One More Gift Under The Tree…

…But it might not be one that too many people want to open. I’ve wondered for a while how much a role World War I played in the decline of European Christianity. I don’t know that it’s something that we look at a whole lot, but surely all the commemorations of the 1914 Christmas truce bear an examination. Here it is nicely packaged up by Sainsbury’s (who hope to remind you to buy chocolate from them as well) for a Christmas advertising campaign:

It’s impossible to imagine two groups of predominantly Protestant soldiers from northern Europe (the Germans who participated in the Christmas truce were mostly Saxons no less!) singing the same hymn on the same night to the same God and then being told by the horrified senior officer corps on each side to get back to killing each other in the name of, among other things, God, not having some impact on how they think about God. In the winter of 1914 perhaps a sizeable number of them still believed that the war would be a short-term affair, perhaps in those brief moments in no-man’s land they thought that this little gesture would hasten the conclusion of the war.

This little clip reminds me of how I learned about this story in school and how it is generally repeated in popular culture, that there was this brief, almost magical moment of truce and then war had to recommence because, well, because there was a war on and that hideous circular argument was enough. That Europe would destroy itself in such way at a moment when European civilization dominated the world surely has to have been as corrosive to Christianity as any argument by any philosopher, as any discovery in science or anything else that has been thought to shaken the foundations of Christendom.