Every year at this time Australians and New Zealanders commemorate Anzac day. In Australia it is considered one of the most solemn and spiritual days of the year. Yet I often wonder, what sort of spirituality are we talking about? Beneath the surface trappings, how Christian is this civil religiosity?

As a pacifist, as a Christian who renounces the way of the sword for the way of the cross, I find it disturbing that the Anzac legend is so intimately connected to the remembrance of war and the waging of it. That our most sacred day as Australians is soaked in military lore. I respect the memory of those who died, but I know that in their place I would have been a conscientious objector.

This year I found myself reading an article by Stanley Hauerwas, A Pacifist’s Look at Memorial Day. Hauwerwas is talking about a different rememberance day, but it covers similar territory.

Then I came across, The Alternative ANZAC Story: An Alternative ANZAC DAY Commemoration. It is a New Zealand article, but again, it covers the same issues.

The author asks, Why an Alternative ANZAC Day commemoration?

Most ANZAC ceremonies around the country usually:

  • Only remember the men and women who served in the military
  • Suggest that participation in war is one of the most important things that our ‘peace’ and ‘freedom’ are built on
  • Suggest that national identity is connected with intimately connected with religion, patriotism and war
  • Promote nationalism and patriotism (which are often ways of seeing our place in the world that lead humans into conflict to ‘defend’ our nation, ideology, culture, beliefs and values)
  • Do not acknowledge the role of empire and access to resources that most international wars in the past 100 years have really been about
  • Do not acknowledge that ‘history belongs to the victors’ and the way ‘we’ interpret historical events will be skewed to make ‘us’ look brave, heroic, just and right
  • Do not acknowledge that peace is active not passive
  • Do not acknowledge the cultures of violence that still pervade our society through the media, arts, sports, religions and popular culture
  • Do not suggest that peace making is something we should all be involved in at a personal, family, community, national and international level
  • Do not acknowledge the role that diplomats, politicians, activists, conscientious objectors and others who have lived their lives for the cause of peace – many being killed, wounded, ignored, mocked or dismissed in the process of waging peace – men and women who have sacrificed their lives in non-violently struggling to make the world a more peaceful, free and equal place for all people

I want to honour the memory of those who died, but I also want to honour the memory of Christ who died for us. And that means remembering these other truths.

2 thoughts on “ANZAC Commemorations and Christian Nonviolence

  1. I like it that our memorial day commemorates a battle we lost. That way war is seen as tragic rather than a glorious hour in our history.

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  2. Good point Eric. In fact I heard an Anzac sermon today which very much brought out that tragic element you speak of. Was very good, the way the speaker honoured the dead without glorifying the war. I wish I had a transcript to share.

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