As you know, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, that bloody, vicious conflagration that swept across Europe and elsewhere, forever changing political boundaries, thinking and the future.
(By the way, if you've never been to the fabulous World War I Museum in Kansas City, put it on your to-do list for this year. It's an experience not to be missed.)
For my purposes here on the blog, however, I hope from time to time over this year to look at some of the religious connections to WWI.
I doubt that any serious historian would describe the war as a religous war. But it had religious undertones and it certainly helped to affect thinking about religion. Indeed, it's fair to say that lots of people lost faith because of the war -- at least their faith in the faith-based idea that humanity was on a path of steady progress, especially moral progress.
Perhaps no one expressed this profound disappointment about what the war showed about the human condition than the poet Ezra Pound in his poem "Hugh Selwyn Mauberly," in which he wrote this:
There died a myriad,
And of the best, among them,
For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
For a botched civilization.
Some of that kind of thinking is reflected in this piece about WWI and religion. I commend it to you.
The war's shattering of illusions about human progress also affected theologians, perhaps most importantly Karl Barth, whose post-war commentary on Romans was a game changer within Christianity.
I'll try to take up that subject in a later blog as we take time this year to remember the war that was fought, allegedly, to end all wars. Talk about shattering illusions.
* * *
FAREWELL TO THE SURVIVORS
And, of course, after World War I came World War II, complete with the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of some six million Jews of Europe, two-thirds of the continent's total. Now Tablet magazine reminds us that before too long the last Holocaust survivors will be gone. That reality is one reason Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn and I wrote They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust when we did, in 2009. Already at least four of the survivors whose stories we tell in that book have died.