God, irony and rain

by Kristin on September 15, 2008

in Belief, doubt & hope

It was a delicious moment on Saturday afternoon. The house was clean. I had just posted on my blog. The kids were all out of the house for various reasons. And I was about to stretch out on the couch and read the most recent issue of The New Yorker (Sept. 15, 2008).

I started where I always start, with the Comment column in the Talk of the Town. By the time I finished the first paragraph, every ounce of peace and contentment had left me—rapidly, like air escaping a balloon.

I should know better than to try to relax with any news source this election season. It just isn’t possible. But this comment, by Hendrik Hertzberg, did double the damage, because it stirred up both my political and religious rage. I knew I was in trouble as soon as I read the words “Focus on the Family.” I went on to read that Stuart Shepard, who works for the organization, had asked his internet audience if it would “be wrong to pray for rain” in Denver on August 28, the evening Barack Obama was slated to give his acceptance speech. As Hertzberg writes:

Shepard’s answer, apparently, was no, because he proceeded to do just that. He prayed for there to be rain—abundant rain, torrential rain, “rain of Biblical proportions”—in Denver on August 28th. “I’m praying for unexpected, unanticipated, unforecasted rain that starts two minutes before the speech is set to begin,” he said, adding, “I know there will probably be people who will pray for seventy-two degrees and clear skies, but this isn’t a contest.”

“WHO does something like this?!?” I bellowed into the dining room, where Jason sat. Is he a child or just acting like one?!? Has he no shame?!?” (I also said some other things I’ll refrain from printing.)

Of course, I felt a little better knowing it was 72 and clear when Obama gave his speech. And, as Hertzberg goes on to point out, God apparently arranged instead “…for a hurricane just severe enough to disrupt the opening of the Republican National Convention….”

The irony is delicious and confirms my belief that God has an incredible sense of humor. But even humor couldn’t push me beyond my outrage that someone would publicly pray for a ruinous outcome to an event set to draw 84,000 Americans. I lay on the couch fuming, wishing (not for the first time) that Jason and I had gone ahead and printed up t-shirts with the slogan we once dreamed up: “Christians Against Christians.” If I had such a shirt, I would have immediately changed into it.

I often think my life mission should be communicating this one fact: Not All Christians Are Like That. The funny thing about this mission is that it requires getting over my own embarrassment of the label “Christian.” As a writer, it’s taken me a long time to overcome my fear that half my audience will automatically dismiss me as soon as they grasp my belief system. Depending on what’s going on in the news, my willingness to identify my beliefs waxes and wanes. Lately, it seems, it only wanes.

I called myself on this yesterday. Ironically, it was raining. A torrential rain, of “biblical proportions.” And, to layer irony on irony, we were trying to get to church. Every route we took was flooded and impassable, and even though we were within a few blocks of our destination, it was beginning to look like we might have to turn around. I was in the passenger seat posting on Twitter, because that’s what a Twitter-user does in the event of a flood. But in my first post, I failed to mention we were trying to get to church. I imagined all the anti-Christians out there finding it really funny that an “act of God” was keeping us from church, and I just wrote: “the roads are seriously flooded. we cant figure out how to get across town.”

We finally made it to the parking lot and sat in the car, trying to decide what to do. The street between us and the church was coursing like a river, rippling with current. Lorna, who was also sitting in her car in the parking lot, got into our car, seeking company. We saw people we know and love working to keep the water out of the church lobby. We saw the faces of our friends’ children in the upstairs window, where the sanctuary is. We got a text from their mom, Renee: about 30 people had made it to the church and were there singing together. Jason and I debated what to do. Eventually, I had to pee.

“We’re going in” I said. The kids were excited. Everyone took off their shoes and rolled up their pants. We each took charge of a girl and forged the stream to the other side. When I stepped off the curb the water was up to my knees. At the door, the welcoming committee was larger than usual, with a dozen or so people armed with squeegees, brooms, mops, wet vacs, and soggy hugs. Upstairs, before going into the sanctuary, I paused to leave this tweet: “I had to pee so we couldn’t sit in the parking lot any longer. waded into the church, where people are stranded together, singing.”

Stranded together. In other words, still stranded, but not alone. Even when—no, especially when—the storms rage and the floods arrive. Whatever shape they might take, meteorological or in the form of other Christians. I really believe that God, and everything he really cares about, is bigger than all of it.

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  • KarenDV

    Let me know when you get those T-shirts printed up.

  • Rachel Bass

    i’ll take a medium in the “not all christians are like that, I swear” on the back.

  • http://www.paintingrevelation.com debby topliff

    I echo your sentiments. Somehow I felt better that the New Yorker outed the phoney Focuson-on-OUR-Family-only. You wonder what bible they’re reading!

  • http://ediblemoments.blogspot.com Louisa

    I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to read this post! As a Christian living in Australia where our most conservative (and recently outed) political party is less conservative than the ‘liberal’ American party I constantly struggle to understand how and why the Republican party is so applauded by (many) Christians in America…though my comments and confusion are best reserved for another day when it’s not so late and my eyes, and mind, are less blurry. So wonderful to read this post!!!!

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/ Kristin T.

    Louisa, it’s refreshing to hear from someone who has a perspective that’s similar to mine in one respect, but very different in another. Thanks so much for your comment. I’ll look forward to continuing the conversation, since it looks like we’re both able to bring new perspectives to each other. :)

  • http://compostermom.blogspot.com Daisy

    Stranded together, singing — this makes a wonderful image.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/ Kristin T.

    Daisy, I know—”stranded together” is a realistic yet beautiful way to think about life, isn’t it?