In the chapter Church, Tim O’Brien focuses on two main topics, religion and war. He talks about these two topics through a conversation between Kiowa and Dobbins. During this conversation they are in a Buddhist temple where they will settle camp for a couple of days. This temple is not empty and has two monks living in it. He displays a lot of irony and symbolism throughout the whole story.
One example of irony that is shown throughout most of the story is how he often talks about how the Buddhist monks are cleaning the weapons as a favor for the soldiers. “He smiled at the older monk, who was now cleaning the machine gun’s trigger assembly.”(O’Brien 121)This image that Tim O’Brien paints in our head is very ironic because the Buddhist belief is all about being nice to others and about karma. And here you have supposedly peaceful monks cleaning the weapons of people that will most likely cause death and suffering.
Another very ironic point is the reason the Dobbins wants to become a minister. He decides that he wants to become a minister because he wants to be nice to other people, and sick old people. The reason this is so ironic is the fact that he says that he wants to help people from suffering, and he wants to try and make the world a better place, yet right now he is in Vietnam cause pain and causing people to suffer every day. Tim O’Brien uses irony here to express his feelings about war, and about how he thinks that even if people are at war, the people who are fighting aren’t really themselves.
O’Brien also expresses how the war you are raised and the type of family you have lived with don’t always determine how you must live your adulthood. Although Kiowa was raised to be religious, he doesn’t like the idea of becoming a minister, even though that is one of the things he most knows in life. Just because he was born into a religious family doesn’t mean that his life is now set for him and now he must be religious for the rest of his life. For him religion is as close to his heart as it will ever get. For him, religion isn’t about expressing it in a Church; it is about what you feel inside and about what you believe within. And he believes that even if he were to be a minister, he know that people are going to be the same. But he wants to change this and he thinks that becoming a big part in the Church is not the solution, but believing that there will be change will change the world.
The symbol that the monks express towards Kiowa and Dobbins of washing their hands is very iconic. This gesture is iconic because in the New Testament, Pontius Pilates does this very gesture when Jesus Christ is sentenced to death. Of cleansing yourself, and almost literally washing the blood off you hands, and realizing that war is not the option, and the causing harm and suffering will just make the world a worse place.
Throughout this whole chapter, O’Brien tries to express his feelings towards the readers about his thoughts on how religion affects people. He shows that he thinks religion is a great part in peoples lives and no matter how you were raised as a child, whether it was more like the life Kiowa grew up in or how Dobbins was raised, it will at some point in your life affect you. He expresses all of this through many symbols and irony.