The Georgia rain
On the Jasper County clay
Couldn’t wash away
The way I loved you to this day
The ol’ dirt road’s paved over now
Nothin’ here’s the same
Except for the Georgia rain.
–Tricia Yearwood, Georgia Rain
One of the most time-dishonored methods for cultists to entrap their acolytes is by building a logical loop into their thinking. The formula goes something like this: B is a system independent of A, and only things recognized by B are considered, so A must not matter. Today’s scientists are adept at this. They “prove” that God does not exist by defining existence as things identifiable by science and defining science as the identification of all things tangible.
A second group that mimics this strategy is the collective of modern journalists. They operate within a matrix that presumes the following: Our job is to report news. Reporting is conveying in words what was seen. Things not seeable are not reportable; ergo, they are not news. God cannot be seen; ergo, God cannot be news. On the other hand, foolish statements and behavior about God can be seen and heard, thus newsworthy. By this system, only articles mocking religion are worth doing. When the mockers get a comeuppance, that is censored.
The most glaring example of this, though a regrettable story from any viewpoint, came in a scornful article by the Jerusalem Report some years ago. Some Sephardic Jews had placed a mystical curse on Prime Minister Rabin that was said to kill him within thirty days. That was taken as obvious cause for hilarity. The outcome was that not only was he dead within thirty days, he was dead before the cover date on that issue of the magazine! Could the next issue then report that the power of the imprecation had been proven? Of course not. Thus the trap: if it doesn’t come true, that is proof of falseness, but if it does come true, that is not proof of truth.
Which brings us to the great state of Georgia, Governor Sonny Perdue, and the prayer service he initiated for rain last week. The scoffers were out in force, reviling this rube for thinking that humanity could appeal to divinity for relief from drought. They stood by afterwards, ribald pens sharpened, ready to describe in minute loving detail the arid night that followed, the wilting leaves, the dashed hopes, the crestfallen naifs. Exceptâ€¦ oops! It rained.
The stories could not be celebratory. Instead they did the math in the aftermath. True, it rained, but not enough. Yes, a full inch throughout northern Georgia, but that is hardly an inroad along the long road ahead. “No significant long-term benefit,” the meteorologist hastens to dispel the gratitude. “A little bit of extra water,” you see, in the “smaller reservoirs and tributaries”; nothing to write home about.
Contrast this with the view of Maimonides, a pretty decent scientist in his own right: “This is among the ways of penitence. At a time that a disaster befalls, and people cry out, everyone will know that because of their misbehavior things have gone badly. This will cause the crisis to be withdrawn. But if they do not cry out, instead saying this thing is part of the way of the world and this trouble is an incidental occurrence, that is a cruel approach. It causes them to cling to their misdeeds. Then that trouble will bring other troubles in its wake.” (Laws of Public Fast Days, 1:2-3)
The truth is most Americans are not as callous, nor have such callused souls, as your journeyman journalist type. They believe there is a Providential hand nudging their fate in generally salubrious directions. To affirm this, Thanksgiving was instituted. Yet in recent times there has been a weakness in the area of self-examination during times of crisis. We have trouble bestirring ourselves to follow the example of the King of Nineveh in the Book of Jonah, to get off our thrones and rethink our policies for living.
The old Atlanta Braves had only two strong starting pitchers, occasioning the classic ditty about their four-game plan: “Spahn, Sain, pray for rain.” The Braves have learnt how to win since then without such pluvial intervention; that is no reason to jettison the devotional lesson of how to draw that Georgia Rain. Pray today, give thanks tomorrow. Remember also that prayer is not only a means to an end, as Maimonides explains, it must catalyze each of us into reflecting upon our priorities.
I admire Governor Perdue’s courage; he is no chicken like Mike Tyson. Long may he perdure.
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