Two books practically jumped out of the bookcase at me this morning. I’m trying to figure out why. The first book was Days of Anguish, Days of Hope, written by Billy Keith about Air Force Chaplain Robert Preston Taylor’s World War II experiences on the infamous Bataan death march, the Japanese prison camps, and the hell ships. It is a gripping story and made even more so for me by the fact that I met Chaplain Taylor in 1963 and also knew personally his comrade in anguish and hope, Chaplain Leslie Zimmerman. Both of these chaplains continued on active duty after World War II and their bitter POW experiences. Chaplain Zimmerman retired from active duty in 1963 and Chaplain Taylor in 1966.
The second book that leapt out at me was D. Elton Trueblood’s, Abraham Lincoln: Theologian of American Anguish. Lincoln and the American people knew an almost indescribable anguish—the anguish of brother pitted against brother—and the anguish of holding human beings in bondage. This anguish of holding human beings in bondage (some call it America’s original sin—I call it a perpetual one) created division among us from the beginning and has left an indelible and abiding anguish in the minds and spirits of all us in the years that have followed. As there was in Lincoln’s day, so there is now in the American spirit an ever deepening division and a consequent anguish. This anguish seems to be growing for some of us with every passing day, while others seem untouched, and even unaware, of its insidious penetration into our minds and spirits and into every nook and cranny of our American society.
Now, I’m sure you have figured out why these two books caught my attention and seemed to leap out at me this morning. Yes, it was that single word—ANGUISH! What a word and what a weight that one word carries! Just consider its synonyms: agonized, tormented, racked with pain, tortured, harrowed, miserable, unhappy, sad, broken-hearted, grief-stricken, wretched, sorrowful, distressed, devastated, and despairing. Who can survive and live through such a thing as deep anguish? Chaplain Robert Taylor did! Abraham Lincoln and the American people of his time did! My sense of anguish and your sense of anguish does not even begin to parallel that known by Chaplain Taylor on that death march, the hell ships, or his 42 months of excruciating imprisonment. Nor does the anguish we feel come close to the anguish Lincoln knew. There is no comparison!
Is there such a thing then as “mild” anguish? No, I don’t think so. I think we have to lift up our heads, our voices, our votes, and stop wallowing in our supposed anguish, and proclaim HOPE.
|Iris of the Day|