FOXHOLES AND ATHEISTS
No matter how much it disappoints the ACLU (bless they pointy little heads), I get the impression that a sizeable portion of the Army is Christian, and proud of it. The last time you went to a restaurant – how many people did you see saying grace before their meal? I’ve been watching the GI’s at the mess hall for sometime now (not much else to do!), and I would guess a good 40% of them bow their heads for a quick prayer before they start eating. Now, granted, part of that may be just asking for divine protection from the quality of food they’re about to partake, but I think it goes beyond that. Don’t get me wrong; you’re average Joe is not particularly interested in going to church, and not overtly religious. We are, after all, talking young men in their early 20’s for the most part, and the flesh may well be weak, but still I get the sense that they do have some kind of core spiritual belief. Not, of course, that they would ever admit it publicly.
Maybe an appreciation for the spiritual comes with maturity, and a lot of these young men have had to mature in a hurry here. And too many of them never got the chance to mature further, come to think of it. But when your buddy takes an overdose of shrapnel right next to you, and you walk away with just scratches, it’s bound to make you wonder about exactly what’s going on. Any war carries with it the seeds of the worst in man, and the best. Negotiating your way between those two poles sure makes you think about some kind of an anchor to hang on to.
Ran across an article in Stars & Stripes last week (extracted from The Wichita Eagle) that talked about theodicy (yeah, I had to look it up, too – means the justice of God in the face of evil; in other words – why do bad things happen to good people?), and it posed this paradox: “If God is God, He is not good; if God is good, He is not God”. In other words, if God is God (all powerful & omnipresent), he permits evil, which is not good. On the other hand, if God is good, but can not deter evil, he can not be all powerful and omnipresent. Well, it didn’t take long to figure out that I was hopelessly out of my theological depth, so I summoned a convocation of the other Agents in the office and posed the question to them.
Oh, Lordy, what was I thinking, starting a theological discussion with a bunch of cops?! The discussion generated a lot of heat, but precious little light, I’m afraid. We were fortunate to have an interpreter with us at the time who is Muslim, so we had the advantage of a little different perspective. A diligent search failed to turn up any soldiers of the Jewish or Hindu faith, so we weren’t able to get any direction from those religions. If there were any around, they probably heard the argument and decided it was a good time to evacuate the area…all in all, commendable good judgment on their part.
I wish I could report back to you that 8 cynical cops were able to untie the Gordian know that has bound theologians since the dawn of time, but we didn’t arrive at an answer that anyone thought was entirely satisfactory. I guess the closest we got to some kind of consensus was that it all boiled down to faith, whether you were Muslim or Christian. I can not intellectually reconcile how God can be omnipotent and good at the same time in the face of so much unwarranted suffering – but I don’t have to. I just know that He is at once God, and good. I like what Charles Spurgeon, a 19th –century preacher had to say about it: When we cannot trace God’s hand, we must simply trust His heart.
For those of you scratching your heads and wondering where in the world this blog came from, don’t despair. I’ll be back to talking about Zebras and firepower in upcoming pages. Why, just the other day I saw a Lithuanian armored personnel carrier go by with a….well never mind, I’ll cover that later!