I took two Demerol tablets and went to church today, my arm in its sling and the sling under Walt’s extra large pile jacket. My midriff insisted upon exposing itself from time to time, but I could neither get my arm through a shirt nor keep my sweatpants high enough to stay covered. Fortunately—for me anyway—I am not a modest person.
We discussed prayer. “If God is all powerful, all knowing, and perfect in every virtue, is it conceivable that he would cure someone of cancer or bring an end to a war because he was prayed to, but would not do so otherwise?” I asked. Most seemed to think so, but either they didn’t understand the dilemma I posed, or they had no answer for it. In any event, it was not addressed. A few expressed faith in prayer as a means of healing, but I reflected (to myself) that, despite the prayers of millions, many a pope has died well ahead of those who lacked such an advantage.
I told the class that I think of prayer as an opening of my heart as well as a meditation upon, and a dedication to, my highest values, but it was a definition that appeared to fall short in the eyes of many if not all, and I despaired of offering anything more to the discussion. Sometimes, I go to church and contribute greatly; other times, many people—including myself—seem to think I would have done better had I stayed home.
The question of teaching children about prayer was also touched upon. For the first time in decades, I remembered being too young to take communion at church, so I would pray and serve myself Welch’s Grape Juice and Premium Saltines at home. When I was ten, my family moved into town, and I built a wooden altar under a wisteria arbor. I set our big old family Bible upon my altar, preached to the neighborhood kids, and served them communion. My mother fretted over what God would think, but a preacher told her that God wouldn't object. It was about this time that a Negro deacon who worked with my father said that the Lord had his hand upon me, and that I would become “a great man of God” someday. His name was Truly Westbrook, and I felt sorry for him because he had to put up with endless profanity from my father.
Maybe I expressed myself badly today. I meant no disrespect, yet I must confess that I am often at a loss to understand people’s religious beliefs. They often appear, to me, to echo Tertullian’s statement about the Christian faith:
“…it is wholly credible, because it is unsound…
…it is certain, because it is impossible.”
In short: Credo quia absurdum—I believe because it is absurd.
Posted by Snowbrush