Livin’ on a prayer
If you were in a crisis, I would come to your aid. I’d pick your relatives up from the airport. I’d mow your lawn. I’d run errands. I’d bring you meals from a nice restaurant, because I’m a lousy cook and you’ve suffered enough. I would do almost anything to help.
But please don’t ask me to pray for you.
Asking me to pray is like ordering a Big Mac for a vegan or tossing your Tesla keys to an Amish dude.
I don’t pray.
It’s not that I never prayed. Growing up Catholic, I did an ark-load of praying. In fact, I took a nun’s prayer edict to the extreme. Sister Mary Charles told me that my saint-of-a-father, who died of leukemia at 27, may have had a few Venial sins stuck to his soul that would have blocked him from the gates of heaven. I was just a kid and believed, quite literally, that it was up to me to break Daddy out of purgatory. So every night, well into adulthood, I frantically recited every prayer I knew to free my father before I went to sleep. Messing with kids’ minds was better than sex for some of those lonely and twisted sisters.
Today, I can’t say I don’t believe in God or Allah or Buddha. I just don’t pray to him or her. I’m guided, not by the Bible, but by that basic lesson from kindergarten, The Golden Rule.
Yes, lots of people get their strength and comfort from studying the Bible. And to them I say mazel tov!
Now that the actual Antichrist is in the oval office, I’m honestly a little envious of the undying faith of die-hard evangelicals. If I could, I, too, would be clinging to my religion and scouting my spot to get beamed up from during the Rapture.
But I’m too skeptical of folklore supposedly started by some guy named Moses in 1300 BC. I mean, what can go wrong with a collection of 66 books composed and compiled over 2000 years by 40 authors on three continents in several different languages?
Look no further than the current measles outbreak, thanks to anti-vaxxers and thanks, in part, to Jenny McCarthy falsely linking vaccinations to her son’s autism back in 2008. And don’t get me started on Hillary’s Pizzagate. Things can go terribly wrong when word of mouth entails a forked tongue.
Your prayer requests feel like an imposition, an unfair burden, to someone who doesn’t pray. And yet, in your darkest hour, the last thing I want is to deny the only request you have of me. So I quietly nod or text a heart emoji and leave it at that.
Truth is, maybe you don’t really mean for me to drop to my knees and give you ten Hail Marys. Perhaps it’s something a religious person utters without thinking. But just as you say “Happy Mother’s Day” to women, and not men, I ask you to target the prayer requests to your fellow parishioners who eat, love, and pray probably every single day.
What does tangle my rosary beads are the prayer appeals from those who know goddamned well I don’t partake. My evangelical sister-in-law experienced an awful tragedy recently, when her sister (in her late 50s) went missing. Sis left me a long voicemail message where she mentioned several times “God is good” and “God is with her.” She concluded with a request that I not only pray, but put up a “prayer hedge.” I had to Google that one. Every Sunday, my sis-in-law flocks to a big pointy building packed with people who specialize in prayer. And yet she still had to call on me. I didn’t, because I don’t. But I did light a candle.
Tragically the next day, I got the message that Sis’ sister was found dead. As it turned out, God was with her sister, regardless if anybody said a prayer. May she rest in peace.
Nearly ten percent of Americans are either atheists or agnostics. And on top of that, there are a growing number of people like me who aren’t really sure about the omnipotent one, and prefer to live a spiritual life rather than a religious one.
Yet everywhere I go, some self-righteous disciple in various places of business tells me to have a “blessed” day.
Who died and made you Pope Francis? Who are you to bestow blessings on me or any human being? There needs to be a separation of church and state – a safe space between Franklin Graham and Jimmy John’s.
Swear to God, if one more cashier tells me to have a “blessed” day I’m going to gut her like the Jesus fish she stuck on her PT Cruiser.
Can I get an amen?