Chaplain-General the Reverend Jonathan Woodhouse
[Picture: Corporal Steve Blake, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]

The UK MOD’s People In Defence series this month featured the British Army’s Chaplain-General on his work and thinking. I particularly liked the answer he gave to this question:

LM: In war films, chaplains traditionally reassure soldiers that God is on their side, but logically he can’t be on everyone’s side? What’s your take?

JW: I don’t think that God is on anyone’s side. It’s up to us to be on God’s side and seek out the way he wants us to live. In certain circumstances soldiers are allowed to use lethal force as a last resort but there are very clear rules of engagement. We minister to people who may be called on to use lethal force and that brings a creative tension. War is always the last resort.

Read the whole interview here.

0 Responses

  1. Very interesting, Mike! Have to say I saw this interview on the intranet and thought of you. In Afghanistan one of our padres was challenged by one young soldier who said that he didn't believe that God was anyone's side – to which the padre replied 'Very well. But God's on my side, and I'M definitely on your side', tapping the British flag on his shirt. The young soldier thought for a moment, then said, 'I'm happy with that', and walked off.

  2. A similar idea from another thoughtful man: "I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lords side." (Abraham Lincoln)

  3. Thanks for the great comments all! My own thought is that it was a clever and wise answer to a journalists question. Soldiers, as Sean and Col S note, like simpler answers. One friend of mine likes to say that the soldier going outside the wire wants to hear the padre say `May God protect you as you go smite the heathen`. The problem though is that in Afghanistan our soldiers know that the Taliban think and hear that God is on their side, and so it`s tempting for them to say it`s all rubbish. I would say that there are times when God wants soldiers to stand with the good against evil, and that some wars are necessary. I thnk Woodhouse says as much in his answer. Just read Michael Burleigh`s book Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War Two and you will get very impatient with the moral equivalency argument that there is no right or wrong in war. Of course there is. A padre has to find a way to say that while acknowledging that even just warriors must fight penitently in the awareness that the world they fight in and for is a fallen world and that the greatest enemy is sin.
    Phew, that was a bit preachy, wasnt it.

  4. I've been nominated for the Liebster’s Award for my blog and part of that is to nominate five other blogs I really enjoy, so I'm nominating yours. I know this is a meme, but hey, as PT Barnum use to say, 'There's no such thing as bad publicity'. The suggested rules for accepting the award can be found on my blog entry about being nominated.

    Regardless if you wish to join in, you've been giving me some great reading. Keep it up!