Children waiting for an Israeli military escort near At Tuwani. / Credit:Mel Frykberg/IPS

The last novel we are exploring in my english class is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.  What is funny is that I declared Slaughterhouse Five as my favorite selection, but now it is this last work that has placed number one.  There are so many different religious references to make in this book, but I should really only focus on one.  I do think that the one I have chosen to write about is the best yet most simple one of all the examples there are.

One of O’Brien’s characters/friends is First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross.  Clearly, with his last name being Cross along with his initials being JC, I saw a connection to Jesus Christ.  Cross, though he seems weak at first, is the savior of those in his platoon.  He shares aspects with the Christ himself.  And then his story becomes one of sacrifice, just as Jesus symbolizes.  Cross is still capable of feeling pain and grief, “One thing for sure, he said. The lieutenant’s in some deep hurt. I mean that crying jag — the way he was carrying on — it wasn’t fake or anything, it was real heavy-duty hurt” (O’Brien 17).  The other soldiers appreciate that he suffers, though they do not anymore.  “Lying there, Kiowa admired Lieutenant Jimmy Cross’s capacity for grief. He wanted to share the man’s pain, he wanted to care as Jimmy Cross cared. And yet when he closed his eyes, all he could think was Boom-down, and all he could feel was the pleasure of having his boots off and the fog curling in around him and the damp soil and the Bible smells and the plush comfort of night.”

I found an article in IPSNews that talks about Palestinian children that are unable to walk to school safely due to the threat of the Israeli settlers that may attack them.   A great number of students have to deal with this everyday and many have been severely injured as attacks include arson, assault and poisoning.  The connection I have found between this and the story of Jimmy Cross is the savior and sacrifice idea of the Christian Peacemaker Teams’  international Christian peace activists to risk their own lives to escort these children and families across larger spans of land.   This sacrifice leads to even worse injuries: “Two CPT members were hospitalised after they suffered injuries including a punctured lung, a broken arm and a fractured skull.”  Two members are so dedicated to these Palestinians’ safety that they even try to distract the settlers to attack themselves rather than the escortees.  

MacDonald and another CPT member, Laura Ciaghi from Italy, were videotaping events in case they needed to go to the police. 

“I decided to try and engage the settlers to try and protect the family,” Ciaghi told IPS. Ciaghi was thrown to the ground and repeatedly kicked in the ribs and back as the men stole both video cameras from the women. 

“Because the settlers focused their attention on us the Palestinian family was able to get home safely and so we feel we achieved some kind of victory,” added Ciaghi. 

Ciaghi was badly bruised, required a stitch to her scalp and had contusions on her head. 

Sometimes these sacrifices do not change the situations, but when there are the few that are willing to physically, mentally, or emotionally  sacrifice for others suffering from undeserved harm, it keeps faith alive.


Frykberg, Mel. MIDEAST: Palestinian Children Face Daily Settler Attacks Getting to School. Nov 23 2009.

O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. New York, Broadway Books. 1998. Print.


Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, as a whole is a journey through understanding Christianity.  One of the themes that repeats itself is the prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change” (pg 77 and 267).  It leads us to face and reconcile with death.  As the prayer shows up in the beginning of the book and in ending of the book, we see Vonnegut still connecting to this theme throughout the entirety of the story.  

Along with this, the fictitious Tralfamadorians seem to serve as a surrogate god.  They teach Billy that death and war as just a part of life and that it is not because no one cares about Earthlings, but that it happens for us to learn.  Billy also learns that he must be humble, another tie to Christian belief.  They tell Billy that humans need to “ignore the awful times and concentrate on the good” (pg.150).  Earth is just a speck in the big realm of everything and we need to learn that we cannot take ourselves so seriously.  We need to humble and to accept war and the terrible things that happen, we must not think so highly of ourselves.

In modern day, people are trying to reiterate this idea that sometimes we need to let go what is happening and not blame God for it.  The people in Jerusalem have been having immense problems dealing with the world’s reaction to life and conflict today. “Israelis dream of the world accepting their hold over the whole of the city; Palestinians dream of Jews accepting their dream of Israel finally relinquishing its hold over their part of the city; Jewish religious nationalists dream of expunging those Palestinian national aspirations in the city; developers and diplomats dream of bridging the conflicting dreams in a universal embrace” (  This article is spotlighting a project developing in Jerusalem, into order to release the everyday stress and suffering of the people in the middle of conflict.  Naim Aweisat is planning on creating the first country club for Palestinians in East Jerusalem.  To make this happen, he has to overcome the power of the ultra-nationalist Jews partnered with foreign NGOs that have developments, “Biblical Disneyland,,”  in the same area.  But Naim only hopes for one thing and it is not a profit. “We’re under occupation, true.  All I want is to serve our people, to make life better for our kids.”  He accepts that he cannot change the environment, the situation, but he cannot accept that the people are so stuck in that moment.  Much like Billy Pilgrim, being stuck and unstuck in time, life is not just that moment, is the overall compliance to continue with life. article

Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five.  New York:  The Dial Press, 2005. Print

As the semester goes, and we read materials that are bit varied from the first half of the course, it has been harder to write about religion’s role in war.  We have gone through Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, which makes for extremely difficult connections to be made.  However, this has been the most intriguing reading for me, so it has tapped in to a different way for me to examine religion.  

In this case, it may be the lack of religious beliefs with religious connotations that makes it interesting.  One of the first areas where I noticed this, is where we learn about Billy Pilgrim, Vonnegut’s main character, and what his mother does.  There is also the image of a crucifix involved here.  What makes this stand out is that there is no understanding for what the crucifix’s purpose. Billy has always had a crucifix given to him by his mother, hanging on his wall.  “Billy’s Christ die horribly” (pg 48).  And the conclusion is… “and so it goes.”  There seems no personal connection to what the crucifix it to represent and maybe it is even used to display to Billy that there is nothing he can do to change anything.  Life will happen as it is; there is nothing that interrupt what will happen.  Not only this, Billy’s mother is more confused about the symbol of Christ. 

She said she was going to join a church as soon as she decided which one was right.  She never did decide.  She did develop a terrific hankering for a crucifix, though.  And she bought one from a Santa Fe gift shop during a trip the little family made our West during the Great Depression.  LIke so many Americans, she was trying to construct life that made sense from things she found in gift shops. (pg. 49)

People just do as life proceeds.  There is no sense of seeing what is wrong, believing in the right and wrong, becoming possessed enough to do something about it.

I found an article within a military blog post.  It is really the article that the post is about that speaks out to me, not what the blogger has to say about it.  The article is very declarative about all the political issues and conflicts all over the world.  Every declaration makes an example of how one person, place, government, know that such and such is going on, but would instead let life continue on without change.  For example,”Instead of insisting that Islam must become a religion of responsibility, our leaders in both parties continue to bleat that “Islam’s a religion of peace,” ignoring the curious absence of Baptist suicide bombers.”  Also, “Instead of insisting that Islamist hatred and religious apartheid have no place in our country, we permit the Saudis to continue funding mosques and madrassahs where hating Jews and Christians is preached as essential to Islam.”  The blogger, a military spouse does not agree with Ralph Peters, the author of the article from the New York Post.  Perhaps, that is because so does not take war as unchangeable. But really is it not  as Billy (or Vonnegut) says “And so it goes.”

Blog Post  by Claire 

Article from Blog

Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five.  New York:  The Dial Press, 2005. Print

As I am supposed to be concentrated on the role of religion in war, Primo Levy does not include specific thoughts or details about being a Jew.  I believe this goes back to the fact that the Holocaust became less religion based as time went on.  However, in Survival In Auschwitz, Levy talks about fundamentals.  In his near surroundings, he sees people of all different backgrounds.  There are numerous different languages and cultures around him.  Yet they are all being persecuted because they are Jewish.  What is interesting to see Levy say is that men are not naturally big and bad when order is changed.  It is that because of lack of movement allowed, what is normal  is not allowed. 

We do not believe in the most obvious and facile deduction: that man is fundamentally brutal, egotistic and stupid in his conduct once every civilized institution is taken away, and that the Haftling is consequently nothing but a man without inhibitions.  We believe, rather, that the only conclusion to be drawn is that in the face of driving necessity and physical disabilities many social habits and instincts are reduced to silence” (pg 62).

Through everything, Levy has a better understanding of man and seems to come to peace with what he is faced with.  Because everyone is so alone and desperate, laws and religion do not matter anymore.  Those who fall from this and lose themselves, are those he calls ‘drowned.’  

I am trying to make a vague connection with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Maybe the lack of the connection is what is important.  However, the Israelis are showing more isolation to the rest of the world, much like Levy displays.  “Many Israelis respond that their self-preservation comes ahead of their reputation, that the swiftness and harshness with which their actions are condemned show that the world judges them by a double standard” (Bronner).  

This is very similar to Levy’s attitude at this point in his life.  He is not worried about the fact that he was a brilliant scientist, whether the next man is stronger, who even gets more food.  It is all about not drowning.  

Levy loses his sense of humanity for sake of survival.

The Israelis have taken on the same attitude that all that matters is that their land is saved and preserved as it is a symbol of who they are.  Levy is also only concerned about self-preservation, not about who he has become or how he has changed.

We all know that the Jews suffered immensely during the Holocaust and thereafter.  These hardships started out because they are labeled Jewish as a race, meaning the label is based on religious beliefs.  Therefore, the logical order is that the conflict arises from different values, god, faith.  But when we take a closer look at the details, where did religion play a factor in any one sides decisions during the Holocaust?  When we hear about it now, I do not hear of a religious war, but a large group of people with one strong, persistent leader who just did not care for people different than themselves.  

In class, we have been looking at a view different literary pieces and films revolving around the Holocaust, Auschwitz, survivors and their stories.  I still have failed to see or hear anything based on the differences between Judaism and Nazism.  It was political religion against the Jews.  It most likely would not have even mattered what religious background the minority was.  It is apparent that Jews from this era and even those who were affected indirectly through relatives’ involvement, have lost touch with their own faith too.  

In Maus by Art Spiegelman, a graphic novel about Art’s father, an Auschwitz survivor, I rarely saw anything of actual worship or faith.  The reason Art’s father, Vladek, was persecuted was because he was Jewish and yet the story rarely mentions it.  It seems what happened was that Vladek, along with others with him in the camps, became numb to everything and anything to do with any of their own thinking.  They could not change or convert their views.  It was already too late; once a Jew, always a Jew in the German mind.  Because religion is so infrequently brought up, it is memorable where it is. However, it is not the image we would normally correspond with faithful practitioner.  Vladek almost seems to mock the idea of ‘God.’  The following is from the second volume, page 29:

Can I use your spoon, Vladek?
Of course, but where’s yours?
I dropped it, and by the time I bent down, someone stole it.
For a spoon you could get a half day’s bread.
I spilled most of my soup, too.  When I asked for more, they beat me!  I hold onto my bowl and my show falls down.  I pick up my shoe and my pants fall down…But what can I do?  I only have two hands!  My God!  Please God…Help me find a piece of string and a show that fits!
But here God didn’t come.  We were all on our own.
The sense of God protecting them is no longer with Vladek.  In reality, Art Spiegelman is probably less in touch with his faith.  I conclude this out of the fact that the purpose for this book was to come to peace with unresolved issues in his life.  I really do not see any questions of Art’s answered.  He may even be more disappointed and lost after writing this novel.  Religion is not even a factor, where that was the reason for all of this to begin.
Going along with this, I found an article from The Times of the United Kingdom at the beginning of the semester that I found interesting to use in my blog, but I did not have any class material to analyze along with it.  There might be a obscure connection with Maus, and really all of the Holocaust issues we have been looking at in class.   There has been a lot of efforts from the British and US to find peace between Palestine and Israel.  However, in August there was an excessive amount of evictions by Jewish extremists moving into Palestinian homes.  After all that has been done, we would think that in this situation, Israelis would be progressive towards others.  But they are now caught up on the idea that Jerusalem is their God-given land.  
Quoted from Saed Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, “While Israeli authorities have promised the American administration that home demolitions, home evictions and other provocations against Palestinian Jerusalemites would be stopped, what we’ve seen on the ground is completely the opposite.”  It just seems backwards, much like the entire Jewish struggle from the past.  You would think people would learn, especially when it was their people who were persecuted and lost everything that characterized them.  And now, Israeli Jews have taken into their own hands the non-acceptance of miniscule differences, just as was forced upon them during the Holocaust.  I guess some lessons take longer to learn….
Spiegelman, Art. The Complete Maus. New York: Pantheon Books, 1991.
The Times. “Israeli Settlers ‘are wrecking peace process'”. Time Online, 3 August 2009,
accessed 29 October 2009

In the past few weeks, our class has been focused on the Holocaust and the struggle for Jews.  We watched two documentaries, one which was filmed during the liberation of the Jews and another that focused on the flashback memories of two Auschwitz survivors.  Though all Jews were persecuted, those that study and practiced anything in the humanities or arts were targeted first.  Sadly enough, we still see this conflict in other religions.

I came across an article that contrasts a bit with the situation of the Jews but resounds some similarity.  In Egypt, there has been a rise in cases called Hisba.  “Hisba is a lawsuit filed by an individual who volunteers to defend society from anyone whose words or deeds he considers harmful to Islam.”  Now, this is different than the main reason why Jews were tortured but there are a lot of underlying connections.  Jews that were writers, artists, musicians, anything that had to do with influences other than German were especially targeted.  They were also forced to learned manual skills to become useful for the Germans.  

The focus for Germans was to eliminate the Jewish all together.  But where that could not be done, they had to at least be silenced.  Any Jew knew better than to open their mouth and say anything, let alone anything against the Reich.  One of the women followed in the second documentary reminisced about how, even as a little girl, she knew that she should not open her mouth to say one word.  Jews never spoke up in fear of being killed.   The main difference between then and now, is that these Muslims in Egypt are not as afraid to voice an opinion anymore.

In one case, there is a suit asking the Egyptian government to take away a writing prize and nationality from a writer, Sayed El-Qimni, because of his views on religion and mythology are “blasphemous.” There is another case against a prominent feminist writer, Nawal El-Saadawi. She created a civil organization centered around the separation of state and religion. An Islamic lawyer is charging her with contempt of Islam, with hopes of a sentencing her to jail.  There is also another case against Saadawi, for marrying a man thought to be ‘atheist.’  

These Muslims are trying to undo what has always been a problem in the world somewhere.  Jews are finally finding resolve for what happened in the past but there are still prejudice stereotypes against them today.  Then another religious conflict, and then another, and then another arise.  Will it ever end?  I suppose, as long as people cannot accept that there is more than one kind of person, no.  In the end, aren’t we all made of same components though?  Does believing, or not believing, in the same or many gods, really make us that different in the core? I do not think so, but the world’s people have yet to understand that.

McGrath, Cam. “RIGHTS-EGYPT: Invoking Religion Against Liberals,” <; accessed Oct.19.2009.



This line taken from Rod Nordland, a blogger for the New York Times, seems to be the most fitting title for this entry.  You can only imagine what happens after you see someone die.  When you are a soldier, I imagine the impact to be worse.  Why… probably because of the way it occurs on the front lines.  

In light of this article, what I have read in class, really complements what Nordland discusses.  We just read The Ghosts may Laugh, a play written by Stuart D. Lee.  And, as already mentioned, my purpose here is to connect war to Christianity.  I think it is safe to assume that the, once GENTLEmen in the play were Christian.  We get the sense that they have lost touch with their faith, thinking that WWI, being in a trench that was German, that it would all end in their death.  And to talk of ghosts, and in what I will be comparing the play, to build memorials in honor of soldiers passed today, is very far from what these soldiers believed in before.  As being a Christian, you also believe in the afterlife, not in ghosts.  In all honesty, they all seemed convinced that they will not make it out alive, “Did you know that the average life expectancy for a subaltern new to the line is a mere six weeks?” (11).  This play is also taking place through the Christmas holiday.  To have to think that you and your fellow comrades will lose their lives on Christmas, where is God’s mercy in that?

I believe that this along with coping with loss, leads these soldiers to believe in ghosts, or perhaps to truly see them.  Saunders, the newest soldier to join the group in the play, is asked to tell a story.  Prior to this, we learn that he lost his brother to the war not too long before.  His tale is one of mystery, darkness, and quite frankly sadness.  He talks of how he was taking a walk and along the way he notices a man.  

MAN: (whispers) I can’t remember.

SAUNDERS: I’m sorry? (pause) Can’t remember what?  (pause. SAUNDERS addresses the centre of the stage.) And that’s when I realised what had been strange about the whole thing; I could hart it now as plain as day…

MAN: (Whispers) Why are you here?

SAUNDERS: Well I live here.  I’m a student you see.

MAN: (Whispers.) I was a student once, when I was young, before everything was cold and dark.  Now I am nothing./ I am so alone.  Down there in the dark and the cold.  I am nothing.

As Saunders continues, he starts to actually become wary of the man.  But the man grabs him and begs him to stay with him, to be with him.  I take this as a ghost story about his brother.  When a loved one is killed in war, it must be hard to understand how, let alone why, it actually happened.  Especially, back in this time, when communication and technology was not advanced enough, there was many delayed, miscalculate, and misinterpreted messages back and forth.  An older soldier, Jenkins, proclaims it a ghost story, as Saunders denies the statement.  As we see the play continue, they all share their ghost stories. 

This is an issue that Christian soldiers deal with in today’s wars, as well.  However, in the fact they are fighting men, there is a certain level of pride that comes along with admitting the belief in ghosts.  Nordland talks about the Never Forget Memorial Garden and Camp Warhorse in Iraq.  These are two memorial sites to all the soldiers lost.  What strikes me is how Nordland describes the reason for these modern day memorials, ” … when I am with soldiers, it is the only time I believe in ghosts. Not surprisingly, soldiers never talk about this for fear of sounding foolish. Instead, they invest their surroundings with memorials and mementos.”  We do not hear much of ghost stories of fallen soldiers, brothers, and friends, as we did in the play.  And who knows, perhaps out there on the battlefields, bases, camps, those stories are exchanged.  To tie this back to my original theme, the belief in ghosts does not follow the Christian faith.  And who can blame them?  Many to come back, or continue to believe that Jesus Christ will save them, but the Christian communities also have to accept, that many do not.  

Yet Americans will continue to use their motto: “God Bless America” 


Lee, Stuart. The Ghosts May Laugh. 2005. 

Nordland, Rod. Ghosts on the Front. The New York Times.<>

In this post, I want to look at the different ways the Christian faith is applied to those who are waiting for their loved ones to come home from war….or to deal with the idea that they are not returning.

In Testament of Youth, Vera Brittain goes through a period where she must come to terms with the reality that war has taken her beloved.  She was waiting for his return on Christmas day only to find out that he was lost at a Casualty Clearing Station a few days before he was scheduled to return home.  Every soldier, in any war, has someone waiting for them to come home safely and lives everyday in fear that they may find out that their loved one will not be able to make it home.

In attempts to cope with both the wait and the loss, people keep their Christian faith alive.  We see Brittain beginning to lose touch with God because of the hardship and the mere aspect of war seeming against what God would want on Earth.  However, in the chapter When the Vision Dies, we see her trying to use prayer to see the joy in her life again.  She quotes from Robert Hugh Benson’s Prayer Book:

And lastly to me who am left to mourn his departure, grant that I may not sorrow as one without hope for my beloved who sleeps in Thee; but that, always remembering his courage, and the love that united us in earth, I may begin again with new courage to serve Thee more fervently who art the only source of true love and true fortitude… (248)

Brittain is seeing that in believing in Christ will bring her and Roland, her lost soldier, together again. The love she will keep for him  will make her stronger than someone who never really loved at all.  

In contrast, when family and friends are still waiting and can still have hope to see their soldiers again, they also look to faith to keep them strong.  I found a blog written by a mother who has two sons overseas.  She is now dealing with emotions of her youngest son starting off at the Recruiting Center and her oldest being sent back to the Middle East.  Claire, the mother blogger, seems similar to Brittain in the sense that she has a block on truly expressing her anxious feelings.  But when Claire finally has a dream, she finds herself waking up to tears.  And for her tears she recalls a scripture from Psalms, “…weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning!”  Claire finds a new courage again to continue on and find peace within herself.

The joy that comes in the morning is found in the newly resolved courage we find. The courage to find some peace with it all, somehow. The courage to refuse to languish in grief. The courage to wash the tears off our faces and face the world and the reality we have been handed with … resolve.

It seems in a world at constant conflict, finding faith  in the center of your heart, gives those involved the mind to find resolve again.


“Weeping Endures For A Night…”

Blog By Claire

From 9/23/09



I was actually supposed to post last week, but nothing really clicked  inside me.  I did ‘declare’ that I would be using this blog to connect religion’s role in today’s conflicts and pieces of literature that I am reading for my English class….. However, I found something else that interests me.

As my classmates and I are studying literature about WWI and WWII, I’m going to take a look at another aspect of language arts that is being communicated today in Gaza City in Palestine.  Gaza City has been invaded by Israeli troops due to the smuggling of arms into the city.  The main issue here, other than the plain fact of war, is that Israel has had no regard for an UN protocol the Israeli government signed “condemning attacks where children may be present. (BBC News)”  

In response, there has been a rap group in Gaza City that started up in 2002 that has been gaining recognition.  This group stood out to me because of its affect on the people.  As I read Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain, I notice how many songs and poems are used to express the thoughts or emotions of, not only Vera, but many of the people in her memoir.   The rap group now consists of three groups of musicians along with dancers.  Khaled Harara and Ayman Mughames, the two rappers that were interviewed for this article, talk about their music is not to display the ‘cool’ factor of Western influence.  Their music serves the sole purpose to encourage the people to resist the war together through hip-hop music as it was created not as it is known today.  

In comparison, Vera’s recollections show a different style and impact, due to the time period and conflict.  I find it interesting to see the how words in these people’s lives help them get through trying times.  In the news, the only issues discussed are the policies, the number of fatalities, bombings, negotiations, but if we look in the light of the civilians, its the normal, everday aspects of life that they can rely on.  

Surprised by joy — impatient as the WInd

I turned to share the transport — Oh! with whom,

But Thee, deep buried in the silent tomb,

That spot which no vicissitude can find?…

At the moment it seemed prophetic, and I hid my face in the pillow and cried. (Brittain 153)


There are many instances where Vera will quote a poem or song that brings her back to reality.  The one main difference in the lives of those in the book and those of the Palestinian-Israeli war, is that the British didn’t really talk about what was happening.  It seems that though they knew exactly what was at stake, it wasn’t openly discussed.  Perhaps this would make the war real.  Brittain uses literature that makes it snap in her head that things that she cannot control are happening, that she may or may not see Roland again.  

On the other hand, this group of musicians in Gaza City only sings of  “things that must be talked about: the Israeli occupation, the siege on Gaza, the Israeli wars on Gaza, Palestinian unity. (IPR News)”  The ultimate goal is to unite the citizens to fight with words not weapons.

I will be using both BBC News and the New York Times as feeds.  I understand that there may be articles that overlap but the BBC News captures more world-wide stories and features, which will show a different side to conflicts.  On the other hand, the New York Times also focuses on domestic news and will show yet another perspective to other conflicts or even the same ones.

I would like to use Michael Yon – Online Magazine as another feed.  He was a serviceman in the Army serving in Iraq.  His site has a very appealing layout that is very accessible and moving.  There are many personal photographs that help to enhance his stories.  Though he is not a current soldier, his activities and updated discussions relay the visions that are of a soldier.  Michael Yon is also referred to and pretty highly regarded by other soldiers which makes his blog a significant choice of feeds to use.

The military blog that includes podcasts is  There is a wide variety of issues discussed here that is consistently updated.  There is a diverse selection of issues talked about in a informative sense and then in a very personal style.

One search query through Google News that I will be using is Israel and Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli- Iranian relations.  These are issues that I have only heard of and never really had a chance to take a closer look at.  Our class will be the perfect opportunity to explore and write about the conflicts in this region.

In addition, it has taken me some time to figure out what aspect of war and peace to look at to compare and contrast to my readings in class.  I still haven’t quite narrowed it down to one or two things, but I am entertaining the role of religion in war and also in peace.  Sometimes religion is what war is about and even where it isn’t, most everyone has some sort of faith.  I like to think that even those who don’t have any particular religion, still believe in something.  If  one doesn’t believe in anything, than how could they make the decision to be a part of a conflict?  Or on the other hand, try to make peace.