I want to start this post by expressing my admiration for the courage of those who have given their lives in military action in “defence” (which at least in the case of US and UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan means “attack”) of their countries. And I have great sympathy for those who have lost loved ones. I also feel a great sadness that most of their lives have been given in vain, or at best in partly successful attempts to undo the damaging results of previous wars pursued by their own countries.
But I do object to the way in which remembrance of war heroes has been brought into churches. Yesterday almost every church in my country would have included in its morning service an act of remembrance. Now I suppose it is good in church to remember those who have died, but what is the reason for specifically marking the deaths of those who have died in war? Is it not some kind of glorification of war? But any kind of glorification of war is totally contrary to the spirit of Jesus as portrayed in the New Testament. It is also contrary to the teaching of the early church, as demonstrated by Anglican priest Tim Chesterton in a series of posts over the last few days Christians and War: The Early Church Speaks #1 #2 #3 #4 #5. See also the Mennonite badge which Tim posts a picture of: To remember is to work for PEACE.
If military people wish to have their own parades to mark their fallen comrades, they are welcome to do so. But please can they do so well away from the churches, whose fundamental attitudes are, or should be, completely at odds with theirs. And please can churches stop pandering to the expectations of those in the world outside, and of those among their own numbers, who hold anti-Christian militaristic views and expect the church to hold ceremonies for them, and disrupt its own regular programmes to do so.
I am prepared to attend my own church on Remembrance Sunday only because we have a very low key act of remembrance, with no military symbols displayed. For the last few years I have quietly absented myself from the main hall for the act of remembrance. This year I was on duty at the back, so stayed in the building but remained seated, in a place where I could not be seen so I didn’t give offence.