Celebrating weapons of war … in a cathedral

As part of their celebration of the RAF’s 100 birthday, Lincoln Cathedral staff decided to exhibit a Spitfire fighter aircraft within the cathedral itself.  As a cathedral with a long-established link to the RAF I can understand why they fancied doing this: the Spitfire is am emblem associated with the Battle of Britain.  It is significant in being associated with the RAF’s role in ensuring the Luftwaffe did not get control of the airspace above the UK, meaning a German invasion of the UK could not go ahead.

But is it appropriate in a church?  It is a killing machine, after all.

Spitfire in Lincoln Cathedral

It was flagged up in the Facebook group A social audit of #EverydayMilitarism and from their shared to the Conscience: Taxes for Peace not War group which is where I saw it.

Some (edited) comments made:

A weapon of war in Lincoln Cathedral…RAF100 Dinner being set up.  Is it here to be symbolically disassembled by the church? To sit as a reminder of war as one of our “foolish ways” to be turned aside from? To sit alongside a display of the horrors of destruction and death which all such things are designed to bring? To be bathed in tears?  I hope so. I really hope so. I don’t believe any weapon of death should be allowed in to church – save the cross: the site of our evil, our wrongdoing, our sin, and the triumph of Jesus Christ who says: “forgive them father for they know not what they do” and extends his hands in love.


Glorification of war. Perhaps they’ll put on a nice display of barbed wire and machine guns for Remembrance Sunday.  I should have thought a bomber would have been more suitable: Bomber Command were vital to the destruction of Germany’s production.  I wonder if it will it still be there when the German Neustadt Liedertafel choir come for the War Requiem later this year?


Yes, it is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the formation of the RAF, and the Battle of Britain was their finest hour.  But celebrating it in a religious building by showing off a finely crafted, excellently designed, utterly superb killing machine is a strange way of going about it. The Supermarine Spitfire was a highly manoeuvrable, high-speed platform for delivering 2,800 machine gun bullets into an aircraft and its crew in 18 seconds.

In the USA they have churches who celebrate automatic rifles and take them to church: https://www.cbsnews.com/…/hundreds-of-worshipers…/ They are barking mad – what is the difference?

Remembering the sacrifices of the crews of fighter command and bomber command is one thing. Celebrating the killing machines – in a church – is quite another.


It would be better to celebrate in terms of the international strengthening of human rights and outlawing of fascism, the non-violent resolution of conflict and ( if one is religious) the understanding of difference and ( in my view) the dispelling of the class system.  I suspect Christ might have preferred that.

I sent a message to the Lincoln Cathedral events staff (17/08/2018 11:57):

If Lincoln Cathedral can celebrate the glorification of war machines (the Spitfire), it is equally acceptable for mosques to celebrate the mujahideen participating in military Jihad. It is the same thing.

You need to stop teaching people – especially children – that religion approves of violence and that killing people is the way to solve problems.

That wasn’t the message of Jesus as I was taught it.

I look forward to their response.


Abhorrence of state violence

From my most recent module of my Open University degree, DD301 Crime and Justice, there is an entry that caught my eye.

The paradox, as Penny Green and Tony Ward put it, is: ‘If states depend on a monopoly of organised violence … but cultivate an abhorrence of violence, why does this not lead to abhorrence, or at least a deep unease, at the state’s own practices?’ (2009a, p. 236).

(Green, 2010, p. 218).

I have issues with the concept of the state having the monopoly on violence (Weber, 1991 [1921], p. 78) and have written about it in a number of essays disagreeing with the claim.

But their point about state terror applies to war too.  If the state says it is wrong to kill, why do people accept the state sending them off to kill?  It is a paradox, a cause of cognitive dissonance.

More research is required…



Green, P. (2010) ‘Chapter 7: The state, terrorism and crimes against humanity’, in Muncie, J., Talbot, D. and Walters, R. (eds) Crime: Local and Global, Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 209-45.

Green, P. and Ward, T. (2009a) ‘Torture and the paradox of state violence’ in Clucas, B., Johnstone, G. and Ward, T. (eds) Torture: Moral Absolutes and Ambiguities, Baden-Baden, Nomos.

Weber, M. (1991 [1921]) ‘From Max Weber’ (ed. H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills), London, Routledge.