Reading for Monday, 29 December

I’m now back in slightly cooler and much less humid Brisbane, so hopefully this will be the last of the blog disruptions for a while.

In this chapter, Natasha and the rest of the Rostov family go to church to pray for the war.  I should point out that there was a mention of Denisov in this chapter – Natasha said that when they prayed for the army, she thought of her brother and Denisov.

But the far more interesting part of this chapter is the way that religion and politics mix together.  I’m not sure how they got to this mode of thinking, but – at least as far as the deacon praying is concerned – the Russians are now God’s chosen people, and the French are now “God’s enemies”.

I can understand how this kind of thinking would come about – on a religious note, if I understand my history correctly, the French would have been quite secular by this stage, compared with the more devoutly Orthodox Russians, so there was certainly a religious difference that existed between the two countries on that level.

But this prayer takes it to a whole new level, with all the Old Testament imagery of Israel defeating its enemies being read straight onto Russia and its enemies, with no real question of whether it fits, whether the Bible was actually talking about Russia at the time and really no explanation for why Russia, of all countries in the world, would be God’s new Israel . . .

But that hasn’t stopped other nations thinking that way, and there’s quite a relevance to this chapter to modern-day history, I think.

2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 9.18 – Church and State

  1. Yes, we certainly do get quite a diatribe of venom from the Deacon here, all in the guise of a prayer. I had forgotten how long he goes on, too – it really is a pretty shocking monologue of disdain for the French. The irony of this coming in the form of prayer is most simply noted by Natasha, I think with a slightly wry smile from Tolstoy, when we read, “But she could not pray about trampling her enemies under her feet, when a few moments before she had wished to have more of them, so as to love them and pray for them”. It is not enough, it seems, to cause Natasha’s faith to waver, but the contradiction can not go unnoticed by us watching from the wings.

  2. I can’t say it any better than you can, really . . . long pious sermons usually do repel me, but this one – this ‘let’s get em!’ passage, regarding the enemy is particularly distasteful.

    I’m not against speeches and meetings about how to conquer an enemy who is aggressively confronting us, but it doesn’t belong in a sermon at a Catholic mass, nor does it belong in sermons from any other church.

    The character count, now that the deacon and priest are on – 752.

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