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The Word on the Week

Soldiers of Fantasy

As I drove home from Dublin the car radio belted out Cherubino’s aria “What a glorious thing is war” from Mozart’s opera “The Marriage of Figaro” and I couldn’t help feeling how the arts perpetuate the fallacy that war is glamorous.    It is a major component in our childhood.

As children in the playground (we were segregated from the girls) we acted out our aggression from the earliest age, ironically using the concrete air raid shelters in the school yard as part of the battleground.    Later when we developed bicep’s these were used to settle disputes which usually ended with someone drawing blood or the arrival of a teacher – whichever came first!

Throughout the teenage years energy was expended in various sports and any fights were carried out in the controlled environment of the boxing ring.

WW2 had ended and the bomb damage was considerable especially around harbours in the UK as the enemy had tried to starve the population.    Damage to soldiers who survived was infinitely greater, many bearing physical wounds and dreadful mental scarring.   It was the latter which was cloaked in silence.    Men returning from the front, after both world wars, did not speak about the horrors they had experienced. The contrast with Cherubino’s aria could not have been greater.  

The use of war as a means to settle matters of nationalistic pride is worse than useless, frequently copper fastening the dispute it sought to resolve.   It festers in the folklore and may erupt long after the fighting has stopped.   “Freedom fighters” globally believe the opposite!   All they want is a cause, weapons and a martyr’s death.   The school playground battles are played out on a national scale the appeal of the gun trumping the ballot box.

It was so from the beginning.    Did not Cain kill his brother because he was a murderer (1 John Chapter 3 verse 12) and this was the Bible’s first family!   Later when there were Kings we are told that at least part of King David’s problem was his absence from the battlefield (2 Samuel Chapter 11 verse 1).   The need to defend borders with arms was (and is) universal.

The New Testament covers the period when the Roman armies controlled most things in the region.    Jesus’ attitude of friendly assistance must have been hard to follow (St Matthew Chapter 5 verse 41). 

In a world where war is the norm the Scriptures use war as a metaphor for sin living within us battling against our desire to do the right thing (Romans Chapter 7 verse 21-25).    St Paul asks the question, who will rescue me?   The answer comes forth in the resounding claim that rescue or rather salvation is found in our faith being planted in the work of Jesus Christ.    He is both the immediate rescuer and the ultimate rescuer of those who surrender to him.

We will have our Cherubino’s who want to celebrate the 1916 Rising as something glorious.

Instead it should be remembered as part of our history and do something about the ongoing war within which robs us of our peace with God and with our fellow human beings.