Proms, Prayers, and Prey: The Lion and the Antelope

A photograph of a group of high school students praying before their prom dinner sparked an angry debate on social media. The image was posted by Oakland journalist Frank Somerville after one of the youngsters’ mothers sent it to him as a counterpoint to all the tide pod eating, condom snorting stories about today’s youth.

He shared it in good humor and said it was ‘really nice’ to see young people behaving that way in public.

‘It says a lot about young people these days,’ he wrote.

prayAnd the politically correct wolves of Facebook pounced. Taking issue with such an image of prayer.

“Saying grace over your food says nothing of your moral compass, integrity or character … Behaving well at a restaurant while in your late teens, and being considerate to people, should not be Facebook praise worthy.”

“I see well behaved people doing terrible things, misbehaved people who just take care of someone in need. Being a Christian doesn’t mean they are well behaved.”

“My guess is their opinions on gay marriage, interracial families, equal rights, and other things we hold dear might not thrill you.”

*(note I did not adjust the grammar of the quotes, just left them as is)

Who knew that appearances on Facebook are praise-worthy?

Where to begin?

First, let it be clear I am the last person in the world to defend the efficacy of prayer. But the tone of the criticism says more about the fundamentally disingenuous nature of the critics than about what the photograph represents.

Every generation has its Tide pod eaters. There were fads for eating live goldfish (PETA members will faint at the thought), stuffing people into phone booths (a what?), Panty raids (can you imagine?), and myriad other juvenile idiocies concocted by young minds. The difference is they were not live-cast for all the world.

The fads of the “good ‘ole days” were not all so much better, they just had less publicity.

Those who take issue with an opinion contrary to their own without respecting the other’s rights to their own beliefs demonstrate themselves to be self-contradicting fools.

Many religious organizations, Christian, Islam, and others, doctrinally oppose gay marriage. Some probably cringe at “mixed” marriages (Catholics and Protestants, Jews and Gentiles, Red Sox and Yankee fans.)

Some offer compassionate tolerance, others outright hostility. So what? They can hold any belief they like. They can insist on it within the tenets of their faith. They can lobby against it in the public forum as an exercise of their first amendment. They just cannot impose it on others.

Those who take issue with the nature of this photograph as not representing the youth of today show their bigotry and intolerance. It’s a simple image of a moment in time, not a declaration of generational superiority.

Let me be clear about one thing, I see no efficacy or value in prayer other than as a means of aiding contemplation. I do not think it harmful unless it is the sole choice of actions to deal with a problem, then it can be downright deadly. Nobody prays for God’s protection, then drives through a red light.

At least not more than once.

Here is how I think of prayer.

In the savannahs of Africa, a giant herd of antelope gathers at a watering hole. The elder antelope leads the group in a prayer before drinking the water. “Oh, Father Antelope. Protect us from the lion and those who would harm us.”

Meanwhile, on a hill overlooking the watering hole, Simba leads a pride of lions in prayer. “Oh Father Lion, let us be swift in the chase to catch the antelope and feed us all.”

Simba then sends the female lions off to the hunt. Hey, this is nature, not political correctness.

The lions pounce on the herd, chasing several down and killing them. They return to the lion den, let Simba eat his fill, divide the leftovers, and life is good.

Meanwhile, the surviving antelope look to the elder. “Why did God not answer our prayer?”

“It’s the mystery of faith. Now thank God he protected you.”

Next day, the same scenario. The lions pounce on the herd, but all the antelope escape. The female lions return to the den.

“Simba, why did God not answer our prayer?”

“It’s the mystery of faith. Now be quiet so I can sleep and rest for tomorrow’s prayer.”

Prayer, the self-fulfilling prophecy whenever it works.

As to the kids in the picture, they all seem like sweet kids. Perhaps they will never make the news for eating tide pods or snorting condoms. Perhaps they will grow into productive adults. Perhaps one got knocked up that night. Perhaps one will turn out to be a serial killer.

Who knows?

Let us pray.


Resolutions: The best intentions

The first step is admitting you have a problem.

There are few complete truths. One undeniable truth is that New Year’s resolutions are a waste of time. Either you will do something or you will not. Setting some arbitrary date for a change does not insure anything, or make it any more likely to succeed.

The money spent on unused gym memberships alone would come close to balancing the budget.

I do have one suggestion. A resolution well within the reach of everyone reading this. I concede there is a bit of a conflict in my method for suggesting this.

Some might say I’m being hypocritical. That my vehicle for delivery is a clear contradiction of my goal.

However, it is unavoidable. In fact, one might argue it underscores the need for such a resolution.

We have texts, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, email, instant messaging, Facetime, and others. We have social networking reminders of our memories from last year, the length of our ‘friendships’ on Facebook, and myriad other regurgitations of our online postings.

We consider 142 character messages profound and spelling does not count. As a matter of fact, spelling and grammar are a waste of the character count.

My entire early education wasted and made obsolete by an arbitrary limitation. While brevity is the soul of wit, somehow brvitisthsolofwit loses something in translation.

We are a society in the midst of a technology generated evolutionary curvature of our spines. Soon, humans may be like the flatfish. Our eyes migrating down our face. A better view of the screens on our devices.

So here is my idea, instead of TBT let’s have a TFD-Technology-Free Day.

A whole day (or more if you are so inclined) without email, text, cellphones, or any of the other “advanced” communication technologies.

We could talk to each other. Hold a real book in our hand. Go for a walk and listen to nothing, or the sounds of the world.

We could just think.

Start slow if you like. Try to go an hour without. Work your way to two hours and so forth.

Set a goal. Mine is a whole day. No text, email, messaging, or other.

On the Appalachian Trail, we went days without Wi-Fi or cell service. I miss that. There existed an understated revulsion by most when we saw hikers wearing headphones. You are in the woods, listen to nature for goodness sake.

If you cannot go even one hour without your iPhone, iPad, Android, Laptop, or Facebook, that should give you pause. The world will survive for a day with you out of communication.

So read this, pick a day, and go for it. If I do not hear from you, I will just assume you “like” it.