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Practical Notes Quotations

War and Prayer

George Orwell, War-time Diary 1941 (23 March)

Yesterday attended a more or less compulsory Home Guard church parade, to take part in the national day of prayer. There were also contingents of the AFS, Air Force cadets, WAAFs, etc etc. Appalled by the jingoism and self-righteousness of the whole thing. …. I am not shocked by the Church condoning war, as many people profess to be—nearly always people who are not religious believers themselves, I notice. If you accept government, you accept war, and if you accept war, you must in most cases desire one side or the other to win. I can never work up any disgust over bishops blessing the colours of regiments, etc. All that kind of thing is founded on a sentimental idea that fighting is incompatible with loving your enemies. Actually you can only love your enemies if you are willing to kill them in certain circumstances. But what is disgusting about services like these is the absence of any kind of self-criticism. Apparently God is expected to help us on the ground that we are better than the Germans. In the set prayer composed for the occasion God is asked “to turn the hearts of our enemies, and to help us to forgive them; to give them repentance for their misdoings, and a readiness to make amends”. Nothing about our enemies forgiving us. It seems to me that the Christian attitude would be that we are not better than our enemies—we are all miserable sinners, but that it so happens that it would be better if our cause prevailed, and therefore that it is legitimate to pray for this….

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