – June 16, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


Publishers Weekly Starred Review; "A warrior who deeply honors the values of the Army... Mehl-Laituri seamlessly weaves church history and facts. With a well-crafted story and a compelling narrative, this book is well worth reading and rereading." Reviewed 06/18/2012 at publishersweekly.com/978-0-8308-3652-9

"With both truth and grace, Logan Mehl-Laituri―an Iraq combat veteran turned conscientious objector―explains in Reborn on the Fourth of July how the glorification of military service does not live up to the reality of war. A compelling read for churches and Christians struggling with questions of faith, patriotism, and violence." (Elaina Ramsey, Sojourners, November 2012)

"Mehl-Laituri seamlessly weaves church history and facts . . . into the narrative. With a well-crafted story and a compelling narrative, this book is well worth reading and rereading." (Publishers Weekly, June 18, 2012)

"If we want to truly 'support our veterans,' we can't put them on a pedestal where they have to pretend all is well, nor can we look at them with suspicion born of political disapproval, nor can we push them aside and consign the reality of war to secrecy. Instead, we must listen to veterans, making room for them to speak freely and let us know what war was like for them and how it has marked them. If you don't have experience with that kind of listening, reading this book with an open heart is a great way to start. Logan Mehl-Laituri opens his heart in these pages and helps us better understand not only the veteran experience, but the American experience―and the Christian experience too." (Brian McLaren, author, Naked Spirituality)

"In Reborn on the Fourth of JulyLogan Mehl-Laituri opens his soul and invites us to journey with him as he struggles at the intersection of faith, patriotism and conscience. Logan articulates how God laid claim to his life as he wrestled in the dark valley of moral ambiguity, the dialogue of contrary forces tugging for control of his life. He is a person of courage, of heroic valor, who sees his duty and does it; he is a child of God, since he was reborn on the fourth of July." (Herman Keizer Jr., U.S. Army (retired), and director of chaplains, emeritus, Christian Reformed Church of North America)

"This book is not just for Americans. Not just for patriots. Not just for pacifists. Not just for Christians. This is a book for everyone who would dare to listen to those who return from war and ask not for honor but for permission to be honest. This is for everyone who longs to rediscover our humanity, and Jesus' message, in a world at war." (Jarrod McKenna, Australian Peace Award recipient and World Vision advisor)

"Logan Mehl-Laituri's testimony is moving and important if we are to understand what it means to be a Christian and what it means to be a soldier. Hopefully this book will be widely read." (Stanley Hauerwas, author, The Peaceable Kingdom)

"Logan Mehl-Laituri's Reborn on the Fourth of July provides military readers with deep insights into the mind and motivations of a genuine conscientious objector. Sergeant Mehl-Laituri is not a coward, and he deeply respects his fellow soldiers. His story―which he shares in this book with candor and conviction―challenges all of us to reflect upon what it means to serve both God and country." (Peter Kilner, military ethicist)

"Logan Mehl-Laituri, a natural and compelling storyteller, guides us into acute empathy for victims of war, including the combat soldiers themselves. His honesty about the role he played as a soldier in Iraq helps release us from false valorization of warfare. How can Christians challenge the vast American indifference toward the consequences of war? Reborn on the Fourth of July tackles this question and welcomes people from all walks of life to explore putting an end to war." (Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, and author of Other Lands Have Dreams)

"Logan Mehl-Laituri is not one of those persons who would dare say, 'My country! May she always be right. But right or wrong―my country!' Instead, he challenges America to do what is right at a time when, to many, patriotism has become idolatry. He loves this country, and that's why he challenges its tendencies toward nationalism." (Tony Campolo, professor emeritus, Eastern University)

"Following your conscience while in the military can put you at odds with its own 'institutional conscience' and with specific missions and wars overseen by civilian politicians. Logan Mehl-Laituri's journey from combat soldier to conscientious objector to seminary student is a powerful story of recognizing one's conscience and then following it to the remarkable places of witness in our world." (Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (retired) and former U.S. diplomat)

"This is an unsettling book (in all the right ways), written by a pioneer for peace who knows what conflict is like 'on the ground.' Music is woven into the story, but the profounder music is that of Christ's shalom." (Jeremy Begbie, Duke University)

"Logan Mehl-Laituri's testimony is a stark reminder of the moral cost of war. Every Christian who puts a 'Pray for Our Troops' sticker on their bumper should listen closely to these confessions of a soul who's struggled to love God and country. At the same time, anyone committed to Christian nonviolence should reckon with this story of a soldier who sought to practice love of enemy. Logan is asking for the church to see its veterans. I pray we'll listen." (Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author and new monastic (www.jonathanwilsonhartgrove.com))

"Logan Mehl-Laituri is one of the contemporary prophets for peace, decrying the evils of war and declaring the nonviolent love of Jesus." (Shane Claiborne, from the foreword)

About the Author

Logan Mehl-Laituri is an Army veteran. He served in the Iraq War as a forward observer/fire support specialist before applying to change his status to conscientious objector. After his discharge he went to Palestine with Christian Peacemaker Teams, and later returned to Iraq with Shane Claiborne for the documentary film The Gospel of Rutba. He speaks and writes broadly about veterans issues and Christian perspectives on militarism and nationalism.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (June 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830836527
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830836529
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #574,798 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
In Reborn on the Fourth of July, Logan Mehl-Laituri dares to speak truthfully about his experience of war in the midst of a cultural climate that often turns a deaf ear to the reality of war and the lives of veterans. In contrast to the simplistic platitudes which surround conversations about war and military service, Mehl-Laituri throws open the doors to his own experience and invites the reader into a complex picture of what it might mean to truly struggle with questions of war, violence, patriotism, and faith; "[H]ow might soldier saints, and patriot pacifists form our faith, particularly in times of war?" he asks (104).
Mehl-Laituri describes his own struggle with this question. After a deployment in Iraq and a period of contemplation about his Christian faith, he files for conscientious objector status, requesting permission to return to Iraq with his unit as an unarmed non-combatant. When his application for CO status is turned down, Mehl-Laituri embarks on a journey of healing and a pursuit of theological clarity. The book is at once lucidly written, accessible to a large audience, and compelling, while accounting for the complexities of faith, service, and combat.
This book deserves to be read carefully, bit-by-bit, and in a reflective manner. Especially good are the chapters "Baptism & Rebirth," which narrates his baptism; "I Can't Save Everyone," an account of experiences in Iraq that constitute a significant turning point for his own thoughts on war. Also of note are Mehl-Laituri's first experience with PTSD in "Foreshadowing the Shadows"; and his conversations with mentors and friends while in the process of filing for CO status in "Love and War".
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When I was in seminary, I had to take a class on ethics. Toward the end of the class, each student had to write a position paper on a specific ethical topic from a Christian perspective. Many of the possible topics bored me. Finally, I developed the idea of writing about what a Christian viewpoint on war might look like. By the time I finished the class I had become something very close to a pacifist, as well as in many ways very Anabaptist in my views of church and state.

In 1994, my viewpoint placed me on the far left in Christian circles. However, as the years have passed, and new generations of Christian thinkers have begun to have influence, my ideas are not nearly as isolated from mainstream Christianity as it once was.

Last summer, I saw that IVP was going to release Reborn on the Fourth of July, which appeared as though it was going to discuss issues of war and peace from a Christian perspective. I had to have the book. And, I have now read it cover to cover.

What I discovered in Reborn on the Fourth of July is a spiritual memoir that discusses the issue of pacifism and war from a unique perspective. Logan Mehl-Laituri was a soldier that served during the War on Terror in Iraq. He entered the military enthusiastic and gung-ho to serve his country. Eventually, he was discharged from the military as a Conscientious Objector. The book tells of Mehl-Laituri's journey from his perspective.

As a biography, Reborn on the Fourth of July reads well. Mehl-Laituri keeps the pace of the story going along quickly enough that the reader will not be bored.
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Being the daughter of a Vietnam veteran, who many decades after the war took his life, I long for access to his journal (he didn't keep one). He never shared about his experience in Vietnam as a Marine on the front lines, and I knew not to ask. Reading Reborn on the Fourth of July was like reading a mash up my dad and my journals. This book is an example of why I love reading: access to the seeming inaccessible. Mehl-Laituri does not shy away from sharing honestly and whole-heartedly. From chapter 1 I felt the author was an old friend because of his relatable voice, which made it natural to deeply emotionally react to the rest of his story. Though I was already on a similar page with a lot of what Mehl-Laituri shared, I hope that his vulnerability and voice will soften skeptical readers to his ideas. Weaving song lyrics and sensory details throughout the book, heightened at crucial points, drew me in as if I were experiencing it firsthand. All around, an example of exceptional writing skill.

For those of you who are(were) or love(d) someone in the armed forces, read this book. It helped me better comprehend combat-related PSTD, the tension/trauma of war as well as returning home and a more discerning way to love and support our veterans. The book also pleads for Jesus followers (I'm guessing particularly us pacifists) to be "active participants" in war by praying for the conflicts to end and for the Church to be a place for veterans to grapple with their experiences and actions.

For those of you who are struggling through the processing of spiritual formation/renovation, read this book. It's the story of a significant paradigm and identity shift: the process of transformation, the world's reaction to someone sincerely trying to follow Jesus, and all the confusing emotions that goes along with it.
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