Wednesday, May 16, 2007

God in a Foxhole?

I wrote this post for the other blog I co-host, I'm closing comments on this post and inviting you to post any comments you have over there. =)

Newsweek ran an insightful article this last week about how the war in Iraq is causing some U.S. soldiers to lose their Christian faith. The piece centers on the story of army chaplain Roger Benimoff, who shared with Newsweek the personal journal he kept through two deployments in Iraq and his current service as a chaplain at Walter Reed Medical Center. Roger has gone through what sounds like quite a wrenching of his faith, as he had to perform more memorial services than regular chapel services. He saw that the reality of war forced many soldiers to reevaluate the faith they had embraced back in the relative wealth and security of the United States.

Some quotes:

[He] begins his time in Iraq brimming with faith and a sense of devotion that carries him into a second tour. "My heart is filled with prayer and God is giving me a discerning spirit," he writes at the start of that later deployment. "The spiritual battle I am engaged in is a minute-by-minute war." He is "on fire for God."Countless soldiers—not just chaplains—have struggled with how to reconcile a God of love with a God who allows the terror of conflict. For centuries theologians and philosophers have grappled with ideas of "just war": thou shalt not kill, but under certain conditions—to prevent wider bloodshed and suffering—slaughter by armies is acceptable.

He invites 22-year-old Army Specialist Brent Hendrix, a Southern Baptist, to talk. Hendrix lost his right leg, and suffered multiple other injuries when an IED hit his vehicle last June in Al Anbar province.—He talks with Benimoff about NASCAR—and later about how there's no time to think of commandments like "Thou shalt not kill" when enemies are shooting at you.

Benimoff's journal ends Jan. 22 of this year. The last lines read: "I do not want anything to do with God. I am sick of religion. It is a crutch for the weak ... We make God into what we need for the moment. I hate God. I hate all those who try to explain God when they really don't know." By late March, during his first interview with NEWSWEEK, he was recovering his faith but the pain had not subsided. "The symptoms are still there; this past year has been the most challenging of my life," he says. "But I have a new relationship with God. I tend to be much more blunt with him."

I found it moving that Roger's experience of war drove him to want to continue to serve others in a tangible way, despite the personal suffering this service caused him.

How has increasing experience/knowledge of dark reality, in the Iraq war or elsewhere, driven you toward or away from compassion/service for others? toward or away from faith/God?