THE FINAL SACRIFICE

Courtesy of The Daily Telegraph - extracts from articles and Editorial comment.

THE Right Reverend Stephen Lowe, Bishop of Hulme in the Diocese of Manchester, writing in his diocesan newsletter, "Crux" has denounced the stirring and popular hymn, "I vow to thee my country". The Bishop's earthly concerns seem to be with a rise in nationalism, in both the UK and in other European countries. He appears to equate this as 'false' patriotic reawakening and with the rise of National Socialism in the 1930's. Bizarrely,the Bishop links his fears about National Socialism to this hymn and he will not permit it to be sung in any church of his diocese.

The first verse provides us with a marvellous explanation of what patriotism has always been - "The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test, that lays upon the altar, the dearest and the best. The love that never falters, the love that pays the price, the love that makes undaunted, the final sacrifice" There is no reference here to racial supremacy or any Nietzschean concept of the Super Man. I find it particularly galling that the Bishop should express his views, when at the same time (August 14th); two British soldiers were killed by terrorist actions in Iraq. In fact, sixty-four soldiers have died in combat there since March 2003. The hymn was written in 1918, when its author Sir Cecil Spring-Rice and former British Ambassador to the United States, was reflecting on the casualties suffered by the British Army on the Western Front.

The words of this hymn still hold true today. Let me reflect on the gallantry of all the British Army in Iraq: Lieutenant Toby Rider of the Royal Engineers has been awarded the Military Cross. He is a Troop Commander and Bomb Disposal Officer. He has already won the MC, for clearing demolition charges from the North Ramayla Bridge in Southern Iraq. He dismantled more than 200 barrels of explosives, while under enemy artillery fire. Why else would someone put themselves through such an ordeal, if not believing in some higher purpose, such as love of country? All branches of the armed forces have members who have won decorations. One George Cross has been awarded to a Trooper in the Blues and Royals. Several Military Crosses, Conspicuous Gallantry medals, Distinguished Service Crosses and Distinguished Flying Crosses have also been awarded.

The Bishop, we feel, is nothing more than a trendy left-wing apparatchik, masquerading as a Churchman. Any true Christian could not fail to be moved by the second verse of this hymn, which describes perfectly the Christian view of an ideal world to which we aspire. "Her ways are ways of gentleness and all her paths are peace". Christians do not count their strengths by the size of an army, but by the number of souls saved "... we may not count her armies ... and soul by soul and silently, her shining bounds increase". The perfect response to this Bishop must surely be, to ensure that the hymn is regularly sung at Sunday Worship, as well as on special occasions. I am fortunate; I attend a church where it is regularly sung.

Equally inspiring is the hymn "Jerusalem". Politically correct folk have tried to ban it because it appears that any mention of one's country in such a context, is a crime. It would be wrong however, to assume that everyone on the left despises "Jerusalem". I remember hearing on Radio 4's Desert Island Disks during the past 18 months, A.H. Halsey, Lord Sainsbury and Lord Putnam, as one of their 8 records, all chose the score from the film "Chariots of Fire". The title of this film was taken from the hymn, "Jerusalem". My interpretation of "Jerusalem" in this context is that William Blake felt that we should attempt to build a Christian Utopia in England. But this clearly is not a popular aspiration within the multi-faith Britain of 2004.

Another piece of politically incorrect rhyme can be found in the second verse of the English National Anthem, viz: "0 Lord God arise, scatter our enemies, and make them fall! Confound their knavish tricks, Confuse their politics, on you our hopes we fix, God Save the Queen". The Orange Institution seems to be one of the few organisations today, which regularly sings the full National Anthem. I think it is incumbent upon us to ensure that the second verse is sung as regularly as the first and fifth verses.

*Full details can be found at www.operations.mod.uk/telic/op_honours_mc.htm

 

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