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17 August 2011, 9:00 am 5 Comments

Religion: Like a Prayer

Submission by Walter Hawkins

They say confession is good for the soul. So, here goes: I was raised as a Southern Baptist. It does feel cathartic to admit it. Growing up, I was actually very active in my church. I not only attended Sunday services; I was there most Wednesday evenings, and I also joined the youth group on various overnight retreats. I have relatively fond memories of my churchgoing experience. Miraculously (no pun intended), the pastor and congregation managed to eschew much of the virulently anti-gay rhetoric that permeates modern-day religion. Not to worry, though. I heard plenty of that from my own father, a good solid Christian who despised anyone who wasn’t a Caucasian, heterosexual Protestant – as all good solid Christians should.

As a Southern Baptist, I was naturally led to believe that through God and prayer all things are possible. The power of prayer was indisputable, and great things could be achieved by simply dropping to your knees, closing your eyes and begging ( sometimes the jokes just write themselves.) I never took prayer all that lightly. After all, asking God for some sort of favor is serious business. To request something so frivolous as a nice car or a cute boyfriend would be insulting. I would always start out by thanking God for all that he had done for me. I didn’t want to seem unappreciative. And, I really only remember praying for two things: to not be gay, and to not be harassed at school. These weren’t just a couple of requests made in passing; these were heartfelt, earnest pleas. I didn’t want to be gay, under any circumstances, and I wanted to “fit in” with my peers – not to be popular per se, just to be accepted. Of course, neither of these prayers was ever answered. I don’t think they were even on the table for consideration.

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about “praying the gay away”. It’s become especially prominent due to the fact that Congresswoman Michele Bachmann — a Republican presidential contender — and her husband Marcus — who may or may not be a raging queen (but probably is) —  jointly own a Christian counseling center in their home state of Minnesota that may or may not (but probably does) practice ex-gay reparative therapy. They supposedly believe that the gay can be prayed away. I know for a fact, as do most homosexuals, and the American Psychological Association, that it cannot. It’s heartbreaking that this option even exists for those struggling with their sexuality, particularly for adolescents. It convinces them that they are awful people who need to be corrected. Or, as Marcus Bachmann so delicately phrases it, that they are “barbarians” who “need to be educated…to be disciplined”. This sort of thinking has been consistently criticized by the professional psychological community for having catastrophic consequences.

On August 6th, another potential presidential contender, Texas Governor Rick Perry, held an all-day prayer rally in Houston’s Reliant Stadium, asking people to gather to fast and pray for the United States, which he describes as being “in crisis”. Is this how a President Rick Perry would deal with a nation in crisis – by asking an invisible man in the sky for help? Would we really want a president who prays and then claims to have had an answer from God? Recent history has proven this to be a tad risky. Former President George W. Bush claimed to have received a calling from God to run for president. He also claimed that God wanted him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. I think we all know how all of that turned out. Both Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann claim to have received a similar “calling” to run for president. God can’t seem to be able to make up his mind. Why would he endorse two competing candidates? And, after the whole Bush presidency, should we really trust God’s obviously questionable judgment?

I would consider myself to be Agnostic. My rationale for this is that I am someone who is too chicken shit to say that God doesn’t exist because, in the event that He or She does, and I have denied said existence, I’m screwed. And, whether or not God exists, I’m monumentally happy that my gay couldn’t be prayed away. I love being gay. I think it’s made me a significantly stronger person than I would have been had I not experienced the daily adversity that the homosexual community encounters. It’s certainly made me more snarky. I still pray occasionally, usually as a “thank you” to God when something good happens. It’s mostly a precautionary measure. Again, I wouldn’t want to appear unappreciative. That would just be unSouthern. But, prayer now seems relatively useless to me. Bill Maher once said to imagine a man talking into a hair dryer and asking for guidance. We would think he was crazy. But, take away the hair dryer, and that’s prayer. Maher’s assessment may seem a little simplistic, but it’s not completely unreasonable.


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5 Comments »

  • Troy said:

    “I would consider myself to be Agnostic. My rationale for this is that I am someone who is too chicken shit to say that God doesn’t exist because, in the event that He or She does, and I have denied said existence, I’m screwed.”

    in my southern baptist experience, this puts you right on track for just-in-case-for-jesus, the born-again thing that in my family hits around the early 50s. my thing is if there were a god and he/she/it were this egotistical, i wouldn’t want to sign on anyway.

  • KJN said:

    To my thinking, agnosticism is the opposite of being ‘chicken shit’. Both theists and atheists espouse an absolute faith, a chosen certainty. Agnosticism means learning to live comfortably (or even uncomfortably) with uncertainty. It means resisting the evangelizing from both sides (and yes, Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, et al., are just as evangelical in their own way as Falwell, Dobson, and Robertson are in theirs), and saying you choose not to believe, not to have faith either way, but rather to dwell in the uncertainty of it all.

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