modern nation-state, power

An Atheist at Prayer

From Cynicism and Hope, page 5:

I call Sr. Maria every now and then. Back in November some old friends in Oregon who were trying to find a way to connect to Iraq recalled the sister I had written about and wanted to send them some money. I called Sr. Maria to get her banking information so we could make a transfer. She was almost entirely uninterested. But what she said, at least a dozen times in the ten-minute phone call, was “Pray for us. Pray for Iraq. Pray for me.”

I realize that that might not seem like much of an answer to the question, What can we do about Iraq? But it moves us toward one of the most important things I want to say this morning. I don’t think I am alone when I say that when I come to Washington, or write a letter to a congressperson, or march in a protest, I feel like an atheist at prayer. I have no more hope that those actions are heard or seen than an atheist does that her prayer gets past the ceiling.

An atheist at prayer. I stopped reading and thought, “This is the perfect analogy.” This is language I have been searching for to describe what it is like to encounter and engage self-serving power. They simply are not home.

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