My first computer game had a profound message embedded in it. The game was called “Patton Strikes Back” and I played it on a little Macintosh computer, which had “greyscale” screen (no colour) and none of the “flashy” computer gaming images you see today. When playing “Patton Strikes Back”, either as the German Army or the Allies, the mission was to work through the historic “Battle of the Bulge” at the end of World War Two, at the western borders of France, commanding your troops and divisions.
It took me a while to master the game, and eventually the day came when my strategies meant that I “won” and I defeated the computer generated opponent. In the midst of feeling quite chuffed with the outcome, I watched the image of the game on the screen slowly change. Bit by bit the whole screen changed to an animation which showed a line of soldiers trudging off into the distance and words appeared at the top of the screen: “Nobody wins wars”.
My immediate reaction was surprise. Rarely would computer game designers ever put such a message into a computer game. But the developer’s decision to put this animation at the end of the game, only when the player supposedly “won” the game, had a good and profound effect on me. It kept me aware that in the real world war is never a game and never “won”.
Around the world, we have just spent time in memorials for the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice that ended the Great War in Europe in 1918. For the commemoration, many folk in Queensland rang their Church Bells and observed a time of silence. In the lead up to this year’s special anniversary, I read about the tradition of a keeping a time of silence on “Remembrance Day” in November. It was first called for by a grieving father, South African Farmer and former Mayor of Johannesburg, Percy FitzPatrick. Having lost his son (also named Percy) in the western front just prior to Christmas 1917, Percy senior suggested the 11th hour, 11th day 11th month. This was then promoted to the King, George V.
In his Royal promulgation, calling for the memorials around the Empire, the King decreed a silence which was to be “the brief space of two minutes … to perpetuate the memory of the Great Deliverance, and of those who laid down their lives to achieve it.” Why two minutes? One minute was to be a thanksgiving for those who had survived the war. The second minute was to recall the fallen. Both groups had sacrificed “all they had”, their very lives, to pursue peace.
In this declaration, the King was reminding the people that “nobody wins wars”. In establishing the practice of “silence” as memory of the “Great deliverance”, King George was directing us to cast ourselves on the mercy of God, declaring that the Lord delivers the nations from war.
Christian hope teaches us to look to Jesus, the prince of peace-making and to purposely and hopefully pray, “Lord, our Great Deliverer, deliver us from evil, especially that evil within us, for the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.”
Lest we forget.