Notes on episode 15
War: what is it good for? We’re talking about the God of the Anzacs + Australian war songs.
For arguments sake: where we take a debate, cut out the party politics and try to talk it out
War is a controversial topic among Christians. We have been divided in the past over whether war is something Christians should endorse. And there have been historical instances where religion was responsible for “whipping up” war, as Michael says, recalling the Pope and the Crusades. In this contemporary world we live in we still see a connection with religion and violence. So what do we do with this aspect of our faith?
Megan and Michael discuss whether there is ever justification for Christians to not be pacifists? Might there be a case, thinking through the ‘Just War’ theory, where it is absolutely necessary to go to war?
And then there’s the Anzac tradition and the dangers of romanticising war. Michael says that while he believes it is important to honour those who went to war on our behalf, we should question whether we are glorifying bloodshed rather than bemoaning it. Megan wonders whether the Anzac tradition has changed now to be more like myth or legend.
Did you know? Much of the Anzac Day commemoration events were started by a Christian minister, Canon David John Garland? Megan and Michael say they have observed that much of the Christian ‘commemorative’ aspects of Anzac Day services have been stripped away, to become more about Australia and our national character which has been formed through bloody sacrifice. Megan also questions the male emphasis of Anzac, saying in her research Australian nurses were originally very involved in Anzac commemorations, but seem to have been sidelined now. “It’s an exclusionary myth, and not just for women,” she says.
Also mentioned in this segment:
- Stanley Haerwaus – “the pacifist you want on your side in a bar room brawl” – has put a strong case for Christians not being involved in war.
- Augustine and ‘Just war’. Read more here or here.
- Miroslav Volf’s Exclusion and Embrace
- Canon David Garland and Anzac commemoration services (see also this ABC article on Canon Garland)
- The Great War nurses story
- Anzac Day: is it just for the boys? from the University of Melbourne.
- David Malouf’s The Great World
- A Peculiar Obsession, SMH: Professor Tom Frame (ex navy, bishop to defence, now academic) says it is important we remember that ”commemoration” is different from ”celebration” and from ”contrition”. The centenary is a commemoration, but if we are going to err it should be towards contrition.
- SMH article on Yasmin Abdel-Magied’s infamous Anzac Day tweet
Be our guest: opening up the conversation
For this episode, Megan and Michael invite Daniel Reynaud, Associate Professor of History at Avondale College of Higher Education. David wrote Anzac Spirituality: The first AIF soldiers speak. Reynaud is also working on a follow-up book, tracing individual Anzac stories and their journeys of faith through the war.
Daniel told Megan and Michael that God is big part of the Anzac story: “an unrecognised part”. Daniel says that in his research for the book he was “shocked” at how often Anzac soldiers spoke about their faith in letters and diaries.
Mentioned in this segment:
- Anzac Spirituality: The first AIF soldiers speak by Daniel Reynaud
- Captains of the Soul: A history of Australian army chaplains by Michael Gladwin
- Gallipoli, 2015 mini-series
Marg and Dave: reviews from two people obsessed by stories but not always the same one
Megan and Michael dissect four war ‘conflicted’ songs:
- The Band Played Waltzing Matilda – Eric Bogle (1972) WW1
- Khe Sanh – Cold Chisel (1978) Vietnam
- I was only 19 – Redgum (1983) Vietnam
- Bodies – Wafia (2017) – modern Syria
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We got the idea of our two-header theology and culture podcast from this show: The Movie Show/At the Movies.