Remembrance again

Interesting responses on remembrance. I think that what disturbs me is this. Sacrifice is obviously a core Christian value. It is not absent from today’s [secular] society but it is counter-cultural – see the response to the Warwickshire firemen. The challenge of Remembrance Sunday is largely to do with how one honours sacrifice in war – while not getting drawn into honouring the very flawed sets of circumstances in which that sacrifice tends to be required. By that I mean the nationalisms – stretched between Horace’s ‘dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’ quoted as ‘the old lie’ by Wilfred Owen – and the partial truths which sustain them: ‘They don’t love freedom the way we love freedom’ – George W Bush. And there is also what is plain to see – that sacrifice tends to be called for by older people and given by younger people. And what I saw plainly in Northern Ireland – that sacrifice tends to be made by working class people rather than by middle and upper class people.


  1. In practice, I suppose it’s usually difficult to remember the hurt to others in the heat of battle. One way of dealing with that would be to try to imagine the hurt beforehand, and maximise diplomatic encounter so as to avoid going to war in the first place. If war becomes inevitable, I guess all we can do realistically is to work for repentance and healing after the dust has settled and when calmer counsels prevail. It sometimes happens in wartime, nevertheless. I read once about a RAF pilot in Bomber Command who was on leave in London and was caught in an air-raid. His reported reaction was, ‘I hope to God we’re not doing this to them’.

  2. Yes, it’s difficult. My respect for the sacrifice – for example in Iraq – is not diminished by how I might feel about the cause. But do you mean that, if we embark upon war – as the lesser of two evils – that we should be open about the hurt and injury which will flow from that?

  3. A lot depends on the character of the war, and why it is being fought: the Iraq war raises very much more difficult issues in this regard than WW2. Don’t we, as Christians, have to live in the tension between honouring those to whom honour is due, and asking forgiveness for the evils that arose inevitably from situations which were not of our making?

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