God Is a Grunt | Logan M. Isaac

God Is a Grunt

The following is an excerpt from God Is a Grunt by Logan M. Isaac. It’s a featured Speakeasy selection, and there are still limited review copies available for qualified reviewers.

Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot
Not long after I got out of the military, I was attending an antiwar demonstration where a young man, a newly minted veteran, was surrounded by cameras as he bawled his eyes out. I had no idea what he was talking about, but I can guess it had something to do with unresolved combat stress. People love a sob story, especially when it comes from “the troops” everybody claims to support. The problem with soldier sob stories is that they feed a civilian savior complex, the hope we have of being able to save/help/fix/repair veterans.

The widely-held assumption, that military families need saving, affirms the widely held belief that grunts are broken, war-weary, damaged goods. It might show vulnerability for a veteran to cry, but it might also be a mask for other emotions he or she isn’t allowed to express. Like anger.

Somewhere in [the midst of a federal civil rights investigation], someone told me I was “all heat, no light.” What they meant was that I was making people angry, getting all “fire and brimstone,” but not giving anyone any hope. Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann wrote that the prophetic task must balance criticism with hope, and from outside appearances I was all criticism and no hope. I think the inverse was true, that Christians expect all light and no heat. Why else do you think services for Easter are so much more well-attended than those for Good Friday? We want rainbows and puppies, but we don’t want the rain or to have to pick up dog poop.

In prophetic literature there’s a recurring theme of a refining fire that tests us “as gold is tested” (Zech. 13:9) and that “will smelt away [our] dross” (Isa. 1:25). What good is the light without heat?

It’s easy to look at someone crying out on account of injustice, saying something isn’t fair, and accuse them of being an entitled little shit. But what if, and hear me out on this, something is actually unfair? What if military suicide is not so much about the internal mental health of soldiers and veterans as the human dignity they are denied by civilian society? What if the responsibility to change or improve isn’t on military families, what if soldiers and veterans aren’t the ones who are entitled?

I understand if sometimes we can’t take the heat, if we need “fire, lite” instead of fire and light. I know it can be hard to see anger, but at some point we need to put an end to childish fragility and face the things we have done and failed to do.

One of the things I think Christianity has failed to do for a long time is to treat grunts fairly, in Scripture and our traditions. That is a gaping hole in theology and culture that my battle buddies are falling through.

Eighteen lives a day is eighteen too many. My book God is a Grunt is about ripping open packs of gauze and shoving them into the sucking chest wound that is military suicide. I don’t try to hide the anger and sadness that birthed this book because time is a luxury my battle buddies don’t have. Dr. Ryan Martin, the anger management psychologist, closes by saying, “We should be mad when we’re truly treated unfairly…Were you treated unfairly? Then get mad and let’s do something about it.”

Praise for God Is a Grunt

“In his new book, Logan Isaac invites us to share in the story of Christian soldiers with grit and grace, encouraging the church into more thoughtful conversations about, and meaningful community with, military families. This book could transform and even save lives.”
James Martin, SJ, author of Learning to Pray

“When one soldier and seventeen veterans take their lives every day in so-called ‘God-blessed America,’ it’s time to have a serious conversation about the Christian faith and military service. God Is a Grunt forces readers to wrestle with brave moral questions about war-waging and peacemaking, mental health and neighbor-love. With a mix of righteous anger and theological imagination, Logan M. Isaac challenges popular misconceptions that will disturb the easy confidence of partisan readers on both sides of the aisle. This book isn’t safe, but it is good.”
Jonathan Merritt, contributing writer for The Atlantic and author of Learning to Speak God from Scratch

God is a Grunt is part humorous history lesson, part expose of bad theology in which Br. Logan elbows through the mud of Christian expectations and misunderstandings about those in uniform. A brilliant theological examination of soldiers.”
Rev. Jaye White, Air Force daughter and Army spouse

About the Author

Logan M. IsaacLogan M. Isaac spent over six years in the United States Army as an artilleryman, including a deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004. He was discharged as a Noncommissioned Officer in 2006 and went on to earn a BA from Hawaii Pacific University and a Master of Theological Studies from Duke University. Logan spent a year teaching at Methodist University in North Carolina before leaving to study at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, from which he received a Master of Letters in Systematic and Historical Theology in 2015. After returning to a teaching position at Duke University, he went on to earn a Certificate in Business Administration from Georgetown University and start Pew Pew HQ, a social enterprise based in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

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