Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Praying for rain and other idol pursuits

In a brilliant demonstration of true political leadership, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue cast aside all pretense at worldly solutions to the state's water crisis and threw himself down before God in hopes of divine intervention (see Georgia governor leads prayer for rain from the Los Angeles Times for the details of his plea). Adding to the irony of the strange event is the fact that the rain-seeking pol's first name is Sonny.

I'm sure his folks named him for either a happy disposition or childlike nature, not his ability to shed light. The causes of Georgia's drought are no doubt complex, and the desperate situation may incline the locals toward miracle solutions, but our elected officials should be addressing policy changes not supernatural entities. Georgia's, and the rest of America's, shameful misuse of resources might well deserve penance and the invocation of God's mercy, but the first step to forgiveness is always amended behavior.

For far too long we Americans have engaged in the profligate burning of fossil fuels; not caring about the repercussions of our selfish actions. The reckless disregard of our land, air and water is finally catching up to us. Decades of blackening the sky with our filth is disrupting weather patterns so that some get flooding while others get drought.

Casting economic development in the image of our true savior, we've built sprawling suburbs that replace filtering wetlands with impervious blacktop. As monuments to our vanity, preferring the semblance of a neatly ordered world, we've topped the earth with insatiably thirsty, well-manicured lawns. Bowing down before their new gilded idols, our politicians have sacrificed we constituents to the ravenous appetites of corporations and granted them as tribute the right to dump waste and toxins into our fresh water supplies.

Georgia is a good demonstration of the false pride of our old ways. What good is it to have big houses, fancy cars and booming digital TVs if we don't have fresh water to drink, or clean air to breathe. Governor Perdue may think he can fool us with a deathbed conversion to conservation, but we'll need to see more action and less self-flagellation.

I've always found it interesting that some people view prayer as a way to curry favor with God. There's a wonderful naiveté in the bargaining that takes place. These supplicants usually say they believe in an omnipotent and omniscient God, yet they think they can mouth a few flowery words and make an idle promise or two to trick their supreme being into granting a reprieve.

I'm not a religious man, but I do believe in a spiritual universe. The best way to praise the divine is through inspired, compassionate action not empty words. The first step is to rededicate ourselves to respect the creation that we've abused for so long. Then we can stop perpetuating our own selfish comforts at the cost of the world's suffering.

It reminds me of an old Randy Newman song, and although I don't completely agree with the singer's biting attack on the religiously minded, there's much truth in his criticism of those foolishly looking for change to come from above rather than from within.

God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)
by Randy Newman

Cain slew Abel, Seth knew not why
For if the children of Israel were to multiply
Why must any of the children die?
So he asked the Lord
And the Lord said:

Man means nothing he means less to me
Than the lowliest cactus flower
Or the humblest Yucca tree
He chases round this desert
Cause he thinks that's where I'll be
That's why I love mankind

I recoil in horror from the foulness of thee
From the squalor, and the filth, and the misery
How we laugh up here in heaven at the prayers you offer me
That's why I love mankind

The Christians and the Jews were having a jamboree
The Buddhists and the Hindus joined on satellite TV
They picked their four greatest priests
And they began to speak
They said "Lord a plague is on the world
Lord no man is free
The temples that we built to you
Have tumbled into the sea
Lord, if you won't take care of us
Won't you please please let us be?"
And the Lord said
And the Lord said

I burn down your cities — how blind you must be
I take from you your children and you say how blessed are we
You all must be crazy to put your faith in me
That's why I love mankind
You really need me
That's why I love mankind

Image: Praying Hands (Betende Hände) by Albrecht Dürer.
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