Non-Linear Praise

There’s a scene in the movie Contact

Palmer Joss: Did you love your father?
Ellie Arroway: What?
Palmer Joss: Your dad. Did you love him?
Ellie Arroway: Yes, very much.
Palmer Joss: Prove it.

“Take that, scientatheists!” ~screenwriters James V. Hart and Michael Goldenberg

What we the shallow audience is supposed to expect, and receive, is Arroway’s dumbfounded silence. We’re supposed to believe that a multiple-PhD scientist like Arroway wouldn’t say, “Sure. We are programmed before we are born to ‘love’ our parents. It is written into our genes and then into our brains that the sights, smells, sounds and thoughts of our loved ones flood our brains with endorphins, and give us an immutable connection to the very beings upon whom our survival depends.”

It is the year 2016, and yet…

I’ve been seeing an annoying uptick in magical god-ism on social media lately. It goes like this…

“My mother is out of her surgery and they got all the cancer removed. God is great.”

“I was ten minutes late dropping my child off at school, so she was spared being killed by that gunman. It’s a miracle! Praise Jesus!”

“The World Trade Center was only about one third full when the first plane struck, saving thousands of lives. Thank God.”

“I was in a car crash in which three people were killed, but I was spared. Thank you, Jesus.”

Then this just today: “She rolled 3 times. Jeep..totaled. I’m praising God!” Followed by, “…the seatbelt and roll bar saved her life.”

So here’s the bad news: god gave you that cancer. God brought that gunman to your child’s school. God let terrorists fly jets into the World Trade Center. God put everyone in that car crash and let them die.

If prayer worked, there would be no cancer, no school shooting, no terrorism, no car crashes. No evil.

And.

God already knows. When you pray, are you insulting him by suggesting you know something he doesn’t, or are you insulting him by suggesting he made the wrong choice and you are asking him to change his mind?

Where was god when someone got cancer 100 years ago before chemotherapy? Where was god seconds before the gunman entered the school? Where was god on 9/11? At the car crash? At the house fire? In the Murrah Building? In Ferguson? In Syria? In North Korea?

You, not god, are at the center of your ego, and your universe.

The remedy for this mindset is obvious: look at reality. The universe is evolving before our eyes, and it doesn’t care about your wishes. Pray all you want for the seven year old with leukemia, but give her chemotherapy. Get on your knees the next time a bomb goes off in an airport in Thailand, but shut your mouth when TSA is patting you down.

I’ve been writing on this entry for weeks, and I can’t find a punch line. Maybe in the end I am just venting my frustration about the fact that most of humanity is silly, shallow and childish.

I've been saving this one for the right moment. I don't like using the observations of someone else to express myself, but this is just too spot-on.
I’ve been saving this one for the right moment. I don’t like using the observations of someone else to express myself, but this is just too spot-on.
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1 Comment

  1. There definitely seems to be an uptick in this, but I think it’s been swelling for a *long* time among certain crowds. When I was a child, we’d “thank God!” if a dangerous, tornadic thunderstorm missed our house, even though it hit other people. Maybe those other people didn’t pray as hard as we did? Maybe they didn’t have as much faith as we did? Maybe the school that was destroyed and the factory that fell apart simply didn’t have enough of God’s special children praying for it?

    At the time, it seemed natural, because I was taught this mindset from very early. Now in hindsight, it seems ridiculous — and perhaps even immoral — to thank God for sparing us from something he allowed to kill other people.

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