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25th April 2016 007Anzac Day comes with a caveat.

Absent of any understanding about what causes war and the case for just-peace. Absent of the moral restraints of the message about Christ’s act and command to love God and love one another as we love and care for ourselves, Anzac day becomes a celebration of chaos, not life; a day of hero-worship, not sincere remembrance and gratitude.

We surely remember the sacrifice of our ancestors, but with it we remember God’s summons to hear the importance of His commandments that empower us to stand against the continuing brutality of war. It’s because God comes to humanity that this word can be received as true word. A word we did not speak ourselves. A word that we’re encouraged to test and try out, because God is not insecure about who He is or anxious about what He has planned.

Anzac day is for humanity to stand before the past, under God, towards the future. It’s a time to mourn, a time to recollect, a time to reconsider and lament the effect of war.  Not only on those who didn’t return, but on those who did.

Traditionally, on this day Australia and New Zealand commemorate, not war, or the sins of it, but engrave, through Christian prayer, a deep gratitude and remembrance, of and for, the freedom and life given by those who sacrificed their lives to give it.

But, Anzac day comes with a caveat.

If we jettison Jesus Christ from Anzac day, our remembrance spirals into the worship of chaos, hatred of our enemies and as it deteriorates into the empty worship of our ancestors. Without the Prince of Peace and those He represents, Anzac day has no real message of peace or hope, only war, the hype and devastation of it.

This is exemplified by the words of Anti-Nazi German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who in 1932 preached to a solemn gathering of Germans,

‘when the church observes Memorial Day, it must have something special to say. It cannot be one voice in the chorus of others who loudly raise the cry of mourning for the lost sons of the nation across the land, and by such cries of mourning call us to new deeds and great courage. It cannot, like the ancient singers of great heroic deeds, wander about and sing the song of praise of battle and the death of the heroes to the listening ears of enthralled young people. On this day the church stands here so strangely without ceremony, so little proud, so little heroic. The Church is like the seer of ancient times who when all are gathered… is wholeheartedly present but suffers because he sees something that others do not see and must speak of what he sees, although no one wants to hear it…the one who loves most is the one who sees deepest, sees the greatest danger. A seer has never been popular. That is why the church will also not be popular, least of all on days like this.’[i]

“Jesus is victor.”

Any real human victory begins in Him.

In no other way and by no other name can Anzac day be what it should be, a time and place when our hearts are directed, not towards human ideological constructs of peace, but towards the Prince of peace and therefore towards just-peace. Our memory and treatment of those who gave up their very lives for us is only enriched by this. Our mourning turns into hope, as we hear from chaplains, pastors and Christians, throughout both nations, at most remembrance services, we are asked to carry away with us the challenge of the message of just-peace.

‘Memorial day in the Church! What does it mean? It means holding up the one great hope from which we all live, the preaching of the kingdom of God. It means seeing that which is past, and which we remember today, with all its terrors and all its godlessness, and yet not being afraid, but hearing the preaching of peace […] Now pass on the message of peace, for the sake of which their death had to be, and preach it all the more loudly.’ [ii]

The one whose own broken body was laid in a tomb guarded and then, against, and to the shame of the chaos and all that stood in proud victory over Him, was resurrected from the dead.

Any real human victory begins in Him; all just-peace follows the Prince of peace who was judged become judge.

‘Where the power of darkness wants to overpower the light of God, there God triumphs and judges the darkness.’ [iii]

Any real peace follows from the one who is peace, not the one who through media, machine or human, only gives lip service to it. Or who through a mask of peace seeks through a will to dominate, only to expand a human empire.

The importance of Christian participation in Anzac Day is the reminder that peace comes to humanity from outside itself; from outside our ability to save ourselves. Through conviction, through just-justice, through covenant, through commandment the chaos is answered with purpose. It’s lifeless ‘mass, rebellion and tumult against true life is conquered, transformed as the One who ‘hovers over it speaks [and because He does, decisively acts].’[iv]

Jesus the Christ doesn’t seem to be. He is, was and will be.

That is our starting place and EVERY Anzac day what was once their march, but is now ours, must begin and end here.

For as Bonhoeffer noted:

‘wherever the word of Christ is truly spoken, the world sense that it is either ruinous madness or ruinous truth, which endangers it’s very life. Where peace is really spoken, war must rage twice as hard, for it senses that it is about to be driven out. Christ intends to be its death […] Memorial Day in the church means knowing that Christ alone wins the victory! Amen.’ [v]

Sources:

[i] Bonhoeffer, D 1932 National Memorial Day, Berlin, Reminiscere, Feb. 21,. In Best, I. 2012 The Collected Sermons of Deitrich Bonhoeffer,  Fortress Press

[ii] ibid, (p.21)

[iii] ibid, (p.17)

[iv] Bonhoeffer, D. DBW:3 Creation and Fall: A theological exposition of Genesis 1-3, (p.41) [parenthesis mine]

[v] Bonhoeffer, D 1932 National Memorial Day, Berlin, Reminiscere, Feb. 21,. In Best, I. 2012 The Collected Sermons of Deitrich Bonhoeffer,  Fortress Press (pp.20 & 21)

(Originally published, 25th April 2016)

ANZAC

April 25, 2015 — 2 Comments

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Orchestrated by socio-political heavy weights such as Lord Kitchener, and younger politicians like Winston Churchill. Commonwealth soldiers landed in the beach assault on Gallipoli and other areas of the peninsula, in April, 1915. These included soldiers from Britain, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Though debate still continues, The Dardanelles Strait campaign ended in more of a stalemate than defeat.

It was ultimately deemed a failure, due, according to Lloyd George, ‘not so much [the younger] Winston Churchill’s haste as to Lord Kitchener’s and [the then British Prime Minister] Herbert Asquith’s procrastination.’ [i]

Among other things, the joint Australian and New Zealand commemoration of ANZAC day provides an opportunity to reflect on the cost of war, freedom and the importance of our gratitude; that our collective “thank you” is collectively acknowledged; lived and breathed, not just superficially spoken.

Just as importantly, the day also provides an opportunity to talk about the violent persecution of the Armenians; a persecution carried out by some of the louder political factions within the politically unstable Ottoman Empire during this period.

The Armenians were Christians. They were considered more Westernised than their Muslim neighbours and as a result were looked upon with suspicion by the hostile factions.

The Armenian people looked for independence from Turkey, but were yet to be represented by any organised governmental body.

This was unlike Turkey, Australia and New Zealand, who, being represented as a nation in the battle for the Gallipoli Peninsula, had been considered to have come of age .

Alan Moorehead rightly noted that the success of the Turkish Army had become a political success.

‘They saw themselves as standing for the Turk, and for Islam. So, in elation, they set about hunting down their racial and political opponents (which was nothing new in the East or everywhere else for that matter). Success against the allied assault had expedited the persecution and slaughter of Armenians. It would be absurd, however, to argue that the Allies’ failure in the Dardanelles was the only cause of this, since the root instinct to destroy the unprotected, Christian, Armenian minority was always there. Before March there were about two million Armenians in Turkey, and it was the young Turks’ intention to exterminate or deport them all. This task, however, was never completed; barely three-quarters of a million were dead or dying by the time the frantic rage of their tormentors had exhausted itself.’

The point of ANZAC day is first found in an ode near to its heart:

‘…At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.’
(The Ode, from For The Fallen, Robert Laurence Binyon, 1869-1943 )

We are in need of ANZAC day. Though body and memory fade, the act of being remembered transcends time. Placing us in the humble position of being reminded that ‘we are not God. That we aren’t even good idols.’ [iii]

Because of the gravity of it, our corporate, individual and collective arrogance is challenged; And we are met face to face with the enormity of the task before us. A task of vigilance that requires us to make every effort to protect and seek, peace and good will, among societies and nations.

Standing with those who care to uphold it, and are willing to share in bearing both its burdens and its blessings.

Standing in responsible disagreement against those who would seek to do the opposite.

Perhaps at the core of how important ANZAC day is, is that we as a society, are ourselves, confronted with the brutal fact, that a history too easily forgotten is a history too easily repeated.

 


Source:

[i] Moorehead, A. 1956, The Classic Account of Gallipoli, Aurum Press LTD. (p.171)

[ii] ibid, pp.98-101

[iii] Niebuhr, R. 1945 ‘Today, Tomorrow & The Eternal’ in Discerning the Signs of the Times :Sermon Essays

Related posts:

100 Years

The image in the photo above is of some knitted, red, poppy flowers. They mark the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landings and were on display at a local show a few weeks back.

 

nla_map-t1606-vI’ve just finished reading ‘The Origin of the Species’. It was surprising to find almost ZERO evidence of any cultural Christian influences, which seems to be a key theme found amongst some Darwinians who have suggested that this hindered his original work.

There are, however, strong patterns throughout the book which indicate a “disposition”, which suggests among other things, that Darwin was a political product of Imperialist expansionism; a son from the age in which and whence forth, he therefore thus “descended”…

On another, slightly satirical note, but still related to that of Darwin, we find something that might suggest how the “principle of selection” explains the friendly-sometimes-comedic rivalry between Australia and New Zealand.

In which case, Charles Darwin might have been way ahead of his time:

‘New Zealand and New Caledonia (France)[i] should be considered an accessory of Australia’

‘Although New Zealand is here spoken of as an Oceanic island, it is in some degree doubtful whether it should be so ranked; it is of large size, and is not separated from Australia by a profoundly deep-sea; from its geological character and the direction of its mountain-ranges, the Rev. W.B. Clarke has lately maintained that this island , as well as New Caledonia, should be considered as appurtenances of Australia’[ii]

All that said, I did enjoy reading it. I’ll post something deeper about it once I’ve have made time to process and properly order some of my notes.

Even though I am conscious of my bias and limitations with this, I don’t think it is reading history backwards to say that the language Darwin uses is highly political.

It does show that extremely careful Darwin was with his choice of words, but it doesn’t show he did it in order to be sensitive to an overly intolerant and ignorant Christian majority. Instead, the text seems to fall in line with the political narrative of his day.

Like an abstract artist, I could be coloring outside the lines here, but from my initial reading ‘The Origin of the Species’, as well as being an empirical list of theory and suggested evidence to match, reads like a scientific justification for the political policies of the historical context, for and from which it was written.

It is too early for me to settle on this insight conclusively. Although I can see how writers such as Lutheran Gene Veith and Tom Wright (among others) have concluded that Darwinist thought was one of the key progenitors[iii], or ‘great prophets of Modernism’[iv] and therefore a justification for some of the most violent and barbaric events carried out throughout the 20th Century.

In the course of deciding how best to follow-up the topic from a theological perspective, I’ve added the Paternoster 2009 publication: ‘Theology after Darwin, edited by Michael S. Northcott and R.J Berry to my reading list.

The book is a compilation of essays that no doubt will present itself as a challenge to read.

Sources:

[i] Australia’s Eastern neighbours include France (New Caledonia), New Zealand, Solomon Islands, and Fiji.

[ii] Darwin, C. 1859 The Origin of the Species, New American Library, 1958, p.380

[iii] Veith, G.E. 1993 Modern Fascism ‘Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection had implications far beyond biology…he saw violent conflict as the essence of nature; e.g.: as competition between races: ‘’survival of the fittest”’ Kindle Ed. (Loc.464)

[iv]  Wright, T. 1997 What Saint Paul Really Said, p.155

Image: National Library of Australia