LT and I went to church today, to the Remembrance Sunday service. It was being held at one of the other village churches; three of us have combined services for the occasion, taking it in turns. As ever, we all listened intently to the Rolls of Honour being read out and, as always, I felt sad at the sheer number, 25 men, killed in the 1914-1918 war, in Earsham. This village has just over 400 houses now and many fewer then, it surely almost wiped out a generation. 7 died in the Second World War – bad enough but it demonstrates the awful carnage of the ‘war to end wars’ – sad and ironic as that description proved to be.
Roses came in for dinner last night and we had a lovely evening. Fairly late on, she wanted to ask me a question “as a Christian.” Heart sank a bit as you can imagine, I make no assertions about my Christianity and have no answers about anything. But I did give a robust answer to what she said. It was about those people of religious faith who were so certain of their rightness that they condemn anyone who either disagrees with them or falls short, to their mind, of the right way to live, either wanting to force others to live their way or to attack them . What was the difference between Christians and Muslims who were such fundamentalists, she wondered. None, I said. They are using religion as an excuse. It isn’t about religion or faith at all, it’s all about them and power. It’s the same with patriotism or nationalism when it’s used as a weapon. As Dr Johnson said, “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” not that patriots are scoundrels or that there’s anything amiss with love and pride of one’s country but, when it’s used as an excuse to behave badly and hate others, it reflects worse on the person than if they are simply and unashamedly bastards. And I know I’m stating the obvious – or it should be the obvious – but it isn’t obvious to quite a number of people. Those who swing at the other end of the pendulum seem to me to be just as bad.
There’s been a lot of overt hate going on recently and there is, at last, an attempt at a kindness backlash, some of which is directed against certain newspapers, in particular one that called judges “enemies of the people” and put up photos of those concerned – in an exact imitation, whether they knew it or not, of a German newspaper headline from 1933. The final blessing at this morning’s service – the wording is used every year, it wasn’t written just for this troubled year – was kind and thoughtful and thoroughly Christian in a way that those who either preach hate as religious people or preach hate against religion, or preach hate for those of other countries or cultures, ignore or don’t understand. And I took a quick picture of it – or thought I had, but I didn’t quite catch the page so I’ll just quote what I did get.
“Go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage; hold fast that which is good; render to no one evil for evil; strengthen the faint hearted; support ….. the afflicted; honour everyone.”
Wouldn’t it be good?