Sanctioning in prayer
On May 19, 1848 the Danish pastor H.C. Rørdam (1803-1869) preached in St. Michael’s Church in Fredericia. He called upon his churchgoers to acknowledge their sins and convert to God, completely in line with the purpose of the day. At first glance, his sermon may serve as a confirmation of Martensen’s ideas, since the need for repentance and redemption are not limited to the Danish people. The minister presented salvation as a universal message. There may be a connection with the course of the war, since German forces had succeeded in taking a large part of Jutland and even occupied the pastor’s benefice. Prussian forces were stationed in Fredericia and used St. Michael’s Church for their services. On the day of national prayer, a Prussian army chaplain had even delivered a sermon preceding H.C. Rørdam’s service. And one can expect that the Danish minister therefore refrained from topics that related to the Danish cause.
Nevertheless, one can clearly discern a national orientation in the published sermon, which probably contributed to his reputation of having the right national sense and being fearless. H.C. Rørdam concluded with a long prayer [kirkebøn] that was in accordance with church regulations: he called upon his community to pray for king and country. But the old formulations were expanded and adapted to the contemporary situation. The year of revolution had resulted in the disestablishment of Danish absolutism in 1848 and the newly installed government was included in H.C. Rørdam’s prayer. Relatively much attention was dedicated to the battle and its consequences, too. The pastor urged the church-goers to pray for the Danish soldiers in order to obtain God’s care for their safety and fortune. But more was being asked for than God’s blessing alone. H.C. Rørdam led the way for his community to pray to God for animating the soldiers with the right spirit:
Put, oh Lord, a sound courage in their chests, give every arm that lifts a weapon for the just cause of its country strength to fight courageously. […] let them enter the battle and face their death frankly in the name of their savior, Jesus Christ. [...] Lord Christ, savior of souls, support the dying men; let them bow their heads and die with consolation and faith in their hearts, with a smile on their lips, as strong heroes in your name of savior, and lead the immortal soul, saved by your divine mercy, to the eternal triumphal home.
God provided the Danish soldiers with the faith and the willingness to fight, even the selflessness to sacrifice themselves for their country. Fighting for Denmark was perceived and presented in terms closely connected to Christendom itself. H.C. Rørdam spoke amongst others of the Danish battle as a good and almost holy cause that with Gods approval would lead to salvation from the world and elevation in an almost Christian version of the Viking Valhalla. There are some striking parallels to our days when the term Holy War is used to refer to the islamist’s cause. The pastor implicitly even draws parallels between the sacrifice made by Christ and the sacrifice the soldiers are urged to make. The act of Danes fighting for their country was legitimized within a Christian context and supported quite martially in the church of Fredericia.
Important stimuli for the soldiers to fight for their country were their faith in God and the love for their country. H.C. Rørdam sanctioned these feelings explicitly in his prayer by calling upon God to instill a strong sense of nationalism:
Strengthen the noble, burning feelings of love for their country in all the Danes´ hearts, that all may be found willing to […] bring to the holy cause of the country that sacrifice, which is needed to defend its rights and independence.