This recruit, this sheep, this Christian

Polly and Cassie have moved. The new herd to which they are currently joined had used up the whole field in this exceptionally miserable weather, and they have gone to pastures new. They know that at the moment they are with this gorup, though I am sure they are puzzled as to why, but they will also settle down at home when they get there. Within the new herd they have their own loyalties, their own agendas. They have kept their own identities.

As a life long pacifist, I admit I am prejudiced against the army. I may be unfair in the degree of horror that yesterday’s reports from young American Marines created in me. ‘This recruit’, ‘this recruit’ – never ‘I’. It was as though all sense of self have been expunged. That sense which makes my old Highland Mace, after six years seperation, greet his former herd-mate Coriander, as though she had been gone a week, and Jones and she, who never warmed to each other, greet at arms length – should that be at rear leg’s length? They are simple animals, but secure in a sense of self.

I hope to God that the recruits, much more complicated animals, in fact hold a secure sense of Joe, and Anne, and Elle, and Hank securely under the flack jackets. That such a sense will be resurrected when they leave the forces. I hope.

My former husband gave me, as a first-ever present, ‘Ich und Du’, ‘I and Thou’ Buber’s great book which hymns the sense of self and the sense of other. Only those who know ‘I’ can stand face to face and know ‘Thou’. It appears that to kill, to work as a unit, to be killed, one must lost that sense.

In the foundation rite of the Christian faith, we give personal names. Christian names. In Church we are known always by those names, not by a family name, not a unit name, never, ever as ‘this Christian’. I have always stood against that strand of Christianity which drifts increasingly towards a lonely individual who stands in isolation before God. But this forces me back. Unless it is ‘I’ who is part of the whole created world, then nothing is. Only ‘I’, only Rosemary, or Mace, or Polly, can be part of that glowing glorious conglomeration. Only ‘Ich’ can ever be part of the Communion of Saints, and the Chruch Triumphant.

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2 responses to “This recruit, this sheep, this Christian

  1. You’re asking to be misread as “lowing glorious congregation” at first…

    There’s Pauline authority for a sense of individual awareness / self-knowledge, too: the head cannot say anything to the foot if it doesn’t know headness nor footness.

    I also have real difficulty with military forces. Withholding the thoughts with which I struggle most in this area, I can safely say the lack-of-self you mention stands diametrically opposed to Christianity’s moral stance of treating people as beings of (self-)worth and value, as expressed in the phrase “made in God’s image”.

  2. I guess a certain amount of de-humanising is probably necessary if people are going to be trained successfully to kill other people and survive doing it – though the number of military and ex-military people I come into contact through my work suggests that there is a cost to taking the “I” out of humans – even when people believe passionately in the value of what they do and take a real pride in their way of life.

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