The Christmas Truce of 1914

It might seem odd to anyone who understands what Jesus taught that the U.S. presidential candidates who most stress their Christian devotion are often the same ones urging more wars. But this defiling of Jesus’s message of peace is not new, as Gary G. Kohls recalls from an inspiring moment in World War I.

By Gary G. Kohls

The peace that had existed for decades in Europe since the Franco-Prussian War 40-plus years earlier had resulted in tremendous progress in culture, infrastructure investment, commerce and international relations. Europeans of all stripes crossed borders relatively freely.

Before World War I, European Jews and Christians intermingled and intermarried with few eyebrows being raised and, although covert Christian anti-Semitism definitely existed, overt persecution of Jews was not a major problem. Jews were welcomed in the militaries and served with distinction.

When Archduke Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire, was assassinated in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, European peace rapidly unraveled and by a series of errors of judgment, bureaucratic inefficiencies, ineptitude, lack of communication skills all the nations seemed to declare war on each other.

It was mostly a case of “death (and killing) before dishonor” in which, no matter how worthy or unworthy the war aims might be, negotiation toward a peaceful settlement was considered to be a  dishonorable way out of a conflict.

Troops at the Front in World War I

Indoctrinated boys ignorant of the mutual mass slaughter of past and future wars were looking for glory and a way out of their boredom at home. Unaware of the reality and virtual incurability of “shell shock” (the term for post-traumatic stress disorder in WWI) young men all over Europe rushed like lemmings to the recruiting stations to sign up for war.

WWI ultimately destroyed four empires, chemically poisoned the soil and water supplies of agrarian France (with the massive amounts of military toxins) and killed off 14 million people, 90 percent of whom were young, naive combatants.

Entire generation of young French, British and German men had been wasted, either killed, wounded, rendered permanently disabled, insane, criminal or in other ways a menace to society.

No one, especially the military planners, had foreseen the coming mass slaughter and the stalemates that were inevitable with trench, artillery and machine-gun warfare. Everyone was blinded by the propaganda message that war was glorious and God-ordained rather than satanic.

Churches for War

Predictably, the Christian churches joined the patriotic fervor with their nationalistic blindness, refusing to teach what Jesus had always taught about violence (that it was forbidden to those who wished to follow him).

The pulpits on all sides British, Scottish, French, German, Austrian, Hungarian, Russian, Serbian, Italian, etc, — rang with flag-waving, patriotic fervor, telling their doomed sons that it was their Christian duty to obey their secular leaders and to march off to war to kill the fingered (equally Christian) enemy on the other side of the battle line.

Five months into the slaughter, however, the Christmas season came, the holy holiday that reminded them of the safe homes they had foolishly left behind. The physically exhausted, malnourished, spiritually deadened, sleep-deprived, combat-traumatized soldiers on each side of No Man’s Land sought some respite from the cruelty of war and the frozen trenches.

The frontline soldiers were at the end of their ropes because of the unrelenting emotional stress, the hyper-alertness, the bad food, the rats, lice, frostbitten toes and fingers, deadly artillery bombardments, machine-gun massacres and suicidal assaults that were stupidly ordered by the commanding officers in the rear.

The day-to-day horrors of No Man’s Land were punctuated by the nightmarish screams of pain and pleas for help coming from the wounded soldiers who were helplessly hanging on the barbed wire or lying in the bomb craters, each one dying an agonizing death that often lingered for days. Rescuing wounded soldiers in No Man’s Land was expressly forbidden.

So, on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1914, the troops on both sides settled down to special food, special liquor, special rest and the spontaneous singing of Christmas carols.

An over-confidant Kaiser Wilhelm had even ordered 100,000 Christmas trees, with candles for decoration, to be delivered to the German trenches for Christmas, thinking that the expense of such an act would boost morale. After all, the war was soon to be won by the superior German army and so using the supply lines for such unnecessary items seemed to be an acceptable expense to incur.

And then the spontaneous events happened at various points on the 700-mile-long trench lines that stretched all across France. The singing of Christmas carols started an extraordinary chain of events that culminated in acts of mass treason that would never be duplicated in the history of warfare.

One of the best-loved versions of the story was that the Germans started singing “Stille Nacht” and the British responded by singing the English language version, “Silent Night.” Then, the French and Scots joined in and all sides sang together in their own tongues, the Scots accompanying the Germans with their bagpipes.

Common Humanity

The sense of their common humanity, which had been driven out of them in the rigid authoritarian schooling systems and in basic combat training, broke through to consciousness. Homesickness may have set in or perhaps the futility of the slaughter had become clear or perhaps the realization that these “enemies” could have been friends if only they had met in different circumstances.

Or perhaps their sheer exhaustion had taken the fight out of them and they didn’t care about the war any more win or lose. Most of the combatants only desired peace and quiet and an escape from the hell they were being forced to exist in. The permanent peace of being dead even had its appeal.

However it started, the soldiers disobeyed the orders forbidding “fraternization with the enemy,” dropped their guns and came out of their trenches to greet one another in the middle of No Man’s Land. The former enemies shared pictures from home, chocolates, schnapps, wine. Soccer games were played. Friendships were made, addresses were exchanged and every soldier who experienced the events was forever changed.

The willingness to reflexively kill someone who had never done them any personal wrong suddenly vanished, never to return. So powerful was the experience, that most of the affected men had to eventually be removed from the front lines because they were refusing to obey orders to kill usually shooting high if they were being observed by their officers. They had to be replaced with fresh troops who had never had the life-changing, thought-provoking experience.

Fraternization with the enemy during a time of war was treated as an act of treason that was punishable by summary execution. In this case, however, because of the huge numbers of potential executions by firing squad, the commanding officers did not want to draw public attention to this inconvenient, inflammatory and potentially contagious episode.

They also knew that any focusing on the unauthorized truce would threaten the conduct of the war. Therefore they ordered no executions. There were lesser but still severe punishments, however, with many of the German soldiers who refused to fight and kill being transferred to the eastern front to kill and die in the war with Russia.

The Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Film for 2005 that so beautifully characterized the spirit of the Christmas truce of 1914 is “Joyeux Noel” (French for Merry Christmas). It is a moving tale whose basic story comes directly from surviving veterans who experienced the event and also from the letters of soldiers who wrote home about it, letters that somehow survived military censorship.

The story that is so movingly told in “Joyeux Noel” needs to be retold again and again in this era of the cleverly orchestrated, nation-bankrupting, perpetual “U.S.-led” wars of empire that are being fought by our indoctrinated, soon-to-be-exhausted young men and women in uniform.

Some of them are doomed to a life overwhelmed by the horrendous realities of posttraumatic stress disorder, sociopathic personality disorder, suicidality, homicidality, loss of religious faith, permanent and virtually untreatable traumatic brain injury, chronic drug dependence (both legal and illicit) and a host of other nearly impossible-to-cure problems that are overwhelmingly preventable.

Censoring Jesus

Militarists do whatever they can to prevent soldiers from experiencing the shared humanity of their targets, whether they are citizens of Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan or North Korea.

There appears to be an unwritten rule in the military that Christian military chaplains, who are supposed to be nurturers of the souls of those in their care, forbidding them from teaching the Golden Rule, Jesus’s clear command to “love your enemies” or the nonviolent ethics of the Sermon on the Mount.

Chaplains are a part of the paid and indoctrinated apparatus of war that rejects the Ten Commandments, especially the one that says: “thou shalt not kill.” (Military chaplains, in their defense, may have never heard of gospel nonviolence in Sunday School or even in seminary. It is frustratingly all too common to find that most Christian churches and their denominational seminaries also do not teach, with any emphasis, those gospel truths.)

Near the end of ”Joyeux Noel” there is a powerful and sobering scene, a confrontation between the Christ-like, lowly, anti-war Scottish chaplain and his pro-war Scottish bishop while the chaplain was giving last rites to a dying soldier.

The bishop had come to relieve the chaplain of his duties and abusively ordered him to return to his home parish because of his “treasonous and shameful” behavior (being merciful to the enemy) in the battlefield.

The chaplain tried to explain his actions to the authoritarian, pro-war, German-hating bishop, saying that he had just performed “the most important mass of my life” and that he wanted to stay with his comrades who were rapidly losing their faith and were in need of his ministrations.

The mass that he had presided over on Christmas Eve, had been attended by German, Scottish and French Christian soldiers (and one Jewish German officer) who had prayed together and been transfixed by a powerful rendition of Ave Maria. The bishop cruelly denied the Christ-like priest’s request to stay – and in a thought-provoking scene, he removed his little wooden cross from around his neck, leaving it swinging as he walked out the door.

As with so many of the victims of organized Christianity, the priest had lost his faith in the institutional church.

The bishop then proceeded to deliver a pro-war sermon to new recruits (the exact words having been obtained from a homily that had been delivered by an Anglican bishop in England later in the war). These new troops were being brought in to replace the suddenly reluctant veteran combatants, who now refused to obey orders to kill.

The powerful response of the chaplain represents a serious warning to the Christian churches in America and also to its war-justifying citizenry and their political leaders.

This is a profoundly important and very moving film that deserves to be annual holiday fare, like Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” or “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

Dr. Gary G. Kohls is a founding member of The Community of the Third Way, a Duluth-area affiliate of Every Church A Peace Church (

41 comments for “The Christmas Truce of 1914

  1. Craig
    December 19, 2011 at 14:48

    Some good points in this article, but some wars are quite necessary. Would Mr. Kohls have opposed fighting Hitler when millions of Jews were being murdered? Evil exists and needs to be opposed, and that sometimes necessitates taking up arms.

  2. aldo
    December 18, 2011 at 05:27

    ANswer to MikeH
    Ever heard of conscentious objectors? They are the ones who understand war is wrong and refuse to obey whatever the consequences. Many so called christians only follow their priest or minister and do not follow the teaching of the bible. We are presently commanded by Christ not to kill. WHen he returns things will change. See Psalm 2.

    • December 18, 2011 at 13:14

      Thanks. This is back to the original topic.

      My original point in bringing up the commandment to “honor your father and mother” (since the Ten Commandments were mentioned in the article) was to make the psychological connection between being forcibly taught as children to always do what one’s parents say and not to question or challenge them (whether that is intended by the commandment or not), and later unquestioningly doing what some authority, either religious or secular, says to do.

      • December 18, 2011 at 17:33

        In addition I want to add that this connection between having been abused or mistreated as a child, and later unquestioningly accepting authorities and hating selected targets that the authorities deem are acceptable to hate (such as an enemy in war, or Jews in Nazi Germany, or gay people here in America), is something that the late writer and psychotherapist Alice Miller tried to make people aware of.

        If a person was mistreated and humiliated as a child, and had to repress his/her natural anger and hatred (because it was forbidden to express them), then that person will later gladly direct that hatred to surrogate targets that authorities deem are acceptable and OK to hate. Such hatred is especially dangerous because the person is completely unconscious of the original reason for the hatred.

        Alice Miller particularly implicates the commandment to “honor your father and mother” in this. A child (which includes the former child still alive within the adult person, according to Alice Miller, the child whose feelings have been repressed), is not going to understand any fine point that “honoring” one’s parents does not really mean going along with whatever they say and taking abuse from them.

        I personally very strongly think that Alice Miller’s work is extremely important, and that her works ought to become very widely known (to the point of being “viral”).

        One can Google her name for her web sites and for information about her, which includes information about her books.

    • Tom
      December 18, 2011 at 17:08

      Yes, when Christ comes back things will change. Until then we live in a world of evil and sometimes God uses us to stop it with force. Even trained King David for war. Psalm 18:34

  3. aldo
    December 18, 2011 at 05:14

    answer to MikeH on hell. The false belief that sinners burn in hell for eternity is not to be found in the bible. The translation of sheol and gehennah should be the grave. The idea by the translators come from the fact hat gehennah was the garbage dump outside of Jerusalem where rubbish and people who did not have an honourable burial were burned. But they did not burn forever, and only after they were already dead.

    • December 18, 2011 at 13:02

      Thanks for your answer.

      I do not have knowledge of Hebrew or Greek or the languages used in the Bible, so I am unable to say whether you are right in your understanding or interpretation.

      My argument was with what is commonly understood and commonly believed; I would not be able to say how literally true or literally correct the common belief and understanding is.

  4. ozarker
    December 17, 2011 at 16:23

    How were the Turks “equally Christian”? Just asking.

  5. Thomas J.
    December 17, 2011 at 14:57

    War – it is a waste of human lives, materials, time, and energy. We are taught to disregard love for fellow man in the name of material wealth and by a few of the populace or the egos of a few. The bulk of the population, of any country, want to live in peace, raise families and just live. the select few, rise up and stir up others. Those should be sought out and put somewhere so as to keep them from doing so and our world would be much more peaceful. Sad, we live in such an imperfect world and too many people can be swayed thinking war is the answer – when it seldom is. Men and women, the very best of society, are killed, or ruined often for life and for what? The rich man’s interest or an egotisical maniac. Many of these dead solidiers could have been in the world to do something of real importance like finding a cure for cancer, inventing something of importance for the world, etc. What a waste.

  6. Ted T
    December 17, 2011 at 13:39

    I remember my Dad telling a story about his cousin, Bernard Felbaum, who, like my Dad, was from a farm in the area west of Little Falls MN.  This story was confirmed and further explained to me by Bernard’s brother, Kennard Felbaum, when I talked to him about 10 years ago.

    Bernard was in the US Army during WWII’s Battle of the Bulge.  He was wounded – in the shoulder, I believe – during the initial German attack.  The US troops, in their haste to retreat, had to leave Bernard behind.  

    Bernard was carried to a German medical tent, where a doctor administered a transfusion to him.  Then a German Army sergeant came into the tent.  When he discovered the doctor was giving an American soldier a transfusion, he went ballistic.  As was common in the family, Bernard spoke German, but for some reason did not let this be known to either the doctor or the sergeant. The sergeant pulled out a pistol and screamed at the doctor, saying, “Why are you giving this blood to an American?  Germans can use it!  Let me shoot him!  Besides, Hitler could have you court-martialed!”

    The doctor stood in front of Bernard and said, “If you shoot him, you’ll have to shoot me first.  I answer to a higher authority than Hitler.”

    Wow.  There is a special place in Heaven for that doctor.

    • UrgentCare
      December 17, 2011 at 23:42

      What a beautiful story Ted. Too bad every one is not the same caliber as the doctor. Christ or Satan is each persons master. When we know in whom we believe it is not hard to make a statement like the doctor.

  7. Jim Gillard
    December 17, 2011 at 13:25

    All questions about history past and present are answered in the Bible,
    read Revelation and the associated books.

    The person who decides not to be a believer of Jesus Christ and not to study
    God’s ways should consider his actions as his own and not to deride others
    who do believe. For if the Christian belief is of no value then what loss
    is there for the non-believer who has nothing to gain after death. The non-
    believer should be greatful that someone desires that he obtain a gift after
    death or at least know his eternal direction of salvation or damnation.

    The non-believer should examine his desire to protest Christianity for him
    death is complete termination, therefore any compliant against Christianity
    must be driven by some entity. In essence why worry about if it means nothing.

    • December 18, 2011 at 13:27

      While Christianity means nothing, the actions of many Christians as well as other theists cause many real problems in the world. When Atheists speak up, it is because for far too long the theists have dominated the landscape.

  8. RevRMBWest
    December 17, 2011 at 12:22

    I became a Christian in January 1974, at Sandhurst, soon after joining up. The commandment is not “Thou shalt not kill…(Authorised Version, 1611)” but “Thou shalt not murder…(Geneva Bible, 1599). Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for peace and a time for war; and Romans tells us that the powers that be, including the power of the death penalty and, by extension, the waging of war in just causes and a just way, is ordained of God. Not all wars are wrong though war itself is a symptom of sin and the fall. Pacifism is clearly very wrong but so is militarism. You have to have proper defences and at times go to war that justice may be done and the wicked put down.

    • December 17, 2011 at 15:00

      RevRMBWest You have forgotten in your Biblical interpretation to include the clear command by your leader “The Christ” not to judge least you too shall be judged. So knowing that what is your justification for war? Is it not God’s realm to Judge? “Justice be mine says the Lord” not a human one. Oh something in Ecclesiastes written before Our Savoir clarified His intentions for our lives, and something that clearly makes note of the human circumstance and our inevitable failure to obtain total Godliness. Please read and note in Revelations that this book is to read and applied as a whole and not to used in pieces to justify human failures. In other words don’t act as the Pharisees but attempt to be Christlike. Though none shall meet the mark. So please sir don’t mislead as those of the era in this story but lead
      as Our Savior asked us to as true disciples of the Word.

      • Tom
        December 18, 2011 at 02:56

        Are you saying that if someone was trying to kill my family I should not use force, to include killing the attacker, if that was the only way to save an innocent life? If that is what you think then I would say you do not take the Bible as a whole and instead pick out passages you like to fit your agenda. You are not showing love if you can stop an innocent person from getting attacked and do not.

    • UrgentCare
      December 17, 2011 at 23:23


    • UrgentCare
      December 17, 2011 at 23:34

      The amen above is for you.
      The Rev is using one scripture to validate another. The “Time” sequence in Ecclesiastes was written by the world’s wiseth man of all time with the exception of Jesus Christ. Now where does wisdom come from. According to James Wisdom comes from God. Anytime a wise man writes I am going to pay attention. I follow you Rev. Keep preaching.

  9. Sandra
    December 17, 2011 at 11:22

    How does this hold up as we face aggressive Islam? Does anyone believe that if we withdraw our military to within our borders, we will not be overrun? Does God want us to turn the other cheek to the political-religious regimes of Islam and atheism?

    • December 17, 2011 at 15:18

      Yes Sandra, He not only wants us to, but commands us to pray for our deliverance. Something a lot different them the worlds solution. But something that will truly work. Faith will prevail when all of the worlds solutions will only bring about more of the same. This statement has been proven by history. The deceiver offers the reward of peace through the use of death only to accumulate more souls for his ravenous appetite for Gods children. His offer is so illogical only he could make it sound as a solution. By buying into this maniacal solution to war we satisfy his plan and overlook that of God’s. Christ said not to value ones life over that of his brother and above that of everlasting life through Him. Put your Faith in Him and not in worldly solutions for in doing so you surly will be disappointed and in a much worst case perhaps lost.

  10. steve camp
    December 17, 2011 at 11:11

    The story of the Christmas truce of WW1 is a wonderful story and the writer does include a good amount of factual and pertinent information. However, the writer obviously has an ignorance and an agenda and thus, is misleading and false in respects. One only needs to read the Bible to know that wars are not necessarily satanic. More significantly, the soldiers doing the killing are not breaking the commandment because they are instruments of the state and it is the state (i.e. King in the Bible)that is responsible unto God and the commandment thou shalt not kill. That king and state is established by God for good or evil. This dangerous distortion of truth, for example with respect to Japan making war on the USA in WW2, would suggest the USA do nothing and thus, not defend itself and therefore capitulate to the Japanese. In other words, if the nation (soldiers) could not kill, we would be a part of Japan and Germany as would the rest of the world. Most disturbing, the writing and distortion of truth can today heap great guilt on the members of our armed forces who may have killed for our state – where they are in fact innocent! As individuals, in our own capacity, we are not to kill. However, a police officer or soldier for example, acting in the their duties per the state, are innocent.

    • December 17, 2011 at 14:42

      That statement about acting according to the state t and discounting free will and conscience from the act of choice is irresponsible and a rationalization for lack of character and strength through Christ. I ask again what did your Savior say to all of us through his peace message? Why then do you think that you have the authority to disregard His instructions and not only that but to try to lead others to act against His instructions.

    • December 18, 2011 at 13:24

      You must have missed this part of the story.

      WWI ultimately destroyed four empires, chemically poisoned the soil and water supplies of agrarian France (with the massive amounts of military toxins) and killed off 14 million people, 90 percent of whom were young, naïve combatants.

      Entire generation of young French, British and German men had been wasted, either killed, wounded, rendered permanently disabled, insane, criminal or in other ways a menace to society.

      No one, especially the military planners, had foreseen the coming mass slaughter and the stalemates that were inevitable with trench, artillery and machine-gun warfare. Everyone was blinded by the propaganda message that war was glorious and God-ordained rather than satanic.

      Churches for War

      Predictably, the Christian churches joined the patriotic fervor with their nationalistic blindness, refusing to teach what Jesus had always taught about violence (that it was forbidden to those who wished to follow him).

      The pulpits on all sides – British, Scottish, French, German, Austrian, Hungarian, Russian, Serbian, Italian, etc, — rang with flag-waving, patriotic fervor, telling their doomed sons that it was their Christian duty to obey their secular leaders and to march off to war to kill the fingered (equally Christian) enemy on the other side of the battle line.

      If the Christians on both sides had not been so eager to kill each other, there would not have been a need for the Christmas break in hostilities.

  11. George Somsel
    December 17, 2011 at 11:09

    If you intend to quote scripture, you should quote it correctly. It does not say “You shall not kill” but “You shall not commit murder” which is an entirely different matter. Would you care to compare “You shall not commit murder” with the instructions to wipe out all inhabitants (herem) in the Conquest passages?

    • December 17, 2011 at 14:26

      George, While you apply semantics your interpretation of the Biblical text and say you are correct, even though this discounts much more specific instructions written in Red, then what to you call participation in a game of conquest in which voluntary participants take the life over another participant for no other reason then they have been told to do so? Murder, no ands ifs or buts about it. It is voluntary and free will has been applied. Murder? No one says you have to agree to go to war against another country or people. It is free will pure and simple. It has been rationalized more that any other sin and still can not be justified when the tenants have been honestly applied.

      • December 18, 2011 at 13:22

        God is always telling us to kill other people. It is his “go to” response when he gets upset.

        Kill People Who Don’t Listen to Priests
        Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death. Such evil must be purged from Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:12 NLT)

        Kill Witches
        You should not let a sorceress live. (Exodus 22:17 NAB)

        Kill Homosexuals
        “If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives.” (Leviticus 20:13 NAB)

        Kill Fortunetellers
        A man or a woman who acts as a medium or fortuneteller shall be put to death by stoning; they have no one but themselves to blame for their death. (Leviticus 20:27 NAB)

        Death for Hitting Dad
        Whoever strikes his father or mother shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:15 NAB)

        Death for Cursing Parents
        1) If one curses his father or mother, his lamp will go out at the coming of darkness. (Proverbs 20:20 NAB)
        2) All who curse their father or mother must be put to death. They are guilty of a capital offense. (Leviticus 20:9 NLT)

        Death for Adultery
        If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10 NLT)

        Death for Fornication
        A priest’s daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death. (Leviticus 21:9 NAB)

        Kill Nonbelievers
        They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (2 Chronicles 15:12-13 NAB)

        Kill False Prophets
        If a man still prophesies, his parents, father and mother, shall say to him, “You shall not live, because you have spoken a lie in the name of the Lord.” When he prophesies, his parents, father and mother, shall thrust him through. (Zechariah 13:3 NAB)

        Kill the Entire Town if One Person Worships Another God
        Suppose you hear in one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock. Then you must pile all the plunder in the middle of the street and burn it. Put the entire town to the torch as a burnt offering to the LORD your God. That town must remain a ruin forever; it may never be rebuilt. Keep none of the plunder that has been set apart for destruction. Then the LORD will turn from his fierce anger and be merciful to you. He will have compassion on you and make you a great nation, just as he solemnly promised your ancestors. “The LORD your God will be merciful only if you obey him and keep all the commands I am giving you today, doing what is pleasing to him.” (Deuteronomy 13:13-19 NLT)

  12. agbjr
    December 17, 2011 at 10:33

    This has been a well-known event to serious students of this era in European history however it was literally covered-up at the time by the governments involved. Photos of the happy soldiers embracing and playing soccer actually appeared in British newspapers before the government stepped in seizing the photographic printing plates and negatives – and ever-after denying the impromptu truce ever took place. The entire story with actual photos and remembrances from the men who were there is told well in “Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce” by Stanley Weintraub (Plume/Penguin Press, 2001).

    The Europe – and world – that disappeared in August, 1914 was the most tolerant and optimistic society in modern times. The First World War was brought by arrogance and stupidity, it was the spring-board for the Second World War and ushered in a century of horrific warfare. Although all have been forever affected by the suffering the First War sparked no people have suffered or lost more than the German people. Only now are they regaining the place they lost a century ago.

  13. Denny
    December 17, 2011 at 10:22

    I remeber well the story of 1914. I am now 70 years old. My grandfather weas there. The Germans and Americans exchanged smokes, pictures, some of their rations. There was somewhat of a languge barrier, but that did not stop them. They also song ome hyms for Christmas.

    I have always thought the leaders, politicians should fight the wars. Instead it is always the working people, on both sides of the war. It has always been the pesants who do the actual fighting, not their leaders who want the power, wealth, control, of the other nation. While the working people just want to be able to take care of their families, get their kids a good education, and enough to eat.

  14. December 17, 2011 at 10:21

    Thank you for this thought provoking peace.
    @MikeH: The command to honor is not conditional, but that doesn’t mean the Bible is fallible. There are better ways to honor one’s parent’s than unthinking obedience and acceptance of abuse. All of the commands are to be obeyed together, and they are consistent. One can never honor’s one’s parents by condoning adultery or murder. If they are abusing a child, parents are to be honored by forcing them to seek help. If you are the abused child, honor your parents by contacting another adult to get help. In a properly functioning community, of course, parents would be helped long before they got to the point of abuse, and it is tragic when this does not happen, just as it is tragic when war happens.

  15. December 16, 2011 at 23:08

    Regarding the Ten Commandments, I think the commandment to “honor your father and mother”, which in the biblical text is unconditional and does not make exceptions if one’s parents are or have been abusive, or are otherwise not deserving of honor, is a big part of the problem.

    The Bible was written by fallible human beings, and I think it exhibits fallibility just like anything else that has ever been written. In particular I think the commandment to unconditionally “honor your father and mother” is an example of something in the Bible that is wrong.

    By all means honor your parents if they have been truly loving, have treated you well, and have been respectful and sensitive to your needs.

    However it is very wrong to tell a person with abusive parents that that person has a duty to honor such parents.

    Not only that, I think it is dangerous for a person to honor and continue to honor parents who are or have been abusive. This has been shown to be the case in the books and writings of the recently deceased Swiss writer and psychotherapist Alice Miller.

    In particular it should be very obvious, if one thinks about it, that if a person has been taught since childhood to honor one’s parents even if they are abusive, and to be mortally afraid of challenging or questioning one’s parents (under threat of punishment, either physical or otherwise), then that person will almost certainly not dare to challenge or question other authorities (religious, political, or otherwise) later in life.

    Alice Miller, in one of her earliest books titled For Your Own Good, documents that this was the case with leading figures in the Nazi regime and with ordinary Germans who went along with Hitler. They all had very “strict” (actually abusive and soul-murdering) upbringings, to which they claimed they owed a great deal. They all unquestioningly honored their father and mother.

    • Ron
      December 17, 2011 at 11:56

      The Holy Bible was NOT “written by fallible human beings”, but was given to the hearts and minds of the Scripture writers by God: “ALL scripture is given by inspiration of god”, as the Bible states.

      • December 17, 2011 at 14:12

        This is a circular argument. The Bible is the “inspired Word of God”, and it says that “all scripture is given by the inspiration of God” therefore the Bible has to be the “inspired Word of God”, and it says … on and on ad infinitum.

        A Muslim might say the same thing or something similar about the Koran, and I don’t think the Bible and the Koran can BOTH be the absolute and infallible truth revealed by God.

        • ozarker
          December 17, 2011 at 16:19

          RIght. And the Koran is not the word of God, which is demostrable, but not in an Internet comment. Start with Pascal’s Pensees and go from there.
          “HOnor” does not mean “never question” or “always say your partents are right”; it means “honor”, a lost concept in our disordered age.

        • December 17, 2011 at 19:35

          I can’t prove to you that God’s word is true. But reasonable, honest questions have answers. God allows unbelief; belief is not forced on you. It wouldn’t be faith;-)
          I do suggest that you get to know as many Christians as you can, as well as you can. Sadly, some of them may annoy you;-)
          Hopefully others will lead you to the Jesus of Scripture, who alone is perfect, and the one who is, or ought to be, making his followers more like him.

          • December 18, 2011 at 04:19

            Thanks for the respectful manner in which you expressed your concern.

            I just turned 61, and I already have already done what you suggested. I used to be a Christian, and I did get to know many Christians, many of whom were very good people and who have given me support and encouragement and have been “there” for me at various times. (And yes, many Christians have also been annoying, as you said.)

            My dissatisfaction was with Christianity itself, and not specifically with any Christians or group of Christians.

            I found that my being a Christian, and supposedly having a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ”, had not ever specifically been of help to me in enabling me to deal with any difficult or distressing situation or circumstance that I faced in the “real world”, or with anything that was a source of pain, frustration, or unhappiness for me.

            The biggest thing about which I found Christianity to have been of no help to me was my relationship with my dad, hence my issue with the commandment to “honor your father and mother”.

            My dad actually did many very good things and many nice things, and I had many good times with him. He certainly was not the worst father anybody ever had. I tried to honor him by letting me know that I appreciated the good and nice things he did.

            However my dad was a very strong-minded person, and was often extremely judgmental and critical, and sometimes bordered on being abusive.

            It was one of the major frustrations and disappointments of my life that I was not going to be able to stand up to my dad or to confront him and hold my ground with him when he was obnoxious and borderline abusive.

            And I hold Christianity to be at least partially responsible for not helping me to deal with my dad, with among other things the commandment to “honor your father and mother”, and with a passage in Hebrews 12 which says to gladly accept the chastening of the Lord, like that of a “good” father, i.e. much like my father.

            I go into more detail about the commandment, the work of the late psychotherapist Alice Miller, and my difficulties with my dad in this post in my journal:


            One problem I had specifically with Christianity was the idea of hell. In particular, even if I had “accepted Jesus Christ” and was supposedly “saved” myself, I could never accept having the terrible thought in the back of my mind that OTHERS are either “saved” or “unsaved”, and are going to go to hell for all eternity if they happened to die “unsaved”.

            And I could never accept the duty and obligation to tell others about Jesus Christ or their need to “accept Christ” with that thought in the back of my mind and motivated by that concern.

            And I could not accept having to believe that those who miss their chance to “accept Christ” in this life, for whatever reason, or those who happen to guess wrong by adhering to a religion other than Christianity, are to be condemned to hell.

            And I could not accept having to believe that a murder victim who happens to be “unsaved” is condemned to hell, while if the murderer later “repents” and “accepts Christ”, the murderer is let into heaven.

            I eventually came to realize that I needed to part company with the Christian faith, and particularly to absolve myself of any duties and obligations specifically imposed by the faith (as opposed to those incumbent on any good or moral person). I am happy about having done so, and I am as certain as I am of anything that this was the healthy thing and the right thing for me to do.

            I am also not an atheist; I have some problems with finally being an atheist. I would consider myself to be a Deist, and just on the believing side of agnostic. Deists emphasize the use of reason, and consider it rational to suppose that a supreme being created the universe. However deists, among other things, reject any alleged revelation from God, such as the Bible or the Koran, as actually being such, and I am fully with them about that.

            I consider the matter of whether there is life after this present life to be an open question. I think that the near-death experiences which we hear about might possibly be a manifestation of the life after this life. (I can’t say for certain; I myself have never had such an experience, and I don’t think it would be wise to wish for one!, and I don’t know of anybody I know personally having had any such experience.)

            If there is a life after this present life I don’t believe our eternal fate or destiny is necessarily fixed at the moment of death. Even if I might be concerned about my own destiny, I cannot accept having to worry about the destiny of others.

      • December 20, 2011 at 05:39

        To be precise Ron’s statement above is an example of the logical fallacy of begging the question, i.e. demonstrating a conclusion by means of premises that assume the conclusion.

        Another example:

        Argument: Billy always tells the truth, I know this because he told me so.

        Problem: Billy may be lying.

        Also called Petitio Principii, Circulus in Probando, arguing in a circle, assuming the answer. Begging the question does not preclude the possibility that the statement is incorrect, and it is not sufficient proof in and of itself.

      • December 20, 2011 at 15:05

        Wrong historically & factually ,bible has been “translated”10000 times by the people who crucified Jesus .Blind faith belong to the stone age . You can do better & should have more respect for god .

    • UrgentCare
      December 17, 2011 at 23:05


      Honoring your Mother and your Father does not necessarily mean putting them on a pedastal and worshiping them. To bring honor to someone also can be done by the way we live our lives. If we live an upright life then we have brought honor to our parents. Certainly there are some parent who we may feel and probably do not deserve honor but God does not give any further instructions as to what conditions prevail. His instructions are matter of fact and to be obeyed. Some of the most Godly people who ever lived were the offspring of some very ungodly parents. I think it’s comforting to read the rest of the Commandment “So that your days may be long upon the earth”. This promise outweighs any hardships we may have to endure.
      My step-father was a very ungodly man. Sometimes I had to grit my teeth to keep from spitting them at him. But I did love him and I cried when he passed on not having any confidence where he would spend eternity.

      • December 18, 2011 at 04:49

        Thanks for your respectful reply.

        Again I really have problems with the idea that this particular book, the Bible, is the absolute truth given to us by God, and I don’t wish to get into a semantic argument as to exactly what it means to “honor” one’s parents, or as to what the commandment “really” intends or means.

        I will say that in my opinion the late psychotherapist Alice Miller, particularly in her book The Body Never Lies (you can use Google to find out about it), does a very good job at refuting the promise that comes with the commandment (“that the days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you”), and the implied threat that one’s days will be short if one does not honor one’s parents. In particular the first part of her book has brief information about a number of well-known writers, such as Nietzsche, Virginia Woolf, and Marcel Proust, who might have been very perceptive about the ills and evils of the society in which they lived (particularly Nietzsche), but who never assigned any blame or culpability to their parents or other early caretakers, no matter how abusive they might have been. Whatever else they might have said or done, they did not dare to challenge or break the commandment to “honor your father and mother”. The writers she deals with in her book all died at an early or relatively early age, either due to illness or to suicide. According to Alice Miller physical illness is very often a consequence of or is aggravated by repressed emotions stemming from childhood mistreatment (and I would agree).

      • A T Cox
        December 18, 2011 at 12:54

        One of the most godly women I have known is my wife of 43 years – whose parents were both ungodly when she was a child. Her life and spiritual development is a miracle of God’s grace. Forgiveness was a key to this.

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