Archives For World War One

ANZAC

April 25, 2015 — 2 Comments

Banner2

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.

 

Christmas Busch

December 23, 2014 — 2 Comments

Christmas BuschWilhelm Busch, reflecting on Christmas past as a young German soldier in World War One, noted that the overwhelming sense of desolation and homesickness which had dominated the atmosphere, hindered all attempts to celebrate it.

After a large quantity of alcohol had been delivered and consumed, things went from sombre to surreal. Though Christmas celebrations were arranged, “everything went wrong”.

That dugout and this Christmas, any glimmer of consolation gained from communal conversations about gathering to mark the day had been lost.

No longer did this Christmas feel or even look as it could have.

Busch hints at a deep disconnect between the alcohol induced light-heartedness of his comrades and the heavy heart he felt for the clear absence of community marking the real value in Christmas.

Sorrow, loneliness and self-pity were being drowned in a sea of self-medication. With it, the beauty and healing that can come from a Christmas acknowledged and shared was abandoned.

Busch writes that he quietly left the noise behind him and walked outside to sit alone in the darkness.

Looking beyond the dugout towards what was left of an old village, he asked himself,

‘two years ago joyful people had celebrated Christmas there. Where were they now that their homes had disappeared?’[i]

According to Busch, this pondering laced with lament was interrupted by a Lieutenant who emerged from the smoke-filled, buoyant hole.

Not seeing Busch nearby the Lieutenant stopped stared out into the evening sky and then:

‘…pulled out from under his cape a glistening horn and put it to his lips.
The music sounded soft and strange as it carried over the devastated valley the tones of the carol:
‘Oh you joyful, Oh you blessed, grace bringing Christmas time…’
His blowing practically forced me to speak the words quietly along with him. And everything rose up in rebellion within me. ‘No! No!’ cried my heart. ‘It is not true! There is a village that’s destroyed. Every ruined house is a reminder of deep sorrow.
And here are the drunk, homesick men, back home the weeping women, children calling for their fathers.
Blood, death, misery … How can you play like that: “Oh you joyful…”?’ But he blew on unperturbed.
And it sounded accusingly: ‘The world was lost…’ ‘Yes,’ I thought, ‘now that is altogether true.’ I had never perceived and seen it like that.
‘Christ is born…’ he blew into my thoughts. So bright, so jubilant that I had to listen:
‘Christ is born! Rejoice, rejoice O Christendom!’
Then it was as if scales fell from my eyes: this is Christmas, this and nothing else:
‘The world was lost; Christ is born! Rejoice, O Christendom!’[ii]

I see in this account a message deeper than that of the tragic complexities of war. Here we see the burden of expectations we place on ourselves by what we think Christmas should be, look and feel like.

The challenge issued to us from Busch is to stop seeking our perfect idea of Christmas, to at least refine what we expect Christmas to be. Instead, reflect on how Christmas finds us and on what it actually brings to us.

Christmas can be a confusing mix of wonder and dread. It can sweep us off our feet or remind us about the gloomy agony of isolation, ostracization.  At the same time Christmas can answer our despair with inspiration, overwhelming generosity, and breathe new life into each dark and exhausting step.

It is an act of joyful remembrance; a time of acknowledgement that the knowledge of who God is, and what God is about, is confirmed in His free act to be free for, with, and near us.

To act on Advent and Christmas is to acknowledge with humility and gratitude, in prayer, a season set apart for new life.

It is a moment beyond moments, one that transcends money, presents, deifying and impressing our neighbours or family. Such a time as this must be grasped as we are grasped and held.

Christmas is a season unlike any other that consists of one of two days in the year where we get to stop and acknowledge that in Jesus Christ we are truly reached for.

This is a moment in time that is not centred on our ego, although it is for us it is not about us. As Karl Barth would term it, Christmas is an event carved by God’s good pleasure into a calendar otherwise dominated by awkward celebration, loss and lament. Here, on this day, we recall that God’s Word of freedom is decisively spoken.

To act on Advent and Christmas is to acknowledge the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.

Without this, our celebration is an empty ritual filled with cheap decorations, avarice and religion. The weight of faulty products from a fallen people working too hard to please each other and ourselves.

To act on Advent and Christmas is to be moved politically and relationally beyond religion. It is the encroachment of God’s Kingdom come.

With Christ and in Christ, our celebration moves us beyond ourselves, our wallet and our pain. We are moved towards a light that was not lit by human imagination, but was and is an historical event in space and time. Responded to, reasoned about, joyfully acknowledged and reverently proclaimed.

“The world was lost;

Christ is born!

Rejoice, O Christendom!”


Source:

[i] Busch W. (1897-1966) Stories from my life and times, in Puritz, C. 2013, Ed. Christ or Hitler? Evangelical Press. Kindle Ed. Loc. 637-638

[ii] Ibid, loc. 642-652

Writing seven years after the date of the excerpt below, Vernon Kellogg in an article for ‘The Atlantic’, wrote a response to William Jennings Bryan’s stand against evolution. Something made famous by The Scopes Trial in 1925.

Kellogg’s 1924 essay was entitled ‘The Modern View of Evolution‘. In it Kellogg, a biologist, writes from a position that understands the importance of making a distinction between ‘Social Darwinism’ and ‘Darwinian Evolutionary Theory’. For an excellent summary of Bryan’s views after the Scopes Trial was closed, I recommend checking out ‘The Last Message of William Jennings Bryan’.

Bryan points to the same distinction in his concerns about evolutionary theory. However his overall argument becomes generalised, which overshadows his points. In my view, outside this, his closing statement is outstanding.

The excerpt below is from Kellogg’s assessment of the impact of scientism, something that pushed him beyond pacifism. As a result he became an advocate for the just resistance against such views. Scientism is defined as an ‘exaggerated trust in the efficacy of  science‘ (Merriam-Webster).

Although I am not yet in complete agreement with the narrator when he suggests that Darwin later succumbed to Social Darwinism/Scientific Socialism.The video attached is legit and worth watching.

The historical value here is found in its contemporary relevance as an indictment against scientism and totalitarianism.

Theology remains a necessary critique (Barth) and this seems to back that up.

To Whom It May Concern,
Vernon L Kellogg‘One by one any German would give up, in all matters in which he acted as a part of the German administration, all of the thinking, all of the feeling, all of the conscience which might be characteristic of him as an individual, a free man, a separate soul made sacred by the touch of the Creator.
And he did this to accept the control and standards of an impersonal, intangible, inhuman, great cold fabric made of logic and casuistry and utter, utter cruelty, called the State — or often, for purposes of deception, the Fatherland.
There is fatherland in Germany, but it is not the German State. It is German soil and German ancestry, but not the horrible, depersonalized, super-organic state machine, built and managed by a few ego-maniacs of incredible selfishness and of utter callousness to the sufferings, bodily and mental, of their own as well as any other people in their range of contact.
But this machine is a Frankenstein that will turn on its own creators and work their destruction, together with its own.
Such sacrifice and degradation of human personality as national control by such a machine requires, can have no permanence in a world moving certainly, even if hesitatingly and deviously, toward individualism and the recognition of personal values…
…Well, I say it dispassionately but with conviction: if I understand theirs, it is a point of view that will never allow any land or people controlled by it to exist peacefully by the side of a people governed by our point of view.
For their point of view does not permit of a live-and-let-live kind of carrying on. It is a point of view that justifies itself by a whole-hearted acceptance of the worst of Neo (social) Darwinism, the omnipotence of natural selection applied rigorously to human life and society and culture.
The creed of the All-macht (omnipotent power) of natural selection based on violent and fatal competitive struggle is the gospel of the German intellectuals; all else is illusion and anathema.
The assumption among them is that the Germans are the chosen race (the Ubermensch), and German social and political organisation the chosen type of human community life, and you have a wall of logic and conviction that you can break your head against but can never shatter – by headwork.You long for the muscles of Samson…
Here the pale ascetic intellectual and the burly, red-faced butcher meet on common ground here. And they wonder why the world comes together to resist this philosophy – and this butcher- to the death!
Any people who have dedicated itself to the philosophy and practice of war as a means of human advancement is put into a position of impotence to indulge its belief at will.
My conviction is that Germany is such a people, and that it can be put to this position only by the result of war itself. It knows no other argument and it will accept no other decision[i]. ’
Vernon Kellogg, 1917 
(Biologist and Director of The Commission for the relief of Belgium 1915-1916)

 

Sources:

[i] Kellogg, V.L. 1917 Headquarters Nights: A Record of Conversations and Experiences at the Headquarters of the German Army in France and Belgium (Annotated) (Loc. 459-460). Rueggisberg Press. 2010 Kindle Ed.

Image: Vernon Lyman Kellogg Wikipedia

#Lestweforget

H11563

Source: AWM // Commons

The English dictionary points out that the word remembrance has two primary definitions.

First: The ability to recall past occurrences

Second: A recognition of meritorious service [1].

Originally called ”Armistice Day”, the intent and purpose of this day was to remember the end of World War One. Today, at 11am Australia will stop for a minutes silence to reflect on the loss of life and sacrifices made to defeat ideology, militarily (G. Veith).

Historians still debate who fired the first shot of World War One. Tensions and technology were advancing at an unstoppable rate, empires had reached their peak. Words like aristocracy and colonialism were still part of the vernacular. With this the West, and parts of the East, marched into war with pride, song and the assurance of experts, who entertained the general notion that there was “no-need for God, through progress humanity can save itself”.

As horrific human toll of nations wielding sabre and sickle against nations began to tally, very few continued to hold onto the idea of the Bella-Epoque. It was no longer a period of history marked as quintessential proof that ”GOD was dead”. Indeed very few still held to those same romantic, anthropocentric perspectives, which drove men, and some women, naively into the atheist laced sunset of that era.

Karl Barth, who was a Pastor at the time wrote a theological critique with twin propulsion, one driving His theology into the theology of the day and another into its politics: “What we say is not so important, but rather what is being said to us” (2008:Loc. 71-74).

Today, 95 years on, at least 2.1 Billion people from the 53 member states of the Commonwealth of Nations, under God and Queen, will be encouraged to remember the battles of World War One and those like it, as a tragedy.

Today, because of the sacrifice of the few for the many, those citizens will freely choose to reflect for a moment on the problem of war, those affected by it,  the heights of human arrogant self-reliance and the cost accrued when blind ideas blind people.

National Collection

Source: AWM // Commons

…”It was the silence of the Gallipoli peninsula which most surprised and awed the survivors of the campaign who returned there after the war, the stillness of the cliffs and beaches where nothing much remained of the battle except the awful sight of the white bones of unburied soldiers and the rusting guns along the shore” (Moorehead, 1956:366)

Lest we Forget.

IMG_20131111_094403

Source: TL2013

IMG_20131111_094620

Source: CL2013

 

Why is the Red Poppy the flower of remembrance?

PDF link : create your own Poppy flower, courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.

Sources:

Busch.E 2008 Barth (Abingdon Pillars of Theology) Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition
Australian War Memorial
Moorehead, A. 1956 The Classic Account of Gallipoli Aurum Press London
Veith, G. 1993 Modern Fascism
[1] Dictionary program called TheSage – great resource.

©RL2013

Anzac Day, 2013

April 25, 2013 — Leave a comment

Right or wrong, ninety-eight years ago, Legacy Anzac DayAustralian and New Zealand troops, joined their British and Indian allies, in a Commonwealth assault on the beaches and cliffs of the Dardanelle straits. This was part of a Commonwealth war effort to open up a third front, in the hope breaking the stalemate in France during World War One. Along with other serious conflicts Australia has been involved in throughout the 20th century, today we commemorate that event . In addition, we take the time to remember the danger of ideology, the cost, complexity and brutality of war.