If the well-meaning Christian boys from England, France, Germany, Russia, Austria, and other nations had been, in their childhoods, thoroughly exposed to the ethical teachings of their Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, they might have had the capacity to refuse the invitation to kill their co-religionists on the other side of the battle lines.
This year marks the 100 year anniversary of the 1914 Christmas Truce, just months into the first World War. According to History.Com:
On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for the celebration of Christmas. The warring countries refused to create any official cease-fire, but on Christmas the soldiers in the trenches declared their own unofficial truce.
Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.
At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer.
The Minnesotan peace activist Gary Kohls posted a rich (and lengthy) piece on the significance of the truce. Here’s an excerpt:
As tantalizing as is the story of the Christmas Truce, it is also a reminder of what could have happened if there had been less obedience to authority and more organized opposition to senseless war in the families, schools, and churches.
If the well-meaning Christian boys from England, France, Germany, Russia, Austria, and other nations had been, in their childhoods, thoroughly exposed to the ethical teachings of their Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, they might have had the capacity to refuse the invitation to kill their co-religionists on the other side of the battle lines. In fact, if they had really absorbed the message of their all-merciful God, they wouldn’t have been able to slaughter anybody at all.
That futile and suicidal war could have ended before it really got up a head of steam if the righteous mutiny had been more widespread, better organized, and well-supported by the chaplains at the front and the heavily propagandized, flag-waving civilians back home.
Tragically, the anti-Christic propaganda machine prevailed, thanks in part to the censorship of the obedient press (that still persists today) refusing to do good investigative journalism and sanitizing the horrors of war.
What turned out to be a mutual mass slaughter of a degree never before seen in the history of warfare could have ended 100 years ago this Christmas if every soldier had experienced the peace that was present in the trenches and courageously laid down his weapons forever.