Thoughts On Religion At The Front - Ch. 3
( Originally Published 1917 )
ON the whole, I venture to say, there is not a great revival of the Christian religion at the front. Yet I am eager to acclaim the wonderful quality of spirit which men of our race display in this war, and to claim it as Christian and God - inspired. Deep in their hearts is a great trust and faith in God.
It is an inarticulate faith expressed in deeds. The top levels, as it were, of their consciousness, are much filled with grumbling and foul language and physical occupations ; but beneath lie deep spiritual springs, whence issue their cheerfulness, stubbornness, patience, generosity, humility, and willingness to suffer and to die. They declare by what they are and do that there is a worth-whiteness in effort and sacrifice.
Without saying so, they commit themselves to " the Everlasting Arms."
The metaphor of human nature being hardened or caked over by war must be modified so as to allow that war lays human nature bare. It is a grand fibre or grain of British nature which the war has exposed. It is inwrought with Christian excellences of humility, unselfishness, fortitude, and all that makes a good comrade.
It is precious stuff Let there be no talk hereafter of the decadence of the race. Let no one dare to disparage the masses of our people ; nor let any one, through class ignorance or prejudice or fear, speak of them contemptuously. They are priceless raw material. As I have hovered in seeming priestly impotence over miracles of cheerful patience lying on stretchers in dressing-stations, I have said—I have vowed to myself—" Here are men worth doing anything for."
There is a great heart in the people. It is not a great mind. In officers and men there is little intellectual grip upon what we are fighting for. Every one nearly is without a saving touch of rhetoric. Ideas are under suspicion.
" Padre, what you say is just ideal, it's all in the air." But the objectors stick it and die for the unformulated and unexpressed ideal. They are far wiser and better than they know.