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Thought for the weekend: Propaganda a crucial factor

By Rev Allen Sleith

In a recent interview, one of the UK's former top military leaders, who retired as a general having served in numerous arenas of conflict, gave the following perspective on his career.

"Two simple reasons why I stayed in the Army for 38 years: number one is the people. In the military everyone is converging to the same problem," he said.

"That is very unusual in the civilian world - in fact, it is probably impossible.

"Number two, what you do has a sense of purpose. It's about being a force for good in a demonstrable and practical way. Now, the truth is, that is truly a worthy life."

Reflecting specifically on the Iraq war of a decade ago the same general said this: "I think that if you look at Iraq in 2003 as a snapshot in time there are all sorts of reasons why we shouldn't have invaded - but what you have to do is look at Iraq over the arc of time; see these issues spread over not only years but decades or even centuries ... It's only through the long lens of history that one can truly see whether the conflict was for the better or the worse."

And then turning to the contemporary situation, specifically the threat posed by Islamic State he opines: "If you think the butcher's knife is the weapon of choice of Isis, then you're misunderstanding them - their weapon of choice is propaganda. They present a clear and present danger to our way of life."

Doubtless the general's decisive clarity on such matters will divide opinion, and opens up any numbers of lines of thought. But let me just dwell on one - the fact that propaganda is such a crucial factor in any cause.

At the deepest levels of our being there are dynamic realities and latent energies that can either be shaped for good or twisted towards the grotesque.

Stripped of the word's negative connotations, the propaganda of the Church's mission, with its good news, but inherent challenge, is to capture "hearts and minds" in the service of Christ, whose peace the world can neither give nor take away, at least when looked at by the eyes of faith "through the long lens of history".

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