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We’ve left God behind on our Anzac march to ‘relevance’

My grandfather, Jock Inglis (right), with Salvation Army Red Shield Representative Albert Moore in Palestine during World War Two.

The Salvation Army has a very close relationship with the men and women of our armed forces. We are renowned for our down-to-earth, fair-dinkum care, concern and support.

During World War Two, my grandfather, Jock Inglis, served as a personal servant to a Salvation Army representative (chaplain) in North Africa, the Middle East and Papua New Guinea. There are great photos of him handing out tea, coffee, cigarettes, writing paper and other comforts to soldiers in The Salvation Army ‘Hop-In’ tents.

This kind of support continues to this day wherever significant numbers of Australian military personnel are found.

One of the other, more visible, ways we offer our support is through the marches and services held on Anzac Day. At dawn services across Australia, Salvation Army brass bands have marched and played for decades.

What has been interesting is to see that over the past 15 years or so, Anzac Day services have changed dramatically. Initially, Anzac Day memorial services were modelled on Protestant Christian funerals. They included prayers, hymns and a sermon from a priest or minister.

Over the past couple of decades, as World War One and Two veterans fade in our memories, organisers have started to search for different ways to be relevant to younger generations.

The songs and stories that surround Anzac Day have begun to change. In some locally run Anzac services, hymns about God are being replaced with songs about Australia, prayers to God are being replaced with poems about Australians, and sermons from padres are being replaced with addresses from military officers.

War and violence are regrettable but sometimes necessary by-products of our broken world.

While trying to be more relevant, they have removed many of the references to God and inadvertently changed something significant about Anzac Day.

In times gone by, when we went to war, we went believing it was the right thing to do. Even though war is horrific, traumatic and destructive, we were confident that a higher power believed it was necessary to combat a greater evil with a greater good.

Many memorials described the sacrifice of people as being for “God, King and Country”. When we remove God from our understanding of military history, we are left with the belief that we fight on the moral authority of our government, a far less impressive entity than God.

From a Christian perspective, when we refer to God on Anzac Day, we are particularly reminded of the life of Jesus Christ. A life that teaches that violence is not the ideal pathway for humanity.

War and violence are regrettable but sometimes necessary by-products of our broken world. So, when we refer to God, it’s a sobering brake on human violence and injustice.

We are reminded that Jesus, God’s only Son, died as a humble and contrite sacrifice for all humanity to bring peace – a peace that we are always and ever called to pursue.

Major Phil Inglis is the Faith Communities Development Coordinator for The Salvation Army Australia


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