I’ve just watched the 2005 film Joyeux Noel – about the unofficial truce that happened in the WW1 trenches at Christmas 1914. They showed German, French and Scottish soldiers singing, drinking and playing football together. And worshipping. The DVD box described the priest character as ‘Anglican’, but he spoke Latin in the service, said ‘Ite missa est’ (though I saw no Mass celebrated), and all the troops dutifully responded and crossed themselves. Even the ones with Argylls berets. And later, the Scottish troops were preached to by a cross between a Monsignor and an Archdeacon out of Trollope. (Actually, there were good things in the film, and a real tension between the official party line about the war and the inner convictions of an army chaplain.)
But what fascinated me was how the French director of the film seemed to assume that Scottish (or for that matter German) troops worshipped as French ones would. And of course Scottish Catholic troops would have done. And Scottish Catholic army chaplains were often put nearer the front line than other chaplains. But I suspect the director was just dishing up blanket ‘religion’ according to the norms he knew, which did not include the Kirk.
This goes on amongst the secularist opponents of religion, but I wonder whether Christians are tempted to do this too. It’s very easy to assume we understand the inside of another denomination or religion or culture because it seems to share similarities with ours. Ramadan has just ended – is it anything like Lent? There are debates about marriage in UK – is it anything like marriage in Asia, where women are fighting shy of it more and more?