And then toward the end there, a few more words

September 17th, 2009

Finally wrapping up a little series on religion and language. I talked about the use of magical/religious language even by non-religious folks here, and the magic of swearing and singing here.

When I think about religious language, one moment always comes to mind: our first trip to Australia, when we encountered a troop of kangaroos quite by surprise while exploring a park in Alice Springs. It was a magical moment, one of those little snatches of beauty that you’ll remember forever. And in a moment like that, you can say one of two things: a prayer, or “Duuuuude.”

I chose the prayer. I went with the Shehecheyanu, the Hebrew blessing for special occasions. I’m still grateful to my religion for giving me words in that moment, when no secular speech would do.

I’m not that damn reverent, though, so I repeated it afterwards in a heavy Crocodile-Dundee style accent, which sounds pretty funny if you know how it’s supposed to sound. I couldn’t make meeting those kangaroos into something so sacred that I could never approach the moment again in my own mind.

And I wonder … is that what’s behind all the “Mary is My Homegirl” and Candy Torahs and all that? What do you think of religious kitsch, if you are a religious person?

You can become a “fan” of Jesus on Facebook, you know. What do you think of that? (Besides the obvious point that he probably doesn’t write his own updates.) I think I’d become a “fan” of Torah, but not of God. That just seems — unseemly. What do you think? Is this kind of domestication, kitschifying, joking around with the sacred a healthy way to relate to our religion? A fun in-joke among a particular faith community? Or does it diminish without adding?


3 Responses to “And then toward the end there, a few more words”

  1. Carolyn on September 18, 2009 8:28 am

    To your final question, I have to say, any of the three. As the wise lady said, It Depends.

    It’s easy to notice that one person’s kitsch is another person’s genuine faith. The Dashboard Jesus and the Mary-on-the-Half-Shell were not originally jokes and cliches, and to many, they still aren’t. So with other people’s stuff, it’s well to tread lightly.

    But a religion that tries to be all solemn, all the time, is doomed to brittleness and fragility, because it doesn’t take into account the parts of life that are deeply comic or ridiculous. We have real needs and feelings in those areas.

    People whose religious view includes a personal relationship with the Divine should (I think) be able to have a real relationship, complete with arguing, complaining, and laughing.

    Picture poor old Job, when all he has left is the shade of a fig tree. Then the fig tree shrivels. Truly, if we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.

    A happy and blessed New Year, and a safe voyage, Robin. Thank you for this space.

  2. Elsa Brakers on September 21, 2009 2:40 am

    I’d swear about the kangaroo sighting too, if I came upon that. But since there is no G-d at all, why even think about this stuff? There’s no Jesus because there was never any God to be a son of. Why does the world continue with this nonsense, a good 5000 years later? I’d think the Jews would wake up first from all this Middle Eastern god-dreaming. I still bet they will.

  3. Robin on September 21, 2009 6:28 pm

    Oh, jeez, Elsa, you’re right! I’m so sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking. Of course there’s no God.

    Seriously? If you think that is the kind of response your particular brand of fundamentalism would ever get from a religious person, you are operating under delusions that put you in no place to judge the so-called delusions of others.

    This blog isn’t about the Ultimate Truth of any religious or non-religious worldview. It’s about how beliefs and behaviors play out in our lives. If you want to play nice, welcome. If not, the blogosphere is a large place, and I’m sure you can find a more amenable corner of it.

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