sickness, prayer, yesterday

24 May 2008, 8:37 am

We’ve been watching One Punk Under God, a documentary series (with reality show-style editing) about Jay Bakker, son of Jim and Tammy Faye of PTL Club fame/infamy. It’s been more interesting than I would have guessed (although, predictably, I think it could use more punk content). The sequence we watched last night, in which Bakker visits his mother, who is dying of cancer, was some of the most wrenching footage I’ve ever seen.

In the ’80’s, when I spent perhaps too much time listening to Jello Biafra and the Dead Kennedys, the Bakkers (and Falwell) represented for me the nadir of evil — their hypocrisy made them even worse than the man in the White House. In the documentary, you are forced to confront the fact that she’s really a human being. She’s clearly in terrible pain, and she looks worse than ghastly. The combination of her makeup/facial tattoos and the ravages of late-stage cancer is a very disturbing pairing. There’s some on-screen time spent praying for the easement of her pain.

Before that, we watched some of the re-broadcast of Jon Lester’s Monday night no-hitter against the Royals. There were a few brief crowd shots of people who pretty clearly appeared to be praying for Lester to get all 27 outs without allowing a hit. This annoys me more than it should. If I believe there is a God (I will see the uncertainty of all agnostics and raise them additional doubts) I certainly don’t think it should concern itself with the personal glory of a pitcher for one team and the concomitant humiliation of the opposing team. There’s an inherent implication, it seems to me, that Red Sox fans are more worthy of God’s favor than Royals fans. That creeps me out.

In the abstract, I don’t think a universal creative force should concern itself with the easement of one being’s pain. If there’s a point to suffering beyond the random whim of the universe, I have to believe that it’s some combination of “do the best you can with this” and “learn something from this.” I just can’t accept that it’s “figure out how to weasel out of this.”

But all of this breaks down, of course, when it’s the pain of the ones I, specifically love. So many of my friends have lost feline companions in the past few years that it seems almost churlish of me to wish for a happier outcome in our case, even when the medical odds may not be too unfavorable. But I do. Fervently.


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