Friday, August 19, 2005

Performance Praying

The latest post on THE TOAD REPORT addressed people and their prayers, specifically hypocrites who publicly pray loud and long to draw attention to their holiness. For some reason this resurrected a randomly repressed memory in the dry sponge I call a brain.

Sometime when I was seven or nine, my mother decided that we would stop being Atheists and become dyed in the wool and died on the cross Christians. Part of this involved a lot of praying, especially before meals because those were the days before antibacterial dishwashing soaps. As the least popular family member, the job usually fell on me to say grace, the standards of which being each prayer had to praise God, ask for blessings after buttering Him up, and be (above all else) unique. No repeated prayers at our table.

Anybody who has ever asked a small child how school was today knows it’s rare to get a longer response than “fine.” It’s pretty much the same when you ask said child to adlib a prayer that incorporates gratitude for the daily events unfolding around him and appropriate requests. Prayer time was a lot of fun back then, what with me sitting at the table, eyes tightly closed while my mother and sister left their eyes open to ensure I had mine closed, trying to fumble my way through grace while the females interrupted to shout and call foul when I did it wrong. I never did figure out the right way; come to think of it I might as well have said “Howdy, Lord. You’re a right large bastard. Snakes is in the corn. Give us break already. In Satan’s name, fuck off.” Actually, that probably would have gotten me into more trouble. Maybe it’s best I never tried it.

Once I asked God to bless all of the people in the world, thinking I had all my bases covered, but I got into trouble when my mom unit informed me that not everyone deserves God’s blessing. Apparently He’s too harried to sort such matters out for Himself and has to rely on subordinates such as seven or nine year old boys who are being trained in proper prayer methodology. Then I switched to bless everybody who deserves it, which drew a laugh from mom the first time and a mid-prayer tongue lashing the second. Anyway, life went on. I never did learn the right way to pray, except to abstain altogether. I guess praying is like nuclear war – the only way to win is not to play.

Now, I told you all that so I could tell you this. The random memory that floated to the top like an unflushable turd was set not long after when we visited some distant relatives. At dinner, the man figure in charge ordered his youngest daughter to say grace. Taking this to mean she was the least popular figure in this foreign household, I squeezed my eyes shut after seeing mom and sis glare at me and waited for the little girl’s attempt at proper praying. I felt bad for her, I really did, as I awaited the flood of invectives sure to come from her parents. I wondered if mom and sis would join the attack or, as guests, sit back and let the home team deal with its own. And then I heard for the very first time:

God is great
God is good
Let us thank Him
For this food

Dood, WTF! I thought, or words to that expression. I sat back and waited for the bitter recriminations that were sure to come from her parents, or at least my mother, but somebody passed me the rolls instead. I couldn’t believe she had gotten away with it. Even though I had never heard the little prayer ditty before, I could tell she was reciting it by rote. As I munched on my green beans that evening, I sat silent and mulled over the following thoughts:

1. What the hell was the point of that repetitious, meaningless little limerick?
2. Does anybody believe saying those same words before eating is supposed to gain God’s blessing, or demonstrate some sort of piety to your guests?
3. Okay, probably the people that think reciting the pledge of allegiance words actually instills a sense of patriotism in school children.
4. After you have called somebody great, why would you bother also mentioning that they are good?
5. Doesn’t great encompass good?
6. Saying “Let us thank Him” isn’t the same as actually thanking Him.
7. “Good” and “food” don’t rhyme.
8. Okay, they are what is called a visual rhyme, but they don’t actually work when spoken aloud.

Even Jesus didn’t approve the preceding message. According the Matthew 6:7 (the King James version, of course, written in the original English) states “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”

Oh, well. It’s pointless, but I suppose harmless. I wish the same could be said for all religious endeavors.

Evil, out


Malia said...

I absolutely love your sense of humor!!! You crack me up almost every day.


Weary Hag said...

Ohhh yes. Have recited that little ditty many dozens of times in the course of the haglet's young lifetime. Once, by mistake, I sat at the Thanksgiving table across from my twenty-something cousins and started to recite my girl scout motto instead. I hadn't realized this for many seconds until my evil older sister (who is surely the milkman's kid) blackened my bony knee with a swift kick. Beyotch.

Anyway, excellent post ~ I just can't get enough of your religion rants. One after the other they are perfect!

Libélula said...

I loved this post...It was great, it was good...hahaha.

I remember once I went to a friend's house for New Year's dinner. Since I was "the new face" on the table, I had to say Grace...Man, I had never been so nervous or embarrassed in my life. We never do that in my family, but I ended up doing a not so crappy job.

Rachel said...

Being raised Mormon I have found that even if the prayer doesn't have a cute little ditty to it, public prayers very often become repetitious. Of course my statistical basis for this is my very religious father who we almost always give the pleasure of saying 'The Prayer' because none of us like praying in public.

annush said...

That was too funny...I love it!