Charles Sturt University
PACT - Public and Contextual Theology

Sacred Soldiers: Remembering World War I

PaCT Fellow Dr Michael Gladwin recently spoke on the ABC’s God Forbid program. Producer Rohan Salmond interviewed Dr Gladwin about Anzac Day’s origins for the ‘Sacred Soldiers: Remembering World War I’ episode. Dr Gladwin said the origins of Anzac are Christian but it’s also a civil religion that is growing.

“I think it can be argued that this is a kind of civil religion and I think it’s more so in the last couple of decades...By civil religion I prefer to a particular set of political, social arrangements they come to acquire this aura of the sacred that elevates their statue and becomes a point of reference for shared faith of entire state or nation,” he said.

When asked if there was a difference between Christianity and this civil religion he said it’s a complex and bipolar mix of ideas.

“You do get classical pagan ideas such as stoicism within these civil religions. You can see this for example in the Hall of Memory in the War Memorial—it’s enshrined in the architecture as well as in recent speeches. I’m thinking of Brendan Nelson—Director of the Australian War Memorial—who in several speeches in the last few years has invoked stoicism—courage, moderation, prudence, justice and enshrines them as key Australian values. But you also get within these speeches Christian virtues –particularly Pauline virtues of faith, hope and love and fuse them together,” he said.

His interview begins at the 12 minute mark and continues on for about 6 minutes.

Dr Gladwin is a lecturer at St Mark’s National Theological Centre and is the author of several books including Captains of my Soul: A History of Australian Army Chaplains.