Bonhoeffer uses a similar phrase 'worldly Christianity'. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.

Paxman spot on again

The second in the series on BBC1 on the Great War was very good once again. It included a section on the Battle of the Somme, which my paternal grandfather fought in as a conscript and survived. My wife's maternal grandfather was a conscientious objector and there was plenty on that too. The most moving moment was when Paxo read a letter from a Tynesider John Scollen to his family before battle. It went something like this:

My dear wife and children it is with regret I write ... last words of farewell to you, we are about to attack those awful Germans, if it is Gods holy will that I should fall I shall have done my duty to my King and Country and ... hope justly in the sight of God it is hard to part from you but keep good heart Dear Tina and do not grieve for me for God and his Blessed Mother will watch over you and my bonny little children and I have not the doubt but that my country will help you ... for the sake of one of its soldiers ... Well Dear Wife Tina ... you have been a good wife and mother to look after my canny bairns and I'm sure they will be a credit to both of us. Dearest Wife Christina accept this little souviner of France a cross made from a French bullet which I enclose to you. My Joe, Jack,Tina, and Aggie not forgetting my bonny little twins Nora and Hugh and my last flower baby whom I have only had the pleasure of seeing once since he came into the world God bless them ... Now my Dear Wife and children I have not anything more to say only to wish you all God's Holy Grace and Blessing so Good Bye ... and think of me in your prayers I know ... hard for you to recieve but God's will be done. From your faithful soldier husband and Father John Scollen

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

John Scollen fought with the 27th Tyneside Irish. He was well into his forties when he died. According to the Official History of WW1 written by the army in the 1920's, the 24th and 27th Tyneside Irish advanced more than anyone regiment on the Somme. They passed through several German lines and may have even reached their objective where they were killed. It makes the letter even more sad to know this. Paxman's series is brilliant in the way that he looks at all of society.

Gary Brady said...

Thanks for that. Much appreciated. My grandfather was South Walian Irish (via the industrial Midlands). He was in the life guards as were the majority of soldiers in the Great War. I know nothing else about his time at the Somme.

Anonymous said...

From a Christian perspective, John Scollen was a Catholic and played the cornet in the church band at Seaham Harbour, Co.Durham. He strongly believed in the will of God as reflected in his letter. His uncle Constantine Scollen was one of the great Canadian missionaries and his great uncle was bishop of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Many Christians of all denominations in WW1 kept their faith and yet became fatalistic - many Catholics almost had a leaning towards preordination during their time in the trenches.

Anonymous said...

The two anonymous comments make the letter even more powerful - it gives you a lump in the throat. It is obviously clear where his two loves lie; God and his family.
Just out of interest, the war diaries at the Public Record Offices show that elements of the 24th and 27th (Scollen's battalion) did indeed advance further than anyone else on the first day of the Somme, they also started about half a mile behind the front line, therefore making the feat even more extraordinary. A large group of them went through four major German lines before the lines closed behind them and they were isolated. An amount of men may have made it to their objective Contalmaison, according to The Official History and German comments, this was a mile and half from where they started; others fought for two days completely isolated behind German lines before making it back to British lines - Scollen was not among them.