In modern societies people nowadays regard the notion of a holy war as nothing more than a contradiction. The deliberate slaughter and wholesale destruction of people and societies seems to be as far from holiness as one can get, surely.
However, religion and war have gone hand in hand for centuries and still do. Armies of young men forge ahead into battle with a belief that God is with them, He is on their side and will keep them safe irrespective of the risk. In biblical times, losing a war sometimes meant changing religion for the losers.
However, for war to be a holy war there has always been a central point of focus with religion being the spearhead. Preconditions such as the achievement of a religious objective, the authorisation of a religious leader and possibly spiritual rewards for the victors have a tendency to be ‘just war’ conditions.
Francis Bacon said there were five causes for holy war, (he wrote in a Christian context, but the categories would be usable by any faith) which were briefly; spreading the faith, rescuing Christians, recover religious sites being profaned and avenge blasphemous acts, or cruelties and killings of Christians (even if these took place long ago). From this you can see that the conflict against ISIS qualifies from every angle and perspective.
The British government managed an aggressive and pernicious campaign to overturn an embarrassing 2013 parliamentary vote on the bombing of Syria. It succeeded, but only after the Paris killing spree and the refugee crisis it was attached to. The reality for the government is that its citizens do not support its actions in Syria. The latest polls suggest less than half support the bombing of Syria and a third strongly object. How will they react when they find out Britain will start bombing Libya quite soon, one can only speculate.
The government accepts that it needs a new narrative to continue the indiscriminate and illegal killing of countless innocent civilians abroad to support it’s commitments to domestic weapons manufacturers and blindly follow American foreign policy.
The legitimate authority for a holy war is not the government of a state but the Church, or person who heads the religious institution concerned.
This Christmas we have witnessed something quite extraordinary – Britain’s leaders effectively ganging up to deliver a united message through the establishment press and media organisations. The Queen, The Prime Minister and our religious leaders acting in harmony, the message is religious and it’s about war.
From The Telegraph – “Britain’s two most senior clerics have drawn on the darker side of the nativity story in hard-hitting Christmas sermons warning of the possible “elimination” of Christianity from the region of its birth. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, both draw comparisons between the Biblical account of the mass murder of children around Bethlehem on the orders of King Herod and the 21st Century Jihadist threat”.
Welby branded the ISIS terror group “a Herod of today” as he warned that Christianity faces “elimination” in the region of its founding two millennia ago.
Meanwhile Cardinal Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, also used his Christmas address to speak of the surge in murder driven by faith, also describing Christians being murdered by Islamist extremists as “martyrs”.
This year, the Queen used her Christmas Day broadcast to make her most overtly religious address to the nation quoting directly from the Gospel of John. She highlighted the Christian message of light triumphing over the dark following a year which has seen “moments of darkness.”
In a masterclass of hypocrisy Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, in a speech in Oxford on the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, called for a revival of traditional Christian values.
He staunchly defended the role of religion in politics (something previous politicians have steered well away from) and said the Bible in particular was crucial to British values. “We are a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so,” he told the audience at Christ Church.
What binds these speeches together is the politicisation of Britain’s indigenous religion as a pretext for attacking (or defending ourselves) another country based on its religion – in essence, a holy war.
From the The Independent – Britain faces a terrorist threat lasting for decades, David Cameron has warned, as the official alert level was raised due to events in Iraq and Syria.
To ensure this new and enforced religious and political doctrine will continue for those decades we find that our schools must teach that Britain is a Christian country. “The guidance I have issued today makes absolutely clear that the recent judicial review will have no impact on what is currently being taught in religious education.”
The Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan made her comments after David Cameron’s Christmas message to stress Britain was a Christian country in what was widely viewed as his most religious address ever.
The sudden emergence of a holy theme entering British politics is not only surprising but should be regarded as deeply suspicious. For a start, it is endorsed by a prime minister who advocates the illegal extra-judicial murder of British citizens, the bombing and killing of innocent civilians, isolation and blame culture towards the ‘undeserving poor’ and suspicion of war-torn refugees – hardly christian traits of any sort.
Jesus, who famously taught, “blessed are the peacemakers” would have abhorred people like David Cameron, Francoise Hollande and Barrack Obama for their actions. Perceived as a political dissident and threat to government power with anti-government views, Jesus would have been arrested by these leaders and labelled a domestic extremist. The key thrown away.
But Cameron does not have such values. Britain is now the second largest arms seller in the world – thriving off death and destruction. It sells to any country who will buy no matter what human rights abuses occur as a result. One need not look further than the continued arms sales to Israel and their treatment of the Palestinians. According to historical and traditional sources, Jesus lived in Roman Judea, and died and was buried on the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, making the area a Holy Land for Christianity. Two thousand years later, Israelis and Palestinians and the wider world argue from which clan Jesus descended. Britain is weaponising the region. The irony.
All of this in the backdrop of a declining religious society back in Britain. In the ten years between the 2001 and 2011 census, Briton’s registering their christian faith fell by 20% and there was a 67% rise in people reporting no religion.
As we all know, the great series of western holy wars were the Crusades. These took place from 1095 until 1291 CE with the aim of capturing the sacred places in the Holy Land from the Muslims who lived there. It was intended as a war to right wrongs done against Christianity as mentioned earlier by Francis Bacon.
The first Crusade captured Jerusalem after bitter fighting. The residents of the city were utterly brutalised and slaughtered in their thousands by the Christian invaders. The conduct of the invaders breached the principles of modern just war ethics.
Clearly, nothing has changed in two thousand years except the narrative and even that has seemingly moved 360 degrees.
Whilst the massacres still colour politics on both Christian and Islamic sides to this day, it is alarming to think that modern wars are now being waged under the guise of religion on the basis that all other excuses have been exhausted.