Sunday, November 11, 2018

Where Have All The Young Men Gone?

A few weeks ago I wrote about my impressions of Great Britain after spending some time over there. One thing I didn’t comment on was the way they remember the World Wars and honor those who served, and certainly those who died.

The reminders of World War One and World War Two are everywhere. The United Kingdom had over 750,000 killed or missing in action in the First World War. And some estimates are closer to 1 million. This from a population of less than 50 million at that time. This is very comparable to the combined losses of the North and South during the American Civil War. (And we still remember that one, except where we don’t. But that’s another conversation.). Virtually every village and hamlet in Great Britain has a memorial with the names of “their boys” who died in that war.

And while the loss of life was actually less for the Brits in World War Two, it is more recent history. Survivors are still alive. They remember the weeks and months of bombing by the Germans, the civilian casualties and coming so close to losing it all at Dunkirk. The never-give-in urgings of Winston Churchill and the mustering of troops for the D-Day invasion. My Dad was there. A teenager in the 101st Airborne, preparing to do what he and the rest of them had to do. Most all them, like my father, just kids. The war games they played were for real.

When Veteran’s Day comes around each year, of course, I think of my father and my uncles and others of that generation who served. It seems to be having an even bigger impact on me this year after the time spent over there. One cannot help but think of those who died and those who came back wounded. Lives were changed forever.

Certainly the people of Great Britain were changed. All of Europe for that matter. Two World Wars tested the faith of Western European Christianity and some would say that the Wars ultimately won that test. While I don’t believe this is the primary reason for the decline of Christianity in Western Europe, they were contributing factors. Many requests to the Almighty were never granted and many questions remained unanswered.

How could a loving God allow such terrible things to happen? That is the question we all ask eventually. And whatever answer you come up with only leads to more questions. Wars and natural disasters and diseases, and just the all around pain and suffering this life has to offer, are enough to make even the most faithful among us have doubts.

I recently re-read C.S. Lewis’ classic Mere Christianity. It was based on a series of radio broadcasts he gave on the BBC during World War Two. Why do we have wars and pain and suffering? Read Mere Christianity. Then after reading it, ask for forgiveness and try to forgive. That’s the best advice I have on this day, a day of remembering.

“All blood runs red.” ― Phrase painted on the side of the plane flown by Eugene Bullard in World War I, the first black military pilot

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