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Tuesday, October 24, 2017


"There are no atheists in foxholes."

I used to hear that saying as I was growing up in World War II and Korean War days. I learned another version of the saying from reading the sociology of the military: soldiers in combat do not think about patriotism, or defending the flag, or defeating Communism. A soldier in combat focuses on comrades, the men or women sharing danger and the possibility of death.

I was meditating on my faith in God. When I do that, I feel the way those soldiers in combat are said to feel. I am not so sure about God. I am afraid that my thoughts about God come more from my own inner needs than from "reality." What I do know is that there are people around me who are focused on God at important moments in their lives: the birth of a child, committing oneself in marriage, facing death. And it is important to me to be with those people. It is important that my story be part of their story.

We people of faith are soldiers in foxholes. We are not sure about God, or about Jesus, or about the Holy Spirit. But we are with other people. Those people will stay involved with us no matter what. We are all part of the story of Jesus, and of God. Of course, some people in the story do evil things. But evil is part of the Christian story, even the story of Jesus. Evil can be redeemed.

My story is woven into the stories of Christian people down through the centuries, and Jewish people before them. Every story I read, in the Old Testament, or the New Testament, or in Christian history, is a spot-weld attaching me to the great story of Jesus Christ.

Writers like Sigmund Freud argue that being an adult requires you to admit that there is no meaningful story about human life. We are just thrown into a meaningless universe, the product of chance evolution. But that theory, that each of our stories is meaningless, does not draw us closer to other people. That story isolates people. Every human being ought to experience love, over and over again. 

Love is passionate, respectful, vulnerable, faithful involvement. Involvement requires someone besides myself.

Science says that we can never prove a statement true. We can only prove statements false. Scientists operate on faith. They accept theories--and a theory is jsut a story based on observations--which are only provisionally true. That truism about science suggests that it is not infantile to believe that every human being ought to be able to love.

Once you admit that everybody ought to experience love, the next question is, why?

Because God made us to love. That's the larger story.

I have been thinking about death lately. Being 82 years old does that to you. A few weeks ago I was preaching, and out of my mouth came a phrase, prepared for me by Allstate, that sums up my faith: "You're in good hands."

That's how I look at death. I don't know more than anyone else. But I know that when I die I will be in good hands.

I got that story from my people, Jews and Christians, and sometimes even from Muslims and people of other faiths.

We are not alone.