Wednesday, May 6, 2015

American Sniper

I have yet to see the movie, but recently finished reading Navy Seal Chris Kyle’s account of his work of being a sniper in Iraq. He is credited with the highest number of confirmed kills in American history. The book was made into an award-winning box-office hit as a movie. The story also troubled many people. You may have seen the controversies surrounding this book, from film maker Michael Moore’s comments about snipers to many saying the story downplays the controversies that led to Chris Kyle being in Iraq in the first place to Muslim students petitioning to not have the movie shown on college campuses because of “misleading and negative stereotypes” about Muslims. 

Huff Post Books said of the book, "At times politically incorrect or even crude, Kyle's writing seems relentlessly honest. Kyle is not an intellectual, although the book will make readers think - about the enormous costs of war and what Iraq has meant for American soldiers and their families.” Patricia Cornwell of the New York Times Book Review said, "[My] favorite book of the year. Chris Kyle’s American Sniper is an amazingly detailed account of fighting in Iraq - a humanizing, brave story that’s extremely readable.” There are also negative reviews as well, such as one person who posted, "There's an awful lot of ego and chest thumping, a lot of times it's overt, and sometimes you can only see it between the lines. This of course is understandable as well. It's the nature of the beast, but one can only stand so many pages of it before it detracts from the rest of the story."

The book is an autobiography. When he prioritizes God-Country-Family in that order, even though most, including his wife, would choose a different ordering, it is his story. When he so energetically gives himself to his job that he pulls the trigger to end at least 150 lives, even though many are disturbed by this, it is his story. When he speaks on what he wished his senior military and political leaders should decide when it came to “rules of engagement” (ROE), even though most are glad the limitations in the ROE are in place, it is his story. This is an autobiography that tells a specific soldier's perspective on the human side of war and conflict. 

Kyle speaks honestly about his struggles. He speaks of the pain of losing friends in battle to injury or death, about his feeling responsible for some of those deaths, but most importantly and transparently, he speaks of his struggles as a husband and father. He was away from his family on so many deployments, it nearly cost him his marriage. His wife, Taya, even has sections she writes in the book to give readers her perspective. 

All will be challenged to think through the implications of any act of war. If we go to war, people will die and those deaths will be violent and bloody. Christians, in particular, are challenged to think through what levels of aggression and violence we are willing to support and under what circumstances if we think it will save lives or stop a bully. 

In the end, this book reminds me of the personal cost of patriotism, the harshness of war and the continued divisions between people groups. As someone raised in the military, I thought the book was true to the character of most soldiers and a story worth reading. No matter how you feel in general about the subject the book raises, read the book in order to speak for or against it from an informed perspective.