Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Christian Soldiers

Goode Sir Jason supplies us with this great nugget of history...

I am the King's good servant, but God's first-Sir

Thomas More


When was the First World War? 1914-1918? Wrong, that
is just the war titled the "first world war". The real
first world war was between 1793 and 1815.
The parralel between the Napoleanic War and World War
II is remarkable. Both had simmilar elements.
Political religions, idolatry of a tyrant, underground
terrorist groups, police states, blitzkrieg, on and
on. They also followed similar courses, down to the
Russian disaster, and the slow grind of attrition. And
both have repercussions that remain with us to this
day.

The British army hasn't been been prone to religion or
ideology since Cromwell's day. It is a tribalistic
army-it's religion is "the regiment". And it's
commander Arthur Wellesley the Duke of Wellington,
was, so far as we know, not a particularly religious
person either. His religion seems to have been Public
Service. An unpretentious but unsatisfactory religion
which he served well: he was prudent, incorruptible,
and loyal. But devotion was not for him. His army was
a typical eighteenth-century army: brave but rather
stupid aristocrats leading a brave band of hardy men
who couldn't get another job. Boney used to eat armies
like these for his afternoon lunch. Yet this
unpretentious general and it's unpretentious men
defeated the French again and again.
Wellington's men regularly entertained themselves with
drink and women as soldiers will. So did their
officers.

But marching with them there was another group. These
stayed sober, stayed away from women and generally
behaved in an upright manner paradoxical to their
calling.

For this hard time was also the time of the Methodist
revival. And these were the Methodists in red tunics.
While others gathered to drink, they gathered to pray
and read the Bible. Others laughed at them. Wellington
thought them a subversive influence-after all a
drunken soldier doesn't have much of a platform to
look down on his drunken officers from. These people
did and looking down on people was Wellington's
perrogative (and one he exercised quite freely). In
fact this proved boundless: the Methodists proved
loyal and brave soldiers. And as at least one officer
pointed out, it was rather strange to say that prayer
meetings were more subversive than rum.
Yet, despite all this, they soldiered on-in both the
physical and spiritual sense. They are seldom
remembered but there they were, the red-coated
Methodists.

2 comments:

  1. Excellent story, Sir J. While looking for more info on the topic, I ran across this unrelated piece of journalistic curiousity I knew you could appreciate.

    How Old England Trains Her Red Coats

    Reading it makes the chivalrous knight long for the "good olde days" of a century ago...

    Sir C the Romantic

    ReplyDelete
  2. One correction: it was Wellington himself who said that prayer meetings were at least better then rum. He was a cynical fellow but he had a lot of common sense.

    Sir Jason

    ReplyDelete