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Riffing from Janice

6 October, 2008

On Saturday, (((Wife))) and I drove out to Western Pennsylvania to visit (((Son))) at college.  It was a beautiful day — sunny and warm (but not too warm), beautiful early fall colours, and light traffic (Penn State played at Purdue).  We gook him out to dinner (he appreciated it — cafeteria food does not impress him).

On the drive home, (((Wife))) and I listened to some of our CDs.  Including “Pearl” by Janice Joplin.  Damn, what a great album.  A thought occurred to me while listening to one of the tracks: 

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV?
Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me.
I wait for delivery each day until three,
So oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV?

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town?
I’m counting on you, Lord, please don’t let me down.
Prove that you love me and buy the next round,
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town?

Everybody!
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends,
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

That’s it!

 

 

As I drove across Pennsylvania on I-80, I thought about that song.  God as a sort of super-Santa-Claus.  Which led me to a phrase from my childhood (of course, I keep hearing it, so I guess it’s not really just from my childhood):  “God helps those who help themselves.”

That phrase always troubled me.  Why would God help those who are already doing well?  Why would God aid those with the intelligence, drive and gumption to pull themselves out of poverty, and not aid those without the means to help themselves?  Why would God ease the path for those with enough money to take care of things for themselves?  Perhaps the poor, the downtrodden, the mentally ill, the dispossessed, and the starving would be better served by a God who helps them, not the ones with the mental or financial capacity to help themselves.  Would those who see God as the Great Santa Claus qualify as those who are unable to help themselves?  So, because they cannot help themselves, God won’t help them?

The beautiful (in a sick, perverted way) thing about modern Chrisitianity is that it can go both ways.  There are people who are unable (for whatever reason) to help themselves who are helped — maybe a rich uncle dies, or a lottery investment pays off, or that credit card extension comes through at exactly the right time to buy fuel oil for the winter, or some friend proves “that you love me and buy the next round.”  Oddly, though, it does not seem to matter one whit whether or not one of these people is a loser — good and bad things happen with the same probability.  Conversely, those with the brains, willpower and money succeed whether or not they are believers.  To a faithful mind, this means that God is intervening.

Of course, if we take God out of the equation, the exact same thing will happen.  A few of the have-nots will succeed and many of the haves will succeed.  Its almost as if God does not exist.

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5 comments

  1. Its almost as if God does not exist.

    Yep. Almost.


  2. Two things jumped out at me while reading this. One was Purdue – I’m an (ex?) Boilermaker, although I never went to one game of any sport while I was there getting my MS. The other is that we live on I-80 about 2800 miles away. My husband Bill drives it every day to get to work. There’s a mile sign on I-80 in Sacramento that says
    Placerville 76
    South Lake Tahoe 107
    Ocean City, Maryland 3073

    I mentioned the song to Bill (which I do know, but would have absolutely no idea which album it was from), and he said, “Yeah, it’s on Pearl. I have it in the other room.” (forgive me if this posts twice – it didn’t show up the first time)


  3. Well, I suppose that’s a hallmark of people using religion. It’s like a two-headed coin that you get to both flip and call.


  4. Laurie,

    That sign always gets me. I’ve never understood who thought it was a funny joke. Despite having driven almost the entire length of I-80, I never actually checked to see if the sign is accurate.


  5. Laurie: I’ve driven much of I-80: New York City to Nebraska, part of Wyoming, Boise to Baker City, and most of it is a very nice highway. Never seen that sign, though. It is curious — Ocean City (Maryland or New Jersey) is not on I-80.

    Sarge: Heads I win, tails you lose?

    Tungtide: You could always try mapquest to check for veracity. Or, you could channel McCain and Palin and just make it up.



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