George was a martyr. He faced terrible torture for years without giving in to his torturers. He lived with valour and died nobly. But of course that’s not why we remember him. We remember him because he killed that dragon. It’s the one thing everyone knows about St. George. And he didn’t just kill the beast—he slew it. George, dragon-slayer. That’s how he got to be the patron saint of England and have so many pubs named after him. Not for facing violence with exemplary courage but for skillful use of that same violence against the monstrous dragon. Richard the First of England, called Lion-Heart, developed a devotion to George when on Crusade against the monstrous Saracen. George, in crusader armour, appeared to him in a vision to urge him on to righteous victory against the infidel. Years later Henry V at the Battle of Agincort claimed George’s protection in his own just war against the monstrous French.
The message is clear—if you want victory against monsters and need that little edge in your tactical use of violence—call on George. George, slayer of dragons.
Violence is not an easy subject. Whether it’s in Kosovo, or Colorado, or our own heart, it troubles us. Whether it’s military or domestic or the silent violence of poverty, it disturbs us. And monsters make it easier. In Kosovo, in Colorado, and here tonight. But monsters were not made to make violence easier; they were made, as their name says, to show us something, to reveal something forgotten, to speak our True Name.
When the One sitting on the Throne makes all things new, in that new creation, violence may be no more but monsters will remain. Please God let there be dragons! Let there that which defies our understanding, outstrips our mastery, and leaves us gasping, wondering.
Have you read the Earthsea trilogy? It has something to say about violence, about monsters, and about humanity.
Young Arren said after a little while, “I see why you say that only humans do evil, I think. Even sharks are innocent; they kill because they must.”
Ged, the Mage, replied, “That is why nothing else can resist us. Only one thing in the world can resist an evil-hearted man. And that is another man. In our shame is our glory. Only our spirit, which is capable of evil, is capable of overcoming it.”
“But the dragons,” said Arren. “Do they not do great evil? Are they innocent?”
“The dragons! The dragons are avaricious, insatiable, treacherous; without pity, without remorse. But are they evil? Who am I, to judge the acts of dragons? … They are wiser than we are. It is with them as with dreams, Arren. We dream dreams, we work magic, we do good, we do evil. The dragons do not dream. They are dreams. They do not work magic: it is their substance, their being. They do not do; they are.”
1 comment April 23rd, 1999