A man or a woman thrust an arm out, Bible clutched tightly in trembling fingers. Perhaps they do this from a passing car, or perhaps from a street corner or curbside. You may have seen this sort of thing if you live in the Bible belt, or any other Evangelically-infested area.
The person you see is laying down a curse. What you’re seeing is a fundie smack-down of Satan and his influences. Try not to laugh: remember, you’re driving a car.
They do that, to close businesses they don’t approve of. Welcome to the world of imprecatory prayer.
They do something similar at the edges of town to keep out evil. I can personally attest to you that this latter does not work. It did not keep me out of town when I moved to Indiana. My future mother-in-law was, as you can imagine, chagrined to say the least.
I did not get invited to that first Christmas, Heathen than I am. I was exactly the sort of person who was not supposed to be able to breach the Evangelical Perimeter Defense (EPD).
What can I say? Nobody sent me the memo. Or maybe my god carries a hammer and their god got nailed to a piece of wood.
Who’s to say? I can’t prove prayers got me into town, but I can prove they did not keep me out. The rest, as the Germans say, “Es ist mir Wurst”(literally, “it’s sausage to me”, or, essentially, “it’s all the same to me”).
More recently and less personally, Bishop Harry Jackson of the Hope Christian Church claimed that he cursed a gay newspaper out of business. Watch him say it here:
“One night I walked past one of those newsstands. As I was walking past it, I looked at that newsstand and they had some article about same-sex marriage and all that blasphemous stuff. And I laid hands on that newsstand and I said, ‘In the name of Jesus, I CURSE THIS PAPER!’ Less than two months, that paper went bankrupt. It was part of a six-newspaper chain! It went bankrupt! It went out of business! IT WENT UNDER! It did!”
There’s a problem though: It didn’t! The Washington Blade is still in business. Visit its website. See for yourself. Three years later, it still there.
I guess that’s what you call male curse-potency dysfunction (MCPD). Reminds me of Salem’s Lot. You remember the 1979 film, when the Vampire’s keeper, Straker, says to the Catholic priest: “The master wants you. Throw away your cross, face the master. Your faith against his faith… Could you do that? Is your faith enough?… Then do it… Throw away the cross. Face the master. Faith against faith.”
As you remember, the priest didn’t fare too well. Memories of that scene still give me the warm fuzzies.
Jackson’s failure is on the same order as the priest’s. In a trial of faith between the Washington Blade and Harry Jackson, Jackson loses 100 times out of 100.
Is it blasphemous to be factually accurate?
This reminds me of another example from this past September, when Rick Scarborough claimed that Rick Perry’s The Response, held 2011 in Houston, ended the worst drought in Texas history. But the drought didn’t go away.
Okay, here’s where I am going with this. All these prayer claims makes me wonder: do people who insist they can pray things in or out of existence really believe that it worked, even when, demonstrably, it did not?
Is it possible that people like Jackson are so assured of their audience’s gullibility that they don’t think anybody will bother to check the facts? Or like Romney, does Harry Jackson simply refuse to have his belief fact-checked?
I do not wish to malign prayer. I pray myself. But the efficacy of prayer should be judged no differently than the efficacy of any other agent: did my car get me to Minneapolis? Yes. Clearly it did, if I am standing there.
Did I pray my way there? No. I drove.
Did prayer move my car?
No, the internal combustion engine and a few tanks of gas got the job done.
Maybe prayer kept me safe from mishap. We Heathens do have a habit, as did our ancestors, of calling on Thor to ward our loved ones on their journeys. Even Christian Icelanders used to call on Thor, because he was thought to be better with the ocean than the White Christ.
Maybe that’s the problem in Texas: more of that Jesus being bad with water thing my ancestors noticed. He is a desert God, after all. I don’t think they get a lot of rain on Sinai. I mean, if he was any good with water, it wouldn’t be a desert, right?
But, look, if you can prove prayer didn’t work, does the person who made the claim, faced with the effects of cognitive dissonance, maintain the belief against all the evidence of his five senses that the prayer did, in fact, work as advertise?
In other words, does Harry Jackson think the Washington Blade is out of business? If we led him by the hand down the street to its place of business and brought him into the building, would he be unable to see that the business is still in business? Lakes Travis and Buchanan were about 45 percent full on Labor Day weekend, a year after Scarborough insists Perry lifted the drought through prayer. Would Scarborough look at all the dried lakebeds and reservoirs in Texas and see them as being full of water?
I do not have an answer for these questions. What I am trying to understand is the depth of ideologically- or religiously-driven delusion. It’s one thing to claim, year after year, that the Democrats are coming to take your guns. They haven’t yet, but technically speaking, I suppose it’s possible it could still happen. I mean, the future isn’t here yet. They can at least make the argument, however unlikely it is.
By the same token, even after 2000 years of waiting in vain, Christians can have cameras trained on the Mount of Olives to capture Jesus’ reappearance and televise it to the masses (they really do).
But when you claim your prayers actually made something happen, a claim that we can physically test for accuracy, why insist that it happened when it clearly did not? We could tie this, I suppose, to the tendency of people like Michele Bachmann who, when caught on film saying something, will insist in the face of all the evidence that they never said it, that it’s an “urban legend.”
But that still doesn’t explain it (as if anything can explain somebody like Michele Bachmann).
I know the mind can play tricks on us. We’ve all seen examples of how it works. We might all see the same incident and report it different ways. But c’mon: if you take 100 people down to the Washington Blade they are all going to tell you, every last one of them, that the Washington Blade is still in business. Everyone is going to see those lakes and reservoirs in Texas are damned near empty.
Why can’t Harry Jackson see it? Why can’t Rick Scarborough see it? I mean, if you’re a religious person and you want to fight the perception that God, and your belief in him, is a delusion, you’re going about it the wrong way by making claims with absolutely zero truth content and then advertising them in print and video.
Proponents of cursing point to Psalm 109 (you remember the “Pray for Obama: Psalm 109″ bumper stickers), and Psalm 35 also offers an example. But as I said here the other day to Joseph Farah, where did Jesus go? Jesus said love your enemy, turn the other cheek, give him your coat. Fundamentalist Christians say, “I curse you!”
I mean, WTF? This isn’t Christianity. It isn’t even some bizarre and militant form of Judaism. Fundamentalist Christianity is really nothing more than a reactionary embrace of a fantasy reality by a privileged group faced with loss of that privilege. It’s group psychosis.
Harry Jackson says that Biblical marriage is hanging by a thread. But I think what’s hanging by a thread is the sanity of Bishop Jackson and people who think something is true that is demonstrably untrue.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.