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Onward Christian Soldiers Lyrics
Subscribe now. Each week, over one million subscribers trust us to help them make sense of the world. Subscribe to The Economist today or Sign up to continue reading five free articles. In approaching the parish church, the children were preparing to engage in religious study, giving them the ability to struggle against sin and wickedness in the world.
Onward Christian Soldiers
This is, however, inaccurate; the Church Militant was the body of Christians still living on earth, waging a spiritual war against evil. They were distinct from the Church Triumphant Christians, angels, archangels, and company in heaven and, in Catholic theology, the Church Penitent Christians in Purgatory. The text appears to have largely transcended this meaning, such that many people understand it from a place of such polemic that any further discussion becomes largely irrelevant. The restoration of the hymn resulted from a course of healthy debate over the use of military imagery, recognizing its biblical and early Christian origins as well as its changing perception after the horror of modern warfare during Korea, Vietnam, and the First and Second World Wars.
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The final decision of the hymnal committee marked a willingness to enact the will of the church, even to the disagreement of editors and theologians. At worst, it may be dangerous in perpetuating the acceptability of religious warfare — metaphorical or otherwise. While singing this hymn surrounded by a small, aging congregation, Long recognized the absurd image of these people marching to war.
February 28, Thomas G.
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