Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Letters to God ...

No, not at the Wailing Wall ... but at a little temple in Uttaranchal -- neat travel post at VJ's Travelogues (Via Desipundit). Check it out! Read the comments as well ... so many commenters express their bewilderment that people might think that the god actually reads these. (One petitioner went so far as to put his request on Stamp Paper, reasoning, perhaps, that having paid a fee to the Indian State, the one whose power reaches beyond any state's, might look more favorably on him!)

I suspect (and I'm not trying to judge anyone) that the bewilderment stems from a deeply secular attitude that cannot fathom a god who might actually care to hear about, let alone intervene, in the seemingly petty ups and downs of an ordinary person's life. God, if he does exist, is the Prime Mover or some ground of being, or a divine force, out there, keeping things humming along, but hardly concerned with the intimate details of the lives of puny mortals.

While the Christian narrative talks about a completely different God, who is intimately involved with His creation, I also find that popular devotion across religions and cultures (and I'll situate the practice at this particular temple in that category) also seems to recognize this, whehter it be leaving letters for a god, or making pilgrimages to Ajmer to ask for a child, or praying to St. Anthony for a good husband, or leaving all kinds of ex-voto offerings in thanksgiving, across churches and shrines in Europe -- all of these, I suspect, stem from both this deep human need to seek benevolence from the forces beyond our control, but also, from a recognition that these forces might actually, well, care.

Of course, as far as Christians go, God doesn't need to be badgered or manipulated or petitioned as if He were a potentate in a distant durbar ... but that's a different story.

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