The Substance of Faith

The Substance of Faith

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Copyright 2014 P.Joel Snider

Looking down on the English Channel from the main German bunker at Pointe du Hoc. Copyright Joel Snider

My daughter came home from her second tour in Iraq eight years ago this month.  We missed her dreadfully while she wae gone and I remember greeting her in the Atlanta airport on her return as one of the most joyous moments of my life.

Her absence,  our worry for her safety while she was gone, and the powerful joy, relief, and thanksgiving at her return have shaped me on may ways over the past decade.  My prayer life is deeper and my patriotism more emotional, just to name two.

As a child, World War II was a memory for my parents’ generation; for me it was only history. I differentiate the two because I was born in 1952, and had no perspective how close in time I was born to the events of June 6, 1944. I was born as close in time to D-Day as we are today to my daughter’s second tour in Iraq.  When I was born World War II was not only recent, its memory was still raw for many people.

This past week I visited Normandy for the first time. I’ve now seen the number of graves at the US cemetery and the height of the dunes at Omaha Beach, the improbable cliffs at Pointe du Hoc and the church at Sainte-Mère-Église. I understand better how the events of that war and that day in particular shaped a generation.

I understand the human psyche.  We shouldn’t remember people now deceased as better than they were.  Humans have always been self centered and self-preserving.   No one wants to die as those young men died at D-Day.  But fortunately for the world, they believed in something larger and nobler than themselves.  They believed in a vision of human freedom that served every person, not simply their personal, selfish expressions of freedom.  Consequently, they were heroic.  Their heroism and sacrifice shaped the personality of America for a generation.

Political discourse today does little to encourage a vision of the world that benefits all people.  The political left advocates advancement without incentive, while the political right advances Ayn Rand’s philosophy of “enlightened selfishness” and dares call it Christian.  The idea of the  greater good, the concept of sacrifice, and the biblical idea of community are nowhere to be found.  Yet, they are virtues we need desperately.

I am glad those young men at D-Day did not succumb to the temptation to think only of themselves.


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