Jan 28 2010

Spinster aunt begins post with “I,” tells anecdote

I recently blew out a lobe laughing a cold, ulcerated laugh. It happened yesterday, when my sibling Tidy told me a sad tale of Christian insanity, which tale I now relate to you, right after I bore you with some background details.

For reasons that, to my surprise, turned out to be none of my goddam business, Tidy has started sending my niece Rotel to one of those honky upper-middle-class god-affiliated schools where the kids wear uniforms and attend mandatory “chapel” sessions. For the past few months I have been nervously eyeballing the child, ever alert for signs that the faithy godbag indoctrination has begun to take, so that I might countermand that moron crap with an auntly intervention of Question Authority-ism. So far it’s been all clear, which is why it was quite a jolt when, during a recent babysitting gig, young Rotel broke into song, and the song she broke into was not “Fried Ham, Fried Ham, Cheese and Baloney,” but a horrifying ditty about dewdrops of mercy and Jesus and how he is the “light of the world.” The goopy dewdroppy Jesosity blew my mind. There was only one possible response.

“Holy shit!” I said.

Both of the nieces busted out laughing. They know I am prohibited by Tidy from saying “holy shit” in their presence. They don’t know it’s because Tidy is afraid they might repeat it in front of nice people, nice people who will form the opinion that Tidy is a self-absorbed loose-moraled alcoholic for permitting her daughters’ exposure to anyone low-class enough to say “holy shit” in front of little kids. The nice people will have no choice but to call CFS. The nieces will be thrown into foster care, Tidy will be sentenced to lousy-mother prison, and I, corrupter of youth, will face a firing squad.

I’ll get a cigarette out of the deal, though, so it won’t be a total loss.

But I digress. The sad tale of Christian insanity I mentioned at the beginning of this post starts here:

The other day Tidy hears that a public school on the poor side of town has raised over $4000 for Haitian relief. She thinks this is awesome, so she calls up Rotel’s affluent god-based school to suggest that they get a sort of break-the-piggy-bank-for-Haiti initiative going. So the kids might broaden their philanthropical horizons or whatever. To Tidy’s surprise, the god school wasn’t down, not in the slightest.

Not that they are totally ignoring Haiti! Au contraire! They’re “keeping Haiti in front of the students” with “prayer.”

That’s when the laugh erupted and lobe blew out.

It was already pulsating a bit from the smelliness of the idea of repurposing the earthquake as a sort of social studies unit to teach young WASPs, not about human suffering and its root causes, but about compulsory altruism and the duty to allocate a small percentage of one’s white privilege loot to indigent brown foreigners. Totally screwed Haitians = golden opportunity to introduce noblesse oblige to Richie Rich.

Gross, yeah, and a poor substitute for the new world order that would really put things right, but at least it generates a little cash for immediate relief efforts. If you haven’t eaten in 4 days, and you manage to scrounge one of those fabled energy biscuits, do you really give a crap about the motives of the sanctimonious chump who texted 10 bucks to the Red Cross?

This prayer gambit on the other hand. It is difficult to imagine an emptier, worthlesser, time-wastinger, efficaciouslesser gesture. In fact, organized prayer has been proven to be 137 times worse than doing nothing at all. This is because compulsory group participation in phony appeals to a fake benevolent American deity is a political behavior that not only fosters intolerable levels of community sanctimony, but reinforces a culture of oppression through repetition of patriarchal doctrine. So not only do marginalized groups get the immediate shaft in the form of material non-support during a crisis; not only are little kids duped into thinking that muttering a few words in chapel is good for earthquake victims; but organized prayer replicates the deleterious effects of godbagism by storing them in the common consciousness to ensure ignorance and obfuscation of truth for future generations.

The starving, sick, homeless Haitians should really be luxuriating in all that prayer right about now. Who needs food, water, and antibiotics when little rich kids in Texas are, on your behalf, being forced by deluded authority figures to mutter nonsensical crap to an impotent made-up figment?


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  1. lawbitch

    Question Authority-ism is how I rear my kids. Teaching kids not to think it not doing them any favors. The public school my kid attends has several charitable project going on at any one time. It’s ironic that a parochial school does nothing.

  2. JS

    Often poorer schools are better than richer ones at donating to charity, strangely. The local state-school-in-rich-area has never managed to raise more than $16,000 for charity (about $12 per pupil) in a year, whereas the local state-school-in-poor-area regularly manages $50,000! IBTP.

  3. norbizness

    How are the kids going to learn to hate religious authority and hypocrisy unless they get firsthand exposure?

  4. Princess Rot

    Aaaannd… this is why I’m an atheist. Who has donated, but since I’ve been laid off it’ll be unlikely I’ll be able to afford any more.

  5. Orange

    Don’t get me started. Oh, no! Too late. You got me started.

    My kid’s school (~85% low-income, maybe 20% honky) had a Haiti donation drive yesterday, mostly paper cash and checks rather than piggybanks of coins. I’ll bet they amassed a good $5K. And no organized prayer!

    A young man was rescued from the rubble last week. His mother said now she knew that god was watching over her family. No! If he were, he wouldn’t have crushed your house and killed so many of your neighbors.

    Friend of mine works at a NICU (neonatal ICU). Sad case of a baby whose entrails were liquefied by infection. This is not curable, not survivable. She asked the parents how they wanted to handle their baby’s passing. Mother broke out in a confident grin and said that wouldn’t be necessary because they were praying up a storm and knew god would intervene. God, sadly, has not yet managed to manufacture a new set of viscera inside this little boy. Poor baby gets prolongation of his suffering because the praying parents want everything done–you know, just until god takes over his case management, I guess. The boy will die soon enough. And then will the parents be left feeling that it’s their fault for not praying hard enough or not being worthy enough of god’s intercession?

    The whole prayer bit, I don’t get it. It’s wildly illogical and implausible.

  6. rootlesscosmo

    I’ll get a cigarette out of the deal, though, so it won’t be a total loss.

    Again with the silver lining!

  7. magriff

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the nieces; if my sister Vinoveritas and I (and our respective Nigels, countless cousins, etc) are any indication, uniform-enforcing, chapel-and-forced-prayer type primary schools are veritable atheist factories!

  8. Isabel

    “It’s wildly illogical and implausible.”

    Only if you have a childish interpretation of prayer. Of course God doesn’t “answer prayers” – that is silly. Why should He?

    God’s smiling on you but he’s frowning too/ Cause only God knows what you’ll go through

    – Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

  9. Linda Atkins

    That is enraging. Or is it depressing? Both.

  10. Amber

    Why oh the fuck why do people continue to believe asking imaginary sky daddy to help people actually helps people? Can anyone answer this incredible detrimental paradigm, why the hell do the religious crazies believe this crap? Hey Pat Robertson followers, does it feel good to be delusional, is ignorance really bliss?

    If the entire world were to pray for Haiti to be OK again this very instant you know what would happen, sweet shit all!! You know what happens when you pray all you good little American christian boys and girls? Gawd gives you the cold shoulder just as he has the 50 million other times people prayed because calamity fell on some part of the planet, because he isn’t there. Like they say; Prayer, the best way to do nothing but still think your helping.

  11. Rogue Spinster

    A secretarial posting in a putatively “inclusive and progressive” church was a great introduction for this athiest into the amazingly convoluted non-logic employed by the faith-afflicted brain.

    Along the lines of the deity moving in mysterious ways, Rev Nigel once told me of a former colleague whose Cerebral Palsy caused her profound difficulty with life’s practicalities. But apparently this was a wonderful blessing for everyone around her, as it allowed them to feel both humbled and useful whilst holding doors open, reaching things down to her etc. Am sure she felt at all times as though living through an ever unfolding miracle.

    The “inclusive and progessive” tag also proved entirely spurious when I suggested adding heterosexual to the list of people that this church welcomed, and was duly informed that that went without saying.

  12. smmo

    Charity is imperfect but necessary in times of crisis. Prayer, however, is useless. And, as I can attest in this time of Nigel with cancer, possibly enraging.

  13. Kozmik

    Its very unfair and inconvenient that other people raise their children without advice, input and wisdom from sage spinster aunts. Twisty, you’re right and moms should listen to you. And to me.

  14. Vibrating_Liz

    So what do the Nice People say? “Holy defecation”? “Holy stool sample”? “Holy fecal matter”? Holy Shinola.

  15. Comrade PhysioProf

    This is the same post as the one about that fucking sanctimonious Tebow douchewacker.

  16. Pinko Punko

    Do they also make Rotel say the TEXAS Pledge of Allegiance, which I think means “I will drive my giant truck like an a-hole and vote for Governor Hair”? Don’t say it Ro! I will help you come up with some alternate words.

  17. Summerspeaker

    As you say, the traditional narrative of charity is already dubious. Rejecting any material effect in favor of disconnected and purely symbolic support boggles the mind.

  18. godlizard

    As useless and ridiculous and fatuous and presumptuous as rich-school-prayer is, at least it does no direct harm, or at least, nowhere near the harm of packing up hundreds of solar-powered bibles and seeing that those deliveries get through instead of antibiotics and bandages and water and food. Imagine it: laying in agony on a filthy cot as sepsis seeps through your veins, and someone hands you a clever electric bible with a smarmy little smile even though it could have been penicillin and your kids might not have had to be orphans, but no. And the best you can hope for is enough strength to heave yourself up off that cot and for one brief glorious moment, shove the electric bible down the sanctimonious throat of the worthless twit who could have saved your life, but didn’t. And then you die. Because that would seriously suck, and what am I saying, “would” — it *is* seriously sucking, right this very minute, as I type this, as you read this — people are dying, and assholes are sending them goddamn electric bibles. It boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

  19. undercover punk

    That was funny!

  20. Josquin

    A resounding YES to every point you make here. I know several sanctimonious adults who have made a point of self-flattery by publicizing their generous prayers, good wishes, or other such crap for the Haitians, as if their stupid prayers reduced the suffering by even one drop. Though, on second thought, if they prayed for the strength to get off their asses and donate some money to organizations involved in helping disaster victims, then that prayer might actually do some good.

  21. Val

    I’m with Magriff… Nevertheless, I scrape & save to send my child to private [Catholic] school despite my [many, many!] differences w/the Church. The alternative in public education is just too sad to contemplate. IBTP

  22. Givesgoodemail

    Keep up with the Questioning Authority lessons, J, and keep up updated.

    “Auntie, did you know I have Jesus in my heart.”
    “Oh, honey, that is surgically correctible.”

  23. Givesgoodemail

    Please, please find a way for clueless commentariat members to edit their entries.

  24. mayya

    Me would like to be the first person to enter a lawsuit against someone praying for me. I’m not sure what the grounds would be, something like requesting intercession on my behalf from a foreign power without my consent.

    Can you imagine the implosion of lobes in the courtroom?

    (trying not to start comment with “I”)

  25. allhellsloose

    ah ipad. Indeed. Narf Narf. Remember the Wii? Such hilarity! Well I almost pissed myself laughing said one bloke in his 40s trying to be still 14 – you know the type – sad thing is we have them here in the UK. Lots of people need a pad. When I was menstruating I needed a pad for the middle of the month! Now I’m past all that, yay – I thank you – I just fancy putting a pad in for old times sake but it has to be a thin one. For an hour only.

    Whisper it. Many men need a pad (geddit?) for urinary incontenance. But will we be blethering on about that? No. Is the short answer.

  26. allhellsloose

    Crap. Posted in the wrong place. Apologies to one and all.

  27. Schnee

    Of course, I blame the Patriarchy. I mean, I really do get that people need imaginary friends, and I see no harm in that, I truly don’t. The problem comes when the imaginary friend becomes a bearded (symbol of male virility) old (symbol of male wisdom in men and lack of worth in women) man (male) in the sky (can’t be disproved, like aliens).
    Now there have been godbaggers, and one who died recently, Mary Daly, was herself a super-duper Blamer, who have pointed out that if you make up a friend who is the sum of all perfections and also pure spirit, that that friend cannot be a ‘he'(penis possessor).
    This is very subversive, way more subversive and totally (patriarchal) authority challenging. Tidy may blow quite a few diodes. Ro could become a Blamer.

  28. Jill

    “Me would like to be the first person to enter a lawsuit against someone praying for me

    Me Tarzan.

  29. speedbudget

    I fail to understand why they can’t put money in the collection plate in between prayers while singing maudlin hymns.

  30. Larkspur

    This is what I’m not going to name the daughter I won’t ever have (on account of being old and unwilling)…but how cool would it be?

    Maude Lynne Larkspur.

  31. Jezebella

    Nice. Can I steal that for my next cat?

  32. The Nerd

    Joining in with the theme of the post title…

    I attended one of those compulsory-chapel-attendance schools as a child. We learned our noblesse oblige by collecting underpants. I shit you not, we had a large bin at the front of the sanctuary which we filled with packages of panties for the poor. Still at least 62% more effective than prayer.


    I have read that not only schoolchildren, but poor adults ALSO give more to charity (both in total AND as percentage of income) than all the rich people combined.

    Because the poor people can IMAGINE being the Utterly Fucked, and say “there but for the Grace of Maude go I…” and GIVE. ANd the rich people can’t imagine ever being Utterly Fucked, and therefore can’t work up any humanity or fellow-feeling.

  34. wiggles

    One can spend the better part of a couple afternoons searching for some Haitian organization to provide orphaned and displaced kids a place to crash and find nary a one that isn’t owned and operated by white American godbaggers and called some variation of “God’s Precious Little Angels.”
    Lambi Fund looks pretty cool though.

  35. Jezebella

    Madre (madre.org) is not godbaggy, though more focused on medical assistance than shelter, as far as I can tell from their website.

  36. Linda

    I had to think about this post when I heard a story about Zambians mobilizing to give to Haiti. As OVERLADY said, I think it has to do with being able to identify.

  37. agasaya

    Ah, but there is also a secular movement in this country for ‘non-believers’ to engage in useless mental activity as if it will spur molecules throughout the tangible world to do the butt dance and eradicate misfortune.

    “The Secret” – just put it out there in the Universe and you will attract all the good things to you.

    It doesn’t have to be about religion. Power is retained by teaching the populace to hope instead of do, to blame internal weaknesses for structural failures in society etc.

    I have also learned to hate the phrase, “Good luck” as being equivalent to the phrase, “You’re fucked.”

  38. JATower

    On The Problem with Electric Bibles: An acquaintance of mine was taking a missionary trip to Brazil and was asking for donations. She asked for “you know, the necessities,” like lipstick, eyeshadow, and razors. She said she would be using these items to teach local women “hygiene.” The thought of her spreading the word makes me gag: “God thinks you’re filthy because you don’t look like a white person in drag.” Missionary trips are wrong, wrong, wrong in the first place, but I felt this one took it to a new level by exporting American consumerism and The Beauty Mandate in addition to godbagism. Never been to Brazil, but I’m pretty sure it already has enough of all three.

    Coincidentally, a friend was taking a (non-religious) trip to rural Paraguay around the same time. She spent 3 months building stoves because many women were developing repiratory problems from cooking over an open fire. She considered the trip an opportunity to learn about another part of the world, and did not purport any motivations related to selflessly helping others. Ironic that the supposedly altruistic missionary does nothing helpful, while the self-admitted tourist at least provided free labor.

  39. Brad Morrison

    I love you. I could read what you write all day long. I’ve already been reading all morning long. Please, please don’t ever stop.

  40. mearl

    Rather than actually DO anything, I pray to jesus all the time.

    “Dear jesus, please make me breakfast. I expect breakfast to be on the table when I get downstairs. Thanks, bud.”
    “Dear jesus, please get the university to hand me a diploma in June whether I go to class (or study or pay tuition) or not.”
    “Dear jesus, please send an angel – IMMEDIATELY – to clean up the cat poo so that I don’t have to get out of bed.”

    100% of the time these prayers don’t work, but all you have to do is alter your prayers and everything is fine! Example:

    “Dear jesus, please let me experience at least ONE bowel movement this week.”

    Bingo! Proof that jesus answers prayers.

  41. mayya

    Jill not read whole comment; her miss joke.

  42. LCforevah

    Just this morning, at my regular breakfast diner, some morning show was discussing the missionaries that got arrested for allegedly trafficking in children.

    As the only female usually there, I was surprised when three guys at the counter expressed disapproval that the missionaries had gone in the first place. There are about eight to ten regular guys there every day,playing cribbage or just bullshitting. I know the waitress–which is why I support her job with my dollars in the middle of whitemaleland.

    One guy put it really well, “Those people have no business going into other countries with their own ideas.” The other two agreed that the missionaries did wrong and shouldn’t have been there. They were ready to place full blame on the missionaries for stealing children. I said that they were probably very naïve and didn’t go through the proper channels,because god told them it was okay.

    Funny, isn’t it, when white men become old, frail, irrelevant and subsist on a fixed income how their world view becomes something more humane.

  43. Magdalena

    Re: Missionaries

    It is nearly inconceivable to me that missionaries continue to flock in great hordes to many places in Latin America. After 500 years of religious domination, the vast majority of Latin American peoples have got the Jesus thing down pat. What they don’t often have are things like good sanitation infrastructure, food security, floors, access to education, or personal safety. And this, of course, is only a short list of things that many people don’t have.

    Prayer has yet to solve these problems, but missionaries persist in invoking Jesus to jump start economic development.

  1. Disaster Relief in Haiti: Animal Rescue & Vegan/Animal-Friendly Resources » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info

    […] Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM): It appears that CVM already had a presence in Haiti prior to the earthquake, and is currently providing assistance to human victims. (See CVM Haiti Updates.) You can make a donation to CVM here – but please note that the CVM runs an animal agriculture/livestock purchase program in Haiti called Give a Kid a Kid. Currently, most of the group’s recommendations involve, um, praying. […]

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