“The War to End War” recommended article from Cross Purposes blog

After reading my first article in my current WWI series, Steve, a fellow believer and friend pointed me to an article he wrote last year on his blog.

From “The War to End War”

In this centennial year, there is renewed attention to “the Great War.” I’ve read several excellent histories recently on different aspects of the war: on Gallipoli, on the cascading diplomatic miscalculations in the weeks after Franz Ferdinand’s assassination that inevitably led to war, on the flu epidemic, and on the Sarajevo assassin Gavrilo Princip. Currently I’m reading Philip Jenkins’ “The Great and Holy War,” on the war’s religious and spiritual currents.

Most pointedly, all the western nations involved framed the war as a Christian crusade: none moreso than Germany. The coded diplomatic message that gave the go-head for the Kaiser’s declaration of war was Isaiah’s prophecy of Christ, “Unto us a son is born.” German soldiers’ standard-issue belt-buckle bore the slogan “Gott mit Uns” (“God is with us”), scripture’s “Immanuel.” But every other western nation also promoted the slaughter as God’s Own purpose. Most European and American citizens of the time were quick, and PROUD, to buy into, and echo, their leaders’ religious rhetoric: as did almost-all of the participant nations’ church organizations.

See complete article here:

Anzacs and WWI: part 3, propaganda and religion

How could support be created and maintained to provide enough willing participants committing themselves to the horrors arising out of the political machinations of so many nations?

Australia was one of the only nations who didn’t enforce conscription. However, as casualties rose recruitment became more difficult and the Government held a referendum on the matter of conscription, calling upon Australians to vote “YES”, to make conscription law. The Government needed to recruit thousands more per month to replace those troops who were being killed or maimed in battle.

The vote was very close but the proposition was defeated, however the Government tried again, holding another referendum that was also defeated but again only by a small percentage.
I wonder whether those who supported conscription gave any though to the reason WHY such high numbers were needed to keep the war machine in action – that those numbers would be made up of their husbands, sons, fathers, brothers… and that it was probable that they would suffer the same fate as those they’d been sent to replace.

God King and CountryGod King and Country2

After reading quite a lot about the topic, it seems that every nation used religious rhetoric to encourage and motivate enlistment, usually but not exclusively through state churches – merging patriotism with loyalty to God. The call was to fight for God, King and Country.

Apart from a few smaller independent churches, the only contrary voice in “Christendom” was the Roman Catholic Church. The pope of the time was totally against the war, but most Roman Catholics ignored him.
My intention has been to continue this brief series on WWI by addressing the various spiritual aspects of the war

That is a topic far too broad to cover in a brief blog post, just as my previous two articles could only brush the surface.

The Great and Holy War by Philip Jenkins and War Diaries: A Chaplain at Gallipoli, Kenneth Best, edited by Gavin Roynon have shown me different ways in which religion was used to make WWI a “Holy” war, motivating men to enlist, to endure extreme horrific experiences and even to commit horrific acts upon others.

In his book Philip Jenkins says:

“Anglican Bishop of London, Arthur F. Winnington-Ingram, in 1915 wrote to a newspaper declaring the church’s explicit duty ‘to mobilise the nation for a holy war’. In a notorious sermon… he urged British forces to: ‘kill Germans- do kill them; not for the sake of killing, but to save the world, to kill the good as well as the bad, to kill the young as well as the old, to kill those who have shown kindness to our wounded as well as those fiends. As I have said a thousand times, I look upon it as a war for purity; I look upon everyone who died in it as a martyr.”

great-and-holy-warJenkins also says “At a very early stage in the war, the full panoply of holy war rhetoric came to dominate media and propaganda in all the combatant states”. It wasn’t limited to any particular nation.
He says “Allied propagandists had no difficulty in finding embarrassing sermons and essays by German leaders that assumed their empire was engaged in a sacred war. In 1914, one notorious pastor, Dietrich Vorwek praised the God who reigns on high, above ‘Cherubinen und Serphinen und Zeppellinen’”

Vorwerk also wrote his own version of the Lord’s prayer containing lines such as :

“In Thy merciful patience forgive
Each bullet and each blow
That misses its mark.
Lead us not into the temptation
Of letting our wrath be too gentle
In carrying out Thy divine judgement…”

The prayer closes with:

“May we, through Thy mailed hand
Come to power and Glory.

Jenkins recognises how easy it would be to “consign such militaristic pastors to the demagogic fringe” but cautions that “some of Germany’s greatest thinkers and theologians” were expressing “near identical sentiments…at a time when the country plausibly could claim cultural and spiritual leadership of the Christian world.

bestReligicised propaganda wasn’t only used to encourage recruitment for war. It continued after arrival on the battle field. One of the roles of army Chaplains was to reinforce ideas of self-sacrifice and the willingness to lay down one’s life for others: effectively misrepresenting the teaching of Jesus for ends totally contrary to that teaching. The religion of the war had nothing to with the gospel of God’s Kingdom that Jesus preached. Instead it was a message that mixed man’s kingdoms with religion – a faith based on patriotism, hence the mantra of “for God, King and Country”.

Kenneth Best was one of those Army chaplains who had the job of keeping his “flock” in battle ready condition, not physically but “spiritually”. Administering church rituals and preaching sermons to steel the men to face day to day life (and death) in the Gallipoli trenches.

After the war Best lost what faith he had.
Reading this statement from his diary, that loss is not surprising, just as it’s not surprising that he could use his understanding of religion to promote the soldiers’ willingness to kill and even die.

“The muezzin calls from his minaret – men prostrate themselves. During their long fast, they keep commandments, so they know God. God is a real help to them – not like us. We suppose there is a God – but really don’t KNOW.”


Medallion photos from Australian War memorial website here:


Anzacs and WWI: part 2, the price.

Part 1 looked at the political side of a War that eventually caused millions of deaths, and left countless more millions physically and mentally maimed. Combatants experienced some of the most horrendous situations and conditions ever faced by men in battle. The nature and number of ongoing casualties was unimaginable with survivors having to live with countless unburied bodies decaying only metres away.

At Gallipoli, the rotting dead and the heat of summer provided an ideal breeding ground for flies and swarms of them covered everything, getting into food and drink, causing dysentery and diarrhoea among the troops. Then the worsening sanitary situation added to the ideal conditions for the flies.

Gallipoli casualtiesNot only were they surrounded by death and the smell of the dead (which reportedly reached to the campaign ships out on the Aegean), they were never free from the threat of death. Snipers regularly picked off the careless and deadly showers of pellets from shrapnel shells killed and wounded those exposed to them. Occasional charges from the enemy needed both sides to remain alert and ready to defend themselves. These charges added to the bodies lying between the trenches, and if not repelled soon enough would lead to hand to hand combat, fighting with knives, bayonets, rocks and even teeth.

At both the Western front and Gallipoli, the machine gun, an early weapon of mass destruction, would be used to literally mow down the charging enemy, firing at the legs, cutting them off and leaving men maimed and dying painfully and slowly where it was too dangerous to attempt a rescue. At Gallipoli their suffering was occasionally brought to a painful but maybe quicker end, when shelling sparked fires in surrounding scrub, incinerating those unable to move out of the way.

Not surprisingly the conditions have frequently been described as “hell on earth”.

Often the main aim to break the deadlock seemed to be to commit as many troops as possible to suicidal attacks on the enemy with the hope that sufficient numbers might survive to engage them at closer quarters to hopefully prevail and win a little ground. Men seemed more like gaming pieces used by generals planning battles on maps, distanced from the effects their decisions had on the men at the battle front.

Human life seemed to have little value.

How could any man, whether General or foot soldier submit himself (and commit himself) to this kind of situation?

Anzacs and WWI: part 1, politics

April 25th 2015 marked the hundredth anniversary of the Gallipoli landings when Australian and New Zealand (Anzac) troops started what became a failed campaign in Turkey. My knowledge of the Gallipoli campaign was almost non-existent, so I decided it was time to learn what it was all about. The following few posts are a very simplified summary of some of the things I’ve come to understand.

wwiFor two months now I’ve been reading a variety of history books and diaries about Australia’s involvement in WWI and extended my aim to finding out the reason that the war started, but unlike WWII for which there seems to have been a clear cut purpose, the First World War isn’t so easily explained.

The limited amount of study I’ve been able to do hasn’t provided a simple answer, and I think that’s because there wasn’t a single cause. Instead, numerous factors all came together to create a kind of political and spiritual super-storm.

On the political side, various treaties set up nations and Empires like a chain of dominoes waiting for the first to be pushed. That push happened when the Austrian heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was assassinated by a Serbian.

If Austria-Hungary’s retaliatd against Serbia, Serbia’s ally Russia would enter into the conflict. Germany was allied to Austria-Hungary, France was allied to Russia, Britain was allied to France…
…so Germany tried a pre-emptive move, by invading France, but because the French-German border was well defended, they took what seemed like an easier route through neutral Belgium. The response against Germany soon led to the deadlock of trench warfare on the (German) Western Front.

egyptAustralia’s involvement came about because of their devotion to the British Empire and the government pledged troops to join the “Mother Country” in war against Germany. But before troops could get to Europe, they were dropped off in Egypt for training.

Around that time new plans were being made to open up a new battle front. The chosen target was Turkey, capital of the centuries old Ottoman Empire (an Islamic Caliphate) after Turkey sided with Germany.
A naval force was sent to break through the Dardanelles Strait, into the Sea of Marmara and on to Constantinople (now Istanbul) with the intention of neutralising the Turks, opening up a “backdoor” to break the Western Front deadlock, and to provide Russia with a safe southern shipping route.
[One of the ironies of this latter aim, is that less than 60 years earlier, the Crimean War had been fought partially to prevent Russia from invading (then British ally) Turkey and giving themselves access to a safe southern shipping route.]

The joint British-French naval force was prevented from achieving their aim by a combination of mines in the water and cannon fire from the land, so a proposed solution was hurriedly thrown together. Troops would be transported to the Aegean and landed on the Western coast of the Gallipoli peninsula where they could easily push their way to the east, overcome the protective coastal forts where the cannons were based, and open up the way to Constantinople. The Anzac troops training in Egypt were sent to become part of this solution.
However, the whole exercise was poorly planned, poorly equipped and poorly led, and a deadlock matching the one in France resulted.

The deadlock was only broken when the British and Anzac evacuated the Peninsula. In the only lasting success of the campaign they did this secretly, avoiding the massive casualties that had been expected.

Ben Quilty pays tribute to Myuran Sukumaran


A video of Ben Quilty’s speech at Myuran Sukumaran’s funeral. Follow this link (approx. 10 mins):


Ben Quilty:

“The senselessness of what happened to my friend has made me see very clearly that the act perpetrated on him was as close to evil as I have ever seen,”

The Faith of Andrew and Myuran.

From an ABC Radio interview with Rob Buckingham.


Andrew’s faith is very well known, he’s an ordained pastor, he’s been studying toward that over many years. He’s effectively been leading the church inside Kerobokan Prison now for a number of years. His faith is very well known

Myu by his nature has been a quieter person, but in more recent times has become very deep in his faith as a Christian. I think for both of them the strength of their faith came shining through. They realised that they have done the wrong thing in the past. They accepted the fact that they were caught and incarcerated. They’ve both completely reformed their own lives and were working very strongly at reforming others.

All they or anybody else was asking was that these two men would be left in prison for the rest of their lives in Indonesia so that they could continue the work of helping to reform and rehabilitate other people.

Links to recorded interview (12 mins 37 seconds):



Link to transcript:


Letter to Joko Widodo from Myuran Sukumaran’s mum

This blog entry will post on the day of Myuran Sukumaran’s funeral.

Sukamaran was murdered alongside Andrew Chan and six others at 12.25am on 29th April. All refused to be blindfolded and sang Amazing Grace as they were taken to be shot.



Myuran Sukumaran’s mum pens letter to Joko Widodo

“I am not sure where you were as the men you ordered to kill my son, and seven others pulled the trigger but I am sure you were far away,” wrote Raji Sukumaran.

“My son died knowing all his loved ones were close by waiting in a hotel room to hear the news that he had been executed.”

She also revealed one of Myuran’s final words were in prayer for Indonesia and said she hoped she could “help other people or their families in some way as they sit and wait for you to order their deaths”.

I watched as over the last four months you tortured him by making jokes about his life, making him guess the night he would be taken, openly discussing the way in which he would die, parading and humiliating our family.

I know as I write this letter, the death of our children will not make any difference to drug trade in Indonesia. I am sure you know this, and that your reasons for taking these 8 lives had nothing to do with preventing drugs and everything to do with your politics.

As I finish this letter I pray for the many other men and women whose lives are in your hands, especially those on death row. I pray that you will have the courage to look beyond the politics for they too have families who love them despite their mistakes.

Read more, including the full text of the letter at: