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spearcruise missileHallo again to all.

Our local newspaper is generally regarded as excellent by the people who regard such things; it has won prizes and its circulation has increased in the last decade. But the entire front page of today's edition is devoted to the USA's secular version of Easter, the 'Super Bowl' of American football. For the first time in months, the newspaper has not been dominated by prospects of war in Iraq, Korea, Gaza, Côte d'Ivoire, Venezuela, or Belfast. It is today dominated by coverage of an event that has not yet taken place, a symbolic war on the playing field. American football can be more violent than the football played by the rest of the world (at least on the playing field); it often reminds us of gladiator combat with fewer weapons.

Our parents and our history books told us of the feelings leading up to World War II, the sense that a global war was inevitable, the notion that, for the countries of what had been the British Empire, there were clearly-demarcated lines between right and wrong, between good and evil. The closest thing to a World War in centuries past was probably the Crusades, in which European kings and princes sent armies at the request of the Pope, ostensibly to rid the world of infidels and return control of the holy land to God's chosen people.

We were still in school during the Vietnam war, but we remember our teachers noting that it was 'the first televised war'. Whilst the telly, in our recollection, didn't show the faces of our enemies or their families, it helped shape our understanding that a war is not a conflict between good and evil, but between ordinary people, fighting for their beliefs. Military leaders have always discouraged 'fraternization with the enemy', because it helps soldiers remember that enemy soldiers are humans, not demons. Somehow, war is more tractable when it is impersonal, when you are shooting at an avatar and not at a man.

We don't think that there has been a 'major war' since the invention of the web and web browsers. Anglicans Online was created because we noticed that the internet would be a good way for the world's Anglicans to learn more about one another, possibly even helping resolve some of our differences. It's working. The internet is the ultimate tool for fraternizing with an enemy; you can learn from a safe distance. Nearly every newspaper in the world has a website; millions of people and churches and mosques and schools have websites. And millions of people look at them.

AO columnist Pierre Whalon writes this week about 'original sin' and the innate nature of humankind. History implies that part of that nature is a deeply-seated, perhaps hardwired attraction to war and conflict. Jared Diamond, in his much-lauded book Guns, Germs, and Steel, suggested that religion has promoted war by helping people believe that their deaths would not be in vain. We should like to believe that obsession with warlike sporting events like the World Cups in football or rugby or cricket, or the US 'Super Bowl', is a healthy substitute for war itself.

We join many Anglican bishops around the world in asking you to pray for peace.

See you next week.

Brian Reid's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 26 January 2003

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