Thursday, February 24, 2011

Like Twitter for Runners

Social media now wants to help couch poatoes who aspire to be athletes. For about a year now I've been part of the Nikeplus online running community, which is pretty cool but restricted to those who use a Nike running gadget to log their training online.

Today I was reading The Globe and Mail online and Amberly McAteer, editor and newbie runner, mentioned a more broadbased site, a kind of Twitter for people who want to log their workouts and share them. The site is, with tie-ins to Facebook and Twitter.

If you're not afraid to put it all out there and you want the encouragement (or pity, or scorn) of a bunch of strangers, it may be the site for you.

I've signed up to see how it works, and I've added a Daily Mile run counter to this blog. If I've set it up correctly, you can find me here. Useful motivation to keep myself running, or is it a case of "vanity saith the preacher"?

"I Found It Hard To Speak": A British Padre Describes Life With the Paras in Afghanistan

Sometimes talking is the only way to deal with things, as this wise padre understands. MP+

Padre reflects on Paras' Afghan experiences
A People In Defence news article
18 Feb 11

The Reverend Robin Richardson, currently deployed to Afghanistan with 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, here reflects on some of the experiences his soldiers face on the battlefield and the benefits of talking.

At one of our patrol bases last week many of the lads were involved in an operation in an area in which we are still facing a high level of resistance.

They had been out on the ground for nine hours when they were contacted by heavy machine gun fire from a tree line just a couple of hundred metres away. Forty kilogrammes of kit per man, and tired after hours on the ground, yet their reactions were as sharp as they always are.

The Reverend Robin Richardson, Chaplain to 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, currently deployed to Helmand province, southern Afghanistan
[Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2010]

Read the whole story here.

The Benefits of Guns vs Butter

In economics there's a classic model of the limits of production called the "guns versus butter" curve. A society that spends more on military spending will have less to spend on other things like consumables, social spending, etc.

Recently on Foreign Policy, blogger Stephen M. Walt offers some interesting comments on a New York Times op-ed piece which berates America for being the lowed of 33 advanced countries in an Intermational Monetary Fund index measuring everything from unemployment to the global wellness index to student test performance (Canada, by the way, ranks second behind Australia).

Walt's point concerns what the IMF index doesn't measure.

He adds two ratings to the IMF index. One is percentage of Gross Domestic Product dedicated to defense spending, the other is defense dollars spent per capita. If you sort by the guns metric rather than by the butter metric, the USA ranks second in the index at 4.48% of GDP spent on defense ($2,290 per person). Only Israel spends more, at 7.41%. By comparison, Canada spends 1.19% of GDP on defense, below countries such as Norway, Portugal, and Cyprus.

Here are Walt's conclusions:

But surely the amount the U.S. currently devotes to "national security" has two negative effects. First, it encourages a lot of other countries to free-ride, leaving Uncle Sucker to pick up the slack in places like Afghanistan but also in some other areas (such as East Asia). Second, it cannot help but divert money that could be used for other valuable social purposes (education, health care, national infrastructure, personal consumption, etc.). We could even spend the money we need to fix things like dams. Spending that money wisely at home would leave many Americans better off and facilitate long-term economic growth.

I'd also argue that a somewhat smaller military and a foreign policy that was less geared to overseas intervention would also diminish anti-Americanism in many places. Over time, fewer people would be joining anti-American terrorist groups and calling for further infringements on civil liberties here at home. Doing somewhat less might encourage others to do more, and some states might even compete to try to win our favor, if we were more selective in whom we agreed to protect. But those are different issues.

In other words, while we in the rest of the developed world might feel smug about the state of our societies, the USA is picking up a disproportionate share of the tab for our collective security. If the USA scaled back, as it will almost certainly have to do in the next few decades, the rest of us might find ourselves haveing to make hard choices between guns and butter.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Military Picture of the Week

A clear and sunny winter day at CFB Suffield shows one of our "mascots" to good advantage. This old Chieftain (opps, scratch that - Centurion! my bad) tank guards one of the corners of the only grass parade square west of Ottawa.

Some friends on a wargames discussion group were nattering on about how sexy the Chieftain was, so for them this is the military picture of the week.

Taken with my definitely sexy iphone 3 using the Pro HDR app.


Hard Commands

A Sermon for the Seventh Sunday After the Epiphany

Preached at Christ the King Chapel, Sunday, 20 February, 2011

Lectionary Year A, Proper 7: Leviticus 19:1-2,9-18, Psalm 119:33-40, 1 Corinthians 3:10-11,16-23, MAtthew 5:38-48

Preaching Text: “But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also" (Matt 5:39)

A man who used to be imilitary police told me a story that had clearly stayed with him for a long time. Once, somewhere overseas, this fellow was in a bar having a drink with some of his MP friends, and a soldier came in looking for a fight. Now just as in the civilian world, where cops are often not very popular with certain types, there are some soldiers for whom the sight an MP’s red cap or beret is like the proverbial red cape to a bull. The soldier started mouthing off, clearly looking for trouble. As the man described it, he didn't want a fight, but he wasn’t going to back down either, and pretty soon punches were thrown, faces were cut and a nose broken, and when it was over the MP had gotten the better of it. He won the fight, but he didn’t feel very good about it.

This man wasn’t a Christian then and it didn't lead to a dramatic conversion, but this event got him thinking that there were other ways to live. After the bar fight he wasn't proud of himself and he made some changes. During a long car trip I was listening to this story and part of my mind jumped ahead to this Sunday, knowing that you would (quite understandably) likely want me to say something about one of the most famous and most difficult lines from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount - his command to “turn the other cheek” and “not resist an evildoer”.

Our Lord's commands in the Sermon on the Mount are not easy. These words from Matthew 5:38 are especially hard, even impossible ones, for soldiers. Soldiers are trained to face conflict. I suspect that if I had been there in the bar that night and told the MP to turn to the other cheek to that belligerent soldier, he would have said something quite rude in return. Even in the regulations and limits that militaries try to place on warfare, Jesus' words are seemingly inapplicable. Our rules of engagement and our laws of armed conflict explicitly guarantee the soldier the right to protect his life if he or she feels threatened. As for not resisting evildoers, those famous “fight fear, fight chaos, fight with the Canadian Forces” commercials of some years back were all about taking the fight to the bad guys before they can hurt the good guys we have the duty of protecting. As General Hillier once so eloquently put it, the job ot the CF is to fight and kill “detestable scumbags and murderers.” We learned in the 1990s that when we didn’t resist evildoers, massacres like Rwanda and Srebrenica inevitably followed.

It’s thus very tempting for those of us in the military to deflect today’s gospel reading because of this one verse about turning the other cheek. It's almost impossible for us not to dismiss it as idealistic, as naive, or as an exaggerated call for a heavenly goodness that no human could ever attain. However, if we do decide that Jesus is preaching the impossible, then we have to be honest about the consequences. We then have to admit that we are downgrading Jesus from Son of God and King of Kings to a nice chap who had some lovely ideas that we should try to follow when convenient. I don’t think that we who are disciples and followers of Jesus, we who call him Lord, have that option. Jesus has been clear throughout the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 that his words are law not suggestion, that he is the focal point, the lens through which the Law given to Israel through Moses must now be viewed: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil: (Matt 5:17). So however reluctant or resistant we are to this difficult gospel, we need to engage with it and try to discern why this matters to God and so why it matters to us.

Would it be helpful as a first step in this process of discernment if we asked, what if these aren’t arbitrary, impractical commandments designed to make our lives harder in the world, but rather part of God’s plan to make life in the world a better? What if put the turning the other cheek passage in the context of the other readings today and looked for patterns? Leviticus 19, our first reading, seems like a good place to start. Leviticus is a book that has a pretty bad reputation as the no fun book of the Bible. It’s not often read because it seems dull, archaic and intolerant to many today (it Because it’s a book that spells out in great deal God’s law as given to Israel, and because some of those laws seem archaic and even bizarre, the book has a bad reputation. In a well-known episode from the TV series The West Wing that ran from 1999-2006, President Bartlett demolishes an evangelical Christian leader who insists that homosexuality is against God’s will because of a passage in Leviticus (Lev 18:22)

Here's one that's really important because we've got a lot of sports fans in this town: touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point?

I’m sure a lot of liberal, educated people (including myself, because I remember watching it at the time) snickered when they heard that line, because it makes anyone who takes the Old Testament seriously look like an ignorant, intolerant rube. One wonders what the liberal, educated script writers of The West Wing and their fans would have made of our passage today from Leviticus 19.

Look at the society proposed for God’s people by God in our first lesson. What does that society stand for? It has laws demanding that enough food be set aside for the poor and for “the alien”, which assumes a generous immigration policy. A society that doesn’t have crime, but not because tougher sentences and more prisons are proposed. Rather, crime will be reduced because people will be honest at the heart level, not only not stealing but not lying to one another. It will be a society with labour laws that protect the humblest worker from exploitation, that respects the rights of the handicapped, has honest courts and judges, and will not require hate laws because speech will be free of hate and slander. Sound too good to be true, like some idealistic politician’s speech? Maybe, but is it any less idealistic than the words of a Jewish rabbi that we should turn the other cheek, or give both cloak and coat, or go the extra mile? God’s vision can be pretty idealistic, but then, so is the idea that we be holy, as God is holy, or perfect, as our Father is perfect. Those are hugely idealistic statements, but then God's kingdom is hugely idealistic.

All of our readings today have the idea of holiness in them, culminating in our Lord's challenging (and seemingly just as impossible) command to "Be perfect ... as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48). If we take that as an individual mandate, thinking that each of us as an individual has to become another Mother Teresa or John Paul II, then we are sure to fail, because God's idealism isn't a plan for individuals. Leviticus reminds us that God is calling his people to a way of life, so God's people can cooperate with him in showing the world itself as something closer to what God meant it to be. In the day of Leviticus that people was called Israel, now that people has grown to include what we call the church. That's what we heard Jesus sayearlier in the Sermon when he told his followers to be salt and light for the earth (Matt 5:13-14).

Part of our objection to this gospel reading, I suspect, centres on Jesus' claim that we should "not resist an evildoer", but we forget that there are many ways of resisting evildoer. Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela come to mind as three figures who found great strength to resist in at first must have looked like weakness to their opponents. Evil is real, and when it is met with a violent response (as in, for example, a long geurrilla war) that is a simulacra of itself, its true nature is obscured. When it is allowed to reveal itself for what it is, without obscurement, its true nature is revealed. The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who himself found strength in weakness, wrote while in a Nazi prison that “Evil always carries the seeds of its own destruction, as it makes people, at the least, uncomfortable” ("After Ten Years", 1943). Bonhoeffer's point, as I understand it, was that the persistent choosing of good, if that means refusing to return evil for evil, reveals the weakness of evil.

There are times in the confrontation with evil where soldiers must still be ready to protect the innocent, as we learned in Rwanda and Bosnia, and as we may be forced to do in Libya. But soldiers can do so in a way that is highly constrained, wholly alien to the way the Roman legions kept the people of Jesus' world in line. Think of the iconic young Canadian soldier going face to face with the Mohawk soldier at Oka, but mutely enduring his provocations.

Or, think of a NATO unit in Afghanistan, enduring repeated IED attacks from a faceless enemy, and remaining committed to its mission of rebuilding the country and winning the trust of the locals. Other armies through history, such as Hitler's SS or the Roman legions of Christ's day, would have destroyed villages suspected of harbouring resistance. However, the deliberate limitation of force and the use of "soft" military power is possibly a sign of God's hand in human history, a gradual evolution in how fallen humanity thinks and acts in a fallen world.

Ultimately it is God's holiness, God's idealism, and God's plan that will prevail. We who worship the resurrected Son of God can have confidence in this. For we who follow the risen Christ, our holiness comes not through the vain hope of our self-perfection, but rather comes from association, from our discipleship, our following the God who is holy. Our discipleship begins the day that we cease rejecting our Lord's commands as impractical and unworkable. It begins when we begin, with eager hearts, to accept these words, to accept their constraints upon our angry thoughts and responses, and to allow ourselves to be channels of his light and love so that evil shrivels and retreats before us. That was the trust that sustained Bonhoeffer in Tegel Prison, or Mandela on Robben Island. It's the hope that sustains us now.

You may be wondering, incidentally, what became of that young MP. He is older now, in a different trade, working to help soldiers and their families. I wish I could say he is a Christian (there's always that hope). I can say though that something changed in him that night in the bar. Christ's words work in odd and powerful ways.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Words To Take to Heart

A Sermon for the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany
Preached at Christ the King Chapel, CFB Suffield, Ralston, AB

Texts for Proper 6A: Lectionary Readings: Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Psalm 119:1-8, 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, Matthew 5:21-37

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matt 5:29-30)

At Christmas we worshipped the newborn King of Kings. Did we not think our King might one day grow up and one day give royal commands?

We were told that we are be salt and light. Did we not think that salt might sting, or that light may reveal unpleasant things in dark corners?

We sang a hymn asking to be purified by the Refiner’s Fire. Did we not expect that fire to burn and change us?

I ask these questions because the words of our lessons, particularly the Gospel, may make you uncomfortable. They certainly make me uncomfortable, because the Jesus we meet today in Matthew’s gospel, who speaks these words from the Sermon on the Mount, is confrontational and threatening. This is no “gentle Jesus meek and mild” who wouldn’t offend anyone. Instead, this is a Jesus who, by the standards of church marketing today, is hardly the face that Christianity would want to put forward to a largely unchurched world.

Yesterday in my neighbourhood I noticed a sign outside a church asking people to visit and “worship with us in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere”. That invitation sounds attractive, if not specifically religious. Substitute the word “eat” for “worship” and it could just as easily be a sign advertising a restaurant or a bar. I wonder, if we invited people to come and worship a Saviour who says that an angry thought is as good as murder, or an admiring glance is the same as adultery, would we pack them in?

I have some young friends I like to verbally joust with, who tell me that if church was exciting and fast paced, with some miracles thrown in, they would come. I don’t think they’d come to church to hear Sermon on the Mount Jesus. Likewise, all the people whom, in poll after poll, say they perceive Christianity as a religion all about rules and moral score-keeping, whose followers are all hypocrites, well, I don’t think Sermon on the Mount Jesus would entice them. In fact, even the word “Sermon” is out of fashion these days. We are told that “sermon” has connotations of grim, finger-waving, lecturing, that a sermon is talking down to people, and is not affirming. So really, the words we’re listening to today, and the God whom we believe speaks them to us, are not the ones we would want to present to the world if we wanted to be popular.

And, if we are honest, I think we need to admit that today’s Gospel is difficult enough to hear even for we who are churchgoers. The idea that Jesus might actually tell us what to do and how to think, what to do and what not to do, strikes at that deepest core value of our age, our sense of personal autonomy. We might be stung in some way by how these words of Jesus strike at our personal lives or histories, whether its our experience of a failed friendship or of an animosity, our sexual history, a divorce, or whatever it is that causes some friction or resistance as we hear the gospel today. Possibly there’s not resistance, but perhaps the temptation to spiritual despair or fear, the idea that if Jesus is setting the bar for the moral life so impossibly high, none of us can get there, none of us can hope to be good enough to be saved. But again, if we are honest, I think that we would agree that however uncomfortable these words of Our Lord’s may be, they are necessary. I think it would be hard to spend time in Suffield or in Ralston, or anywhere else in military life, and think they weren’t necessary. Our offices workplaces, messes and homes are full of gossip, character assassination, and intrigue. We can say damning things about others to our friends, and then appear to be that person’s friend when we meet them (and this is as true of chaplains as it is of anyone else). And we all know how terribly fragile military marriages can be. So we need to hear these words of our Lord’s today. We need to hear them and we need to live them.

There’s a difference between hearing and living, though, isn’t there. Really what our Lord is saying today is that the Law of God can’t just exist at the level of a legal code. It has to come into us, it has to be lived at the level of our inmost thoughts and feelings, for it to become real. And that should come as no surprise to us, really. If you’re in the military, you know that there is a certain kind of person you are expected to be. We hand out T Shirts like this one with words printed on them like “Loyalty”, “Courage”, “Integrity”, “Duty”. We spent a lot of money on things like the Defence Ethics Program and we require units to do mandatory ethics training. These programs look good on paper, but in reality we know that the core values of these programs need to be internalized and owned by soldiers at the head and heart and gut level if these programs are to work. Likewise, we spend a great deal of time and effort on our MFRCs, on programs and slogans like “Military Families: The Strength Behind the Uniform” “Basic Relationship Training”, and the like. To go beyond slogans and programs, military families and couples will only survive if they can live out these values at the head and heart level during long separations, or during the stress of postings and the like.

The reason we try to promote these values is because we know that the military needs to be a strong community to succeed. This strength comes from units and workplaces that are supportive environments, free of harassment, where people feel valued and supported. Having strong military families feeds into that unity and strength of culture. In the same way, I think Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount are a source of strength and purpose for that community of his followers known as the church. A Christian community, if it is to be real and attractive to the world, needs to be a place that works at the heart level. It needs to be a place where people are honest with each other, and since the purpose of the church is really to be the means where people are reconciled with God (that is, in a good relation with God), then the people have to be reconciled with each other. That’s the truth that we’ve heard Paul preaching to the Corinthian church for the last few Sundays, the truth that if the church is one with Christ, then it must be one with itself.

The same truth, that the church must be one with itself if it is to be one with God, I think explains Christ’s emphasis on sexual and lustful thoughts. The church was coming into being as the one place on earth where men and women could see each other on equal terms, as creations of God and adopted children of God, people living in a new way, the way that God intended. The old, earthly way of life, where women were sources of sexual gratification and chattel that could be dispensed with in a quick divorce, had no place in the community of the church as God’s people. If men and women were to claim their new identity in Christ, then men would have to change their thinking about women. Really, there should be nothing surprising or quaint in this. Isn’t the secular workplace’s emphasis on raising awareness about sexual harassment simply a way of making space for women in the workplace as equals? People grumble about Christianity being inherently misogynistic, but seen this way the gospel is incredibly progressive. As the English writer Dorothy Sayers once observed, never once in all the gospels does Jesus treat women as anything less than full citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

So why should we take Jesus’ message today to heart? If we decide that we need to obey the Sermon on the Mount because if we don’t, we’re going to hell (a word which occurs with ominous frequency in the NRSV version of today’s gospel text), well, good luck with that. Even if you were to succeed for any length of time, a vision of Christianity wherein God wants us to behave or else he gets his belt out is a gross distortion of the Saviour who says elsewhere that he came so we may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10). It’s a given that we won’t fully succeed at this. A theologian I read this week put it this way: “The history of the church is God’s people trying and getting it wrong, trying and getting it wrong, trying and succeeding, then trying again and getting it wrong ...). It’s hard, as Eugene Peterson writes in his translation (“Let’s not pretend this is easier than it really is. If you want to live a morally pure life, here’s what you have to do”) but it’s worth the effort of trying and failing and trying again because that’s what community is, an ongoing attempt at a better life.

What Jesus does in today’s gospel, I think, is offer us a vision of life as God intended it, of a community where our hearts and mouths and actions are all congruent with God’s law. The benefits of this congruency are twofold. One can be described as holiness, which sounds very churchy and otherworldly, but is still what we strive for, as the words of “Refiner’s Fire” remind us. The other benefit is happiness. Look at the opening lines of Psalm 119, where the psalmist expresses joy and satisfaction that he is living a life in guided by God’s law. He lives life this way not out of fear of punishment, or out of sanctimonious piety, but because it feels good to live this way We miss that aspect somewhat from Peterson’s translation, so here’s the NRSV version.

Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. 2 Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart, 3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways.

The Sermon on the Mount, like all the gospels, is thus really about living God’s way of life because it is a life of true happiness and satisfaction. It isn’t a life of grim asceticism or of constant fear and trembling. It’s about true happiness that comes from living as God’s people, one with God and one with another. Happiness maybe isn’t the place where you saw this sermon landing, but there it is, and really, why worship a God who doesn’t want us to be happy?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Is the Anglican Church a Green Dragon?

My friend Harry Applin, who blogs on engineering, architecture, and climate change, passed on this news item about an apparently conservative evangelical group, the Institute on Religion and Democracy (I say "apparently" because I am not familiar with IRD or its policies) who last month slammed the American Episcopal (Anglican) Church for its views on climate change.

THe IRD's President, Mark Tooley, is quoted by the blog Right Wing Watch attacking a December 2010 meeting of an Episcopal group on climate change:

"These particular Episcopal global warming fear-mongers came from the north and the south and the east and the west, as though in fulfillment of the biblical end times. Or more specifically, they came from South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and the U.S., including the bishops of California, who no doubt would be piously loath to miss any global warming guilt-fest.

“We have lost a sense of connection with the world, and have become dominators rather than ‘good gardeners;’ over-developed countries have given themselves over to the sin of consumerism,” a fretful statement by the group intoned. “This sin, as sin always does, has clouded and distorted all our relationships: between people, with the Earth, and with our creator God.” The Religious Left sometimes, a little pantheistically, likes to speak of “relationships” with inanimate objects, like “the Earth.” For them, sometimes “the Earth” displaces a higher authority whom believers better merits a “relationship.”

The Episcopal group met around the theme of “climate justice” December 7 – 10, 2010 in San Pedro de MacorĂ­s, Dominican Republic at the Bishop Kellogg Retreat Center, intentionally overlapping with the United Nations’ climate change meeting in Mexico. For the Religious Left, the UN carries almost transcendent authority, though perhaps not so much as “the Earth.”

I'd never heard the phrase "Green Dragon" before, and other than the fact that Green is the current liturgical colour for Epiphany, I'm not sure it fits. Anglicans, who are generally fond of St. George, aren't big dragon fans, green or otherwise. Seriously, as I wrote back to Harry, there's a lot of undercurrents in Tooley's remarks as I understand them.

The Episcopal Church of the USA (TEC) has alienated most evangelicals, and strained relations within the Anglican Communion, for its stance on same-sex marriage and for its consecration of two openly gay and lesbian bishops, so it is already suspect to people like Tooley as a Christian church. Tooley's linkage of TEC to the UN is also interesting, given the evangelical fear of shadowy, non-Christian, even demonic world governments that can be seen on the shelves of many Christian bookstores. The broad banner of the environmental movement, which attracts New Agers, Gaians, Wiccans, and other non-Christians, is evidently alarming to many evangelical Christians. I can readily imagine how certain churches which take a millenarian view, expecting an imminent second coming and passing away of the earth, might be less than compelled by environmentalists' calls to preserve the earth as the only home that humanity has.

I'm a little defensive of the Anglican Church, even my ultra-trendy, liberal friends in TEC, and while I don't agree with their official stand on sexual ethics, I think they do Christianity a favour by challenging us to think about the stewardship vs dominion debate over our relationship to the created earth. I would be grieved if concern over the fate of the earth was shouted down as un-Christian by my fellow believers, and I think we all have some serious reading, thinking and talking to do in the days and years to come over the fate of the planet that God gave to us.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Canadian Forces has "Duty to Accomodate" Religious, Spiritual Needs

While in Afghanistan, LCol (then Maj) Harjit Sajjan wore a smaller-than-usual turban that allowed him to wear his Kevlar helmet while respecting the dress requirements of his religion.

An article in last week's issue of the CF newspaper The Maple Leaf provides a helpful explanation of the Canadian military's policy on accomodation. Briefly put, accomodation is the military's recognition of particular needs of its members, including spiritual and religious needs, provided that these needs do not compromise operational effectiveness and safety. Often military chaplains play a role in helping the CF member document and justify their need for religious accomodation, and assist the chain of command in judging the legitimacy of such requests. Read the complete article here. MP+

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Military Humour of the Week

During World War Two, Canadian soldiers, who were often more Canadian than they were soldiers, citizens putting up with hardship and absurdity to do a necessary and unpleasant job, laughed at the cartoon character Herbie, who embodied all their trials and indignities. Herbie was the creation of a Canadian sergeant, William Garnet "Bing" Coughlin, whose cartoons appeared starting midwar in The Maple Leaf.

I was browsing through a collection of Herbie cartoons in a now out-of-print collection (Thomas Nelson, 1959, though I think reprinted in 2008) and found this depiction of a Canadian army padre. It's a clever piece. The padre's question - "Maintenance, I presume?" - could be sheer cluelessness (something we are famous for) or he could be gently letting the would-be distillers know that he is turning a blind eye to their still. Which do you think it is?

Military Picture of the Week

Very arresting image from today's UK MOD news feed is a natural choice for milpic of the week. More on this story here. MP+

The musician sister of a British paratrooper who lost his life in Afghanistan in 2008 recently made a pilgrimage to her brother's Helmand memorial during a brief tour of Afghanistan. Musician Kate Whittaker from the Band of The Parachute Regiment is here reflected in the plaque on the Helmand Memorial Stone at Camp Bastion where her brother Private Joe Whittaker of 4th Battalion The Parachute Regiment is commemorated. [Picture: Corporal Mark Webster RLC, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]

Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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