the one that everyone hates

so today is 11.11.11. there has been much in our media about the wearing (or not) of red poppies. everyone gets hot under the collar about people who won't wear them and the proliferation of them on everything from 'strictly' to 'question time' becomes quite stifling.

i wear a white poppy for a number of reasons. firstly, i believe that primarily peace and reconciliation should be the answer to conflict and violence. the white poppies have an important and long history which gives them a provenance equally as signficant and valid as the red poppies. they appeared first in 1933, an initiative of the cooperative women's guild. women were beginning to sense that the war which claimed husbands, sons, brothers and sweethearts - the war that was to end all wars - had not done its job. it was not, as had been hoped, the answer to the problem of violence and oppression. and on the doorstep of history they were being faced with another war, more violence, more death. into this scenario came the symbol of the white poppy.

i don't particularly think that, for the most part, the red poppy glorifies war. i know that this is an argument against wearing them, but i don't think i've ever heard anyone say that war is a good thing. i do think that the red poppy has become a symbol beyond its beginnings. i think that it can and has become linked with a militarism and nationalism which is quite unhealthy - particularly in light of the range of nationalities who fought with, and continue to fight with the british troups.

but regardless almost of the poppy debate, i've begun to realise that there is another discomfort that christians face on this day.

the remembrance day service.

it appears to be the one that makes people feel a bit stuck. we don't want to be disrespectful. we're really grateful for the freedom we enjoy and yet....we don't want to get caught up in the idea that military might and violence are the answer. when we know that, as christians, well...generally we're not meant to like war are we? how do we say all this without getting our proverbial knickers in a twist?

a lot of clergy seem to grit their teeth and 'get through it', navigating their way through the possible minefield (excuse the pun) that is those in their congregation who were directly affected by WWI or WWII, and the call to be those who work for peace and reconciliation as a way of life for followers of jesus. we want to care for those who have been bereaved and to remember in order to not repeat. but perhaps that's where we've made an error. we are called to be a people who 're-member'. in the church i'm part of, we do this 're-membering' in all our services. we are a eucharistic community.

but the re-membering that we are called to do as church, is quite different to the remembering that we are asked to do in our remembrance day services. one is done as a way of stopping us from doing the same things - remember the war and the death, so as not to keep doing it. the other is a literal re-membering, a putting together of a story once told, so that the story is never forgotten, and so it remains living and real, and we keep bringing the story to life, so that it is lived and repeated, and told and 'memed' around the world.

one form of remembering leaves us with a sense of inability to make it mean anything at all - we keep fighting, we keep doing violence, war is worse now than at any other time in history. remembering in order to not repeat, does not, it seems, work. on the other hand, the other form of remembering - re-membering, putting back together - lives and brings to life. when we do our eucharistic liturgy, we 'do this in remembrance of him' and it opens us up to the new possibilities of a life lived in God, this kind of re-membering, sparks our imaginations.

i think we don't quite know what to do with a remembrance day that doesn't quite understand what 'to re-member' really means, and what 're-membering' asks of the human psyche. a tension goes on inside our psychologies when we are asked essentially to 'remember to forget'.

whatever your perspective on war and peace, this liturgical service needs some re-work. i'm hoping that we can come together and re-member who we are in the face of a world at war.

let me know what you think.


radical disciple said...


dennisthemennis.co.uk said...

i often avoid church on this day as it invokes all kinds of annoying thoughts for me, even for someone my age I don't really have some close enough to remember so I try and remember those who are still alive i.e friends and family who are still soldiers.

I am more in favour of what the funds raised goes towards, I find that far more helpful and chose not to wear a poppy this year because I was told I had too.

your right it is a minefield and one I would rather not tread especially when it comes to church ...

nice to see you blogging again ...

trust your well ...

radical disciple said...

hi den


i do think that it's become something untouchable, un-discussable, which i think is a mistake with these things. as soon as something becomes taboo to disagree with or discuss, then we're on a slippery slope to cult behaviour and shibboleth setting.