World War 1, Travelodge and the Bible.

It has been in the news this week that Travelodge have, over the last few years, rolled out a policy that will take thousands of Bibles out of their hotel rooms. You can read one article reporting on the Travelodge story here. Supposedly, the move has been made “…on the grounds of “diversity” and not wanting to cause offence”.

I Tweeted my response:

I’m in two minds about this story. On one hand, I love the idea of a Bible being to hand in every hotel room. My uncle became a Christian through reading a Gideon Bible left in a hotel room, and there are countless other stories of where people have found that brown book and come to believe. On the other hand, one could say that if people really felt a desire to read the Bible, then they would ask for one, or buy one themselves.

Of course, there’s an assumption (on the side of those who are pleased that Travelodge has removed the Bibles) that they are there for Christians. This is simply not the case. The Gideons are an evangelistic charity aimed at providing all with Bibles, not just those who believe the words contained within it.

Would my uncle really have sought out to find a Bible in that moment of spiritual searching? Did he really know what he was looking for until he found the Bible in his bedside drawer? I don’t think so.

And here is the paradox. This year, we remember the centenary of the First World War. In partnership with Hope, NM&AFBS, and Biblica, SGM Life Words are publishing a replica of St. John’s gospel for people to buy, treasure, and share with friends (with a similar motive as the Gideons in producing Bibles). A link to the purchase page can be found here.

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Of course, back then, just as today, many people were in two minds about God. One could argue that Christianity and maybe more so “Church” was simply part of the fabric of society. I don’t think that has changed. Yet the horrors of war did turn people away from God and made them question that “fabric of society”. Nevertheless, people still seemed to think it fit and right to send soldiers off to war with a copy of the gospel of John, or even a complete Bible.

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What’s interesting is that these gospels and Bibles contained a decision form, for those who wanted to commit to becoming a Christian. Here’s what SGM said about these forms:

The ‘decision form’ at the back of SGM’s War Gospels was added at the request of chaplains. Men were invited to sign it as a gesture of commitment, for their own assurance as they faced their fears of death. Many did, drawing comfort and peace from their decision.

The decision forms were to serve other purposes too. Wen a soldier died, his possessions were returned to his family. Many families discovered a signed form, sometimes from a loved one who had never shown an interest in the Christian faith before. In some instances, bodies were recovered that could only be identified by the signed Gospels. And of course for others, the Gospels were carried home and treasured as keepsakes. Many of them have been passed down through the generations, the decision form with its name and date testifying to the memory of family members who served in the First World War.

Indeed, I found this testimony to be true after doing a quick search to find a picture to go with this blog post:

A Cambridge soldier has survived the terrors of a tour of duty in Afghanistan – carrying his grandfather’s Second World War Bible in his body armour.
Corporal David Coles, of the Royal Military Police, was given the holy book by his granddad, 95-year-old Alfred Henry Collins, before he set off for a six-month stint in Helmand province, where hundreds of British troops have died in Taliban attacks.
He has now arrived safely back home with his “treasured possession”, which he will hand back to Mr Collins, who was given it in 1941 after joining the RAF Police.
Cpl Coles, 31, who works for 156 Provost Company, Military Police, in Colchester, Essex, said: “My grandfather has a strong faith and wanted me to take his service Bible with him.
“I have kept excellent care of it, because it’s a treasured possession of his.
“It’s been in my body armour, in a special pouch in my day sack. I’ve tried not to carry it too much to avoid damaging or losing it.”

The Bible was blessed at one of the chapels in Camp Bastion during his tour of Helmand Province.

Cpl Coles added: “It will mean a tremendous amount for my grandfather to know that his Bible was with me for the length of my time away and to know that it was blessed by an RAF padre here.

“He and my grandmother were married for 68 years and have been a huge part of my life.”

The Royal Military Police have been deployed in Afghanistan to perform a police role – they not only investigating serious offences by Services personnel, just as they would anywhere else in the world of soldiering, but they are also brought in when someone is killed in action.

The death of every soldier killed on operations has to be thoroughly investigated in accordance with national police procedures.

Article taken from the Cambridge News

It might not be Politically Correct in a pluralistic society, but clearly we, as a nation, are overlooking the value of the Bible within our makeup as a country. For me, I think the the stories of hope, peace, and salvation clearly outweigh any worries of people being offended that Bibles are simply available to them. No one is forcing anyone to read them – they’re given as a gift.

Maybe I am sure about what I think of the Travelodge decision after all.

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about