Reflecting upon the Centenary of Armistice Day, 11th November 2018.
The impact of World War One on our young nation was huge and is still being felt today. Australia was a very Christian nation in the early Nineteen hundreds. There had been some large spiritual revivals, the churches were full and there was an expectancy of a glorious future ahead. And then came the Great War…
The Population of Australia at the outbreak of the Great War was about 4.5 million. (In the Census year 1911 the popuation was 4.45 million.)
330,000 young men went to war and 2,500 women served in the field as nurses.
60,000 young soldiers lost their lives and of the nearly 272,000 Australians who survived the war, 170,000 suffered from wounds or illness.
In 1938, there were still 77,000 incapacitated soldiers and 180,000 dependants still on pensions.
Every family, every town and community endured years of grief and loss and the nation carried the cost of war pensions and care of the incapacitated.
The impact on the family life and faith of the nation was very deep. The psychological impact - what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) greatly affected private and family life. Returned soldiers generally kept silent about their war-time experiences. They did not or could not talk about their sense of loss - not just of mates, or health but of confidence in political and religious leadership. They would resort to their local RSL where other returned soldiers understood their silence.
Many of those killed had been active members of churches. Many who survived ceased to attend church or engage in social life. It was hard to explain the Great War as a triumph of good over evil. Some chose to redirect their energy toward a more humanitarian approach – to doing some social good as evident in the growth of Legacy and other service organisations.
The issues that had engulfed the world were not resolved by the Great War. The Great Depression soon followed with high unemployment and men separated again from their families in search of work. All too soon the world was once again at war.
There is a strong case for the view that the Christian Church lost faith too. Certainly their hope for a better world arising from Christian mission and revivalism had not occurred. The formal training institutions were soon producing church leaders more focused on the social gospel.
The loss of faith that we see today is in some ways the result of what happened one hundred years ago. Back then, it was silent and personal. Now it is strident and public. A common cultural narrative now is that those wars were follies. They were fought to defend Western Imperialism (and Christianity) which is now viewed by revisionists as a primary reason for all that’s wrong in the world. There is a selective blindness to the horrors of Communism, Fascism and other religious cultures.
The reality is that Christians are susceptible to the political and ideological narratives of their time. This is a powerful reason why we use Scripture as the final authority for what we believe and how we live – not just in terms of personal faith but also in terms of public faith – the causes we support and the way we spend our time and money.
Our current conflicts are more ideological than military but their impact can be painful and divisive. The role of Scripture is as vital as ever in this age of fake news and false science. Let’s end this reflection in prayer together.
Our Father in Heaven, as we remember that it is one hundred years since the end of the First World War on Sunday 11th November, we pray the nations will rediscover Christ as the Prince of Peace.
We pray for older Australians who still remember the impact of the loss and grief upon their family.
We pray for world leaders - that they will be sobered by reflecting upon the Great War and resolve to be people of peace and good faith.
We pray for our nation, that we will not squander the privileges of peace. We pray for those in our parliaments - that they will not allow the desire for political advantage to hinder what is best for our Nation and our States.
We pray for your church in this nation. We pray you will help us reach all generations and people of all ethnic and cultural communities with the Gospel of Christ.
We pray especially for the younger generations, remembering that those who served in the Great War were once young too and full of prospects. Help them Father to hear your call and to find You as their Saviour and Lord. In Jesus' Name, Amen
Source: National Australian Archive ( http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/snapshots/shell-shocked/index.aspx)