Saturday, December 19, 2015

What is Jonathan H. Ebel reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Jonathan H. Ebel, author of G.I. Messiahs: Soldiering, War, and American Civil Religion.

His entry begins:
Shortly before 9pm last December 11, my dad called to tell me he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died on April 7 after four months of treatment, suffering, and decline. They told us it would be a rollercoaster. It wasn’t.

Almost from the beginning, friends and family told me that I should read Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal. I agree with them. I really should. It is sitting on my nightstand between the clock radio and the reading lamp. I’ll get to it. For the moment, though, I’m aiming lower, or maybe just differently. I am finishing The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I am halfway through A Farewell to Arms, two books that wrestle with being mortal in ways that feel easier to me.

There are few better times to purge closets, drawers, and the recesses of one’s basement than the aftermath of a painful loss. My father is gone. What the hell do I care about CD cases, VHS tapes, an old toaster oven, and sweaters that I haven’t worn in a decade? I’m very sad. The question that Marie Kondo requires me to ask of every possession, “Does this spark joy?” all but answers itself. Old jackets? Hell no. Notes from college? Are you kidding? If we’re talking about...[read on]
About G.I. Messiahs, from the publisher:
Jonathan Ebel has long been interested in how religion helps individuals and communities render meaningful the traumatic experiences of violence and war. In this new work, he examines cases from the Great War to the present day and argues that our notions of what it means to be an American soldier are not just strongly religious, but strongly Christian.

Drawing on a vast array of sources, he further reveals the effects of soldier veneration on the men and women so often cast as heroes. Imagined as the embodiments of American ideals, described as redeemers of the nation, adored as the ones willing to suffer and die that we, the nation, may live—soldiers have often lived in subtle but significant tension with civil religious expectations of them. With chapters on prominent soldiers past and present, Ebel recovers and re-narrates the stories of the common American men and women that live and die at both the center and edges of public consciousness.
Jonathan H. Ebel is associate professor of religious studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is a former naval intelligence officer. He is the author of Faith in the Fight: Religion and the American Soldier in the First World War and the co-editor, with John D. Carlson, of From Jeremiad to Jihad: Religion, Violence, and America.

Learn more about G.I. Messiahs at the Yale University Press website.

Writers Read: Jonathan H. Ebel.

--Marshal Zeringue