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Identity Crisis

Conflicting loyalties in the real world

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5


To encourage students to consider how they choose between their different relationships and responsibilities (SEAL theme: Managing Feelings).

Preparation and materials

  • Download True Tube video "Faith on the front line" [3 minutes 30 seconds]
  • Source examples of British Armed Forces activity during the week preceding the assembly


Leader: The British Armed Forces are always engaged in some activity somewhere in the world. Sometimes it's in a combat role, but it may also be aid work, ceremonial display, training and instruction, patrolling or public relations and recruitment.

[Give examples of such involvement from the past week's media]

Chaplains are an integral part of the human resources sections of the armed forces. They are religious representatives who have a role in counselling, supporting and crisis management in the lives of the ordinary men and women who serve in the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Contrary to most people's expectations, chaplains aren't necessarily Christian. The following video is about a Moslem Imam, a chaplain employed within the British Armed Forces.

[Show True Tube video "Faith on the front line"]

Reader: When a person joins the British Armed Forces they must pledge their allegiance to Queen and Country. But what does that mean to someone with faith in God? Surely that must be their first allegiance?

Leader: It's interesting tackling that question from a Moslem perspective. Did you notice that the Imam explained that a soldier, sailor or airman or woman has a variety of identities for their allegiances. He describes allegiances to God, to Queen and country, to family and to self. He says that these are different levels at which they practise their religion. At different times the first priority is on one level, at other times it may be on a different level. God comes first when it's relevant, but family may have relevance another time.

Reader: Didn't Jesus say something similar?

Leader: Jesus talked about giving to God what belonged to God and to Caesar, who was the ruler of Palestine at that time, what belongs to Caesar. In other words: it all depends what's most relevant at the time.

Reader: But about when one allegiance conflicts with another?

Leader:  Now that's the big question I'd like to ask both the Imam and Jesus.

Time for reflection

Leader: We're not so different from the troops or the people Jesus was talking to. We also have our different allegiances, our different priorities. We have an allegiance to ourselves. We want what's going to be best for us. We have an allegiance to our family. As the saying goes: blood is thicker than water. We have an allegiance to our friends because they are relationships we live with day by day. We may have an allegiance to this school, which is why we want our teams to win. Finally, some of us have an allegiance to God, although that may be expressed through different religious beliefs. In practise we give priority to different allegiances at different times. We choose family over friends on some occasions. We choose ourselves over friends when there's something we want to do alone. If we have an allegiance to God we may choose to obey the rules our religion gives to help us decide what is right and what is wrong.

Reader: But what about when one allegiance conflicts with another?

Leader:  Now that's returning to the big question and the answer's always going to be different. Sometimes we may sacrifice what we want ourselves, for the sake of friends or family. Sometimes we may give up a friendship because it's leading us into unwise situations. School and our education will come first for periods of our lives here. Each one is a choice we need to make. Those of us who have a religious faith will probably say that it's always necessary to run our choices past God. That's what prayer is all about.

Troops on the Front Line sometimes have difficult choices to make. They may even involve the choice between life and death. Our choices may not appear so profound, but they're still there to be made by us, and need to be done so carefully and thoughtfully.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for the different people and groups we are linked to.
Remind us of the parts they each play in our lives.
Help us to differentiate between the occasions on which each allegiance might take priority.
May we make constructive choices that help build our lives and the lives of those around us.


‘There are more questions than answers’ by Johnny Nash 

Publication date: January 2015   (Vol.17 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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