There is, as a gentle compatriot recently reminded me, a certain naive sweetness, a sort of infantile charm, to Texas Gov. Rick Perry recently issuing an official document asking everyone in his giant, dusty hunk of Godlandia to please drop to your knees right now and pray for some good, old-fashioned rain.
Indeed, Perry's official Proclamation for Days of Prayer for Rain in Texas -- thusly issued after a staggering drought has ravaged the state for months, ruined crops, devastated local economies and dropped reservoir levels to record lows -- might at first glance induce, as it most certainly did for me, a chortle and gasp at the governor's somewhat mindless view of God. It might first make you think, "Oh Rick, you loveably despicable hunk of right wing chutzpah, you. Don't you know such peculiar entreaties just make God roll her eyes and laugh?"
But then I paused and stepped into the wider view, reminding myself that such divine petitions have actually been around for millennia, across all lands and clans, from Christian to pagan, Islamic to Native American, every sort of human tribe imaginable offering every sort of aching, needful plea to any one of a million faces of god for all manner of blessing and baby, windfall and watershed, crop rebirth and game-winning touchdown pass. Naive? Maybe. Sort of beautiful and eternal? Well, mostly.
Don't we all understand, at root level, that there is tremendous transformative power in collective prayer? Just as there is in, say, collective meditation, collective love, collective hate, collective song, collective breath, collective just about anything? So you know, why the hell not? You go, Rick, even if you are a wildly hypocritical, climate-change denyin' shrillbucket of gun-happy obnoxiousness. Whoops, sorry. All love, baby.
It all dovetails nicely -- assuming you strip naked, drink enough whisky and howl at the moon, as I have -- with the goofball imaginings currently on exhibit over in Oakland, in the form of a happy nutball octogenarian named Harold Camping, a frail little pastor of a strange little church whose mathematically precise Rapture deadline is coming up -- oh my God, really? -- in just a few weeks.
It's all coming down on your blasphemin' head on May 21, to be exact, the date which Camping recommends all hardcore Christians set the alarm early and pack some bologna sandwiches, strawberry Kool-Aid and superlative blotter acid for the long, strange trip to the great intergalactic cherubs 'n' candycorn theme park in the sky. You ready?
As a thoughtful reader recently pointed out, technically speaking, the Rapture is when angels and Jesus both descend from their Swarovski-crusted high chairs and swoop down with giant cosmic Dustbusters to suck up the living and the dead alike, bodies and souls of the true believers who have, presumably, followed scripture to a T and hence rarely sin, lust, over eat, masturbate to kink.com or wonder if maybe, just maybe there might be something to all that "all religions are one" thing. Which is to say, about four of them.
Or maybe not! Maybe the number of sucked-away believers will be in the millions. Maybe even, dare to wonder, half the U.S. population. Can you imagine? Think of all the extra parking! Pollution reduced, teen pregnancy rate drops like a stone, nearly all the flyover states returned to wildlands and no more wars because, hey, no more tragic Puritanical worldview to mindlessly defend. Not so bad, really.
Or is it? Not to be outpaced in the race to the bottom of the spiritual kiddie pool, behold the ever-jumpy atheists...
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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the SF Chronicle and SFGate. Get it at Amazon and beyond. He recently wrote a fine thank-you note to Charlie Sheen, a piece about cultivating
your own private Wisconsin, and a column wondering why you always walk in circles. His website is markmorford.com. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...