Today is the Seventieth Anniversary of D-Day: June 6, 1944, the landing of Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy in northern France. Eleven months later the nightmare of Hitler’s Nazi tyranny would come to an end.
Like most days we vow never to forget, the memory of D-Day has faded in the nation’s mind. While conspiracy theorists and contemporary political partisans left and right would retell the events of D-Day according to their own sensibilities, the story line remains simple and compelling. Most of Europe was captive to the monstrous tyranny of fascism and hate. The D-Day landings began the liberation of the continent. Young Brits, Canadians and Americans marshaled courage and subdued their own fears to storm the beaches that day. Heroes were made. Over 150,000 troops landed on D-Day itself with an Allied death toll of around 4,000.
June 6, 1944, was a day in a time simpler and much harder than our own. The president prayed for the nation, a non-sectarian but faithful prayer to God, and no one complained.
Memories fade – our own memories and our collective memories. We do well to remember D-Day as best we can.
The story of D-Day is a simple story full of complexities. A captive continent to be set free. Heroes made that day. The success of D-Day sealed Hitler’s fate.
A year before D-Day C.S. Lewis, the English writer, gave a series of radio talks to the British people called “The Case for Christianity.” Those radio talks were the basis for what became Lewis’ defining work, Mere Christianity.
Looking back in English history to good King Richard’s return from the Crusades to face his brother John, the usurper king, and anticipating the inevitability of the coming European invasion on what we would come to call D-Day, Lewis likened the Christian story to the story of an invasion of enemy-held territory. And he likened the Christian life not so much to a soldier’s life as to the life of a member of the resistance still behind enemy lines.
Lewis writes, “Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery.”
The Christian story is a simple story full of complexities. The rightful king, the Creator God, has, in Jesus Christ, invaded the creation now occupied by the enemy. The fight against our defeated enemy continues. “The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; for lo, his doom is sure,” Luther wrote nearly 500 years ago.
The Christian life is a life of sabotage – defeating and undoing the system set in place by the enemy occupation. Placing the needs of the other before our own – an act of sabotage. Loving the one who has sought to do us wrong – an act of sabotage. Standing for justice at the cost of personal power or comfort or wealth – an act of sabotage. Eating with and befriending the outsider and the hard to love – and act of sabotage. Worshiping with God’s people on a Lord’s Day morning rather than beating the crowds to the shore – and act of sabotage. Telling the coach that your child does not play on Sunday mornings – an act of sabotage. Remaining faithful in a difficult marriage – an act of sabotage. Refusing to hear the gossip’s latest news – an act of sabotage. Telling your toddler children a story of Jesus rather than plopping them down in front of the TV – an act of sabotage.
Christianity is a simple story full of complexities.
The next meeting of the resistance will be Sunday morning. Saboteurs welcome.