Prayer on the Platform


According to Mitt Romney, God lives and always will inside the Republican platform.  Seems to me this would be a difficult place to confine a Supreme Being.  When I heard this, I was in the car with my husband.  I could only think of one response, and that was to pray aloud.  “Dear God, how do you put up with all this crap?  Your friend, Estelle.”

Our political conventions have become religious referenda

At the recent political conventions, each party claimed to be more religious than the other. Is this what politics has come to in the 21st Century?

Although I consider myself a true believer, I will admit to having had philosophical angst about His or Her existence.  I cannot and will not accept the God about whom everyone says “I remember you in my prayers.”  I cannot imagine either Mitt or Barack going to church or kneeling next to bed with a list clutched in their fist that says something like “the folks who lost their houses in the storm.”  Neither can I imagine them letting God do His or Her will, which might include letting the opponent win.  I think that they, and most of the folks I know, use “magic prayer.”  This means that when you say it you have already done it.  I have questioned a few Christians about this, and that is what it sounds like to me.  The reason I have not questioned more Christians about this is that it tends to get them very angry.  My husband does not like me to do things that might get me beat up because he is lots bigger than me and would definitely end up defending me.  I can certainly see why someone would want to pray out loud in a life threatening situation.  Like military active duty type war. Everybody wants victory, although at that precise moment, they are probably praying for their buddy to survive.

Yes, there is actually a literature in military psychiatry about the importance of buddies.  They are a lot easier to think about than abstract ideas like patriotism and freedom.  Of course, I would not want to be the one who told that soldier that the enemy was praying for victory and his or her buddy, too.  Nobody seems to pay much attention to what is in or on a political platform — certainly not the candidates.  It is pretty hard to think of a job worse than being the guy or girl who has to run up to a Republican nominee and say something like “Mr. Mitt, sir, you are 3.5 mentions of God behind and the Republican National Committee is awfully angry.”

I have been trying to watch convention news coverage since I have been a tiny tyke – Kennedy and even a little Eisenhower — and I still have no idea why life is any better with a platform committee for either party.

Erwin R. Goodenough, the distinguished Yale historian of Hellenistic Judaism, said it all.  He said every religion has both horizontal and vertical religion.  The horizontal is rituals, like showing up at church for Christians.  Jews, we are big on home ceremonies and observances — something the Dalai Lama once said was a really good thing.

Give me those verticals.  They are the wonderful and transcendent philosophers who contemplate the universe and ask questions.  Sometimes, they even get some kind of answer.  An answer they can translate to action.  Folks like Gandhi.  Neither Mitt nor Barack is in the Gandhi class.  But it is not just them.  Nobody can debate religion.  Not only is everyone allergic to logic, nobody seems to read. Anyone who says this country was founded by religious Christians to be run on Christian principles – as do the Christian right — is just plain wrong.

Benjamin Franklin never joined a church in his life.  Jefferson rewrote the bible, editing out miracles and signs or declarations of Jesus’ divinity, as a book of ethics.

Even the bible itself differentiates between the horizontal worship in the tabernacle and the vertical or transcendent.  Take someone who had great trials, like King David.  He found peace and beauty with solitary prayer — in bed at night.  That is how Jews can do it — the alone, not the photo opportunity.  I believe this opportunity is open to Christians, too, but I hear little of it.  Me, I pray for the patience of God Him or Herself.  It goes something like this.  “Dear God, how do you put up with all this crap?  Your friend, Estelle.”

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