Clearing the Fog
in the
War of Words


  logomachy--1. A dispute about words. 2. A dispute carried on in words only; a battle of words.
logomachon--1. One who argues about words. 2. A word warrior.



Veterans' Day, since a.d. 400

Today, Veterans' Day, is also the feast day of St. Martin of Tours (316-397), who was a veteran of the Roman army. Wouldn't this further evidence of the great Christian Anti-Constitutional Jihad Conspiracy just curl Maureen Dowd's toes!
In his early years, when his father, a military tribune, was transferred to Pavia in Italy, Martin accompanied him thither, and when he reached adolescence was, in accordance with the recruiting laws, enrolled in the Roman army. Touched by grace at an early age, he was from the first attracted towards Christianity, which had been in favour in the camps since the conversion of Emperor Constantine. His regiment was soon sent to Amiens in Gaul, and this town became the scene of the celebrated legend of the cloak. At the gates of the city, one very cold day, Martin met a shivering and half-naked beggar. Moved with compassion, he divided his cloak into two parts and gave one to the poor man.
I am not entirely enthusiastic about St. Martin as patron of soldiers. He had to be forcibly restrained to take the oath of enlistment and spent his early years in a rear-echelon ceremonial unit. When ordered into battle, he refused to bear arms on the grounds of Christian conscience, saying "Put me in the front of the army, without weapons or armor; but I will not draw sword again. I am become the soldier of Christ." Fortunately, the invading Germans offered to negotiate, and Matin was discharged a few days later.

This pacifism of early Christianity is a sturdy and authoritative tradition, but I find it unpersuasive, at least as a general rule. It was professed by men who were or who wished to be monks; that was why Martin tried to avoid enlistment. Certainly, as Chesterton pointed out, to the very limited extent that the Gospels give any sign of Christ's attitude toward soldiers, it is that He was rather fond of them. Maybe it was the lay down your life for another bit.



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