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Saturday, 25 April 2015

Slain - But Not By George

St. George's Day came and went as expected - without any fanfare, bunting, flags, live bands, let alone any street carnivals, at least, not around my area. As I reclined under the warm sunshine on a sloping grass verge fronting the town's Roman Catholic Church, directly opposite the entrance of the indoor shopping mall, I watched people saunter past in all four directions, with no one, as far as I observed, wearing tee shirts sporting a red cross on a white background. Instead, whether any were in a hurry or not, all had some business to attend, whatever nature such calling would have been, without any hint that this day was meant to be special. Rather it was just another working day.

I guess most countries have their own national days. Even in the United Kingdom, Scotland celebrates St. Andrew's Day; with Ireland it's St. Patrick's; and Wales has St. David - not the ancient King David of Israel around 1,000 BC as I once thought, but a far more recent Bishop of Menevia who was around during the 6th Century AD. But even with these three saints, Andrew, Patrick, and David, a far greater effort has always been made to bring some carnival atmosphere into commemorating their special days. But not for our poor St. George, patron saint of England. As this is being typed right in the midst of a national election campaign to form the next UK Government, all the political parties broadcast their own manifestos, yet only one - the United Kingdom Independence Party, or UKIP for short - promises to make St George's Day a national Bank Holiday.

Not that businesses across England would welcome such a proposal. Unlike Easter Monday, May Day, and Spring Bank Holidays, all which falls on a Monday; St. Georges Day, like New Years Day, would fall on any day of the week. I can imagine employers being up in arms over this. Rue the day when St. George selects a Tuesday or a Thursday to mark his commemoration. Imagine the large number of employees who would phone in sick on the Monday or Friday respectively. I recall once the huge commotion in our national newspapers the week following January 1st a few years ago, when the holiday fell on a Thursday. According to the Press, the nation's economy had taken a nosedive when the Friday was taken off in addition to the holiday, and did not pick up again until the doors of the workplace opened on Monday, January 5th. Although according to one poll, 83% of the English population is in favour of making our national day a Bank Holiday, I can't see this going down well in the business world.

But even if St George became a national holiday, it would have nothing in comparison to the highly festive days celebrated with carnivals and a party atmosphere found in other countries, especially in Asian and tropical regions. Could it be that our conservative self reserve, the stiff upper lip, and our stoicism, along with a large dollop of pessimism, be connected with our lousy, unpredictable climate? After all, a chilly wind accompanied by driving rain is pretty well normal for August, when the kids take their Summer leave from school. Then to add to this, living on an island, cut off from mainland Europe by a minimum twenty miles of sea, does give us a false sense of an ideal society over the centuries at least, along with the delusion of being chosen by God, and his divine approval to go out to sea and conquer the world for him.

Oh, the irony of it all! We have St. George as the patron saint of England, yet this guy, whether historic of mythical, wasn't even an Englishman, but imported from either Georgia east of the Black Sea, Cappadocia in Turkey, or from Libya. Other things we so consider traditionally English includes tea, imported from India. Then the most English of all takeaways, fish & chips, being a convenience meal originating from a group of Jewish refugees, and the traditional pub or tavern was also common throughout the ancient Roman Empire, so according to a recent BBC programme. Little wonder that the English have really, little of their own to celebrate, and maybe can't be bothered to make any commemoration at all.

But come the World Cup football tournament, or any other national or international event, whether sporting, or pageantry, then many St. George Crosses begins to appear across the land - upon bedroom windows, gardens, tied to the aerial of cars, clothing, and even tattooed permanently on the (usually male) body. Yet it was only recently that I have learnt that the red cross of the English flag is depicted from the Roman Catholic crucifix. If there was a time that I wished I had a much keener interest in history at school, I might have learnt about such an elaborate story brought back to England by the Crusaders during the eleventh or twelfth Century. Something about the legend of a brave warrior who bartered with the local pagan population to slay a dragon living in a nearby cave, who had received a young maiden as a sacrificial offering, in exchange for a mass conversion of the people to Catholicism. When the local population agreed to the conversion, George took his crucifix with him, along with his sword, and successfully slew the beast. Afterwards the people were baptised into their new faith.

A very charming story which does not seem to have any historical verification, but I guess it was a good one to enforce the morale of the Crusaders themselves, as well as boosting the credentials of the Catholic faith to the general population of Europe and Britain. However, as one who believe that most, if not all legends, have a kernel of truth embedded within, it is likely that such a character named George did exist, in much the same way as Bishop Nicholas of Myra, a historical figure, known for his generosity and goodness towards the poor, giving rise to the eternal festive character of Santa Clause riding high upon a sleigh flown by airborne reindeer. So in truth, this fellow named George might have been a valiant soldier who had performed an outstanding act of war, or rescued a maiden in distress in similar ways that a fireman would rescue someone from a burning building. He might have even slain a more realistic beast such as a lion. Unfortunately, a lion is far less romantic or mystical than a dragon. But whatever the historical character might have been, he is portrayed as strong, courageous, and brave. And these are the triple virtue every Englishman wants to see in himself, as well as by others.

And maybe that's it. If I was to see myself as strong, brave and courageous, then why the need to trust in God? I would have everything I'll need, not just to survive, but also to prosper, and in a way to be my own saviour. Could this be the underlying factor which has built self confidence in lieu of faith in God? The snag with this philosophy is that it can be very difficult to hold up in the real world. Anger, fear and anxiety are the three harmful emotions which not only are so detrimental to the soul but also to physical health as well. I am aware that most men can keep their emotions under check in public, at least to a certain limit. But I am convinced that keeping emotions bottled up under a stiff upper lip, then be told to man up when things go wrong, is not the solution. Instead, Peter instructed all believers to "cast all your burdens upon him (Jesus, the resurrected Lord) for he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).

Strong, Bravery, and Courage, three virtues that are good qualities in a person's character. But if centred on self, as was the case of George and all his followers, than they could be a blockage to having faith in God, instead creating self-confidence and pride, along with a self-set standard no one can honestly keep. When failure comes, the one who thought he had these characteristics may arrive at the point in believing he is weak, cowardly, and timid, resulting in developing a low self-esteem that can last a whole lifetime, even leading to severe depression, and eventually, the possibility of suicide.

King David of Israel was very strong, very brave and very courageous. Whenever there was a threat from a strong enemy, particularly from the Philistines, he led his forces into battle, and always won, bringing victory to Israel. But he did not depend on his own strength to win these victories. Instead, he wholly trusted in God. One of the best examples of this dependency is found in 2 Samuel 7:18-29, where David prays to the Lord after God had delivered a set of promises through Nathan. Another is Psalm 40, where is faith in God is fully testified. David was filled with the Holy Spirit, who came into him at the moment he was anointed with oil by the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 16:13). Throughout the rest of his life, David allowed the Holy Spirit of God to produce the fruits, including courage and bravery.

But while great men such as King David depended fully on God and has gotten his strength by trusting in him, that is not the case with the natural man, who has only himself to depend on, and is the basis of pride and self-exaltation if success comes his way. This happens individually, as a group or company, and as a nation. While in the past, the English might have had something to be proud of, and to boast about, mainly over imperial success and victory in warfare. Nowadays, there is little to be proud over, and the shameful defeat and humiliation of the England squad in the last World Cup tournament, for example, caused the nation to mourn silently while remaining stoic among other nations.

There is only one alternative, and that is to believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and on the third day rose from the dead, proving to the world that he is the Christ and Lord. By believing, you allow the Cross of Christ to slay the self-controlled Old Man, to give birth to the New Man, born of God with new desires to love and serve God and other people, and to love the brethren, that is, fellow believers. It was Jesus who has shown us how easy it is to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God. Just ask, and his Father in heaven will gladly give (Luke 11:13.) If you believe in your heart enough to ask God to fill you with his Holy Spirit, then he will send him, no strings attached. And that promise is from none other than Jesus Christ himself.

There is a test set out by John the apostle to prove whether you are truly born of God, and is this: Do you love the brethren, your fellow believers in Jesus? If you do, then you are a true believer (1 John 4:7-8.) God's love in us does not allow room for pride, haughtiness, conceit, snobbery, or the feeling of ethnic or racial superiority, neither does it seek for heroism. Instead, it seeks for the interest of the affairs of others.

Without the need to slay any dragons.


  1. Dear Frank,
    I love how you weave this historical account into a clear presentation of the Gospel. Praise God that He has defeated the great dragon and that all who trust in Christ alone will live eternally with Him!

    My grandmother was active in the Russian Orthodox church in New York City, and when she died, I remember the church giving out prayer/memorial cards with images of the different saints. One of these was St. George slaying the dragon, so his story is clearly not unique to UK tradition.

    Thanks as always for the great post and God bless,

  2. Like you I believe most of these legends have a basis in fact. Since there are legends around the world of dragons, and numerous places where remains of what we call dinosaurs have been found, I suspect that the stories may in fact be true, and even ancient public records describe the killing of a dragon near London in 1160 Ad. Job 40 and 41 describe creatures called Behemoth and Leviathan that could well be dinosaurs. the description of leviathan in Isaiah 27:1 further reinforces this conception.