Welcome to the Foxhole

Posted: September 10, 2010 by Matt Horan in ReEmergent Church
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By Matt Horan

Perhaps you’ve heard the old saying, “There are no atheists in a foxhole.”  I’ve never been an atheist or in a foxhole, but from what I’ve learned about foxholes, I can see how such a saying might arise.  A foxhole is a hole in the ground that soldiers would hide in to avoid enemy gunfire.  I assure you that I would pray fervently and frequently while in a hole designed to help me avoid enemy gunfire.

Most of the world’s religions recruit poorly during good times.  You never see someone after reaping a financial windfall exclaim, “The first thing I’m going to do is go worship and thank God!”  No, it seems that foxholes are better evangelists than winning lottery tickets are.  Consider the massive church attendance seen in the days after 9/11.  I’ve met many first time visitors to the church where I serve who are fresh off of a divorce, a job loss, or the death of a loved one.

Time is another factor.  People that stop attending worship services often cite their busy schedules, but I’ve never, ever met someone who came back to the church saying, “Well, I suddenly had some extra time open up.”  People who are too busy to worship God usually make time once they find themselves in a figurative foxhole of some kind.  The need comes first.

Well, unless you’ve been in a literal foxhole lately, you know the headlines.  A microscopic church in Gainesville, FL has become a media meal ticket by threatening to burn 200 copies of the Quran.  Then they said that they’ll rethink their plan if the Park 51 Manhattan Mosque project is moved elsewhere.

Across the world in the Middle East, stories like these still emerge: an Iranian woman is sentenced to death for having a sexual relationship with another man after her husband had died.  Ten Western medical aid workers are massacred by the Taliban in Afghanistan.  A young couple elopes in Afghanistan, and they are tricked into coming back and stoned to death by a mob of over 100 people.

What hope is there of peace?  What hope of understanding?  What hope that someday there will be coexistence?  We helplessly watch the news, conditioned to expect new suicide bombings and military operations and angry speeches by American political candidates that are called patriotism by some and hate speech by others.  We are in a retaliation spiral that is thousands and thousands of years in the making.

Friends, we are in the foxhole.

It is time for Muslims, Jews, and Christians to fall on their faces in prayer.  [Atheists, you’re in the foxhole too, so you’re welcome to join in if you like.]  We are so far gone from God’s vision for this world that it seems we are unable to bring ourselves back.  It would take a miracle of Torah/Quranic/Biblical proportions for us to do what God asks, which is to love each other.

Everyone is at fault, and everyone must forgive others.  Everyone must give up the right to be right, and everyone must admit their wrongs.  No one is exempt–no one.  But in a world consumed with saving face in time for the next election, and consumed with spinning the meaning of current events into a narrative that effectively recruits people to hate-filled causes; who would have the courage to admit their faults?  Who would have the courage to apologize?  Who would forfeit the right to revenge?  Who would forfeit the right to have the last word?

Okay God, I think we’re all ready for that miracle now.

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