It’s only a short time until Thanksgiving, the guilt-free holiday. No church, no religion, no nothin’, just a day off and lots of food and football. And drinking. And friends. And sleep.
And oh yeah. Thanking.
In movies and on TV, families often make a show of being grateful for stuff. That never happens in real life. Noone reads off a litany of what’s good in their life. Maybe you get grace or a “salut” type of thing, at best. This ain’t "The Brady Bunch." Real people reserve their thanks for specific moments when something really makes them stop and think, "wow, I’m so much better off than everyone else!" Like when they win awards. Fuck God or nature or whatever you pray to, fuck them for your health and your friends and your general well-being! But thank you Jesus for that Blockbuster Award! Best Mediocre-Performance-In-The-Face-of-Bottomless-Expectations-of-Failure! Congratulations Lisa Marie Presley!
I love the rappers like 50 Cent who boast about loving God in their liner notes and acceptance speeches, then punctuate every track on their CD with gunfire. And include a picture of themselves in their cd book aiming a gun into the consumer's face. I love violence as much as the next guy, and Fiddy can play his persona all he wants to sell records or get good press or whatever. But don't insult my intelligence. I don't know what his God is about, but I bet it's not pimpin'. So don't bring God into it.
You know what I mean. For example, a few weeks back, I was watching some baseball game (don’t remember which; I’ve repressed and renounced any and all baseball affiliations in the wake of something that happened in October, something that I can neither remember nor articulate, so don’t bother trying to jog my memory, because I’ll kill you) and one of the players, after doing something grand, made a big show during a post-game interview of thanking God for helping him succeed and for pulling him through and blah blah blah.
Forget for a fact that there is no God. That’s not what this is about. Let’s instead hypothesize about what possible interest God could have in making a baseball player hit a home run. Or in making Jim Harbaugh, a notorious Godboy, complete an improbable comeback. Or in making Lauren Hill win a Grammy. Who was helping the hated Yankees? And Ray Lewis? And Eminem? Satan?
I suppose it makes sense that God would be singled out for His assistance in a religious person’s achievements in the same way He is singled out for blame when something goes wrong. Except that doesn't happen. No one blames God for making things go wrong. They sometimes bemoan His apparent indifference to and lack of intervention in their daily lives, but they never point to Him or bitch Him out for making them come up short on that final drive, or for losing to Roberto Benigni at the Oscars.
Can you imagine that soundbyte?
“I had it in the bag till that bitch Yahweh decided he preferred a bumbling Guinea’s puerile gyrations to my heartfelt portrayal of a retarded man piloting a hot-air balloon around the world.”
In the same way that it's offensive to curse God for misfortune, isn’t it demeaning to God when we assume He has an interest in games we play for entertainment? Doesn’t it debase God to attribute such capricious success at athletic endeavors to His guidance and grace, especially while all manner of horrifying tragedies are occurring across the globe? Isn’t it blasphemous to pretend that God was busy securing Oscar votes for Chocolat instead of protecting the thousands that die in terrorist attacks every year? Is that really the image of God that even the most devout believers want? A big, bearded giant who, after creating the world in 6 days, sat around calculating when and how he wanted the Cowboys to reclaim their dominance? Was Jimmy Johnson His vessel? Is He really spending time foiling the Bills instead of quelling earthquakes? Does He really hate Scott Norwood so much?
If I were God, I’d be more than a little upset every time some jock started acting like his prayers to win the Super Bowl were given more weight that Joe Poverty’s pleas for a loaf of bread.
If you start assuming that God is working in such trivial ways for you, then you have to start assuming that he works in such ways against people as well. And if you start thinking like that, then you start thinking that God plays favorites, and if you start thinking like that, then you start thinking like Osama Bin Laden. And that’s not the way to go.
I understand that some people are so religious that even if they don’t really feel that God helped them throw that no-hitter, they still like to thank Him every chance they get. They aren’t so idiotic as to think He influences their lives anymore than He influences everyone else's in his omniscient, ubiquitous, unobtrusive way. But this constant trumpeting of belief is just as obnoxious as the misguided thought that they’ve been singled out.
Spirituality should be a personal thing. Discussion of it shouldn’t be verboten, but it should have its place. Victories, of any kind, should not be shrouded in God’s cloak. Governments should not invoke God as a watchdog and countries should not pretend they have a more rightful claim to some higher being than others. State of the Union speeches shouldn’t be ladled with religious pomposity, especially in the wake of the most destructive act of religious proprietorship this country has faced. President Bush’s invocation of God as some kind of American mascot is the same thing as Osama Bin Laden screaming about doing Allah’s will. Why can’t we learn from our mistakes?
America is based on freedom. Free speech, freedom of religion, freedom to hate and taunt and worship and pray for and to whoever we like. And freedom to thank whoever we want as well. But it's not a pissing contest to prove you like God more than we do. Or that you can be louder about it. So do us all a favor and keep your God in your pants.
Thank you kindly.
Let's get real here. You don't want to know about me. You want to know about "me".
ABOUT MIKE JULIANELLE
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
11.19.03 @ 12:18a
In one of my favorite books, the main character says something along these lines: "In my world, God and Santa Claus do not micromanage. The upside of this is that a few small sins go unnoticed - the downside is that you know it's pointless to pray to lose five pounds by next week."
While I'm not in complete agreement with some of what you say in this column, you certainly do cut through the bullshit and get right to the point. Good job.
11.19.03 @ 8:16a
No, a fumbling bounty hunter - it's one of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books, but I don't remembver which one.
11.19.03 @ 8:54a
The Bible-, Koran- and Torah-thumpers are prolly all on their way over to your house now. At least it'll get 'em out of my front yard. Thank you.
11.19.03 @ 9:22a
I think I know which ball player you're talking about, Mike.
You're dead on about President Bush and Osama. You could also include the judge in Alabama who apparently believes that his entire religious credibility lies in one lousy stone statue.
11.19.03 @ 9:53a
1: There's something I find incredibly funny about "take it outside, godboy!"
2: It is so incredibly true that God doesn't care whether or not the Yankees win. He is busy manipulating the destiny of the Red Sox for maximum disappointment.
3: Very nice insight about certain rappers' "I love God, now DIE DIE DIE" hypocrisy.
11.19.03 @ 10:24a
All this furvor over a book of fiction...
11.19.03 @ 11:14a
can i get an amen from the congregation?
nice work, mike.
11.19.03 @ 11:30a
I have dear friend who says "Praise Him" and "Thanks be to God" and "If it's God's will, it will be done" at every turn.
"Johnny didn't get the chicken pox, Thanks be to God."
"If it's God's will, we'll be able to afford a new car this year."
These are actual statements.
While I understand that she's basically just thankful all the way around, after a while, it just gets a little annoying.
11.19.03 @ 12:11p
I just think it's creepy for someone to be that into anything.
And it's not just religion. People who are fanatics about Star Trek, or the Oakland Raiders, or Golden Tee, or anything - they're weird.
11.19.03 @ 1:08p
Thank God for Mike Julianelle!
Or blame him...whichever.
11.19.03 @ 1:50p
Jael, "take it outside, Godboy" is from The Simpsons. The fantastic ep where Flanders becomes interim Principal. Another favorite line, perhaps from that ep but I think not, is, "Who's your Messiah now, Flanders?!"
11.19.03 @ 3:34p
Ah, must've recognized it subconsciously. Ehhhhhxcellent.
11.19.03 @ 8:41p
I think of faith is something that is personal and doesn't need to be trounced around.
You make a lot of great points in here. Of course, you're going straight to hell!
11.19.03 @ 10:04p
Just like The Clash.
11.19.03 @ 10:09p
Being a Pagan, I'll just say this was funny as all hell. Also very accurate with the mentality of much of the general public. I know I both asked for God's help and cursed him out when I had kidney stones. Neither did much good, but I'm told I was very entertaining to the nurses and doctors once they shot me up with enough morphine.
Great take on hypocrisy in sports and entertainment. I just love thinking of all the unanswered prayers in those fields.
11.20.03 @ 8:28a
hmmm... this reminds me of an article I once read on the complexities of quantum physics written by a hair dresser.
11.20.03 @ 1:06p
Wow that's insulting. Take it to the critiques.
11.20.03 @ 2:42p
You mean God doesn't really like Roy Jones Jr. best?
Well thanks, Mike, there goes my prophet.
A friend once posted a thing about a track and field event she attended. During one of the sprints, a competitor tripped and took a bad tumble. So what happened is that all the other runners made a U-turn and went back to help him up and dust him off. He was still a little too shook up to run, so they all pitched in and helped him across the finish-line ... in first place. Of course, they were all slobbering retards, but still it makes you wonder if maybe some sort of god-like thing ... purpose ... whatever ... doesn't occasionally make it to a sports event. And I also can't help but wonder who are the real retards.
11.20.03 @ 5:59p
When I was twelve I put down 5 bucks on a horse to win at something like 15 to 1. This was 1982 so we're talking big coin for a twelve year old. I prayed and prayed during the race but he didn't win. Right then and there I realized that God wasn't going to do me any special favors.
11.20.03 @ 6:17p
Hey Chase, I'd love to hear more from you. Are you saying that since I'm (apparently) not religious, I shouldn't be talking out of school? Or that since I'm not a Divinity student or a priest, I shouldn't be talking out of school? I originally had a section of this column that touched on my problem with needing a conduit to God, someone who is ostensibly more in touch with Him than I. I even have an older column about it, if you scroll down to the bottom of my portfolio.
Email me, post it here, critique me. But don't shoot me down so harshly without an explanation. Please.
11.20.03 @ 6:22p
In a strange moment of synchronicity, the Simpsons rerun tonight was the one with "take it outside, godboy."
11.21.03 @ 8:35a
Mike, sorry for my tardiness, I don't log-on all that often.
Also, it looks as if my comment was taken quite harshly. My sense of humour is very dry, and it often gets me in trouble. I just re-read your article and honestly for the life of me cannot find what it was that got me panties in a twist.
All that I can surmise is that I am also currently quite active in a message board at another site and there, there are several people who have talked on and on endlessly about things of which they truly have not studied, and therefore, have only anecdotal knowledge at best. Perhaps some of that negative energy stayed with me when I first read your article, and caused me to see the face of St. Paul in my potroast, when it was really only a potroast.
Please accept my apology.
11.21.03 @ 1:46p
Hey man, I wasn't mad. Just curious. Thanks.