On several levels this is an amazing book. First of all, a large part of this book deals with what goes into becoming a Navy S.E.A.L. Needless to say it is some crazy stuff. The intensity, the discipline, and being pushed to the edge of insanity would be the best way to describe it. What they are put through would seem more appropriate for those who find themselves incarcerated. Yet as you read this section of Luttrell's memoirs, you realize that he is fulfilling his calling.
Secondly, this book reads in such a way that you need to stop and remind yourself that this is the real deal. It is not some Tom Clancy novel. This is very recent history that has significant implications in where we as a country find ourselves right now.
Thirdly, this book gives us a better grasp of understanding our enemies as well as our allies within their midst! The enemies in the war on terror are vastly different than anything else we have ever faced. It truly is a hatred that is hard to comprehend. But on the other hand, it was simply amazing to see the good guys within Afghanistan that committed themselves to the care and hospitality of Luttrell in defiance to the Taliban.
It is exactly when the book takes us over to Afghanistan, which is where it become problematic for me. Luttrell's team is sent out on a recon mission and while they are on their mission some goatherds come upon them. It is in this point of the book that the ethical, moral and spiritual dilemma explodes in Luttrell's brain. You see the logic of the soldier as he is confronted with the logic of faith. Luttrell states that "my trouble is, I have another soul. My Christian soul. And it was crowding in on me. Something kept whispering in the back of my mind, it would be wrong to execute these unarmed men in cold blood." Based on Luttrell's vote the team decided to let the goatherds go and within less than an hour the 4 S.E.A.L.s found themselves being hunted down by a Taliban army. Based on the title of the book, you can only guess what was the end result.
Now let me be the first to say that Luttrell is an amazing soldier. But as a pastor who has worked with teenagers for almost 20 years now it kills me to see our young men having to deal with all that this war has done to their generation and we will only know the severity of it all in decades to come. Luttrell is simply amazing in all that he has been through and has lived to tell about it. My concern is what will become of these guys 10, 20, 30 years from now. It is very difficult to see the struggle between what Luttrell has committed himself to as a soldier when it goes up against his personal faith. And also it is difficult to see the anger that wells up within him as he directs a lot of his rage at the "liberals". On several occasions he basically blames the liberals for putting him in the dilemma he found himself in instead of seeing this as the crisis of faith that he himself points out. He should be directed his anger out on God Himself. God is a big boy. He can take all of our pain, anger and frustration with life. He is a better person to direct those feelings at instead of the softer target of those known as "liberals". After all, David used God as a punching bag in many of his Psalms and in doing so, David often found hope after giving God a piece of his mind. Hatred towards people is always a bad motivator. It has a way of turning people into, well, people like the Taliban who are completely motivated by hatred. My fear is that if we confront violence with more violence we will be in a perpetual cycle that has the potential of spiraling out of control.
Now I know that God Himself has a special place in his heart for the soldier. We wouldn't have such great stories such as David and Goliath, Gideon's army, the conversion of Cornelius, David's mighty men, the Egyptian armies demise before Moses, etc. But is it possible that Jesus presents to us a new way to confront our enemies? One of my most favorite parts of the book was when the small village extended their hand of hospitality and care to Luttrell. There is something that happened within Luttrell where you can tell he fell for these people. A bond occurs between him and the children as well as many of the adults who endeared themselves to him despite the fact that the Taliban was threatening their lives for protecting Luttrell. Is there a way to fight this evil form of intense hatred with a love that is not only childlike but makes almost no sense in the midst of the enemy surrounding the village? The love of this village persisted in such a way that ultimately it is they who won this battle. A living, breathing Luttrell was the result of their efforts. Love wins. Again and again and again. That is the amazing story within the story of Marcus Luttrell.