Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Honesty in Prayer?

At one of the Nascar Nationwide Series races, there was a rather interesting prayer recited by a Pastor Joe Nelms.  Now, normally, Nascar has this stigma of being "redneck" racing; partly because of its rum-running history; partly because it's always on a simple loop track; but mostly because of the audience and behavior it often tends to draw.  Personally, as lowbrow as Nascar often appears to be, I find you could do a lot worse.  Look at drag racing -- it's a straight line for a 1/4 mile.  Nonetheless, the pre-race prayers do not help the image at all; especially not when it includes some of the standard imagery of Bible Belt crazies.

However, Joe Nelms' pre-race prayer made me wonder whether he's not really all that crazy.



Sure, everybody got a good laugh out of it, but I found it amusing not only because he prayed for a lot of silly things or used funny words.  I found it amusing because this prayer is probably the most accurate representation of prayer ever.  All prayers which express gratitude to the divine basically follow this pattern, and all our friend Joe Nelms did was make it blatantly obvious.  It almost makes you wonder if he's a deep cover nonbeliever.  Well, not really.  It seems a great deal more likely he that the man was just having fun with it and wanted to get the race started as soon as possible (and maybe he's being paid for a little product placement as well).  If you want disingenuous fakery, you just need to look at S. E. Cupp's false pretense that she's an atheist.

I am reminded of a classical Tamil song (made famous by M.S. Subbulakshmi) composed by one of the drafters of India's constitution.  The general gist of the lyrics say that "I have nothing to complain about; no troubles; no grievances... and I have the glory and grace of the invisible God to thank for it."  BTW, the "invisible" is not my addition -- the fact that god is unseen and not apparently there is something expressly laid out in the lyrics.  The thing about that message, much as the prayer above points out so clearly is that people thank "God" for things where "God" is not really part of the picture.  Never mind the question of the existence or non-existence of a god...  There's a fundamental lack of credit where it's actually due.

Say you get hit by a motor vehicle, get carried off to the hospital, treated for your injuries and preventative measures taken to prevent infections of any wounds, and you eventually come out of it okay.  It's a common thing to think that God protected or saved you...  gee...  don't the doctors who treated you get some credit?  Don't the paramedics who got you to the hospital in time have anything to do with it?  One has to wonder how competent God really is if his protection was only good enough to have you be injured.  If he's really omnipotent, why was he so incapable of simply steering the vehicle around you entirely?  Oh, wait...  he works in mysterious ways, doesn't he?  Sorry, but that's just a euphemism for the fact that you're too stupid to think.  Maybe the fellow was a little too busy saving other people to give you that much time.  Or maybe the belief that God had anything to do with it is basically a big fat pile of crap.

Now in the case of Pastor Nelms' prayer, he made it rather obvious -- and quite clearly on purpose, though whether the purpose was humor, product placement (and the money that comes with it), or he's just faking it is unclear.  He thanked god for a partnership between Roush and Yates...  Well, obviously, the execs at Roush and Yates are responsible for that.  He thanked God for Goodyear tires and Sunoco racing fuel...  Well, it should go without saying that the ones really responsible for that are engineers, chemists, and material scientists.  As far as the "smokin' hot wife" line and the "boogity, boogity, boogity" closer, those are both quotes.  The former from the movie, Talladega Nights, and the latter from Darrell Waltrip, as that phrase had become a trademark of his.  Oddly enough, "boogity boogity boogity" is quite aptly chosen to go into a prayer.  The phrase is utter nonsense, and that's exactly as it should be.  Expecting magical forces to be involved in the making of "Dodges and Toyotas" is about as boogity-boogity as it gets, and it is furthermore robbing everyone who deserves the credit from that which is rightfully due to them.

I know some of the deeply religious people out there might have heard that prayer and consider it some sort of obscene mockery.  If that's the case, what needs to be pointed out is that it is a mockery of a sham.  So there's no real difference if he said something serious or just blathered a bunch of blockheaded banalities and brainless babbling.  The effect is still the same.  Nothing fails like prayer.