The Feast of St Mark the Evangelist

Just happens to fall on Anzac Day…fascinating. Two competing stories, one of which I confess to favouring over the other…

It should be said, I have some ambivalence towards Anzac Day. It always reminds me of my Grandad, who died last year, as he was a career soldier in the Australian Army. I had a lot in common with my Grandad, a real connection, and I even marched with him one year in the parade. That is among my most cherished memories of him. Holding these truths in tension (that I love my Grandad, and at the same time oppose the army) is not easy. So it should be known that while I respect and even admire those who gave their lives, I cannot support their violence. I think it’s possible to hold that tension.

Anzac Day has become a replacement religion in our country for those who have none. It’s an investment in the myth of redemptive violence, a deeply-embedded legend about how our nation was formed (particularly with reference to Gallipoli). So much so that when anti-war protesters yesterday (in a demonstration of particularly poort timing and sensitivity) painted slogans like “Anzacs are murderers” on a war memorial, instead of discussion over what this might mean, there is only outrage. Which is to say, rage, rather than dialogue.

It should be recognised that Anzac Day reinforces some pretty anti-Christian ideas. Below is the AAANZ’s (Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand) reasons for staging an alternative Anzac Day:

Most ANZAC ceremonies around the country usually:
– only remember the men and women who served in the military
– suggest that participation in war is one of the most important things that our ‘peace’ and ‘freedom’ are built on
– suggest that national identity is connected with intimately connected with religion, patriotism and war
– promote nationalism and patriotism (which are often ways of seeing our place in the world that lead humans into conflict to ‘defend’ our nation, ideology, culture, beliefs and values)
– do not acknowledge the role of empire and access to resources that most international wars in the past 100 years have really been about
– do not acknowledge that ‘history belongs to the victors’ and the way ‘we’ interpret historical events will be skewed to make ‘us’ look brave, heroic, just and right
– do not acknowledge that peace is active not passive
– do not acknowledge the cultures of violence that still pervade our society through the media, arts, sports, religions and popular culture
– do not suggest that peace making is something we should all be involved in at a personal, family, community, national and international level
– do not acknowledge the role that diplomats, politicians, activists, conscientious objectors and others who have lived their lives for the cause of peace – many being killed, wounded, ignored, mocked or dismissed in the process of waging peace – men and women who have sacrificed their lives in non-violently struggling to make the world a more peaceful, free and equal place for all people.

On the other hand, we celebrate St. Mark today, a man (or at least a community) who penned the story we now have as number two in the Second Testament. A very political story (as those who have read Ched Myers will know), yet one that consistently advocates the way of nonviolence; not merely for one country, but for the whole world. That this man who was killed at the hands of the State is actually the way forward; not military victory, not killing others, but one who refuses, to the point of death, to kill others.

And it is this second story that gives us a way forward. A way into an alternative kingdom – dare I say an anti-empire – that never coerces, never dominates, and only loves people into cooperation.

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