Hannah and Papa J

Hannah and Papa J

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Children's Miracle Network

Dear Hannah,

I have nothing against the Children's Miracle Network; everything I've heard of them has led me to believe they're a reputable organization, although I haven't seriously researched anything about them.  But I do think it's funny that they're named the Children's Miracle Network, when they have absolutely nothing to do with miracles.  It seems to me that they have much more to do with doctors.  Maybe if it was a miracle network, it wouldn't require so much funding.

I suppose a miracle is something that we don't see coming, then, and maybe the Children's Miracle Network is miraculous because some parents had no way to pay their children's medical bills, and someone else came along and gave them something they didn't really deserve.  The pagans called this sort of unforeseen thing fortune or fate, the Christians call it Providence, and atheists call it chance.  We can see the correlation, whatever their beliefs.  A miracle is something which someone never planned, and occasionally something he never saw coming; it isn't necessarily anything miraculous.  Maybe the miracle is that human beings are charitable at all, when they could have been very selfish.  I suppose if this is the case, we should be thanking God for bestowing an unusual sense of pity on some of us.

The strange thing, at least to me, is that miracles (at least in modern times) are always considered to be advantageous or positive.  I'm absolutely certain nobody would be funding the CMN if they went around showing Virgin Mary toast and bleeding statues to dying children.  These kinds of things are perhaps inspiring to some, but completely useless to others; and I would be willing to bet money they would be upsetting to even others still.  And almost nobody is inclined to think of miracles as going exactly in the opposite direction: that perhaps God is purposely sabotaging people, like He did to the Spanish Armada or the Egyptians; or that He purposely destroys the wicked, like He did with the sons of Eli.  Maybe if this is the way God works, people should be equally likely to ascribe a child's cancer to an omniscient God, Who is taking the initiative to destroy a few of our next Hitlers.

Yet I never hear anyone praying like David did, for the destruction of the wicked, which seems like a perfectly reasonable thing for a good person to pray for; we most usually hear people praying for others to be saved from damnation or to do the right thing.  But certainly if God is master of all, then we can admit that He's already approved quite a few deaths of both the righteous and the wicked, and that if He is a good God, then He must have planned these in a just and thoughtful manner.  It would seem that if this is the case, then a lot more people should be praying for the conversion of the wicked, and second, if this isn't God's will, for their swift destruction.  But who are we to pray?  If a good God's will determines whether they're to be saved or be destroyed, then perhaps we shouldn't pray at all, and let Him decide to do whatever He wishes.  It isn't exactly reasonable to believe that God will stop being good and wise, simply because we stop asking Him to be.  A much more pious person would believe that God is good and wise in spite of us, not because of us.

What I'm trying to say is that I have no idea why Christians pray: I pray, but not much; and prayer isn't any sign of Christianity.  Marcus Aurelius is said to have prayed for hours every morning, and he murdered a lot of Christians.  I pray for an upright spirit, good health, wisdom in all circumstances, good favor in the eyes of my superiors, and I thank God for what I have -- who knows how much of my health and virtue is Providence, and how much is my own doing?  How many times have I gotten sick, and never known how; and how many times have I only done good because I was in good health or good spirits or in a right mind? 

When I'm in trouble and have no way to get out of it, I pray for God to do things; not because I actually know He will, but simply because I'm too desperate to do anything else, and doing nothing feels worse.  The Apostle Paul says we're always supposed to pray, but he says it's so that we can have peace, not so that we can get what we think is best for us.  Perhaps I should be praying for everything; I prayed harder than I can remember when I thought you weren't going to survive.  But maybe I don't because I think too much about these things.  Maybe I don't because I'm not a real Christian.  Or maybe it's because I've forgotten that our entire existence is unexplainable, because I've mistaken what's common for what's necessary, like some people who've never been to the desert or outer space think about water and air.  Either way, I hope you know how to pray and act -- and that neither prayer nor reason surpasses the other too much.  To live too much in one is to be mindlessly superstitious and lazy; to live too much with the other makes us hopeless.

Your father,

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