Essay about The Soldier's Prayer by Michael Herr

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Journalist Michael Herr wrote poignantly of the difference between organized and personal religion in combat in Vietnam: "The Soldier's Prayer came in two versions: Standard, printed on a plastic-coated card by the Defense Department, and Standard Revised, impossible to convey because it got translated outside of language, into chaos—screams, begging, promises, threats, sobs, repetitions of holy names until their throats were cracked and dry, some men and bitten through their collar points and rifle straps and even their dog-tag chains." Using Herr's observation as a starting point, this paper examines soldiers' explicit rejection of traditional organized religious practices and interpretations (defined by the participation of military…show more content…
Journalist Michael Herr wrote poignantly of the difference between organized and personal religion in combat in Vietnam: "The Soldier's Prayer came in two versions: Standard, printed on a plastic-coated card by the Defense Department, and Standard Revised, impossible to convey because it got translated outside of language, into chaos—screams, begging, promises, threats, sobs, repetitions of holy names until their throats were cracked and dry, some men and bitten through their collar points and rifle straps and even their dog-tag chains." Using Herr's observation as a starting point, this paper examines soldiers' explicit rejection of traditional organized religious practices and interpretations (defined by the participation of military chaplains) and the creation of wartime vernacular religion specifically situated in the combat zone of Vietnam. While certainly many soldiers found religious fulfillment through the services prayers, and sacraments offered by military chaplains, and many others surely sought and found solace in the familiarity of the worship services and rites chaplains facilitated, studying the lived religion of the Vietnam War only where chaplains were involved risks missing the complicated relationships to religious faith and practices of those who consciously rejected the chaplains' ministry, organized religion or even God. This paper specifically asks how soldiers expressed the rejection of organized religion in their attempt to make meaning in a war,

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