Saturday, December 5, 2015

The "prayer-shaming" diaries: The impact of recent mass shootings in two familiar otherworldly places


A few days ago, I thought a Facebook post of the first part of what follows would be enough. But the pushback on the NY Daily News front page ("God Isn't Fixing This") was so startling, bringing the new tsk-tsk phrase "prayer-shaming" into the national conversation on gun violence, that I'm moved to add a Scene Two to my slightly revised post: I've got both boots on the ground now, and I'm ready to take the fight to the enemy!


Scene 1: Heaven.


St. Peter knows which side his celestial bread is buttered on.
St. Peter: Incoming, boss! Switchboard's lit up like a Christmas tree.

God: How timely! So these would be prayers following another mass shooting in America, right?

St. Peter: You're the omniscient one, boss. 


God: No one likes a smart ass, Pete. Not me, not Jesus, not the Holy Effing Ghost.  Got that?


St. Peter: Sure. (Shrugs.) The usual majority wins.

God (annoyed): Of course I know why the switchboard's flooded with prayers -- yet again! And why do we still have a switchboard, anyway?

St. Peter: Under the aspect of eternity, technological progress is a trifle, right?


God: You got me there, buddy. (In irritation, he stirs up a typhoon and a small earthquake.) Anyway, what's with these Americans thinking they can buy me off with their reflexive piety? I gave them free will so they could deal with obvious problems like gun violence.


St. Peter: Free will also means they get to ignore what's staring them in the face.


God: The gift that keeps on giving, isn't it! 


St. Peter: Goes without saying. Not meaning any disrespect, of course.


God: No offense taken. That's boatloads of disrespect lighting up the damn switchboard. I'm used to it.


St. Peter: You don't sound it, really. So, what to do?

God:  Unplug that contraption and send it to the devil! Let him get his ears burned for an aeon or two!

St. Peter: He may not accept it. And is your EPS account still active?

God: The Empyrean Parcel Service will deliver, believe you me. As for Satan, he's not in charge, remember. He'll accept it. He's got enough room to strut down there, and the Earth, contrary to what you may have read, is his — and the fullness thereof. Read your Milton, for chrissakes!

St. Peter: 'Paradise Lost' is on my bucket list. Lord knows I've got enough time for it. (He summons a few burly Seraphim): Pack this thing up, boys, and have it sent below. Pronto!

Scene 2: Hell.

Satan sees the opportunity to open a prayer center.
Beelzebub: Chief, you'll never believe what was just handed to me at the door by a guy dressed in cerulean blue wearing asbestos mitts. (Pause.) A used switchboard. From up above.

Satan (looks aloft): Yeah, I got wind of it. The Old Man is tired of answering prayers, particularly about the fine mess we've stirred up on Earth around guns in America.

Beelzebub: That means, if this thing is operational and we plug it in, we'll be getting tons of "thoughts and prayers," won't we?

Satan: No doubt. And you want to know how we'll handle all that whining, I'll bet.

Beelzebub: Well, I can guess. We remind them what that Nazarene preacher said about loudly praying on street corners, rending their garments and pulling long faces to show piety. The Internet makes what the pharisees did look restrained.

Satan (cracks his knuckles, large sparks fly): You've got to be kidding, Bub. It's not our business to bring them up short with Gospel references. Even though it's said I can cite Scripture for my purposes. Which is true enough.

Beelzebub:  I've got it! (Snaps his fingers, producing a tiny spark.) We pretend we're above, we listen sympathetically, and when they say they don't know what else they can do, we say: Do nothing. Keep everything as it is up there. Suck it up. And keep praying.

Satan (admiringly): I knew there was a reason I made you second in command. Good boy! Pass that advice along to our minions, including those walking the Earth. And take the rest of the day off.