“Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
“Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
One starts to wonder what God’s spam filter looks like. In the age of social media, the great testament to humanity seems to be a flood of cat videos and calls to prayer.
One could simply sever ties with their friends who are religious, but that seems stupid to the point of bigotry, and, besides, it will do nothing about the cat videos.
No, really, do you realize cat videos are a cartoon joke? As with hikikomori, the shut-ins, anime jokes about the Japanese obsession with cats are a societal critique, as gentle a prod as possible to remind that something is amiss.
In these United States, we are starting to adopt the cat obsession, and while the idea of becoming a shut-in because one owned only one pair of trousers that fell out the window one day while drying so he decided to just never leave the house again might seem obscure―and probably makes much more sense to the Japanese―what, exactly, would the joke look like if it was about Americans and prayer?
The first thing is just something you hear among religious friends and family; it doesn’t really matter anymore what the issue is, they need to “pray about it”. And while it would seem proper enough to leave them to their prayers, there does come a point when it is just … well … silly.
This really happened: A child reaches the end of her orthodonty; the next visit will be the one at which she schedules the removal of her braces. It is suggested that she should not reveal this point to one set of her grandparents simply in order to see the looks on their faces when she walks in and they realize her teeth are no longer covered with metal. The young one responds that Grandpa already knows. Oh, and what did he say? He said he would pray about it.
It doesn’t really matter what the issue is. Bad news? Pray about it. Scary news? Pray about it. Good news? Pray about it. The guy loves to tell people what he’s praying about. Either that, or he loves to talk about himself and praying about stuff is all he does anymore.
Meanwhile, over on the Facebook machine, it is easy enough to admit that, yes, social media does connect people who otherwise might not have met; distant relatives, for instance. Or not-so-distant, but not knowing anything about one another because that’s just how the extended family settled out.
But what does that social media teach you about, say, your second cousin who you either haven’t met or don’t remember meeting when you were only so high to an insect?
Horses. She likes horses.
And praying about stuff.
Here, pray for this person. Pray for this cause. Pray for this country. Pray for this horse, this dog, this car, this weather, this whatthefuckever.
Pray and share. No, no, not fishes and loaves, but Facebook posts about praying.
Two points come to mind.
First, if we pray as much as some would ask us to, we would never do anything else.
And then there is the point that with so many calls to prayer for and about this that or the other being shared around the globe, at some point God is going to put up a spam filter.
In the end, prayer would seem to become something these people do because they are either unable or unwilling to do anything else that might actually be useful to the people and circumstances they are praying about.
Which would seem to suggest they are missing the point.
Of course, who am I to judge?
But neither should that be taken to mean these demonstrations of piety for the sake of being seen by others should be treated any differently than the damn cat videos.
Image note: Top―Detail of frame from Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, episode 9, “They Met One Day, Unexpectedly …”. L-R, Kiko Kayanuma, July, and Suou Pavlichenko discuss the profitability of a cat café versus more mundane work as a book editor, and Mao (lower right) hides in Suou’s satchel. Right―Just a saying, presented in a style more appropriate for Facebook.