Saturday, November 7, 2015

100 years ago: The death of Edith Cavell

On October 12, 1915, Edith Cavell, 49, a British nurse and devout Anglican, was shot by a German firing squad in Belgium. She worked in Belgium, which fell under German military occupation in November 1914, in the early months of World War I. She treated both Allied and German soldiers, but sheltered British and French soldiers and helped them and young Belgian men to escape to neutral Netherlands.

On August 3, 1915, Miss Cavell was arrested and charged with harbouring Allied soldiers. She admitted doing so, and was sentenced to death for treason under the German Military Code. Her last words reportedly included, "Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone," and "...tell my loved ones later on that my soul, as I believe, is safe, and that I am glad to die for my country."

It's obvious from the circumstances surrounding Edith Cavell's arrest and execution that she didn't subscribe to the namby-pamby, pansy-wansy extremist view of Romans 13:1-7 that so characterizes 21st century North American evangelicalism--especially the idea that the mere fact that certain people are in positions of authority means that God put them there, and Christians are automatically required to obey them. Miss Cavell refused to obey the German military authorities in Belgium; this was a "government" of an illegally occupying army and not a legitimate government, and she owed them no obedience. For the Germans to charge and convict her of treason was absurd, since she was a British subject who owed no loyalty whatever to Germany, and especially to a military "government" that had no right to be there.

Edith Cavell's name is still known today, in no small part because of a prominent mountain named in her honour in Jasper National Park. This blogger spent several summers in a cabin at Lake Edith many years ago, and used to look at that mountain every day, or at least on those rare days when it wasn't covered by clouds.

The God whom Edith Cavell worshipped has lost none of His power, nor has His word, which should be an encouragement to us. It was the strength provided by almighty God that enabled Edith Cavell to act as she did and to graciously accept the consequences. The compromising spirit of 21st century evangelicalism doesn't produce Christian heroism like that.

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