Waging War


What is more delightful than the realization that your adult son knows exactly what you  would like for Christmas without your suggestions?  It’s when that delightful event comes to- gether with another, creating fascinating synergy – and a moment to remember.

H.M. King George VI of the United Kingdom.

H.M. King George VI of the United Kingdom. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Earlier this week I finally made time to watch Best Picture winner The King’s Speech, a startingly moving film about Albert Frederick Arthur George, second son of King George V of England.  “Bertie,” as he was called, was extremely shy and suffered emotionally from a debilitating stammer.  Because of these personal problems he was looked at as being much less impressive than his older brother Edward.

The King’s Speech focuses on Bertie’s attempts to overcome the lifelong stammer  which had was publicly observed during an  embarrassing speech at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley,  a speech which was an ordeal for both him and his listeners.  After the speech, Bertie began seeing Lionel Logue, an Australian-born speech therapist.  When his brother, who had  became  King Edward VII at the death of their father, abdicated the throne to marry his mistress Wallis Simpson, Bertie’s stammer made him extremely reluctant to take his place, though he did think he was better equipped to handle the growing likelihood of war in Europe than Edward.  Finally persuaded, he become King George VI in May 1937.

The movie’s emotional high point centers around the need for Bertie speak to the nation to publicly declare war against German in September, 1939.  His training with Lionel Logue, now a much-loved friend,  and the extremely difficult war they both waged against his stammer culminate in Bertie’s successful and moving speech about the need to stop Hitler. It is a triumphant moment for all those who root for the underdog.

C. S. Lewis statue

C. S. Lewis statue (Photo credit: Simone Weil)

This amazing story created the perfect backdrop for the gift my son Ryan gave me for Christmas: a Focus on the Family Radio Theater production about the coming of World War II to England.  The program details how the war prompted  C.S. Lewis’s interest in  writing and speaking (on BBC radio)  about the Christian response to pain and evil in language that the lay person could understand.  It also shaped the well-reasoned logic behind Christian theology presented in BBC lectures which later became the book Mere Christianity. 

As I listened to the BBC executives heatedly discuss their role in shoring up morale during the war and heard Jack (C.S. Lewis) talk about his calling to fight spiritual ignorance and dullness and attempt to explain his faith to a larger world. I relived the movie’s portrayal  movie of Chamberlain’s appeasement and the politics of  the decision to declare war. As I listened to Winston Churchill talk about Britain’s “finest hour,” I pictured Churchill and Bertie discussing the waging of war.  As I listened to Jack’s anxiety (as well as that of the BBC producer who was recording his lecture) before the first radio broadcast, I saw Bertie’s palpable fear and Lionel’s fervent attempts to support him through his first radio broadcast.

I cheered as both men fought to do what they felt called to do despite the risks.  And in the end, I understood a bit more about why my father left his safe pastor’s role in a New Jersey church to join other men in the mud, heat, blizzards, and terror of battle in Europe in order to bring a chaplain’s perspective to the battlefields of Europe. (See post of Nov. 11, Communion in a Corral.)

For all of you who lived through or had family members participate in World War II or just want a better understanding of that period of time, both politically and spiritually, I encourage you to check out these two media productions.  And, also listen to the CD production of Mere Christianity that accompanies the Focus on the Family package or read the book and be thrilled (again?) by the clear and fascinating explanation of the Christian faith by a  master thinker and writer.

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