Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"You're already dead"

Note: I wrote this back in November, but didn't see fit to post it until now. I post it now to 'clean out' some drafts pending some changes.

In 1944, the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division jumped into Normandy as part of the campaign to liberate Europe from the clutches of Nazi Germany. "Easy" Company of the 506th, made famous by Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers, jumped into Normady with 139 officers and men on June 6th. Twenty-three days later they came off the line with 65 fewer souls [if my math is correct].

In the HBO/Play Tone production of Band of Brothers [which, incidentally, IMO is the best 'war movie' made to date], there is a conversation between a feared and respected Lieutenant Ronald Spiers and a Private Blithe. Blithe is struggling with the shock and fear of combat and confesses that he hid in a ditch after the jump rather than seek out his unit and join the fight. Factually, Albert Blithe was wounded in combat during the Normandy campaign and never fully recovered from his wounds, finally dying in 1948.

Spiers: "We're all scared. You hid in that ditch because you think there's still hope. But Blithe, the only hope you have is to accept the fact that you're already dead."

While the point of the [perhaps imagined] conversation was to give a soldier the means to overcome the fear of war and to act effectively as a soldier, the idea of 'hiding in a false hope' due to fear has some application.

As Christians we are to also accept, as St. Paul says, that we have died to self and live only in Christ. Not "I" but Christ who lives in me. The only hope we have is to accept the fact that we're already dead without Christ. In fact, in baptism we die with Christ, and our life is hid in his.

We put our hope on accepting the fact that we are already 'dead' - and we are [as St. Paul says] truly pitiable if Christ has not, in fact, risen. Then we are men bound to a false hope. But if our belief is true, there is no other hope than to accept the fact that we are already dead in sin, and only alive in Christ.

We hold to many truly false hopes. Recently, after realizing a sinful behavior, despite 'knowing better,' I was given to think as I suspect we often do: "perhaps I can yet redeem myself in the eyes of my Lord by the improvement of my behavior." If Jesus is God from God, the pre-Eternal Logos, there is little I could do to 'redeem myself' in His eyes. I realized that I was clinging to a false hope, like Private Blithe, thinking this was a way to cling to life.

I believe this is a common false hope to cling to, I think, even when we 'know better' through having been taught that no man can justify himself through his works (rather, his works are an external indicator of obedience to the commands of Christ and faith in Christ). We still want to hide in the ditch thinking there is still hope for life while remaining just where we are, hoping that at some little moment we will redeem ourselves in the eyes of our Lord - that we will be our own Savior in the eyes of our Judge, rather than really accepting, deep in our nous, our 'heart of hearts' that our Judge is our Savior, and realizing that there's nothing we can do to redeem ourselves. As we stand before him all we can do is throw ourselves upon his infinite mercy.


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