by Bob Wheeler
Today is the day that we commemorate as Veterans’ Day, the day we honor those who served their country in the armed forces. This year’s commemoration is special, however. It marks the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I.
World War I was a war unlike any that had gone before it. It was the first war that saw the use of improved machine guns, tanks, airplanes, submarines and poison gas. And the resulting casualties were staggering: about 10 million military and 7 million civilian. And when it was over the royal houses of Germany, Austria, Russia and Turkey were all gone.
The horrors of the war were well captured by the poet Wilfred Owen:
“What passing-bells for those who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their nasty orisons.”
In asking Congress for a declaration of war President Wilson said that “The world must be made safe for democracy.” And yet the next few years after the war would see the rise of totalitarian dictatorships in Russia and Germany and the onset of an even bigger war, World War II.
It is, in fact, a sad commentary on human nature. At the end of the Nineteenth Century Western Civilization was brimming with confidence. The scientific and industrial revolutions had made tremendous progress. Western culture was becoming increasingly secularized, and Friedrich Nietzsche could proclaim that “God is dead.”
But while technology may advance, human nature remains the same. We no longer attack each other with stones and spears; instead we threaten each other with intercontinental ballistic missiles tipped with nuclear warheads. The new technology has simply increased our capacity for evil. Morally the world today is pretty much what it was when “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of the heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Gen. 6:5,6; NKJV).
Jesus told us that “you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Matt. 24:6,7), and the Book of Revelation speaks of a “horse, fiery red . . . And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him great sword” (Rev. 6:4). Wars are human phenomena, but God ultimately controls the destinies of men and nations. World War I was a human catastrophe on a scale unprecedented in human history. Might it not have been a judgement from God on a civilization that had turned away from Him? Might it not be a sign of the end times?