Today, for the first time, I left a Cenotaph Ceremony angry.
For me, Canada’s most solemn moment of any year is at 11am on November the 11th.
This has grown even more important with recent conflicts and tragedies affecting our nation’s military.
As has been our custom since I moved to Stratford, my friend Gord and I attended the ceremony at the cenotaph here in town.
We served together, and eventually both ended up working at the same hospital in our civilian lives.
One of the things that we’ve found irritating is how the minute of silence in Stratford is always early. We’ve noted people rushing to the cenotaph to show their respect at 11am, only to have missed that solemn moment.
This was not what caused my anger this morning.
When we arrived, someone was being introduced, I didn’t catch who it was, but I heard his words, these aren’t quotes, but the meaning is there…
“First we must love God, then love our country…”
I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard….
What followed was a meandering sermon discussing terrorism, and how loving and obeying God can make things better.
I heard very little in this sermon (that’s what it was) about those who we had come to honour. The veterans, and those that sacrificed their lives in service to this country.
I did hear that apparently, those that died in service to Canada actually did so in service to God. I verified this with Gord afterwards.
Towards the closing, it was suggested that keeping God in center of family and society was essential to avoid straying from the path (or something).
The implication here is that if you don’t keep God in the center of your life, you are somehow lesser, or flawed.
When I heard this I wondered if the speaker realized that many terrorists do things like shout “Allah-u akbar!”, and that means of course “God is great!”, and that the God they’re referring to is the same God as his.
And that these people most definitely keep their version of Him as the center of their lives.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with his beliefs. My objection is how he took the focus away from our veterans, both living and dead, and their service and sacrifice, and made it about religion.
That’s fine from a church pulpit, but from in front of a cenotaph, where Canadians of all creeds have gathered to show respect, and thank those that preserved our freedom, its inappropriate.
I’m hopeful that those that organize future ceremonies will be mindful of the fact that many who gather to pay their respects are not Christians, and may find being lectured on how important it is for them to obey God offensive. Perhaps, they could also time things so that the minute of silence starts at 11am…not sometime between 10:45 and 10:55.