The King’s Speech on D-day eve: A reference point for departure

While our nation’s “brightest and best” continue to engaging in embarrassing political posturing, I was privileged last night to enjoy a cup of tea with a dignified British woman who’s at the end of her ninth decade, whose husband fought bravely in WWII, and then worked to help Germany rebuild, both physically and spiritually.  I’m talking about Joan Thomas, wife of the late Major Ian Thomas, who founded the Torchbearer Missionary Fellowship, of which I’m privileged to be a part.  Tea with her is always a highlight of my year, and this time was no exception, as we viewed her husband’s medals, and she told me the story  of a German Jew (whose parents were killed in the camps) who was working on a farm in England just after the war.  He’d heard there were a group of young Germans “just down the road” meeting together in a castle, and he made his there, found the place, and very quickly found Christ as well.  He went on to become a pastor in Toronto, and now has children serving Christ around the world, and a grandchild about to attend Bible school at the same castle in England where he rode his bike up the path on night in 1947 and found Christ.  God’s work in the world: making all things new!

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.

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  • dena

    Excellent insights on this very sad day. My heart aches, too, to see the direction our nation has gone and is going. I fear for our future; while trusting that God’s plans and purposes will be fulfilled and He is in control – whether our nation wants Him to be or not! I wish I felt I could make a difference in the direction we’re headed, but I must admit I feel powerless. How can a nation return to God? How can that happen when we’ve strayed so far? Is there anything we can do besides pray? Perhaps that’s what we’re not doing enough of …

  • keithcarpenter

    Thanks for the thoughts Richard. When walking out of the theater a month ago, with my wife and good friends, from The Guild 45th after watching the fantastic “King’s Speech,” I found myself desiring great speeches, empty of rhetoric and politics and full of heart and an understanding that we as humans need to look beyond the physical to seek out God’s strength.
    “…The Great Crusade…” I long for the time of great crusades to change the fabric of the earth. (Of course void of prideful human intervention.)
    The piece of the movie I loved most is something I have not seen presented in reviews. I loved the passionate heart of The King’s Wife. Her commitment to him and pain for him were splendidly portrayed.

    Keep the creative writing flowing…

  • raincitypastor

    thanks Keith… getting home soon, and hoping for another coffee with you

  • Keith, if it makes you feel better, my wife and I noticed that very thing: his wife’s unwavering support, commitment, and attempts to help him. She never seemed embarrassed by him, but hurt for him when he had his problems speaking. I’d have to put this in my short list of great marriage movies, along with “Up” and “Marley and Me”.