I have just a few questions for the fine folks endorsing “See You at the Pole.”
1) Why a pole?
For starters, it looks pretty damn pagan to me (and nothing against paganism–I love me some river nymphs).
I wonder if it’s because Christians in the United States have turned their nation-state into an object of idolatry. Why else gather around the most sacred/holy object of the nation-state in order to petition its tribal deity? It couldn’t be that nationalism has made Christianity its footstool, could it?
2) If prayer works [and, of course, what it means to say “prayer works” is rather convoluted–I’m Augustinian in thinking that prayer is about shaping the human will toward the divine will as opposed to assuming God is a genie in a bottle . . . oh, Barbara Eden, you just better stop it], I have to ask, What is the content of their prayers?
I want to see something tangible happen (outside of rigging an election). Some folks have argued that, despite the immense amount of praying going on nothing much ever improves. Indeed, things seem to have only gotten worse. After all, Big Brother is still on television–the atheists could be on to something.
An experiment is in order: I think these kids should concentrate all their prayers on just one thing and then let’s see what happens. Since God loves the pole-prayers so much (as their t-shirts claim) I’m sure that if they all petitioned for the same thing God would have to respond, right? So, how about all of you kids pray for the end of poverty, hunger, disease, and the stockpiling of nuclear weapons . . . as well as a stronger Orioles pitching staff. Or, you know, we can even start small–make it easy for the big anthropocentric deity in the sky. How about this: “God, please keep poachers from killing black rhinos. Their numbers are dwindling (the rhinos not the poachers) and are teetering on the brink of extinction. Since you deemed creation good, we should keep them around. Ahhh-man.”
There, that shouldn’t be a problem. Easy-peasey.
3) Why doesn’t anyone obey Jesus on how to pray?
According to Matthew 6:6 Jesus tells us to go into our “room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.” Then Jesus tells us not to “heap up empty phrases” like the religious and pious hypocrites of his day (I wonder who that would be now?). Why is it so difficult to take Jesus seriously on this passage? Why is it such a temptation to make a public spectacle of one’s piety? Is it because it is so easy to do and requires no real stand of courage or conviction? It’s not like anyone is risking anything by doing it.
“Aw mom,” lamented the would-be-teenage-martyr. “All the cool kids think I’m a loser because I believe the earth is 6,000 years old and I wanna’ pray around a pole. I’m so ostracized for my beliefs.”
“No, sweetie,” his sad yet witty mother responded. “The kids at school think you’re a loser because you listen to Switchfoot.”
So, what do all of these questions mean? What is the point of my questioning such an “obviously” pious show of faith for the holy empire (I’m sure Polycarp would have been very, very proud)? Simply this: Jesus spent a lot of time with prostitutes, I think he would do the same with strippers.
That may be the most significant thing I learned in grad school.
Well, that and the uselessness of epistemology.
SEE YOU ON THE POLE!!!
Postscript: I realize that stripping and pole dancing are not synonymous. Though both, it has been argued, are works of art and can be, for some women (and men), a form of empowerment. Pole dancing, in particular, certainly does increase strength in your shoulders . . . from what I’m told.]
[The previous postscript is no longer applicable. Due to the astonishing number of agitated emails (not comments but emails) that I received for posting a picture of two clothed pole dancers, I decided to replace it with something sure to assuage my more saccharine-laced audience. And, please . . . do not accuse me of canine exploitation. This sweet little puppy was probably abandoned by her father and is only trying to put herself through puppy school. If you’re going to cast stones, cast them at the system.]
About the Author
Tripp York teaches religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, Virginia. He is the author of more than half a dozen books including, Third Way Allegiance, The Purple Crown, and Living on Hope While Living in Babylon. He is the co-editor of the forthcoming three-volume collection called the Peaceable Kingdom Series. An actor and a lighting designer, Tripp also surfs and spends his weekends shoveling elephant and giraffe poop.