Friday, January 22, 2016

Please Don't Pray For Me

"We'll just have to wait and pray!" she cheerfully responded when I emailed about pending grades.

Pray? About her student's grade? How exactly does that work? I'd like to point out that the (obviously hypothetical) student in question had 19 missing assignments. And the final exam had been completed. I just hadn't managed to grade it yet. So, what was her god doing to do, exactly, in order to answer these prayers? Change the answers on the exam? Change the answer key? Kill me, red pen in hand, before I got a chance to grade the test? Burn down the school? Destroy Pearson and all its grading platform glory? (I might get behind that prayer, actually.) wouldn't this god's time be better spent hearing prayers to save the lives of so many homeless children living, impoverished, in Africa?

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families during this time," the politicians and pundits said.

Prayers? For the victims? How does that work, exactly? Aren't they already dead? Or are you going to pray them into some sort of afterlife?

Or are the prayers for the living, the ones left behind after yet another murdering piece of inhumanity armed with a gun and an agenda took the lives of their loved ones? And what will you pray for, exactly? That they find comfort in their loss? That they forgive the unforgivable? That they cast their ballot for you at the next election, even though your policies helped to mold the environment and the individual and arm them with intolerance and rage and weaponry?

"I will pray for your soul, and that you begin to find some peace of mind."

I appreciate this sentiment. Truly, I do. But what I don't appreciate is the implication that my soul and my mind and my peace or lackthereof is worth more than the lives of the starving children fleeing civil wars in Syria. If you want to seek help for my peaceless mind, then please aim those prayers directly at your pocketbook, your borders, your refugee services, and your food banks. If you care anything about my soul, you would understand that it demands more than lipservice. My soul demands real service.
Why do we offer prayers? Is it because we have run out of meaningful things to say? Or is it because we are too lazy to do the things we should do, so we repeat these token words and allow ourselves to feel a tiny bit better about our own repetitive inaction and apathy?

If we are going to pray to the gods we believe in, let's pray that we will someday get off our asses and start taking care of each other. Let's pray that we get to work and clean up our families, our homes, our cities, our countries, our world, our planet. Let's pray that we begin to spend more money on water pipes without lead and classrooms without mold and less money on Starbucks. Let's pray that we stop talking and we start doing.

But please, god, please. Let's stop pretending that our prayers are some sort of substitute for decency and sacrifice and hard work and tough choices and active love.

Don't pray for me. Do something about it instead.