Anzac a sacrificial belief system

Anzac Day troubles me because when all the processions, words and rituals are done, I don’t know what it means.

That’s frightening given its resurgence as a quasi belief system in New Zealand that seems to demand an almost unquestioning reverence.
It’s not that I haven’t tried to understand. I’ve ploughed my way through books, articles, films, and documentaries. I’ve even suffered through Band of Brothers twice. I’ve taught about Anzac Day, created and led services, attended dawn rituals, blogged about it and interrogated my dad about his involvement in the Second World War.
Despite all that there are two main elements to the Anzac process that have me beat. The catchphrase, lest we forget and the idea of ultimate sacrifice that is central to the remembrance and has a worship aspect to it.
Growing up in the 1950s meant I wasn’t far from the war my dad was involved in. Family photos included the ones of him looking dashing in uniform beside my elegant mum draped in fur. Like many women, mum fell for a bloke in uniform.
My parents were pragmatic about wartime but thankful it was over. As was common then, we drew a line under the pain and got on with life, energized by the music of the Andrew Sisters and Vera Lynn; songbirds who had brought light into dark times.
Dad never went near an Anzac parade until much, much later and then only spasmodically. As far as I could tell, he didn’t think much good could come of rehashing the whole thing over and over again.
As time passed, my explorations were teaching me how much Anzac Amnesia we were suffering and how faulty our remembering was. I came to agree with my dad that remembering didn’t amount to much if it was a sanitized version.
Evangelical Christianity also infused my family life. Jesus, my folks told me, had died a horrible death on the cross for my sins and I needed to believe in him to be saved. Unlike the Catholics who had Jesus pinioned to the cross, our Baptist cross was a body free zone symbolising the resurrection. Jesus had paid the price and made the ultimate sacrifice thereby triumphing over death. Continue reading

Sande Ramage is an Anglican priest and blogger.

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