Can YOU Make It Rain?

The political scene is not looking too rosy.  Scary is the better adjective for it.

I can’t say it much better than this, so I’ll let Christopher Hitchens say it all in Slate’s “Rick Perry’s God.

My question for you: if you believe in God or a higher power, do you actually think you can pray to make it rain (as Perry thought he could)?  And if you reject that notion (but still believe in God), then what good is prayer?  [I might remind you of Jesus’s promises on prayer, which we talked about on Tuesday.]

I’d much rather vote for a politician who can use his noggin than someone who relies on a mysterious word from heaven.  Wouldn’t you?  [And this is coming from someone who grew up believing that prayer could move mountains.  Funny I never thought to contest that.]

[Post image: Storm warning by kablu on stock.xchng]


  1. Sylvia
    Sep 22, 2011

    Hi Elissa, This is a quote I loved on a blog post on 09/11/11: ” I’ve never seen faith move mountains, but I’ve seen what it can do to skyscrapers” This is the link to the post I think it is basically saying the same thing you have been discussing.

    • Elissa
      Sep 22, 2011

      Interesting point, Sylvia. I hadn’t thought of it that way…thanks for alerting me to that post…

  2. Terry
    Sep 23, 2011

    I agree with you about the political scene, but if someone were to use their brain AND prayer, would that present a conflict of interest for you? I have to admit something, and I know this sounds harsh, but I’ve been reading your blog for a while and sensing the tone of many of your posts. It seems like you are predisposed to discounting people that are believers because of your background.

    • Elissa
      Sep 23, 2011


      I apologize if my tone offends. [Perhaps part of it is my incredulity that I actually believed much of this in the past, IN THE WAY that I did. So, perhaps much of it is directed at myself? For example, early in my marriage I would have subscribed to the whole notion of wives being submissive to their husbands. I mean I actually BUILT MY MARRIAGE on this concept. I no longer believe this. I think it was both a cultural relic AND a clever device to keep women in their places.]

      No, I certainly don’t want to give the impression that I despise or discount believers, because I don’t. Here, on this blog, I have promised myself that I would ask all sorts of questions, many of which are tough and unsavory to, let’s say, believers in general. [Truth be told, I don’t find that the atheists or agnostics I know are generally offended. I’m not sure why that is.] I’ll use your term so that we’re on the same page. “Believers,” on the whole, don’t understand why I just don’t have faith…why I’m so obstinate in asking questions. Shouldn’t I just trust God’s word? Shouldn’t I just BELIEVE? Quick, before I secure my place in hell forever?

      And although it may sound like I’m going overboard and being dramatic, that’s not the case at all. I’ve actually had people say these things to me.

      To answer your question about the political scene, I would have no problem with someone who uses his or her brain AND prays, as long as their rhetoric doesn’t exclude all the people who don’t believe as he or she does OR all the people who don’t have the same rights he or she does (I’m thinking of the gay population here). Then I’d be good to go. I want the best candidate, not the best Christian candidate. Certainly a Christian can be a good candidate, but I don’t think that being-a-Christian needs to be a requirement.

      Does that make more sense? If my blog offends, please don’t feel like you need to read it. However, if you’re up for some good, hard questions, try to see around what preconceptions you might be bringing to the table (like we all do!), to analyze the questions alone…for their analytical and philosophical value, not emotional value.

      I hope that helps…??

      • Terry
        Sep 23, 2011

        Your tone doesn’t offend me, it saddens me, actually. I just don’t see a lot of comments or questions where you interact with someone who believes in God (any faith) and you actually get something positive out of it. 🙂 That makes me really sad. So I am sort of fascinated in the fact that you post on issues related to God quite often, but mostly in a light that doesn’t seem to care for people that believe in Him. Rarely is there much of a positive tone in faith-related posts – if there are any, it’s usually in a response when someone has replied to your comments, later. I just wondered if you ever interact with anyone that inspires you, from a faith background? Also, please don’t think I’ve analyzed every single post, I’m speaking generically here just from memory!

        As to your comment on “believers,” (of all faiths) I know some believers that just accept what others tell them, but I know many believers who are also critical thinkers and ask questions. It sounds like where you came from, you weren’t allowed to…well, think.

        You’re not going to get rid of me that easily, unless you tell me to flat-out quit posting, LOL

        • Elissa
          Sep 23, 2011

          Hmmm, I’m confused. I truly have tried to be kind and generous to everyone on this site. I don’t think I’ve been antagonistic at all. Can you please site an example? I’m happy to admit I’ve been wrong, but I don’t see it. Please help me out here. Anyone?

          My questions have been that, simply questions. [If you’re upset because I’ve asked hard ones, or I tow a firm line, I cannot control that. I’m not upset or angry when I post. That’s what I meant when I said to focus on the question, not on how-you-feel-that-I’m-asking-it.]

          I love people of all beliefs. That’s why I spoke at the Wild Goose Festival this past summer. I applaud what they’re trying to do. That’s my goal, too—to get people of all faiths (or no faith) to talk…to come together.

          And if I’ve come to no sort of agreement with someone of faith, that’s simply because, in a conversation, I always get to a certain roadblock that neither of us can broach. Namely, if you don’t “see” it like I do, and if I don’t “see” it like you do, there’s really no going further than that, unless you keep asking questions (without the hope of coming to an agreement).

          For instance, in my last post on “God Hates Amputees?” there was no way Dana and I could come to an agreement on what we both were talking about. She believes, very sincerely (and I would never try to take this away from her!) that God brought about her infirmity for a reason (or at least has caused good to come from it). I would argue that there’s another way to think about it. What if there is NO reason for illness or disease, as we’ve thought of it? What if God (if he exists) chooses not to intervene, and all along we think he has been? Wouldn’t that change our perspective a little?

          So, you see, there was a discussion, but neither of us is going to convince each other in one blog post. Which we both stated to each other.

          But the discussion itself serves a great manner of good, in that whoever is reading can read several sides and make their OWN decision. So, even if my mind is not changed, it doesn’t mean I hate that person, nor disdain what she says. On the contrary, I’m only too grateful to have someone contesting me.

          What I meant by you, possibly, not reading was not to get rid of you. 🙂 What I meant was that if I continue to anger you (or bother you), then why read? I don’t want to cause anyone harm or sadness. That’s never my intention. Truly.

          But I have to keep asking the questions. Even if I’m the only one reading. 🙂

  3. dasephix
    Sep 23, 2011

    I believe there is much difficulty in communicating the belief or disbelief one can personally attest to. What is interesting is the dichotomy of Faith, and no Faith, God, or no God that contributes to this difficulty, as I may have mentioned in some of my previous responses in past discussions. I think that is a very important question in terms of growth for either “position” on the matter, and I’m assuming that’s why Elissa asks it. Not to mention, as I have come to know from the various posts that Elissa was also a Christian.

    I don’t believe that these discussions are really meant to take away from either side’s “position”. I’d like to think that what we are all doing by coming here, is to meet on a level where all of our beliefs and ideas can synthesize into the whole of the human experience. Whether or not this is based on Faith or no Faith, each one of our experiences contributes to the history of our humanity.

    I know that many would argue, that perhaps, to question and accept, but to still have Faith might be pluralistic, or that to have no Faith, and to question, is antagonistic and all together damned. But, might we all have the courage to continually ask the questions, so as not to reduce ourselves into a stasis that should be defended? A stasis, mind you, of which could result in the various polarities that could develop from this type of discussion and could essentially detract from our capacity to grow? To grow beyond what we even claim to “know”.

    With deepest empathy Terry, it seems that perhaps it might not be the right time to engage in this type of discussion because of your “sadness” for Mrs. Elliot’s tone. From my humble opinion and of my own personal experience because it is a statement that I have made in the past, it is filled with implications that reduce these types of discussions into a matter of conversion rather than one which explores similarities.

    In any case, I would argue that Faith encompasses the territory of No-Faith and vice versa, because of the difficulty related to the nature of how we communicate, it’s obvious we might see ourselves as one pole of a duality. But, because of this paradox, I can feel the friction in every thought and action, and that’s good I think, because I can come to know the contingencies of my current self, but it also challenges me to question an existence of necessity. This is extremely difficult and I believe it translates into an aversion to our experience, regardless of Religious affiliation. This of which, I could go on, and probably even bore myself if that were possible! Needless to say, there also is value in not questioning certain things, and I think that’s important in the realm of prayer and/or mediation, and awareness of “thinking”.

    In my opinion, I believe prayer can even encompass that of silence and it is this type that I find it meaningful. It is the reason that many leave the secular world to engage all that solitude entails. Sooner or later though, I think people that even choose this path may even come to the realization that what they intend to do is a paradox itself, due to the very nature of thought, and to the nature of being human! A reality which ultimately begs us to engage, even if it takes the experience of not engaging.

    All in all, I am privy to the idea that we seldom confront ourselves even if we believe so because of the layers of identity and emotion, but I think we sometimes develop the courage to challenge ourselves to make ourselves aware of this internal struggle, the struggle that necessitates that we “get it”. That’s why I read Elissa’s blog, because I think her questions are a reflection of this internal struggle, if not of herself but of all the people that were a part of the Faithful and are apparently now not Faithful, because they chose to challenge the notion that they could own Faith for themselves.

    • Elissa
      Sep 24, 2011

      Thank you, Dasephix. Will you please just explain my thinking on all my posts from now on? LOL.

      I’m going to be very vulnerable here. Enough to be seen as weak and silly and weird. And that’s okay, because I don’t care how people view me. I only want to be as clear as I can with my words. Coming from someone who has chosen this as a career (working with words), I seem to be doing a horrible job at it! Maybe you could take over, Dasephix?

      Terry, your comments reduced me to tears, even though I knew you didn’t mean it unkindly. [In fact, you said what you had to say very nicely!] But let me explain. There is pretty much only one thing a person could tell me that would hurt me, and that’s saying I’ve been unkind. I don’t care if we disagree. I don’t care if you believe that I’m going to hell. But I DO care if I’ve been unkind or hurt someone. So, last night was a difficult night for me, because of course, I began to question what, exactly, I was doing in this blog and in my writing. [In fact, the extremist in me immediately wants to end the blog, my podcasts, my writing, and transport myself to a secluded cabin in the woods somewhere, where I can wrestle these “demons” alone!] There’s the solitude you’re talking of, Dasephix. Yes, to me it would be a sort of prayer.

      Certainly, as my readers may have guessed, much of what I write is FOR ME; it speaks of MY journey and no one else’s. I write to make sense of things. I write to hear others’ perspectives. I write to work myself into answers I may never receive.

      Terry, I DID call my sister, to ask that she read the last two blog posts and tell me where I’ve gone wrong. She immediately called back and said, yes, I seem passionate, and possibly angry, when I talk about God issues especially, but only in the rhetoric I use. So for instance, I said, “Do you actually think you can pray to…?” I should have rephrased this without the “actually,” because this seems antagonistic. So, in other words, “Do you think you can pray to…?”

      Her diagnosis brought on the tears again, because yes, I would admit truthfully that the topic does elicit great emotion in me, because I’m struggling to make sense of it all, in the midst of people exclaiming over the fact that I’m doing so.

      Dasephix, you said, “But, might we all have the courage to continually ask the questions, so as not to reduce ourselves into a stasis that should be defended?” This is what I’m striving for…a continual learning curve, so that I might contest everything…never having ONE position I must defend.

      I’ll be honest. There are fundamentalistic atheists (Richard Dawkins is an example of this), just as there are fundamentalistic Christians, and I guess what I’m going for is the ability to question WHEREVER I am, without labels.

      Bottom line: my husband told me that no matter what, I will have people who don’t like what I have to say. It comes with the territory, especially in an area of faith. I just don’t want to be unkind in my words. So forgive me, dear Terry. I will try my hardest to continue the questions without arrogance or meanness.

      • Terry
        Sep 24, 2011

        Elissa, I am SO sorry that I reduced you to tears. It was not my intent at all. I apologize wholeheartedly for that. And I don’t think at all that you are unkind, or offensive.

        Your husband is exactly right. You put yourself out there, you have thoughts, and you share. I don’t do that. So, what you are doing with this blog (what I think all public bloggers do) certainly takes courage. My hats are off to you because of that.

        I read your blog because I appreciate your insights on poetry, on writing, on sharing creativity. I also am always interested in learning. You like questions, I like learning. You and I like a lot of the same things. What we don’t share is our journey through faith. And I was only wanting to know if you’d ever been inspired by someone of faith, because it only seems as if those of faith have hurt you. That’s all. Unfortunately, my questions hurt you as well, so I can’t say that I have been one to help in that regard. Again, I’m sorry that questions were so personal. It’s so easy when you don’t know someone to post things without realizing how the others might react, especially when you don’t know them.

        Thanks to Dasephix as well. No, I wasn’t trying to change minds, just understand.

        • Elissa
          Sep 24, 2011

          Terry, No, please don’t be sorry. You weren’t unkind, and I truly want everyone to be able to voice his or her opinion. Seriously.

          Most of the people of faith I’ve been inspired by are writers or authors who have written down their experiences in nonfiction, novels, and poetry. What Shane Claiborne has been doing is remarkable (author of Irresistible Revolution). What Brian McLaren is doing is extraordinary, and I’ve met him in person, and he’s just so approachable (and exudes kindness). My former editor at Books & Culture, John Wilson, and his wife Wendy mean the world to me. [I say former because I recently wrote John, saying that I would stop writing for B&C, so nothing I said could be “placed” on them. So, they did not shoo me out; that was my decision, to protect him.] They’ve seen me in so many places (spiritual places) and have expressed their resolve to still be friends. They epitomize what I want to be. Our former pastor and his wife are exemplary people. I admire them greatly. So, there are a few who inspire me. I really, truly do not know many Christians who are actually living Jesus’s words. I’m sorry I don’t. It’s not from a lack of trying.

          And contrary to your concern, I don’t mind personal questions. I’ve tried to be transparent and honest, and I will continue to do so. So, ask away! LOL.

          I need to grow thicker skin. 🙂

  4. Sylvia
    Sep 24, 2011

    Dearest Elissa,
    I would like to say thank you for your blog and podcast.. I look forward to reading and listening to everyone. You really make me think with your questions and I really appreciate you. Your statement: “I guess what I’m going for is the ability to question WHEREVER I am, without labels.” describes my journey also.
    Love to you,

    • Elissa
      Sep 24, 2011

      Thanks, Sylvia. That means so much to me. xo

  5. George Hill
    Sep 26, 2011

    “Because I’m struggling to make sense of it all”

    I am confused as to how the struggle to make sense of beliefs or ideas presented from one seeking the Presidency, predisposes one to “discounting people that are believers” and how asking “questions” invokes a “tone that saddens”?
    I have reread the post and find no malice, bent or attitude in the questions; “can you make it rain” and the statement and question “I’d much rather vote for a politician who can use his noggin than someone who relies on a mysterious word from heaven. Wouldn’t you?” and then “funny I never thought to contest that”, “this…coming from someone who grew up believing that prayer could move mountains.”
    “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose {Elissa} a holy curiosity.” ~Albert Einstein

    • Elissa
      Sep 26, 2011

      Thanks, George. I love that quote by Einstein. I’ve not heard it before. I’m cutting-and-pasting it into my journal!

      And thank you for understanding my intent. I DO question mostly for myself, but I hope others “get” something from it, in the sense that I want to stimulate conversation, not act as a damper. 🙂

  6. Don Rogers
    Sep 26, 2011

    Wow! The conversation on this post hit home. Obviously because I am a blogger as well. I try as hard as I’m able to write posts not intended to hurt anyone. I frequently fail. And yes, it does hurt when I fail, when I get a comment expressed as Terry’s was. But, those comments make me work harder to get it right the next time. I love the blog, Elissa.

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The quote I live by

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.
--Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet

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