Monday, January 19, 2004

Give Me No Sign

I was listening to Delilah, a call-in love song dedication radio show on WLIT here in Chicago when this girl, Janice* called in. Janice and her boyfriend were having problems with their long distance relationship: they weren’t having enough sex. She told Delilah that they were praying to God about whether or not they should continue their relationship.

This really pissed me off because first, Janice requested “I Just Called To Say I Love You” and second, because she’s tying up the prayer lines to God with her stupid question. Don’t you hate it when you pray and then you get that "doo-Doo-DOO We're sorry, all circuits are busy now. Please hang up and try your prayer again later" message? Once, I did get through, but I was like prayer number 2,572,336. I was on hold like, forever. After a long while, I was able to put in my request to get the Family Guy DVD set. I hope I get it. The last time God answered my prayers, I got a new TV, some new CDs, a DVD player. Then my check bounced.

In an episode of VH1’s Driven: Jessica Simpson, I found out that apparently during a teen Christian retreat, Jessica became born again. On that bright, sunny day, the group of teens were singing gospel songs when Jessica felt the wind blowing through her hair. She looked around and nobody else’s hair was moving. She concluded that this was a sign from God to join the flock.

When I was about 16, I had attended a similar retreat. The retreat was held in a remote location, in a very natural setting. We were told not to listen to music or watch TV and speak as little as possible. The purpose of the retreat was to find ourselves spiritually.

In retrospect, I realized each activity in the retreat was designed to encourage introspectiveness and self-examination. I remember in one such activity, we were told to go find a nice, quiet place and then think about a particular person whom we had a difficult relationship with. In another, we all sat on the grass in a circle at dusk while soft gospel music played. A clay bowl was placed in the center. A candle burned beside it. We were told to write something which we were ashamed of doing on a piece of paper. We were to take the paper, light it, and drop the burning paper in the bowl. One by one, we quietly burned our secret shame. After the last person sat back down, the counselor asked that we join him in a short prayer to ask Jesus to forgive us for our sins. As the prayer ended, the music swelled up and I found myself weeping, overcome with emotion, my guilt in ashes. The counselor then asked for people to step forward and accept Jesus as their personal savior. When I looked up, more than half of the group stepped forward, many crying openly.

Years later, while I was volunteer facilitator for a gay youth group, we conducted an activity where we sat in a circle, and had the participants write down their deepest wish on a piece of paper which they then burned. By the end of the activity, every kid was crying. At this point, if I had told them that saints Dolce & Gabbana had granted them their wish, they probably would have believed me.

It was then when it dawned on me that what I experienced during that retreat when I was 16 was all smoke-and-mirrors. The emotions I felt were real, but the message could have been tailored to fit any occasion. When I was in my early teens and questioning my sexuality, I asked God why I was gay. He sent me the International Male catalog in the mail. So I came out of the closet. In highly emotional situations, you can interpret anything, even the wind in your hair if you were Jessica Simpson, to be a message from Jesus Christ. Maybe this woman who left a prayer in my comments will find "eat me" spelled out in her alphabet soup.

Which brings us back to Janice and her prayer for a sign. Brian said that she reminded him of an episode of The Simpsons where Homer prays to God and God answers all his prayers:

Homer (praying): Dear Lord, The gods have been good to me... In gratitude, I present these milk and cookies. If you wish me to eat them for you, please give me no sign.

Homer (looking around and seeing no sign): Thy will be done (munch munch munch).

‘Nuff said.


*Names have been changed to protect the stupid.

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