First World War shows us there are no easy human or Christian answers to life

By Michael Trimmer, Christian Today


“In what way should the Church be distinctive?” That was the question Canon Alan Wilkinson was trying to answer when he wrote his pioneering book The Church of England and the First World War.


Speaking at an event in Southwark Cathedral this week to promote the publication of an updated edition, Canon Wilkinson commented on the complexities of the Christian response to the First World War and how what happened then is in some ways still happening now.



The event’s host, Southwark’s Sub Dean Bruce Sanders said of the book: “There is not a page, not a paragraph, not a single sentence or line that does not bear the hallmarks of meticulous research.”



Mr Saunders also called the book an important contribution to the exploration of the Christian experience, showing how different Christians in the period 1914 to 1918 dealt with “the tragic paradox of trying to live out the Kingdom in the world we find ourselves in”.



Alongside trying to untangle some small part of the Church’s need to be distinctive, Canon Wilkinson also wanted to dispel what he called the myth of the “lions lead by donkeys” image of the war, the “Blackadder” idea of a futile conflict, uniquely terrible, and foolishly fought.



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