10 JULY 1982, Page 17

God should not be mocked

Jo GrimOnd

Q urely it cannot be true that the Falkland victory is to be celebrated like a Roman Triumph at St Paul's Cathedral? If we want to commemorate the dead, a funeral service would be appropriate. if we want to pay tribute to the courage of our servicemen, then let the government stage a parade in Hyde Park. I find it embarrassing that the Prime Minister should talk of the Falkland spirit over strikes, but invoking the Almighty as the government's ally would be insupportable. Indeed, even by pagan standards, I doubt if a victory over such a weak adversary as the Argentinians will be taken as anything but a testimony to our decline. As a religious ceremony it could only be justified if the Church of England is as purely a state church as the Emperor- worshipping priesthood of Rome. The English church, so admirable in many ways, will be surrendering to its propensity to make itself laughable if it offers up the Lord's Prayer in Spanish. We must presume that God can translate. Just as ab- surd is the suggeStion that the Pope's ser- mon should be quoted. If war is 'unaccep- table' why has it been accepted?

We know that this was one of the most unnecessary wars in history. Are we to have the blessing of the Church on British errors compounded — far worse compounded by Argentinian errors and aggression? We know three ministers have resigned and a commission has been set up to enquire into these errors. Perhaps the Government will not be represented at the service — keeping away as they did during the Pope's visit. It would be the decent thing to do.

Most wars are due to self-defence, atavistic rushes of blood to the head, or the need to bolster the prestige of governments. If there is to be a sermon at St Paul's 'Bind Your kings in chains' might be an ap- propriate text. I'shall be told that we have been upholding the rule of international law, showing that aggression does not pay, etc. Perhaps, but even so 'render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's', and remember Chesterton's words about the souls of Christian people. What about turn- ing the other cheek? I am doubtful if our example will have much effect on those who threaten world peace. In my lifetime two wars have been fought for democracy and freedom — and both are constantly diminished. All nations at war invoke their national Gods and claim that they fight for virtue.

Mrs Thatcher could argue that it was not her cheek she would have been turning had she not launched the attack, but those of the Falklanders. That may be an argument but I doubt if it would have convinced Christ — especially as two thousand cheeks were sacrificed. What we have failed to do is to develop any morality suitable for corporate action. Officials of institutions, professional bodies, trades unions and other organisations justify their misdeeds by calling in aid the interests of their members. No one would behave as in- dividuals as do the members of ASLEF or NUPE. This is even more true of nation- states. Of course, individuals do strangle, mug and cheat. But they seldom glory in it. Most of us are restrained by morality and fear of the law. Unless we can find some similar sanctions for corporate action we shall have strife at home and war abroad war after which there will be no parade at St. Pauls.

It is a tribute to the endurance and validi- ty of Christianity that it survives despite the conduct of Christian countries and the ex- ample of some church leaders. I doubt if the sinking of the Belgrano, the Sheffield or the flying of the skull and crossbones by the Conqueror caused rejoicing in heaven. The Israelis claim to have been following our ex- ample. Are we to be edified by the Jewish equivalent of a solemn Te Deum in Jerusalem to give thanks for the destruction of the Lebanon? God should not be mock- ed.