Conversations continued for a long time, ranging from the significance of God’s breath of life breathed into Adam in Genesis 2, to more stories of the war, at which point Mrs. T showed me a pamphlet and said, “Did you see The King’s Speech?” I told her I had, and she said, pointed to a picture of King George VI in a pamphlet entitled: “Your Finest Hour – 1939-1945.” It was the printed program of a ceremony held right after the war, filled with quotes from leaders. Here’s the speech on the eve of D-Day, given to all Britain, by the stammering King George:
“I desire solemnly to call my people to prayer and dedication. We shall ask, not that God may do our will, but that we may be enabled to do the will of God; and we dare to believe that God has used our nation and Empire as an instrument to fulfill His high purpose. I hope that throughout the present crisis of the liberation of Europe there may be offered up earnest, continuous, and widespread prayer… At this historic moment surely not one of us is too busy, too young or too old to play a part in a nation-wide, perchance a world-wide, vigil of prayer as the great crusade sets forth.”
If you’ve a log in your eye, you’ll judge him for using the language of his day, cringing as he speaks the words crusade, and Empire, which have (in my opinion) rightly fallen out of fashion. But if we let those go, the log falls out and we’ll see some things that will humble us:
1. The blend of courage, fortitude, and humility, is stunning. Note the king declaring that we can’t ask God to bless our will, but only that we might find the strength to do His will. Have you heard a prayer like that lately from lips of your leader? This cocktail of courage and humility seems to reveal the fear and arrogance of our present political landscape, with Republicans cowering over their tea-party zealots and fear of what the polls might say if the government shuts down, and Democrats avoid addressing the real issues that are pushing us to the brink of default.
2. There was, in a previous generation, a profound sense that God was involved in the health of nations. I know that there were gigantic blind spots, in both America and the British Empire, know that the racism, and destructive elements of classism are blights on our history pages. Still, for all that, I know that we live in a time today that is profoundly rudderless by comparison, for this little pamphlet bore out, in quote after quote, that in times of crises, the nation looked beyond the human leader for strength; they looked to God.
Listen to Queen Elizabeth’s word on the same D-Day eve:
“I would like to add that it is on the strength of our spiritual life that the right rebuilding of our national life depends. It is the creative and dynamic power of Christianity which can help us to carry the moral responsibilities which history is placing upon our shoulders.”
Instead of looking to God now we look to what? The Fed? China for a loan? The almighty polls for approval ratings? The tea-party for tax cuts and an end to banking regulations? The Democrat party for handouts?
I’m reminded that it’s a new day, a secular one, and though I’m no Bible thumper, blindly calling for a return to so called better days (which weren’t really better for many African-Americans, many woman, and many others), I know, every time I talk with people like Mrs. T, that the new day isn’t a wholly better day – that courage, humility, sacrifice, generosity, and dependency on God are all lying forgotten, back in the archives of our history somewhere. I, for one, am feeling the ache.