Last year saw a flood of new books on World War 1. When I saw a new one in a bookshop or library, I would pick it up and look up how much space it gave to the issue of opposition to the war. This was particularly so if it was presented as a general history of the war, or of Britian’s part in it.
Ninety-nine years ago today (2 March 1916), every unmarried man aged between 18 and 41 in England, Scotland and Wales was “deemed to have enlisted” in the armed forces. It was only a few months before another act was passed, extending conscription to married men.
Back in October 2014, Ekklesia co-spopnsored a major debate on war and peace, provocatively entitled "Who would Jesus shoot?" As a think tank committed to practical and principled nonviolence, we are following up that event in a number of ways - social media discussion, commissioned articles and other material.
Shortly after Christmas 1914, an order was issued by John French, the general in charge of the British troops on the Western Front. He had heard of the informal truces that had broken out along the front on Christmas Day. He ordered that such events must never be repeated. A year later, ahead of the following Christmas, soldiers were reminded that they would be charged with disobeying orders if there was another truce.
I recently preached at Kensington Unitarian Church, where I was pleased to receive a warm welcome and to engage in some good discussions. Here is the text of my sermon. I explored issues of faith, power and loyalty, looking particularly at Jesus' comments when asked if Jews should pay taxes to the Roman Emperor. I suggested this passage should be read not as a surrender to power but as a challenge to it.
I had the privilege last week of speaking at Exeter University Debating Society, opposing the motion that “This house believes that World War One was a great British victory.” I am pleased to say that those present voted against the motion by seventy votes to forty.
Andrew Murrison MP is the government’s special representative on the World War One Centenary Commission. At Exeter University tomorrow (14 November), he will propose the motion “This house believes that World War One was a great British victory.” I have been asked to oppose the motion.
As part of its ongoing work on Remembrance, peacemaking and the investment of churches and civil society groups in alternatives to armed conflict, Ekklesia was delighted to sponsor a conversation on 12 November 2014 looking the justification of war alongside opposition to war, violence and nonviolence in the Christian tradition.
This is the provocative title of a conversation and debate between Tom Yoder Neufeld, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies (New Testament) at Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo and Nigel Biggar, Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at Oxford University.
One sign of the impact of militarism is the number of progressively minded people who express a belief in peace but support war once it is proposed. This is rather like being teetotal until you're offered a drink.