lest we forget, best we regret
This year Anzac Day falls almost exactly on Easter. Both celebrations, in their own way, have attained an iconic status. However the buying of chocolate eggs, going on a long weekend holiday, playing two-up, buying a badge and getting drunk seem to be inadequate ways of remembering and reflecting on both events…
In my last post (“The Crucified [Nonviolent] God“) I spoke about the nonviolence of Jesus, with its crescendo in the event of the cross. If the cross really was, among other things, a powerful example and teaching of nonviolent sacrifice, what does Easter mean for war? For Christian reflection on Anzac Day?
In her article on The Drum today, Kellie Tranter wrote:
Although I’m not religious it’s interesting that those who are commemorate the ultimate sacrifice on the cross for the sins of mankind and for our salvation just days before we mark the sacrifice of our men and women who lost their lives “so we can be free”. Free to do what? To be complacent. To overindulge. To pursue more war. Lest we forget…
This is quite an apt summary of the Christian dilemma. So how do we remember the fallen in a way that recognises that Christian freedom, as won at the cross, necessitates freedom from violence?
Surely it begins by refusing to accept the need for war.
I remember sitting in primary school history lessons learning about the wars that have included Australia, where young men not too much older than me went to fight for our freedom. There was a romantic air about the struggle they endured. I was proud to be Australian at that point.
But of course, in later reflection, I realise that there is nothing romantic about the realities of war (indeed, you don’t have to have been to one to at least know this is true, although soldiers and unfortunate civilians could tell first hand of its true horrors).
There is nothing romantic about governments and generals sitting in safety, ordering young men and women to their deaths. This is not to mention the tragic deaths of mostly uninvolved civilians (Iraq; over 100,000 and counting).
There has unfortunately been an arguable tendency for many aspects of Anzac Day to glorify war itself. Certainly there has been an air of necessity about war. But is this simply an assumption?
I realise these are complicated matters, and that many will disagree, citing past world conflicts in which an armed response was apparently necessary (Hitler generally being top of the list).
But the complexities should lead us to at least consider that the opposite is also a possibility; there was another way. This kind of speculation is perhaps unhelpful. What is true, in any case, is that the nonviolent death of Jesus denies violence and war as a Christian response, or at least as anything but a last response.
This means that Anzac Day comes with an inherent tension; we remember the fallen for their sacrifice and what it achieved (lest we forget) but we also remember that their deaths, though not in vain, were not necessary, and nor was the violent methodology that led them to the slaughter (best we regret).
The positive element of this is that as Christians we celebrate peace, and speak out for peaceful responses to world events. We can also support soldiers and their families in the midst of trauma and loss, and campaign for such tragedy to go unrepeated.
We can also celebrate the coming of a restored world where war will finally be no more, where our tears will be wiped from our eyes, and where our swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks.
As we remember our lost today, let us also remember that in Jesus there is another way; a way of love, peace and nonviolence. Our young men and women do not need to die on the battlefield.
Lest we forget.
Posted on April 25, 2011, in Conflict and Nonviolence, Culture & Art, Current Events, Theology and tagged Anzac Day, Cross, Crucifixion, Easter, Hitler, Iraq, Iraq War, Jesus, Kellie Tranter, Nonviolence, Peace, The Drum, War. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.