Sunday, June 29, 2014
Flags & Crosses & Canada Day
Today we will be observing a Bridge St. UC tradition of celebrating Canada Day within worship. I'm always a little leery of waving the flag in a church service. Patriotism and religion are a bad mix, in my estimation, yet I am incredibly proud and grateful to be a Canadian.
Because the world will be acknowledging the beginning of the First World War this summer I have chosen to reflect on the role of chaplains in The Great War. Until WWI there wasn't really a defined chaplaincy service and the Canadian padres discovered how to minister to the troops under horrendous conditions. The role was fraught with danger. The chaplains were unarmed, yet they were constantly in harm's way. A shocking 179 British chaplains were killed and hundreds more from around the Empire were injured.
What was unsettling in my research is that virtually all the chaplains approached this global conflict as a Holy War, a Christian crusade. It didn't matter that the Germans were Christians as well. They were demonized and there was no question that this was a titanic battle between good and evil.
In addition, fallen soldiers were often portrayed as Christ figures. The painting above was widely circulated, and copies were hung in hundreds of churches.
Why do we choose to do this? I come back again to former US president Jimmy Carter's comment when he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Sometimes war is a necessary evil, but it is always evil.