Monday, October 22, 2007

Mark Twain's "The War Prayer"

There was a reading at Cyrano's tonight of Mark Twain's The War Prayer. It's very short and you can read it at the link. The program cites Kevin Drum,

"His family begged him not to publish it, his friends advised him to bury it, and his publisher rejected it, thinking it too inflammatory for the times. Twain agreed, but instructed that it be published after his death, saying famously: "None but the dead are permitted to tell the truth.

After the reading there was a discussion featuring representatives of Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity sponsored by the Interfaith Council. The question was "How can God be on Everyone's Side?"

The comment that was most enlightening to me was from Rev Koun Franz in response to what a good Buddhist would do if he saw someone violently assaulting another. It would be ok to intervene, he said, if you did it for the right reason, which would be to help both people. If you intervened from moral superiority to punish the aggressor you would cause a short term benefit, but you would be perpetuating what the aggressor was doing. This helps me understand a story I heard the other day about a survivor of the Mi Lai massacre during the Vietnam war. Asked today what she thought about Americans coming to Mi Lai today, she said she was glad they came. What if it was one of the people who killed her family? That would be even better, because then I could forgive them.

How different is that way of thinking about the world from an eye for an eye.


  1. I've read Mark Twain's short novel. I liked it very much.

    I liked the Buddhist's approach very much, too.

  2. Heehe! I love Koun-sensei.


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