Marching as to War

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
with the cross of Jesus going on before.

This hymn always made me feel uncomfortable as a child, although churchgoers in England used to sing it with gusto. It was written by Sabine Baring-Gould, a nineteenth-century Anglican priest who fathered fifteen children and wrote a number of books, including a study of werewolves. Go figure, as they say. He wrote the hymn for a procession of children in Wakefield, Yorkshire (children?) In 1941, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill found it appropriate, being wartime and all, for a big event with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Tomorrow in Kingston, Jamaica, the Christian soldiers (a hitherto unknown organization called Jamaica C.A.U.S.E.) will be marching for what they consider an important cause. It is homophobia, under the guise of “righteousness” and “freedom of speech” and so on. They are protesting the firing of Professor Brendan Bain, who testified in a Belizean court on behalf of a fundamentalist Christian group (please see several earlier posts about this matter). A motorcade will travel all the way from the University of the West Indies campus to Half Way Tree, where the assembled churches will hold a rally. Which they have every right to do, by the way.

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There is one man who is my idea of a true Christian. His name is Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a man who was at the forefront of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.“I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place,” said the ever-radical Archbishop. Although what he says is common sense, not radicalism to me. “The Jesus I worship is not likely to collaborate with those who vilify and persecute an already oppressed minority,” Archbishop Tutu has also observed. “To discriminate against our sisters and brothers who are lesbian or gay on grounds of their sexual orientation for me is as totally unacceptable and unjust as apartheid ever was.”

As someone who campaigned against the apartheid regime in my student days in England (yes, I know that dates me!) these words ring true. It is about compassion. When I see the distorted, angry, fanatical faces of these “Christians” I don’t see love or compassion. I thought that was what Jesus was about. Fighting discrimination of any kind is a matter of justice, and a matter of love, as the Archbishop said.

Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;

forward into battle see his banners go!

Well, below is my personal response:

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12 thoughts on “Marching as to War

  1. As Nelson Mandela once said, ‘For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.’

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    1. Absolutely, Jack. Mandela had a way of saying these inspiring things that simply made perfect sense on all levels! Why is it so hard to see this, though? Thanks for your comment…

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  2. Thanks for pointing out Bishop Tutu’s views on homophobia. Bishop Tutu also has changed his earlier opinion on the “cause” of homosexuality and now accepts that people ARE born this way.

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  3. Bigots will always be on the wrong side of history. With World Pride wrapping up in Toronto today and PRIDE this weekend in London it is good to see how far the world has come on LGBT rights. Some places just have much further to go. I also look forward to an update on what happens after the march.

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    1. Yes, Melissa, I know you are right! When I read those reports about Toronto – even Istanbul and other places – I wonder if Jamaica is on the same planet. We do have a long way to go. I will certainly update you on the march. One or two friends are down there, observing.

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  4. Emma, I look forward to an update after the march tomorrow. Thanks for sharing those words from Tutu. If only people around the world can live their lives and really believe those words. I love yours too:)

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    1. He is such a wise man, I am in awe of him. I am glad you like my words too, although I am not 1/10 as articulate! Thanks so much for your comment, Patrick!

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