One of the most frequent accusations of “idolatry” I heard as a child was leveled at Roman Catholic devotion to the virgin Mary. Lessons learned during childhood are difficult to displace, especially when they concern your eternal destination. I overcame this particular objection, a bit, during my sojourn among the Episcopalians, but I have to confess I never felt right praying to Mary. In my Protestant-steeped mind, there were two classes of entities involved: gods (of which, properly, there was only one) and human beings. Only the former received prayers. The rest of us simply had to contend with non-supernatural powers and do the best we could. Still, I met many believers devoted to Mary, and honestly, some accounts of Marian apparitions are pretty impressive.
A local source for inexpensive advertising in our area is essentially a weekly set of want ads. For a small fee you can advertise just about anything you want to buy or have to sell. Spiritual or physical. A few weeks ago, someone ran a magnanimous piece on a prayer to the virgin never known to fail. The words of the prayer were printed, along with the instructions, for nothing is quite as simple as “ask and you shall receive.” The prayer must be recited thrice, and thanksgiving publicly proclaimed. A number of questions occurred to me, regarding not only this, but all prayers for divine action. One is the rather simple query of how you can know if a prayer has never failed. I suspect this is known by faith alone.
There are any number of things most of us would like to change about our lives, and the larger issue of prayer is the daisy-chaining of causality. One change causes another, causes another, and often that for which we pray will impact another person in a negative way. This is the classic “contradictory prayer” conundrum—one person prays for sunny skies while another prays for rain. Neither is evil, both have their reasons, perhaps equally important. (The weekday is a workday for many, and that’s non-negotiable in a capitalist society, so I suspect prayers for sunny skies tend to be weekend prayers, but still…) The prayer never known to fail is either a rock or a hard place. It’s that certitude that does it. I don’t begrudge anyone a prayer that works. Faith alone can test the results. And although we could use a little less rain around here, we could all benefit from a little more faith, I suspect. And for that there’s no fee.
Posted in American Religion, Consciousness, Deities, Posts, Sects, Weather
Tagged Blessed Virgin Mary, Episcopalians, faith, prayer, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism
In celebration of Banned Book Week (go ahead, let your hair down!), I thought I might muse about some good news. Since I already posted on my banned book (Slaughterhouse Five) I need another angle of approach. One of the less envious aspects of being an editor at an academic press is being yoked to facts. Many authors have a basic misconception about numbers in their heads. They think their book will sell on the scale that Barnes and Noble, such as it is, will stock them on the shelves. I have to admit that I dream of walking into a bookstore and finding one of my titles on the shelf—and I know it’s not likely to happen. Those of us who work in publishing see the hard figures, how many copies have actually sold. And the results can be quite sobering.
The news isn’t all bad, though. I ran across an article by Andrew Perrin titled “Who doesn’t read books in America?” and the way the question was phrased made me think. I’m used to thinking of it the other way around: how many people read, or buy, books? I once read that about 5% of the US population constitutes the book-buying market. Now, that is a large number of people, even if it’s on the smaller end of the overall spectrum, but Perrin’s article from the Pew Research Center states that only 24% of Americans state they haven’t read a book, whole or in-part, over the past year. This, I think, is cause for celebration. It means more of us are reading than are not, even if we don’t always finish the books we’ve started.
Think of it like this: whether print or electronic, people know to turn to books for information. Oh, there are all kinds of details I’m leaving out here—the safeguards of a reputable publisher over the self-published manifesto, as well as the self-published brilliant book over what managed to squeak through the review process at a university press because an editor felt the pressure of a quota—but the numbers are encouraging nevertheless. Looked at this way, more people are reading than are not. And the best way to promote books is to suggest they should be banned. That’s why I don’t despair of the shallow books praising Trump—if they’re banned they become prophetic. Academic books, my colleagues, don’t sell as many copies as you might think, even if they’re not banned. The good news is, however, that we haven’t forgotten whence to turn for knowledge.
Posted in Books, Current Events, Holidays, Literature, Posts, Publishing
Tagged academic publishing, Andrew Perrin, Banned Book Week, literacy, Pew Research Center, Slaughterhouse-Five