Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Prayer Versus Progress

People who once would have been called "dead" as soon as their heart stopped are now being pulled back to tell their families--one last time in this world--that they love them. People with compound fractures no longer have to spend their lives hobbling. Polio is gone, and leprosy can be cured. You'd think Pat Robertson, at least, would give God some credit there. Instead he seems to be saying those don't count because humans were involved, too.
Why Are There So Few Resurrected Corpses in the United States?
While this sort of thing is often cited as an example of "how humans segregate the sacred and the mundane, in effect cordoning off 'faith' when the results of their faith are in fact all around them," I think that it goes a lot deeper than that. This article is about Robertson's answer to a question about why there are more overt "amazing miracles" in "places like Africa" than here in the United States. And his answer was simple - people "overseas" are more "simple, humble" and willing to believe what Christian missionaries tell them about God, and so God is more willing to directly intervene in their lives.

This idea, that God has turned his back on the educated, Western world in favor of the simple, humble and, it must be noted, dependent people of the Third World is a part of the anti-intellectualism that pervades parts of America. People overseas are morally superior to graduates of the Ivy League not because they do a better job of abstaining from theft, rape and murder than people who (like Pat Robertson) went to Yale Law School, but because a widespread lack of education and thus, technology, renders them unable to rely on their fellows for help, and so their best hopes lie with fervent prayer for divine intervention. That, and some folk remedies that border on crimes against humanity.

Robertson's basic point is a simple one: God, effectively, expects us to be dependent, needy and convinced of our own inability to subsist without him. I'm not sure that this speaks well of either Robertson's concept of God, or those who would follow it.

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