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A Review On ‘The War Prayer’

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Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.

Published: Fri, 05 May 2017

Mark Twain, also known as Samuel Clemens, is the author of the “War Prayer”. “The War Prayer” is about a small town that prays for the victory of their soldiers against their enemies. A messenger from God comes to reveal to the town how selfish and brutal they are in the fervor of their wishes. He explains to them that the same prayer that their soldiers will “crush the foe”, although denoting victory for them, is wishing for violent and bloody deaths for those on the opposing side.

By saying that you survived a tragedy where many other lives were lost because God saved you, is not only a selfish thought (because, you know, God loves you more than everyone else) but also does suggest that everyone else who did die were unworthy of God’s redemption. I believe that many people do pray the same as the congregation without realizing how their prayers, if answered, would harshly affect others. In this manner, I believe that “The War Prayer” is a very educational story.

2. According to Thomas Merton who are the sane ones and what do they do-compare them to the insane ones?

The ‘sane ones’ are the polite society. They are those who run world with a smile and a Blackberry. They are the “…well-adapted ones, who can without qualms and without nausea aim the missiles and press the buttons…(Pfohl pg.1)” They protect us from the crazies. The sane ones are the high school football team/cheerleading squad assholes that would treat a homosexual the same as a rapist, because, in their minds, they are one in the same. They are most likely white and male. The ‘sane ones’, according to Thomas Merton, are the dangerous ones, for they will destruct us all with their cool calculations.

The ‘insane ones’ are those who fight and object to the ‘sane ones’. They are labeled ‘insane’ because they are the losers, the 2nd to the ‘sane’, so they must be ‘insane’ (as thought of by the ‘sane ones’).

3. According to the author of the text, the story of deviance and social control is a battle story: Winners get to dictate the terms and decide what groups or individuals are deviant and the losers are seen how? Explain and analyze, please.

Stephen Pfohl, the author of our text, believes that the story of society is very much a battle story in which to win the battle is to lay claim to the behaviors and thoughts of all of society. The winners are allowed to deem what is normal, acceptable, and good. The losers ARE what is strange, repulsive, and all around, bad. The losers are caught up in the wake and whirlpool of oppressive social mores left behind by the winners.

Winners exist because losers exist, and vice versa, “Deviants are only one part of the story of deviance and social control. Deviants never exist except in relation to those who attempt to control them. Deviants exist only in opposition to those whom they threaten and those who have enough power to control against such threats (Pfohl pg. 3).” The losers are seen as deviants, quite simply.

4. Deviants only exist in relationship to the people who create them. Explain and analyze this statement, please.

Many view the people who contradict them or their beliefs in lifestyle as deviant. It is who they fear that they call deviant to their way of life. It is explained best in our textbook, “Deviants exist only in opposition to those whom they threaten and those who have enough power to control against such threats (Pfohl pg. 3).”

An example of this ignorant kind of fear is the manner in which many political conservatives talk about President Obama. They view him as deviant because he threatens them. He is not who should be in charge because he is black and ‘liberal’, and wealthy and powerful enough to enforce his opinions and beliefs. In other words, he is different than the array of old, white presidents that came before him. They are frightened by what they do not know or understand so they classify him as ‘deviant’.

I believe that this sentence is stating that those who you deem as deviant are probably only relevant or personal to you or your culture. In this way, choosing your deviants and demons is very much like choosing someone to befriend.

5. Do people categorized as deviants really behave in a more dangerous fashion than others? Give at least three examples of where this is not the case.

No. Take for instance, homosexuals. They are but humans with a different sexual preference and although that does frighten some (I would attest that they are frightened because they have a ‘scary’ stirring in their pants for an individual of the same sex) they are no more likely to behave dangerously than heterosexuals, in some cases, less. Homosexuals rarely, if ever, participate in hate crimes whereas heterosexuals (or those that claim as such) have been harming and murdering homosexuals for centuries, just because they love, intimately, someone of the same sex. It is said best in our text, “… large numbers of men whose “sin” involved nothing but the sharing of sexual intimacies with other men were also tortured and burnt at the stake (Pfohl pg. 38).”

Although many do attack feminists (especially female feminists) because they are seen as mistresses of Satan sent to destroy the nuclear family, they are, simply, women who have tried/been trying/are trying to improve the lives of women, everywhere. The religious community has persecuted women for centuries, including pagan natural healers because they were different and intelligent in mystical, yet natural, realms that they did not understand. Even now, “…they remain committed to restricting a woman’s right to make private choices concerning pregnancy and abortion (Pfohl pg.41).” Feminist beliefs are empowering and liberating and while that does frighten some, they generally improve life for many PEOPLE, not just women, around the world. They are not crazy, hair-lipped, lesbians running around hacking babies to death, generally (although the GOP might see them as such.) They behave in no more violent behavior then do the non-feminist, although I would argue that the non-feminist is much more dangerous in their beliefs.

While we typically like to label drug users as deviant, because they are the nasty, violent inhabitants of a ghetto or dirty hippies, we are all drug users. There are drugs in the simplest over the counter creams and a high amount of caffeine in our coca-cola. A grown adult who smokes marijuana in the privacy of their home is much less dangerous than the cigarette smoker in a restaurant, for the secondhand smoke is dangerous to the innocent bystanders around them. We cannot condemn one type of smoker without condemning them all, but yet we don’t condemn cigarette smokers because there is serious bank to be made. We cannot label all drug users as dangerous when we are all drug users.

It is violent people who are violent. People are not violent due to race, sex, age, acne cream, or the occasional recreational use of pot.

6. What is the power-reflexive approach?

The power-reflexive approach suggests that humans naturally frame their life experiences where some things are singled out and exaggerated while others are excluded or demonized. The text relates the power-reflexive approach as, “…a critical approach to deviance, rooted in the recognition that every act of naming, theorizing, or translating lived experience into language is…an act of exclusion, displacement, or sacrifice (Pfohl pg. 7).”

7. If your right eye leads you astray, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than that your whole body should be thrown on to the rubbish-heap. Matthew 5:29 Discuss this quote; analyze and interpret.

Simply, it is far better for you to lose one small thing, such as maiming your body, than to condemn your whole-self to temptation and Hell. To prevent going to Hell it is better than you take upon yourself, with conviction, to cut off the troublesome body part. An example, if you yearn to touch a hooker, it is far better that you cut off your hand than to touch that hooker. By cutting off your hand you can never touch a hooker and therefore you have secured your place in Heaven. The quote tells you to eliminate the evil, the temptation, by cutting off the hand. However, the temptation doesn’t go away just because you cut your hand off (this is where Matthew 5:29 is refuted, in my opinion).

8. What is the ritual of a thousand deaths? What is the purpose of this punishment? Why break the long bones in the body?

The ritual of a thousand deaths is symbolic and tortuous public execution. It was believed that the act of a long and painful execution would purify the body and the community of demonic possession. The ritual was sanctioned by religious officials. The ritual was used to cleanse and protect the town against evil/demonic spirits. The ritual of a thousand deaths, “…involved the application of purifying pain inch by inch to the demonically infested body with death but the last step in the restoration of supernatural order (Pfohl pg. 30).” The long bones in the body of the sinner were broken to purge the body of the evil spirits.

This form of execution could include the peeling away of skin with hot pincers, the application of boiling liquid, the pulling and dragging (four-quartering) with horses, and the breaking on the wheel.

9. What is the difference in the way that an acephalous community handles perceived acts of deviance compared to societies with centralized control hierarchies, what are the disadvantages/ advantages of the acephalous community and what are the disadvantages/advantages of the society with centralized control?

Acephalous communities handle acts of deviance with negotiation and reconciliation. There is no true leader to organize and set rules and laws. Power is equally spread among the members of the community. The community is more interested in settling the conflict, “…rather than exorcising trouble out of particular individuals (Pfohl pg. 33).” A big advantage was that the communities usually get along very well. A huge disadvantage to achephalous communities, as we saw in the Taboo video, is that people can still be charged of witchcraft and found guilty by a chicken. The people in the achephalous community in the video relied on ‘supernatural’ means to condemn and expel a woman from her community, all that she had ever known, to live in a community with other accused ‘witches’.

The main difference between the acehalous communities and the community/centralized control was that the latter believed in purging the wrongdoer of their sin in public. This was not about reconciliation but about punishment. Communities with centralized control have the death penalty as opposed to negotiation and reconciliation. An advantage of this form was that embarrassment was used a deterrent towards sinful behavior because the punishments were inflicted in front of the whole community and this may have deterred crime. A huge disadvantage to this form was that the poor were often times more victimized than the rich.

10. What is trial by ordeal; give an example? In relationship to living within an acephalous community how does this customary observance help to ameliorate conflict?

In some regions of the world trial by ordeal was/is used to detect the guilty person through supernatural means. Trial by ordeal is trial by pain. The text best explains, “Trial by ordeal quite frankly meant trial by torture. Such trials were presided over by priests or other ordained representatives of the divine…(Pfohl pg. 25).” The accused person would be subjected to a painful test of their innocence wherein God would confirm that the accused was guilty or innocent. The thought was that if a person was subjected to the pain but felt no pain, then God was protecting them and they were innocent. However the guilty would feel the harsh pain and cry out their confessions immediately. An example of a trial by ordeal is in a Kabre tribe. The ritual they use for their trial by ordeal is to have the accused and the accuser to stick their hands into a boiling pot of oil to retrieve an iron ring. Whoever retrieved the ring unscathed was telling the truth and God was showing it to be true

After watching the Taboo video in class, I believe that it ameliorates conflict because the matter was settled and the problem was solved. Acephalous communities used trial by ordeal to reconcile their communities. There was no need to continue in harsh words and accusations. Trials by ordeal helped to reconcile the accuser and accused and also helped reconcile the guilty and God.

11. What group of people was more likely to be persecuted as witches from the 15th to the 18th century? Why? Who was Lilith and from where did she come? What message does this convey to society about the way that women are supposed to behave?

Women, especially unmarried women (lesbians, spinsters, and widows) and peasant women who were natural healers, were much more likely to be targeted in witch hunts. Women were targeted because of the edict “…In the third chapter of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, it is written that the Lord said to Eve, “Let your urge be for your husband, and he shall rule over you (Pfohl pgs. 37-38).” These women were hunted and feared “…because they lived outside heterosexual hierarchies and the logical imperatives of patriarchal social control (Pfohl pg.38).”

Ancient biblical texts and the Midrash, a way of understanding Biblical stories, seem to imply that at one time Hebrews believed that a woman was created before Eve and her name was Lilith. Lilith was bore the same and equal to Adam. She was very strong in her convictions and constantly fought with Adam. Lilith also refused to lie beneath Adam because to do so would degrade her. When Lilith realized that Adam would attempt to oppress and possess her, she left him to live in a cave on the coast of the Red Sea. After she left Adam, Lilith became, well, a harlot (shocking!). She began to associate with demons.

Lilith became the picture of a woman given sexual freedom and possession of her own thought and free will and this was a dangerous picture. This picture served as a message to society that women should strive against this idea of Lilith, of powerful womanhood. Women were to be pliable and submissive figures and to lie underneath their husbands when they demand it. (In other words, she was a powerful feminist. A very intriguing Biblical personality and I’m truly sorry that this is the first time I’ve ever heard of her.)

12. What is the origin of the word faggot? Is there a link between the group targeted in question and those targeted in this question? Talk about the nature of an orderly sky God and the supposed chaos of the impurities of women’s bodies: How has this phenomena manifested itself in relationship to the roles that men and women are expected to fulfill in society historically-the present?

The disgusting word faggot originates from the time of witch burnings. Homosexual men were bound together to form as the ‘wood’ or kindling that would ignite the stake at which the witch was to burned. Charges of witchcraft and homosexuality were often bought together because of their defiance of a heterosexist existence.

Early Christian, really, all Christian belief, sanctions the idea of a powerful, commanding, orderly sky God versus the impurity of women’s bodies due to the fact that the creation of the universe was to be held at a supernatural level instead of the natural origins that the pagans believed. The pagans believed that life was birthed from the earth-womb of the Mother. In some cultures the Mother was in serpent form and that is, perhaps, why much of the evil in the Bible is pictured in serpent form. It was in early Christian and Hebrew belief that women were naturally pre-dispositioned and susceptible to evil (see Lilith see, also, Eve). It was also written in Genesis (and mentioned above) that man was given dominion over women. This base idea of a man’s actions and worth to be greater than woman’s is an idea that has lasted centuries. Men were to create and women to bear the consequence. The preference of a male God over a Mother Goddess has found itself in that women were forever after treated as second class citizens. The existence of stereotyped gender roles is still very prevalent. As the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) has never been passed, it is clear that women are still not on equal basis with men.

13. What is Liberation Theology? Relate to Marxism and the social gospel.

Liberation Theology is a form of Christian belief that understands and strongly emphasizes the teachings of Jesus Christ as cause to liberate one’s self from unfair political, social, and economic oppression to strive for salvation. It was developed and is practiced by South American Roman Catholics. It can be related to Marxism in that Marxism also includes an idea that class struggle is needed to create and inspire change. The social gospel is relatable to Liberation Theology in that it is Christian thought/policy that also deals with struggles with social justice and inequality.

14. Today we consider ourselves to be the bastions of secular society based on reason and rational behavior, but the demonic understanding and explanation for the existence of evil is still with us; give modern day examples and try to explain why this “appeal to the supernatural” still exists within our society.

I think that many people use religion to justify “supernatural” events because they don’t know how else to explain things away. I find, in this section of America, at least, that the “appeal to the supernatural” is most zealous and prevalent in conservative Christian beliefs. More specifically, negative Christian beliefs. We all know that out of heterosexism and homophobia (which they blamed on Christianity), many people believed that HIV/AIDS was God’s punishment for homosexuals. I feel that people believed that because they were afraid of what they didn’t understand and using this hateful “supernatural” explanation for a horrifying disease made them feel safe. It separated the sinners from the saved, in their minds. I feel as though that this bit of an “appeal to the supernatural” justified their hate for those who exhibited a different lifestyle from their own. Justification for punishment springs to mind.

Along with this religious take on the “supernatural” comes the belief that the Devil can seduce, tempt, and persuade humans. I feel that many people use this explanation because they cannot accept the ‘bad’ things they’ve done so they must blame it on an outside source, and let’s be honest; no one is easier to blame than Satan. Humans also like to explain the bad things in the world on Satan, i.e. natural disasters, murder, and, well, homosexuality.

Throughout history it has always been easier for humans to explain cataclysmic events and unusual dealings on the Gods. Although humans believe that we are now well advanced, I believe that blaming AIDS on God’s anger and alcoholism on Satan is no different than blaming Pandora, her box (double meaning?), and her curiosity for the evils of the world.

15. What is the Protestant Reformation and the Copernican Revolution? What does that mean for the demonic perspective? Compare the world view of an individual who lives in a society that espouses a Heliocentric solar system world view and the individual who lives in a society that espouses a Geocentric world view.

The Protestant Reformation was the movement led by Martin Luther to reform the Roman Catholic Church and ended up creating the Protestant branch of the Christian church. A focus of the Reformation was that the scripture is and was the sole authority over all human beings.

The Copernican Revolution was the time of scientific and astronomical reformation in which people were learning that the universe was Heliocentric rather than Geocentric. The Copernican Revolution was the turning point towards post-traditional thought and belief.

I feel that the Protestant Reformation supported the demonic perspective in that if everything in the Bible is true (and you’re damn well supposed to believe it) then the supernatural and evil really do exist.

The Copernican Revolution, in my mind, debunks demonic perspective in that it pushes scientific thought and explanations as opposed to the supernatural.

Those who live and breathe a Geocentric world view most likely hold a demonic understanding of the world as opposed to those of a Heliocentric world view. This is likely because the Heliocentric world view defies the Bible’s creation story (in the Bible, the Sun orbits the Earth; the Heliocentric world view is opposite). Also, the Heliocentric world view is a view of modernity while the Geocentric world view tends to support and hold Christian and other traditional beliefs.

Extra Credit: What is the nom de plume (pen name) of the author of the “War Prayer”? Who is the author?

Samuel Clemens’s pen name was Mark Twain.

What is the etymology of the word pagan?

Pagan comes from the Latin word paganus which meant rustic, villager, or citizen.

Work Citied:

Pfohl, Stephen. Images of Deviance and Social Control : a sociological history.

2nd ed. 1985. N.p.: McGraw-Hill, 1994. Print.


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