The subtitle of Logan Mehl-Laituri's newly published Reborn on the Fourth of July is: The Challenge of Faith, Patriotism, and Conscience. Throughout his gripping account of his journey from patriotic combatant in Iraq to conscientious objector, the roles played by faith, patriotism, and conscience intertwine; but it is faith that ignites Mehl-Laituri's evolution and determines the balance between patriotism and conscience.
In his "Epilogue" the author speaks of learning to "inhabit the middle ground between patriot and pacifist," but actually he is both patriot and pacifist. His book shows us that, despite ingrained assumptions to the contrary, patriotism and pacifism are not mutually exclusive. In fact, his application for conscientious objector status was for a category identified as "1-A-O," under which he would have remained in the military as a noncombatant conscientious objector. And writing his book as a pacifist no longer serving in the military, he still identifies as a soldier. In a note near the end of the book referring to the parable of the Good Samaritan, he writes: "Sometimes soldiers are not the heroic Samaritan; sometimes we are the voyager in distress."
At a climactic point in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck, whose antebellum Southern upbringing has taught him that helping a runaway slave would condemn him to hell, struggles over whether or not to turn in his slave friend Jim, who has escaped from his owner. Huck, following the dictates of his socially constructed "conscience," even writes a letter to the owner telling her where to find Jim, but finally tears up the letter and vows that he will go to hell rather than betray his friend. In commenting on this key scene, Mark Twain spoke of it as "a struggle between a sound heart and a deformed conscience" in which Huck's sound heart wins. In Logan Mehl-Laituri's case, both heart and conscience, each informed by his faith, are sound. In fact, it is a dramatic, faith inspired "crystallization of conscience" that frees Mehl-Laituri from the deformed societal conscience that equates pacifism with cowardice. Mehl-Laituri is a patriotic pacifist and a courageous Christian, and his book is an inspiring read.