This is the second half of an article by Frank G. Sterle, Jr. regarding prayer and whether or not God’s capable of fulfilling any. We know where I stand on this, so I’m interjecting between paragraphs.
There very-likely are parents whose prayers were ‘answered’ because of, as a good example, the U.S.-initiated “Amber Alert”—a rare, positive result from something so tragically horrible as the abduction, rape and murder of a girl named Amber. Her distraught mother, who did not want her daughter’s brutal demise to be in vain, lobbied politicians to establish a nation-wide policing plan, in which the entire country—including all news-media outlets and amber-light highway signs—goes on an Amber Alert and looks out for children once they are reported to police as anomalously absent.
There was also a story recently about a Chinese man hunting for his lost child and how his 13 years doing that resulted in the discovery of seven other kids who’d been missing. He hasn’t found his son yet, though:
His stubbornness and courage has captured the Chinese media and resonated with families across the nation.
“The reason I do this is very simple: I felt so guilty I didn’t look after my child,” says Guo. “When I find the kids of other people, their happiness is like a miracle. But I also think, why can’t a miracle happen to me?”
Because now he’s getting selfish and whiny? It’s good what he’s doing, though. Too bad he’s still looking for his own kid, but I suppose believers could claim that’s why God hasn’t let them reunite yet, because his work reuniting others isn’t complete. And if he finds his own kid, will he quit finding others? That’s a very real possibility, so we could make a “needs of the many” argument here, too.
Back to Frank.
Perhaps, one might suggest, God allows such horrible losses, as that of Amber, for a cause of “the greater good.” However, what about the many other parents who lose their child(ren) basically in the same manner as Amber and nothing positive at all comes of it? Indeed, the reverse seems more likely to occur, in which a bereaved parent lingers in a mental institute until an untimely death (because of, say, stress-related heart failure) takes her or him ‘home to be with the Lord.’
Why, I wonder, do so many fortunate people believe that God would bless ‘us’ while neglecting ‘them’?
Because humans tend toward an “us versus them” mentality would be my guess. You see it in politics, in sport, in religious disputes and other causes of war. Maybe it stems from the fact that throughout history our societies/villages were fairly small and far enough apart to make travel between them difficult, or at least time consuming. The troubles of getting together meant everyone fended for themselves a bit more and kept their own counsel and ideologies separate from their neighbours. Be it out of necessity or because of geography, it wound up easy to sort people: those who think like we do, and those who don’t. Those who don’t probably deserve the neglect because of that. Elitism at its finest, I suppose. Even if the elite are supposed to feel sorrow for the neglected ones, there’s probably still some level of satisfaction in the knowledge that they’ve passed muster in their God’s eyes.
I once spotted a secular community newspaper photo, with accompanying caption and cut-line, consisting of a Christian school’s basketball team ensconced in group prayer, apparently asking God for a ‘good game’ (i.e., a win). Even if God could or would answer the players’ prayers in their favour, why in this world would or should He (I actually believe that God is genderless) care about the outcome of a fairly-trivial sporting event? As one (probably atheistic) letter-writer rhetorically asked, would not God, if He hears and responds, have greater tasks or concerns at hand, such as, if He can, aiding starving Africans?
It’s a valid question and I think the answer is found in the fact that people tend to believe in a personal, “He cares about me!” kind of god rather than one who’d care about everyone equally. I might believe he’d watch every sparrow that falls, but it’s only my basketball toss he’ll make sure hits the net… How egotistical an idea that is.
Hopefully, such prayer for a sporting-event outcome is naught but an anomaly, for, much more bewildering and concerning to me was a (local, main) news story about a night of brutal “ultimate fighting” at a South Surrey church’s community centre, which would presumably also be open to prayer.
The event in 2009 was raising money for a woman’s shelter. Kind of ironic when you think about how many women (and their children) likely needed the shelter because they were getting the shit beat out of them at home…
Whenever I say that I (admittedly, a ‘backslidden’ Christian) cannot help but feel perplexed at how so large a portion of the populace believes that prayer actually influences God’s plan for humanity, my sentiment more often than not will be misconstrued as a declaration that God, therefore, is apathetic towards His creation. On the contrary, I wish to emphasize that, I believe, God does indeed love and care very much for humanity, even though we too-often hurt and even kill/murder one another.
So what winds up being his answer for why bad things keep happening to good people regardless of how much they pray?
Rather, I find that if a theist objectively observes the surrounding world, the theist will conclude that God has allowed humanity what we, collectively, desire—choice through free will (figuratively or literally, Adam and Eve choosing to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and thus, as warned by God, they lost the eternal bliss, perfect climate and full protection of Paradise); and we all, including too many truly innocent children, must bear the often-brutal brunt resulting from that collective free will and choice.
But can he say seriously that people consciously choose their diseases? That people choose to get hit by cars or lost or kidnapped? Sure, I guess to be fair there are some who bring disaster on themselves deliberately (the Darwin Awards come to mind) but for the great majority, it’s very much a “shit happens” kind of thing, regardless of how many opportunities we may have to make choices.
I’d never say we’re fated or destined to become or do anything. We have choices in every situation and the choice to make the right choice is not always going to be easy to sort out, or even desired maybe. There are many solutions to problems that we’ll automatically dismiss (or should at least) because they’ll break laws, or hurt people, or will make matters worse.
What compels me most to write on the controversial topic of prayer, however, is the emotional anguish that poor folk out there who have lost children must endure when hearing the words from relieved and grateful parents (on the news, etc.) whose young loved-one was spared torture and death: ‘Oh, thank God—He has truly blessed us!’ Yes, I, one with a sometimes-crippling guilt complex, realize that such ‘blessings’ may be comforting to countless believers; but is not publicly expressing such comfort thus at least somewhat inconsiderate?
I wonder the same thing after events like Haiti or Katrina where people are in the media hours and days after the tragedy praising God for saving their lives with no evidence of survivor guilt in the picture. I’m sure more than a few of them wonder why they were spared yet still come out of it thinking they’re extra special rather than just fucking lucky to be alive.
Nevertheless, I’m compelled to relate my past situation, which admittedly leaves me somewhat troubled: At this point in my life, the closest I come to believing in prayer-based divine intervention are the half-dozen-or-so times in my life in which I’ve escaped drug-overdose-based hospitalization or, perhaps, even death.
Was it all luck? Was it simply not enough toxicity? Or was it a ‘guardian angel’ free from the confines of God’s non-intervention?
I may never know; however, I do not believe that somewhere, someone’s prayer to God had something to do with my apparent escapes from the aforementioned ‘close calls.’
I like that he’s ended it this way, with the awareness that prayer was unlikely the reason he survived his ordeals. I also like that he still calls himself a backslider instead of a born-again. Most stories I come across about survival after personal problems, the answer for why they survived always amount to Jesus touching them directly somehow and how that welcoming of Jesus into their lives turned them completely around.
Interesting how he doesn’t mention medical intervention on the part of doctors and nurses and all the technical wonders that would have been part of their work. It was luck, or he just didn’t try to kill himself properly, or an angel helped him. Why not give some credit to the field of medicine, here? I find it odd that he doesn’t, but it doesn’t really surprise me. Most people tend to want to thank their god before their doctor. It boggles the mind, but there you have it. Last time I was in a hospital on account of a health scare, gods and prayer never even entered my mind for an instant. The doctors knew their job, and they did it. End of story.
End of this post, too.