I Miss Prayer

Avi Woolf

Avi Woolf

3rd class Elder of Zion. Wilderness conservative/traditionalist. Buckley Club alum. Chief editor of @conpathways.

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58 Responses

  1. Avatar CJColucci says:

    Rest assured that the vast majority of us do not “deeply misunderstand” why people raised in a tradition of communal prayer value the practice in which they have been raised. In ordinary times, nobody* has a problem with, or any wish to impede, the practice, even if they weren’t raised in it and don’t share the practitioners’ feelings about it.

    These, of course, are not ordinary times, and the public health and safety require some limits on the practice, just as they require limits on other communal practices that stir deep feelings in many of the rest of us. Sadly, some zealots are acting like jerks and endangering public health and safety, and some mockers and shakers of heads are acting like jerks and — well, nothing, they’re acting like jerks.

    Every religious or ethical tradition I know of anticipates that people who take their tradition seriously will find themselves the butt of criticism by jerks, and considers this an opportunity for adherents to demonstrate their seriousness.

    If it goes beyond that, let us know. You will find many people on your side.

    * In a country of 315-odd, some very odd, people, Some Guy Somewhere will, inevitably, turn up and say or do something stupid. Don’t worry about him.Report

  2. fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

    I hear you. I come from a different background but I miss gathering with my “second family” and praying and singing together, and just being with people that I don’t feel I “owe” things to (like I feel with co-workers/students)

    Singing communally…..I wonder if that will ever happen again in what remains of my lifetime. I wonder if the congregation I’ve been a part of for 20 years, through a congregational split and many leadership changes and too many deaths, will still be there when this is over.

    I wonder if people like me will find ourselves back to the “house-church” model, because there’s not money to sustain an actual meeting-house.

    I also admit I find my own faith slipping on some days: I feel abandoned. I ask God why this is happening, what lesson we are to learn from it…..and silence. Nothing. I’ve had days when I screamed “are you even THERE” at the sky.

    I hope my FAITH survives this pandemic, let alone my congregation 🙁

    A lot of the time, I feel desperately alone and on my own. I have been told “despair is a sin” and I get that, but….it’s really hard not to despair some days.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to fillyjonk says:

      Eh, this pandemic is nothing compared to what some people have gone through. Most people, actually. I miss real contact, but it’s hard to complain when we’ve all got Zoom and message boards. There’s nothing about our situation that should cause despair.

      I miss communal worship. I attended Mass a couple of weeks ago, and I’m sure it increased my chance of exposure, so I didn’t go last weekend or this upcoming weekend. I figure once every three weeks can hold me together. We’ve had occasional other services, some in the car, or in a tent, so I’ve been getting less than I’d like, but enough. I’ve also been “attending” Mass on YouTube from St. Patrick’s in NYC.

      There are different kinds of prayer. All of us walking around in masks, for our own protection but mostly to protect other people, is a kind of communal sacrifice. In the story of the Good Samaritan, the two people who walked past the injured man were on their way to Temple worship. The message is, in a crisis, a personal sacrifice for another may be a higher calling than religious participation.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Pinky says:

        The tragic aspect of where we’re at right now is that if we, as a society, could have agreed to engage in some short term collective pain several months ago you’d probably be able to attend mass right now. Instead, public events like mass are going to be health hazards – or worse, outright banned – for months if not years to come.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

          Many of us did agree to that. (Granted, many opposed.)

          The “if you leave the house, you’re killing gramma” conversations were hot and heavy until the tail end of May.

          Maybe now that the Peaceful Protests Against Injustice are behind us, we can go back to explaining to people that if they leave the house, they’re killing grandma.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

            Jaybird, I’m happy for you that your hands are clean and that you’re above reproach on this issue. Really, I am.Report

            • Avatar greginak in reply to Stillwater says:

              Well you know the pro cop people really hated all those protests and loved to point out when they weren’t peaceful.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                Yeah, I guess the people who stayed indoors for March, April, and May were really hypocritical for staying inside in June, even though they were allowed to go outside again.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to greginak says:

                What’s your argument?Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Pinky says:

                The protests over police violence were a long time coming and it absolutely sucked that overlapped with COVID. Two terrible things at one time.( The anti Reeses Peanut Butter Cup) I don’t blame the protesters since police violence to POC has been a burning issue for decades and the Floyd video was egregious. I saw lots of protests were people were masked up and trying to distance. That is separate from the fact we never had hard lock downs like many other countries did. Those countries are also doing much better then us now.

                It seemed like the pro cop people used any argument to defuse the protests and any action that might come from them. It was a f’d up tricky time to protest decades of violence during a pandemic. But dunking on protests of police murder seems screwed up to me. We also haven’t seen new outbreaks in cities where there was a lot of protesting so it isnt’ clear they were a direct cause of at least some of the outbreaks.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                For my part, speaking for myself alone, I had no problem with the protests.

                I had a problem with the property damage.

                I’m also vaguely irritated at the Absolute Moral Authority asserted by those opposed to folks going outside the week before the protests started and then the Absolute Moral Authority asserted by those explaining that protests were okay and then the Absolute Moral Authority showing up again against people going outside for, like, personal enjoyment.

                If you want me to do more to oppose police unions, I’ll do what I can to get those who enjoy the taste of jackboot lollipops to stop supporting them oh-so-vigorously in public where I can.

                But I’m kinda over the whole “can you believe that people aren’t taking the moral authority of the moral authorities seriously?” following the whole 1-2 whiplash of Memorial Day/Peaceful Rioting.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to greginak says:

                “Dunking”? What I’ve seen is more like scorekeeping. What Jay said,

                “Maybe now that the Peaceful Protests Against Injustice are behind us, we can go back to explaining to people that if they leave the house, they’re killing grandma.’

                doesn’t strike me as dunking. And you know, it wasn’t two terrible things that happened at once, it was one terrible thing that was happening and then a bunch of people voluntarily decided to go outdoors and violate health protocols. That didn’t just “happen”, except in the 1960’s sense. It was a happening, a deliberate political social event.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Pinky says:

                The fierce urgency of now has never been more fierce nor more urgent.Report

              • Avatar CJColucci in reply to Pinky says:

                Argument? We don’t need no stinkin’ argument.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

            It’s almost like killing grandma to get a haircut and killing grandma to save innocent lives are exactly the same.Report

            • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Kazzy says:

              “Listen, Ms. Breonna Taylor, if you go outside your apartment, you may die of a virus!”Report

            • Avatar Pinky in reply to Kazzy says:

              But the protests were nothing more than the fussing of a bored child. They won’t accomplish much more than property damage. They weren’t intended to. They encouraged thoughtless reforms with unintended consequences like the Ferguson Effect. Thoughtful reform won’t come from outdoor infection parties.Report

        • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to Stillwater says:

          I engaged in that pain. Stayed strictly home (except for groceries) for four and a half (? I think it is now? Last time I was “out” was the end of February) months. Wore a mask everywhere as soon as they weren’t actively saying “nooooo it makes it WORSE” (so: like mid March)

          Didn’t help because I’m surrounded by selfish idiots. I’ve already told my mom I won’t be able to travel for Thanksgiving or Christmas unless a miracle occurs. She is 84, right now I am just praying that either her life is long enough of the pandemic is short enough that I get to see her in person on this Earth again.

          I am just phenominally discouraged.

          And I have to be sure to have a formal will and update my DNR orders before campus re-opens in August; we already have athletes on campus having to self-quarantine, so there’s a non-zero chance I will get this thing and die.

          It feels like I gave up a lot. Probably because I live alone and there have been weeks where I didn’t talk to anyone other than over the phone. But what I gave up was all in vain, because we couldn’t as a people lock down enough to defeat the pandemic before it got out of control.Report

          • Avatar Pinky in reply to fillyjonk says:

            The aim was never realistically to defeat the pandemic. You can’t defeat an exponential function. What you can do is flatten it – a prolonged fight that involves the actions you’re doing, and a fight that’s been so far successful. We wanted to keep the numbers of infected low while we learned how to treat it, and we’ve done that. We wanted to keep areas from having their medical infrastructure overwhelmed, and so far we’ve only seen one area fail.

            Remember, the US isn’t comparable to England or Spain. It’s comparable to the EU, in terms of geographical size and economy. We’ve got about 3/4 the population of the EU, and at present we’ve had about 3/4 the number of coronavirus deaths.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Stillwater says:

          “[I]f we, as a society, could have agreed to engage in some short term collective pain several months ago…”


          alternate several months ago: “The racist Trump Administration today declared a ban on travel from China in a further spasm of xenophobic paranoia over a minor flu outbreak in an isolated Chinese university town. Trump proudly announced the ban on Twitter, despite many Constitutional scholars questioning the legality of the move.
          This follows several days of angry claims, based on little to no evidence, that a dangerous disease is spreading from the region…”Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to DensityDuck says:

            DD, true or false: if the US had done what most other first world countries did several months ago, Pinky would be able to attend mass right now?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

              If the US had engaged in a collective action (one that requires a great deal of high trust) several months ago, we wouldn’t be in this situation now.

              And we didn’t and now we’re here.

              Even though many of us did what was asked and stayed at home.

              And then we had the Peace Riots that, of course, did not result in any Covid getting spread… and, for some reason, that’s being pointed at as a betrayal of the public trust when people should just understand that rioting is different from going to the beach.

              Listen to the science.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                Something from early May (if I may toot my own horn):


              • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to Jaybird says:

                Or maybe the kid doesn’t like marshmallows.Report

              • Avatar Dr. X in reply to gabriel conroy says:

                That’s an interesting take, GC. In fact, there is research evidence that a strong liking for sweets is associated with impulsivity.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                If the US had engaged in a collective action (one that requires a great deal of high trust) several months ago, we wouldn’t be in this situation now.

                And we didn’t and now we’re here.

                Yes, I’m glad you agree.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                Yeah, but there are a lot of people who, in this particular Prisoners’ Dilemma, chose “collaborate”.

                And now we’re debating over whether the Peace Riots were a defection. Worse than that: whether the people who say “The Peace Riots were a defection!” are defecting.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                And now we’re debating over whether the Peace Riots were a defection

                Well sure. Though my read of it is a bit different: it’s that, in response to my post about collaborating earlier in the response timeilme you took a (gratuitious) shot at the “Peace Riots” (whatever those are) and presumably the libs at the site you believe are sympathetic to them.

                Which is fine. But it’s not like the debate was happening. You basically trolled your way into it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                The short-term collective pain was coming along. The numbers in May weren’t *THAT* bad. It was worth making noises about what would and would not go wrong with Memorial Day. (Remember this? Good times.)

                I saw your comment about how we didn’t engage in the collective pain and I thought about how *I* did. I chose “collaborate”. I stayed inside. I figured out with Maribou when we had regularly scheduled meetings. We figured out how to best work with the ingredients we had and limit our need for groceries. We shouldered the pain.

                There were a bunch of people who didn’t. We, as a society, had a bunch of defectors. Look, for example, at what happened Memorial Day.

                Or, I suppose, at the large gatherings of mostly peaceful protestors that happened for weeks after the George Floyd murder at the agency of police.

                When I see that we, as a society, were selfish… Heck yeah, we were! There were a *LOT* of defections.

                (“presumably the libs at the site you believe are sympathetic to them”… The riots themselves? Eh, maybe a few would be willing to muster an explanation that there were things that I have to understand about injustice and the voices of the unheard and whatnot. But, when it comes to Covid? I don’t think that there’s anybody who would argue that, covid-wise, the protests were bad. The riots were counter-productive and the property damage was, of course, just property and we shouldn’t value property more than we value human lives. But when it comes to the question of whether covid was a reason to not get out there? I don’t believe I’ve seen any arguments that covid was a reason to not get out there. If you remember somebody talking about this at the time, please point me that direction.)Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Jaybird says:

                I probably said something to the effect that the excess Covid deaths from the protests would likely kill more innocent black people than a century’s worth of police shooting, but I’m not sure which post it would’ve been in.

                I still maintain that view, and the final answer will be somewhere in vast number of statistical analyses that will applied to all the data, post-outbreak.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Stillwater says:

              “if the US had done what most other first world countries did several months ago, Pinky would be able to attend mass right now?”

              I dunno hoss, why don’t you tell me?Report

            • Avatar Pinky in reply to Stillwater says:

              I can go to Mass in my diocese, as of mid-June, with some restrictions. The Sunday obligation is suspended, and social distancing and masks are required. I think England opened up around the same time with roughly the same restrictions, and Italy was about a month faster.Report

      • Avatar Freeman in reply to Pinky says:

        Your last paragraph is a gem. A sacrifice is not a concession, it is a sacred gift worthy of honor.Report

    • Avatar Freeman in reply to fillyjonk says:

      Feeling and recognizing despair doesn’t seem so much a sin as giving in to it and abandoning faith when things get tough.Report

  3. This is the most religious time of my life, if saying “God help us” every time I look at the news counts as prayer.Report

  4. I come from different traditions from yours and the idea of prayer resonates differently for me than it does for you. For me, it is less communal and more individual. That said, I’d just like to say thank for writing this post. It’s a much needed contribution.Report

  5. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I was reflecting today on where we (“we” as a society) have told people, “You need to accept a substitute and, really, it isn’t that much different anyway,” and where we have told people, “Anything less than the real thing is a crime.”

    I’m a teacher and a parent of young children. Naturally, my mind turns to schools. Many are saying, “Remote learning can be close enough to in-person school that whatever minor loss is a sacrifice we must make to combat the virus.”
    Then I look at people eating steak in the outdoor pavilions we created for the restaurants. Hell, I look at people (myself included!) buying rainbow Goldfish crackers and popsicles and other yummy groceries.

    Why didn’t we shut down all grocery stores, restaurants, and the like? Why didn’t we tell folks, “We’ll mail you a box with rice, beans, beef jerky, and canned veggies. I mean, it’s food. What’s the difference?” and focus energy on schools? Why are barbershops open but not churches?

    None of this was by accident. Nor was any of it by design, because no single master planner was executing all this. But, ultimately, here we are: you can get a good steak cooked for you, you can get a good beer poured for you, you can get a good hairdo styled for you. You can’t get a good story read to you in person by your teacher. And you can’t get a good group prayer in.


    Maybe none of that is wrong. But it isn’t meaningless.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Kazzy says:

      What would be your solution for schools? I understand the frustration, but I don’t see a way around the problem of social distancing. At least, not with the knowledge, experience, and comfort level we had in April. I don’t know about in September. At what age can kids be trusted to keep their masks on and stay 6 feet apart?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Pinky says:

        I don’t have an answer. But I wish we had done some of the following:
        1.) Really researched which methods of infection prevention/mitigation were the most effective for young children, both in terms of minimizing the spread and the ability to actually execute them. Maybe masks alone would be sufficient and I think you could get pretty good adherence to that. If 6-feet is the answer, we could have gone into hyper-drive on retrofitting classrooms.
        2.) If we needed to go with all the guidelines on distancing, we could have put on a full-court press to retrofit every available space as a learning environment. Turn every government owned building in the damn town into a classroom.
        3.) Take any money that went to opening other places and put it towards schools. How many inspectors went out in my town to evaluate whether all the outdoor dining protocols were proper?

        We could have found a way to get our best and brightest minds on this and probably been in a better place than we are now. We didn’t do that. We chose not to do that. Which tells us something about our priorities.Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Kazzy says:

          Your prayers have been heard, and the response is:
          “F*ck Off”.

          Trump administration pushing to block new money for testing, tracing and CDC in upcoming coronavirus relief bill


        • Avatar Pinky in reply to Kazzy says:

          We weren’t going to retool every space for schools while we were looking at retooling every space for hospitals. So that was out. I don’t know how many inspectors there were, but I can’t imagine that effort would have amounted to 1% of what it would take to convert buildings to safe schools.

          What countries do you think did a better job at prioritizing and implementation?Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Pinky says:

            I don’t know the ins and outs of other countries so I can’t speak to what has been done there.

            I’m not even necessarily criticizing what has been done. But, at the end of the day, we’ve got bars and hair salons open but not schools. Now, part of that is undoubtedly because schools are harder to open. But part of that is because we simply didn’t care enough. Many schools have looked at the guidelines and said, “We can probably do this but we need more money.” I don’t know of any that got the money.

            My question is… do you think we’re in the best possible position we could be with regard to school re-opening?
            If your answer is no, why do you think that is?Report

            • Avatar Pinky in reply to Kazzy says:

              I’d be open to something better. I mean, the idea that we came up with the best possible solution on our first try is hard to believe. But if 50 states and 200 countries haven’t come up with something better, it’s hard for dopey old me to guess what could have been done.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

                But some states and countries have done better, much better.

                New York is in their reopening phase, and doing rather well. The states that are doing worst are the states like Arizona that never took it seriously, or California which reopened too quickly.

                Most of the world is in their reopening phase, having successfully managed and contained the virus.

                The four countries which are doing the worst are the US, Russia, Brazil and India.

                We could have done a lot of things differently, we just chose not to.
                And by “we” I mean the minority of American citizens who did not, and still will not, take this seriously enough to do what is necessary.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Is this with regard to education?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

                Everything follows from containing the virus.
                If you can’t contain the virus, there is no education.

                “How do we conduct school while a viral pandemic rages” is like “How do I watch TV while the living room is on fire”.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I’m just repeating Kazzy’s question. It was specifically about conducting school in the current situation, the prioritization of restaurants over schools, et cetera. So, is there a state or country that’s handling the problem better? If so, how?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

                Yes, they have handled the pandemic and reopening much better.

                By containing the virus to begin with.

                Until we do that, trying to do anything else is insane.Report

  6. Avatar Amanda Rush says:

    This is a beautiful article.Report

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