We thought we’d won. We thought the Church had won.
We’d won a global war and conquered ills
And cruelties stark and horrifying. We
Had saved the world from evil. Then we looked
About and saw prosperity spread wide
Across the land. Our steeples rose above
The village greens and city thoroughfares,
Our sanctuaries filled with worshipers.
Our land rejoiced in peace. We thought we’d won.
We did not see the gaps in victory.
We had not seen the thousands shut away,
Compelled to leave their homes throughout the war
Because of fear and racial prejudice.
We did not see the suffering of those
Whose ancestors had journeyed to this land
In chains, whose darker skin marked them to be
Oppressed, denied their birthright liberties,
Prevented from embracing their true gifts
By education minimal (or none).
We did not see that half our people could
Not chart their course through life, but gender marked
Them for unquestioned roles, and subject to
The powers of their fathers, husbands, sons.
Far fewer than we knew believed we’d won.
We weren’t the first to think it, nor the first
To find that we were wrong. It seems to rise
In wake of tragic conflicts, “wars to end
All wars” (which never seem to make their mark).
We’d given peace to Europe at Versailles,
But found we’d only planted seeds for a
More deadly conflagration. We believed
We’d freed the slaves, and saved the nation when
They stacked their arms in Appamatox’ field,
Then turned away as, clad in hoods and white,
The former owners terrorized the ones
They should have honored as their neighbors. Strange
And horrible the fruit of southern trees.
We thought we’d won when we established a
New nation on this soil – soon forgot
The plight of slaves; and soon forgot the ones
We dispossessed to gain the land we farmed.
We thought we’d won when our English king
Declared the land for our religion: Once
Again we failed to see the flaming pyres
And swaying scaffolds bearing Catholics
For what they were. We thought we’d won when we
Declared a “Holy” Roman Empire, and
Imperial it was, but holy it
Was not. We thought we’d won when Constantine
Declared our faith not only lawful but
The guiding force for all the land he ruled.
What catalogs of evil did he loose
All in the name of Christ, who died at hands
Of those who loyalty was given to Rome?
We thought we’d won: again, again, again.
But on this side of the immortal veil,
The struggle for a home of righteousness
And peace may never find a victory
So final and conclusive as we seek.
The signal that we’ve more work to be done
Is that we pause and wonder if we’ve won.