A DAY AT BATTLE WITH THOUGHTS OF VIOLENCE
As a child I was fascinated by the story of the Battle of Hastings. I remember as a seven year old, watching a television programme about this battle on its 900th anniversary in 1966. Indeed such was my obsession that during the same year, my class teacher made a recording of me telling the story.
So, whilst on holiday, we paid a visit to Battle and walked around the site where the conflict took place. As all those years ago, I was fascinated by the story of power politics and the bloody conclusion. Both my children shared this interest which was rather pleasing.
However, I got to thinking about things a little deeper. Some time after the Battle of Hastings, William built an abbey over where Harold had fallen. Why, I wondered did he do this. There are two possibilities that suggest themselves to me.
The first possibility is that it was to thank God for victory. As such it was a statement that God was on his side. Frankly I find the idea that God sanctions killings, somewhat disgusting. I am reminded of the verse;
Ye hypocrites are these your pranks
To murder men and give God thanks?
Desist for shame! Proceed no further!
God won't accept your thanks for murder.
The other possibility is that it was an act of contrition for the shedding of blood. I find that unlikely as there was no penance in terms of giving up what he had gained by shedding blood and indeed as King he was to shed plenty more.
But what I find most uncomfortable, is that monks and indeed the whole religious establishment went along with a sick compromise by which they effectively poured holy water on the violence of 14th October 1066 and to me this can only be a betrayal of the Prince of Peace whom Christians worship. And I find myself wondering if this still goes on today for it seems to me that the prophetic voice against violence is rarely heard and all to often excuses are found for those who take the paths of warfare and violence.
On Saturday, I bought a book by Walter Wink which warns of the myth of redemptive violence. It makes for fascinating reading and I hope to return to it before the end of the week.