Russell and Duenes

What War Does

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The wars in which they [Englishman] were asked to die do not, once examined, seem as noble and pure as they did when I first learned about them. And the proper remembering of dead warriors, though right and fitting, is a very different thing from the Christian religion. The Christian church has been powerfully damaged by letting itself be confused with love of country and the making of great wars.

Quite a sobering thought. I’m now to the end of Part I of the so far excellent Rage Against God, by Peter Hitchens. The book is engrossing because it is not your typical broadsides against atheism. Rather, it seeks to understand the weakening and marginalization of Christianity that has taken place in England over the last century, and it does so in a kind of autobiographical way which I find engrossing. But it was Hitchen’s conclusion about the effect of the two World Wars on Christianity that gripped my mind and heart. He goes on,

In fact, I think it safe to say that the two great victorious wars of the twentieth century did more damage to Christianity in my own country than any other single force. The churches were full before 1914, half-empty after 1919, and three-quarters empty after 1945…Those who fought so hard to defend Britain against its material enemies did so at a terrible spiritual cost. The memory of the great slaughter of 1914-1918 was carried back into their daily lives by millions who had set out from quiet homes as gentle, innocent, and kind and returned cynical, brutalized, and used to cruelty. Then it happened again, except that the second time, the mass-murder was inflicted on – and directed against – women and children in their houses…In this way, the pain and damage were passed on to new generations who had no hand in the killing. War does terrible harm to civilization, to morals, to families, and to innocence. It tramples on patience, gentleness, charity, constancy and honesty. How strange that we should make it the heart of a national cult (referring to the British cult of “We Won the War!”) [emphasis mine], p.79-80.

You can see why this book is provoking genuine reflection in me. Though I’m not done with it, I would recommend it based on the first half alone.



Written by Michael Duenes

June 6, 2010 at 11:20 am

Posted in Duenes, Literature, Theology

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