Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Christian General

Browsing again through Anglican news, I ran across an interesting story. General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff of the British Army has said that part of the responsibility of a good military officer is to prepare those who serve for the possibility that they might die, and in light of that possibility, to prepare them for what comes after. Ruth Gledhill, coauthor of the news story in the Times (and a well known commentator on things Anglican), reported on her blog,

This is what Sir Richard officially said, in full: 'In my business, asking people to risk their lives is part of the job, but doing so without giving them the chance to understand that there is a life after death is something of a betrayal, and I think there is very much an obligation on ...a Christian leader to include a spiritual dimension into his people's preparations for operations, and the general conduct of their lives. Qualities and core values are fine as a universally acceptable moral baseline for leadership, but the unique life, death, resurrection and promises of Christ provide that spiritual opportunity that I believe takes the privilege of leadership to another level.'

In no small part I agree with the General. One of the reports we’ve heard again and again in light of the extensive use of military Reservists in Iraq is that they didn’t really expect they’d ever face combat. They hadn’t really considered that dying in combat was one possible consequence of enlisting, made more likely by recent changes in the military to shift many important combat support responsibilities to the Reserves. Perhaps there’s no way to really prepare them. I can only imagine that officers did their best to call Reservists to take this seriously.

On the other hand, Sir Richard seems to have a rather specific, and specifically Christian, understanding about which troops should be informed. I don’t question the stability of his own beliefs in this instance. I question how respectful it is of the troops under his command who may not share his understanding of Life, the Universe, and Everything. I can well imagine how such a statement would be received if it had come from in that form from an American military officer.

Well, we’ll just have to wait and see.


Ann said...

I, too, wonder what he tells his troops who have a different understanding -- seems like the UK is more strict about sharing one's faith from a position of power - so will look for news on this.

Marshall Scott said...

I was somewhat surprised I hadn't seen anything already. I first found this on Thursday, and didn't find anything today. I know how fast the response would have been here.

I have heard soldiers and sailors over the years share their testimonies, but I've not heard one say he had said something to a larger group so specific. As I said, I can imagine being clear about being realistic about the fact that folks may die in combat, and even encouraging folks to reflect on that in light of their respective beliefs; but to go on and specify the Christian hope....