Thursday, July 31, 2014

Baxter (4) Chaplain

Baxter described a speech by an army chaplain.

I remember one day a padre addressing the troops. As we listened to him I heard the men around me sigh and murmur beneath their breath. The padre seemed to be out of touch with his audience and not very sure of himself. He told us that wonderful things would come out of the war, when it was over we would be free to build a new and better world. Great spiritual blessings would spring from these times of trouble and sacrifice. Rulers were to gain great wisdom and lead us to a condition of wellbeing and security that we had not dreamed of in pre-war days.

I wondered as he went on word- spinning how much of it he believed himself. It was impossible to tell, for the poor man had not the freedom that I had to express himself. Was there a parson at the front who dared to preach ‘Thou shalt not kill', that all men are brothers and God the father of all, irrespective of race, creed or colour, and that, things being so, the combatants on both sides should fraternize with the enemy? Or a parson with socialist views who dared to say to the troops that the fact that the imperialists and financiers had fallen out was no reason why the workers should be led into war to blow the soup out of one another? And what would happen to such a man? He would be brought up with a round turn, adjudged a nerve case or a mental case and so rendered harmless. To run the military machine efficiently everyone must be regimented. Beliefs on war or religion matter little but the expression of them must not be suffered to do harm.

This was the only religious address I remember hearing in France. No padre ever spoke to me personally all the time I was there.

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