Carry On Servant

I recently watched Carry On Sergeant, an early (‘classic?’) Carry On Film from 1958. Made in the days before the franchise became known for its double entendre and smutty comments, it tells the story of a platoon of young men receiving their training for National Service. There are some genuinely funny moments and clever dialogue. One in particular, a brief conversation between an officer and a servicemen on parade, made me laugh:

“Your rank?“ 

“If you say so.”

Alright, so it’s not funny here, but it tickled me no end. My tooth is long enough to remember old men from childhood lamenting the loss of National Service: it ‘taught them everything’ they knew; ‘instilled a bit of discipline’; ‘set them up for life’, et cetera. Requiring all young people (it could no longer just be men) to serve the state for 18-24 months accords little with the notion of personal liberty, and the financial bill for such employment must have helped persuade hard-pressed British governments to scrap the initiative. Bringing it back now would certainly teach important life skills to the young layabouts and cider-fuelled fornicators who loiter about our shopping precincts and park benches in the early evenings. That said, I wouldn’t trust our modern governments to resist the urge to impose modern equality dogma upon them. No, the days of National Service are long-gone, never to return. Voluntary and less militaristic equivalents exist, such as the National Citizen Service, the results of which have certainly impressed me. 

We may still learn from the NS of the fifties, however, especially those of us in churches. That one would surrender two years of life to the common good betrays an attitude worth emulating. Too often we view church through the lens of a consumer: what can we get out of it? Does it meet my needs? Instead, may we see the church of Jesus Christ as a body worth serving: what can we do for her? What can she- and therefore Christ her beautiful husband- get out of me?

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honour giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality

Romans 12:10-13