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The Christian Church and war

Regarding the support the Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles gives to the latino soldiers in Iraq, Ross Rogers, Jr. writes: "Perhaps it will be possible for you to send out Mark Twain's War Prayer". For the text of it, see Mark Twain's "War Prayer" (Twain apparently dictated "The War Prayer" around 1904-05; it was found after his death among his unpublished manuscripts.

RH: The relationship between the Christian Church and war is complex. The Quakers were pacifists,but the mainline churches supported the government's military actions. This was especially true in the US, with its stress on the Old Testament, whose militancy inspired the Union soldiers. There must be a study on the Quakers and the Civil War. i grew up in historic Winchester. England, where there is a great cathedral and two barracks: the King's Royal Rifles and the Hampshire Regiment. On Sundays the troops marched to the cathedral, attended service and then marked back to their barracks, with the band playing. As a child I was especially impressed by the soldier with the big drum, who had a lion's skin (was it a lion?) on his chest, against which the drum rested. Well, it did not really rest, because he kept banging it.

The war memorial outside the cathedral showed a soldier looking up in reverence to it- Outside our parish church, St. Thomas, the monument was a simple cross. The organist, a bad tempered man appropriately named Mr. Savage, had a running feud with the scholarly rector, Mr. Nuttal. Savage proclaimed that those killed in the war were saints- The rector demurred, so Savage settled the argument by saying angrily "They WERE saints!". Actually, the Rector was right. They were perhaps brave men, but that does not make them saints.

The link between church and army is an old one. After victory a Te Deum was sung. After defeat there was no singing. Few people have heard of Dettingen, a Bavarian village on the Main. It was there that in 1743, the English, Hanoverians and the Austrians, led by George II (the last English king actually to take part in fighting) defeated superior French forces. God save the King! Handel wrote for the occasion his magnificent Dettingen Te Deum. War has lost its glamor and its music. Now it appears in all its drab brutality,

Islam and war will be taken up in a posting on Mohammed, or Muhammad.

Ronald Hilton - 4/21/03