How Should We Remember?
So, for those of you who are unaware, today marks Remembrance Day in the UK and the Commonwealth.
Since the end of the First World War to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty, the 11th of November has been observed as a memorial day. For most people from the UK, this is one of the most important days of the year, and for British Christians we see its nearest Sunday serve as time for our ‘Remembrance Sunday service’. Growing up as a British Christian, whose grandfather has a been honoured with a memorial plaque on the wall of my father’s church, of course I would commemorate and even celebrate this time of year.
But as I have dived deeper into my faith and the scriptures, I have really struggled to take part in any commemoration of the day, or attend a Remembrance Sunday without feeling like something isn’t quite right.
As I have said before, recently I have become anti-war, and have fallen in love with a Jesus-centred peace theology, Christian pacifism, non-violent resistance and protest. So when it comes to Remembrance Day it’s hard enough to be a part of the secular tradition, let alone on the Sunday when it gets mixed with religion.
Now I would like to start off by saying that everyone is totally entitled to their opinion on this matter, and I am in no way attempting to disrespect anyone or take any side of any conflict. I just can no longer hold on to nationalism, believe in just war theory or accept the marriage of Christianity with empire/nation. Personally, as I have grown older, I have become more sceptical, and while I am still proud of my background, I no longer would say I'm proud of being British. One simply has to look at our history of war, violence and terror across the world to see it’s no pretty picture. And when, like I, you don’t see power, control and empire as a good thing, there isn’t much left to celebrate about our history - especially on a day that commemorates war.
Speaking of War when it comes to faith, my views on the teaching of Jesus show a clear belief in non-violence, and that the only way to fight back against evil is with love and not more acts of evil. This for me means that when I attend churches that have connected hard into nationalism and I see the union flag or hear the national anthem, it deeply sadness me. Jesus came for everyone, not just the British, and He came to show us a way that meant - and means - that we didn’t/don’t have to follow, believe in or fight back against the Roman empire, the British Empire, the UN, America, or any example one can think of. We bow, sing to, serve and believe in God alone.
I‘m thankful though there is something positive to talk about. In recent years there has been a change to what the remembrance poppy (a symbol that people wear around the week of Remembrance Day) represents.
Last year, the poppy became a symbol that also commemorates the civilian casualties of war. The RBL, Royal British Legion, official announced that they acknowledge innocent civilians who have lost their lives in conflict and acts of terrorism, not just those who died in acts of service. This is an amazing step in the right direction, not only does it open up the day for the innocent casualties of war but it also invites us to view war with a wider lens than it just being a brave thing to have taken part in. This decision from the RBL has had me in deep thought a number of times over the past year, and this week while hearing “For the Fallen“ (a famous Remembrance Day poem) I was hit by the holy spirit with a sense of lament and sorrow. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that this year while full of hope in Jesus, I will be commemorating Remembrance Day, but in thoughtful prayer for all of those whom have lost their lives in the terror of war and at the hands of world powers that care little for these causalities of war.
I hope too that by reading this small reflection, you will also join me in prayer that we will one day see an end to war and that we all will become more aware of )and question) the world and our nations decisions, and even when it comes to our religion (and we all have one) that we will question what is holding us back from loving even those we do not like.
As for me, I will continue to pray into this very important day and hope that one day the poppy will come to represent all who have died in war including our enemies.