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June 04, 2012
Adam Brown was one of the elite of the elite, a member of SEAL Team SIX, the counterterrorism unit that has among its accomplishments the capture of Osama bin Laden. Brown was also a man with a history of addiction and all that attends it—theft and broken relationships and devastation. Most important of all, Brown was a man who had experienced grace and forgiveness through a relationship with Jesus Christ. His story, told by Eric Blehm in the book Fearless, is making waves today, having established itself on the New York Times list of bestsellers.
In many ways Fearless is typical for the biography of a warrior. It tracks Brown through his childhood and then, once he had made up his mind to join the Navy, through bootcamps, other forms of training, and eventually, through deployment in South America, Afghanistan and Iraq. Along the way we read of his brutal battle with addiction to crack cocaine, an addiction that followed him and haunted him even years after he had been through recovery. We also read of how he came to faith, eventually following the example of his parents and mentors, giving his life in service to Jesus Christ.
Brown’s life came to an end on March 17, 2010, the day he was gunned down in the mountains of Afghanistan, losing his life in service to his country while destroying a dangerous terrorist cell. Of course his story continues in this book and in the lives of his wife and children and friends.
Eric Blehm has penned a powerful book in Fearless. It is well-written and tells an intriguing story of a fascinating individual. I would suggest that the main reason for the book’s appeal is in Brown’s quirky character. He was a fearless warrior and one with an impossibly high pain threshhold. He was one of those people who seemed to live his life in overdrive, doing things that appear to be fool-hardy or near-impossible or, in all likelihood, both. He was an eminently likeable guy.
A second reason for its success is that it has been written to appeal to both men and women. Sure, there is a fair bit of military action, a component that men tend to enjoy more than women, but so much of what SEAL Team SIX did remains classified that Blehm has had to focus less on missions and more on the colorful cast of characters that always surrounded Brown. This makes it a character-driven book led by Brown but pausing as well to introduce other fascinating people.
And then there is the appeal of a story of redemption, a man emerging from the depths to become a real man, one who had learned to cast off the utter selfishness of addiction so he could love and serve others. He was able to do this only after encountering the God who is so much stronger and more powerful than the addiction that had gripped him for so many years.
I feel as if I am sticking my neck out a little in expressing the one disappointment I had with this book: the lack of spiritual depth. Yes, Brown and his family are Christians, but the faith the author describes is as much about platitudes (“Adam is watching us from heaven and smiling…”) than the beautiful depths of the Christian faith. Don’t hear me say that I doubt Brown’s faith; I do not doubt it at all. But I guess I am always on the look-out for the biography of the Christian soldier (or Christian athlete or…) who has a really deep faith, who does more than express that “Jesus has a plan for my life” and repeat basic Christian truths. There are very few like that and I have often wondered why that is. In this case, it is notable that Eric Blehm is not a Christian (saying in the Afterword that he has not opened a Bible in twenty-five years), so perhaps he just does not understand what Christians are telling him about their faith. Perhaps he has distilled what people have said into convenient catchphrases. I don’t know. In reading Fearless you will encounter a genuine conversion story, but you will not encounter a great depth of truth beyond that. It’s a little bit disappointing in that regard.
Fearless is a story that had to be told, and though it is a difficult story to hear, passing as it does through terrible addiction and ending in death, it is both powerful and inspiring, and I am glad to recommend it to you.
Do note that there is some rough language in the book—this is the navy after all. There is nothing outrageous, but it still contains words you would not want your children to repeat.