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 HarrisonWarrenfirstname.lastname@example.org 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.