More bromides from Reverend Warren

September 4, 2022 • 12:45 pm

Tish Harrison Warren, an Anglican priest, has the privilege and pleasure of purveying her palaver on each Sunday’s op-ed page of the NYT. I still don’t know why they want her to write, as she never says anything that makes you think, but simply regurgitates whatever “nice” liberal people will be thinking, with an inevitable nod to God and to the value of prayer. This week she both celebrates and mourns as her kids go off to school, with backpacks blessed by God and with prayers from their mom.  As always, her words are trite, her sentiments lacrhymose.

Click to read (if you want).

She is joyful:

As I sent my kids back to school this year, I sent them with my prayers.

I love the beginning of a new school year. I love meeting my kids’ new teachers. I derive over-the-top joy from new school supplies. I savor the excitement my kids have about seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and their plans, goals and hopes for the year. Certain churches, including my own, start each school year with the “Blessing of the Backpacks.” Kids bring their backpacks to church one Sunday in late August and lay them near the altar. Then we as a church pray for students, for teachers and schools in our city. It’s a tactile way of “blessing and sending” our kids into the tasks and challenges that lay ahead and a joyful and moving way to start the year.

Sunrise, sunset. . . . .   Is there anything here that’s new, fresh, or thought-inducing?

For me, there is a sense of lament as well. The new school year is also a time when, yet again, I must practice letting my kids go. A mentor of mine whose children are now adults told me that for each new stage they entered, he felt delight and joy, and at the exact same time, he grieved losing the stage before. This is the complex melody of parenting. From the time the cord is cut till your children grow into adults, parenthood is a long practice in loving deeply yet letting go. Over and over again.

But the toughest part about this time of year isn’t merely letting my kids go. It’s that I must let them go into a hard and sometimes heartbreaking world.

But she’s sad and angry as well, for her kids could get shot in the classroom, so she had to importune God about that, too:

 A year ago, two friends and I, all mothers, co-wrote a short book of prayers for children. We decided to include a prayer for the beginning of the school day. As we workshopped a draft, we discussed what we should cover in it. It began, “Dear God, Bless our school and our teachers and all of our helpers. Give me courage to be a good friend.” We edited a few more lines about kindness, curiosity and the gift of learning about God’s world. Then, our conversation grew sad and serious. We knew we had to address the need for safety — something so many parents think about as they drop their kids off at school each day. We were writing for 4- through 9-year-olds. How does one possibly address the reality of gun violence with such tiny kids? But how could we ignore it? These tiny kids have lockdown drills. These kids know that violence lurks amid the happiest of lives and classrooms. They know this in a way I did not when I was their age. The prayer ends “And please keep everyone safe all day long.” That’s the best words we could come up with, the best we could offer.

I left that writing session feeling angry, angry that we had to think about mass violence when writing a prayer for second graders, angry that we as a country have failed children, angry at how children live in a world where adults do not keep them safe. It felt wrong because it is wrong.

Of course school shootings are deplorable, especially when they take away lives lived only for a decade or so. But we’ll never be able to stop them completely, even if we completely outlaw guns.  Nevertheless, her reveries go on and on and on, repeating themselves and then ending with a request for readers to send in their own school prayers:

How about you? How are you praying for your children or others, teachers, administrators or schools as this new school year begins? Are there particular prayers you use? Or specific rituals or practices that your family embraces this time of year? Share them with me at HarrisonWarren-newsletter@nytimes.com and we will select some responses to highlight in next week’s newsletter. Please be sure to let us know if we have your permission to print your full name and approximate location along with your response.

I was tempted. . . . .but naah.

But I have questions:

a.) Why does the NYT publish this stuff? What are they hoping that readers will get out of it. Is it a form of journalistic comfort food?

b.) Would they publish it if a mom who wasn’t a priest wrote it? Or is there some special cachet given to the words of those who wear dog collars?

c.) Are any of these sentiments worth expressing in America’s most famous newspaper?

Now I’m sure that Rev. Warren is a nice person, not at all like the Reverend Jerry Falwell, but I can’t help but think, when I read stuff like this, that you can get away with an extraordinary fusillade of bromides if you’re a priest. Nothing that Warren says is offensive—unless you don’t like her certainty that there’s a theistic God—but I remember Hitchens’s acerbic remarks about the cachet of religion in America after the death of Falwell:

The empty life of this ugly little charlatan proves only one thing, that you can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and to truth in this country if you will just get yourself called reverend.

 

15 thoughts on “More bromides from Reverend Warren

  1. She really has nothing at all to say. Might be okay for a pastor who has to find something to say every week without offending anyone, but in the NYT? Why should anyone want to read this?
    I once “won” a 3-issue test subscription of a (slightly intellectual) Christian magazine, it was certainly more interesting than “Tish” Warren’s fare.

  2. Pablum meant to lighten the reader’s day. We can do without it. Is it harmful? Probably not very. No, we don’t need prayer to start the school year. What we need is for teachers and children to focus on the tasks before them: teaching and learning.

  3. It is a form of journalistic comfort food. If the only excuse (I was going to write “argument”) for religious belief in this day and age is “credo quia consolans,” then the reason the NYT promotes Warren is “publicamus quia consolans.”

  4. You used the word “palaver” as in “purveying her palaver.” Palaver as a noun means idle, misleading, or beguiling talk.
    Did you not mean the word “blather” instead? Blather means voluble nonsensical or inconsequential talk.

    1. In the first dictionary I looked at, the definition was “talk unproductively and at length.” And that’s exactly what Warren is doing. Besides, you know why I used a word beginning with “p”.

  5. A NYT columnist who has nothing to say.
    I thought the paper would want to put out stuff that would at least be click-bait. Better still, to have a column that would incite the commentariat to write comments. But what could one possibly say in reply, other than to complain that her posts are as flavorful as eating a rice cake while having a head cold?

  6. Dear me. The Reverend Tish tells us that she and her colleagues had to “workshop a draft” of their prayer-book for children; “discussed what we should cover in it”; and, a bit later, “edited a few more lines”.

    Was the Holy Ghost resting on the job? Surely it would have descended on these fervent believers and told them exactly what their prayers for children should include? That’s what the Big Book of Magic Stuff tells us happened to the “real” disciples. Why, one might almost imagine that Tish and co were making the whole thing up!

  7. “How does one possibly address the reality of gun violence with such tiny kids?”

    By telling them that it’s not something they’ll ever really need to worry about?

  8. It is some sort of thing I have tried to rationalize different ways – how about :

    … the worldly stuff, in no shortage, is heaped on the plate (or, page, as it were)… but because she talks to god, the worldly stuff becomes a layer of glass through which “we” are struck by the magic spell that only religion can cast. “We” recognize that “oh, right – this is all ordinary stuff – but it’s all due to god.

    It’s all a ritual for the Big Day when we get to meet all our relatives on a cloud in the sky. As such, the writing can be 1% god, 99% ordinary.

  9. Fortunately I’ve never actually clicked on her column (I was warned!) despite my daily reading of the New Woke Times (sigh). I live here, what am I gonna do, read the Post?
    Seeing her here though – what a pain. A pain.
    D.A.
    NYC

  10. “…angry that we as a country have failed children, angry at how children live in a world where adults do not keep them safe.”

    In a perfect world, all children would survive to adulthood and do so in good health. If that is the standard we compare ourselves to, then we will be disappointed.
    The average youth mortality in global historical eras was 46.2%
    In 1900, it was still over 40%
    In 1950, it was 27%
    In 2017, it was 4.6% But that is global data.

    In the US, the rate has dropped from 4.3% in 1950 to .77% in 2020. Anyone who has spent any time looking at old cemeteries or done genealogical research cannot help but be shocked at the number of child and infant deaths that were considered normal in even the recent past.
    Yes, any firearms deaths are unacceptable, especially for kids. There is currently a .000057% chance of a kid in the US dying of firearms related injuries before the age of 19, but again, that includes all the gang members shooting each other over turf or drugs. That goes far to explain why approximately 80% of those victims are male.

    Her kids, who likely attend a private school in Austin, have less to worry about than kids almost anywhere else, and certainly so compared to previous generations.
    The innocence of a safe childhood was largely a fiction a century ago, but is reality today. I wonder if Ms. Warren’s kids are more or less fretful about their safety than their grandparents were at the same age.

  11. I worked as a daily-newspaper journalist for three decades, as a columnist, reporter and editor.

    I view Warren as one of those not-so-interesting columnists hired by a paper trying to hedge (ever so slightly) against its (well-earned, generally) liberal reputation. It’s sort of a hollow effort, to be frank, as Warren is hardly the sort of Christian likely to draw more fervent, fundamentalist-type readers, and her efforts are unlikely to change anybody’s mind about the general political leaning of the Times.

    Warren is no spewer of fire and brimstone, but rather, a squishy, namby-pamby Christian who (it appears to me) doesn’t do much hard thinking about her beliefs. She described as “Anglican,” which could mean various things. In the U.S., many Episcopalians describe themselves as “Anglican,” because they are part of the Anglican Union; Episcopal churches in the U.S. are generally, though not entirely, somewhat “liberal.” There are some churches in the Anglican Union that are rather vigorously anti-gay, but their locus of power is Africa and Asia.

    The column cited today is silly fluff, not least because of its utterly unexamined assumptions that imprecation by prayer would sway “god” from allowing a school shooting … or something.

    Professor Coyne is right to roll his eyes at Warren’s efforts. She’s not a very interesting columnist. But she’s also, in my mind, fairly toothless and silly, and not worth much time worrying about.

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