The Side God is on

| March 30, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Imperial War Museum (North) is about two miles outside Manchester City centre and just a stroll from Old Trafford. It is well worth a visit if you are ever over at United-land. The facility was designed by Daniel Libeskind, the Jewish American architect who designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin and, in 2003, won the  competition to design the masterplan for the rebuilding of the World Trade Centre site in lower Manhattan. The IWM is an impressive, award-winning modern building designed around the idea of a globe broken into fragments and now put back together again. It tracks the events, people and equipment involved in modern warfare from 1916 right up to the present day.

Imperial War MuseumOver the years I’ve read quite a bit about the events of the two world wars, especially the second, but I’d never come across, or at least noticed, one particular detail concerning the German Army until my visit to IWM (North). Apparently, every German soldier in the Second Great War carried a slogan on his belt which boldly stated, ‘God is with us.’

‘God is with us.’

I don’t know why this detail took me so completely by surprise. Throughout  history kings, emperors and armies have been making exactly that claim. Today, too, there are many political groupings and warring factions  around the world who do the same. Some of them here in Ireland. But for some reason I found myself particularly repulsed at the thought that God had been Emmanuel with the Nazis as they invaded Poland and began their quest to conqueror the world; that he was really with them as they set up the Auschwitz-Birkenau and other death camps; that he was truly with them as they forced an armed struggle that would cost the lives of around 72 million people – many of them women and children. How could God have been?

IWM (North) has some very clever technical stuff going on as you walk around it. As I stood there reflecting on this disturbing new detail, listening to some of Hitler’s hate filled rhetoric blasting from hidden speakers and watching as images of war and death were flashed upon the walls by modern projectors, I realised that many of us make exactly the same mistake as that revealed on the belts of the German Heer.

Loud and clear, the events of Christmas do indeed resound with the news that God is ‘with us’ and ‘for us’. It was in this wonderful and life-giving truth that Saint Patrick, too, found the only real captivity of his amazing life. But we are very deeply and gravely mistaken if we ever allow ourselves to presume that this is the same thing as God being ‘on our side.’

God is always also ‘for them.’ Every person we will ever meet is made in the image and likeness of God and His love is offered to all irrespective of race or creed or political ideology. The moment we forget this we move  away from Jesus and instead begin to worship an idol of our own making, a god fashioned in our  image, designed to reflect our needs and serve our agenda rather than His. But as Karl Barth put it, God is not man writ large – no matter how grand or perfect we believe our particular version of manhood to be.

Category: Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *