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Keep Calm and 9-11, and Remembering

Not long after it was rediscovered, the British "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster became commercialized, and then ubiquitous, and then trivialized.


Sorry for some fancy vocabulary words, but when something gets commercialized - when something starts being thought of principally for its financial gain or becomes profit-oriented, and then it becomes ubiquitous - it's found everywhere, becomes inescapable - you can bet that thing will soon become trivialized: we will start to think it is less important, significant, or complex than it really is.

That poster is a great example of this dynamic.

Originally printed with the intention of keeping the British population encouraged during what they knew would be relentless German "blitzkrieg" bombings of civilians, the poster went from 75 years of obscurity to a coffee cup and t-shirt mini-industry in only a couple years. In the past 15 years, it became a meme. And sure enough, it soon became satire, and trivialized.

Today, I'll bet few people know the poster had a solemn and important origin: to boost human morale in the face of a relentless, merciless enemy.

"Keep Calm and Carry On" is a good example, but of course I'm not just talking about that poster.

Take something - say, Christmas, or Easter, or the image of an empty cross, or Christianity itself: something that is designed to boost human morale in the face of a relentless, merciless enemy -- and commercialize it. Then make it ubiquitous. Very soon, people will think it is less important, significant, or complex than it really is.

This is why another fancy vocabulary word is so important, and that's the word anamnesis or "remembrance" - the calling to mind or recollection of something from history.

Each Sunday during the Eucharistic prayer we recall Jesus taking bread and wine and saying "do this in remembrance of me."

When we remember, we not only recall, but we participate in God's saving actions -- actions designed to boost human morale in the face of relentless, merciless evil. 

This Sunday at The Falls Church Episcopal, we remember the 15th anniversary of the September 11th attacks with a moment of silence and tolling of the church bells before the 9:00 and 11:15 services begin, and with a special prayer during the service.

But mostly we remember our purpose as a church and our calling as individual Christians by "keeping calm and carrying on" -- by participating in normal, celebratory Sunday worship, by charging ahead with our Ministry Fair after each service, and by getting more connected to the ministries of the church.

Because the best way to boost human morale in the face of today's challenges is anamnesis - to keep remembering to find practical, every day ways to "Love God and Love one's Neighbor as one's self."

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