The Prayers of Farmers

I can’t remember exactly where I first heard this saying, but I think it was in one of the soldiers’ autobiographies I read when I was still in school (I used to read a lot of military stuff back then). The saying goes that there is no such thing as an atheist on a battlefield. This isn’t too difficult to understand: when faced with imminent death, people need all the help they can get and are prepared to strike a bargain with just about anyone. It’s is also a recognition of the fact that their fate is very much out of their hands, with the Gods as it were.

About the same time I was reading books like Chickenhawk and The Tunnels of Cu Chi I was living back in West Wales, which I mentioned in my previous post. It was a farming district and I grew up in what was originally a blacksmith’s cottage surrounded by farms, fields, and animals. Several of my schoolfriends lived on farms and my parents knew most of the neighbouring farmers, and as I got older I noticed that the farms were silent on Sundays. The farmers would do no work and not receive visitors (including annoyingly inquisitive teenagers fascinated by agricultural machinery), and would almost all go to church. I thought this strange because they otherwise didn’t seem like particularly religious people (for instance, you’d see few religious artifacts around the houses and they didn’t mind drinking and swearing). I eventually asked my mother about this and she said farmers were often regular attendees at church because so much of their livelihood depended on the weather, which was in the hands of the Gods. It is unlikely that any farmer in 1990s Wales would have starved to death following a bad harvest, but a few generations before and a crop failure would have been deadly serious, and even in modern times events such as flooding and disease can put unbearable stress on farmers. Many of the ones I grew up around are now dead of heart attacks; thankfully none I knew committed suicide, but the rates are high. So their attending prayer was understandable: much depended on factors outside their control and they needed all the help they can get. Besides, what harm could it do? (There are shades of Pascal’s Wager in here).

I say this to explain why this article in today’s Washington Post annoyed me. This is how their original headline read:

To me, this is wholly unsurprising. From the article:

Perdue, a former Democrat who switched to the Republican Party before governing Georgia for two terms from 2003 to 2011, has a strong agricultural background, having grown up on a farm and earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine. As governor of Georgia, he also took conservative stances on immigration and voting rights and drew national headlines for holding a public vigil to pray for rain in 2007 amidst a crippling drought.

Again, this is wholly unsurprising. Faced with a crippling drought, a farming community prayed for rain. Where in the world doesn’t this happen? Here you have middle class, city-dwelling journalists sneering at a backward, unenlightened Georgian farmer for thinking rain can be summoned through prayer. I can imagine it now: “Hahahahahaha! What an idiot! How can people be so stupid?”

Of course, such utter lack of understanding of the USA outside the coastal cities and their constant derision of people they don’t understand is why the media’s preferred Democratic candidate got smashed in the Presidential election by a Republican who they thought had no chance. I came across this story this morning on Twitter and found the headline has not gone down well with some liberals either (which is probably why they changed it):

Indeed. I too am as secular as they come and I suppose if pushed I’d describe myself as agnostic. But I know enough not to sneer at the personal beliefs of people who are doing no more than trying to get themselves through a patch of bad luck, especially if they are farmers. I’ve seen the harsh reality of farming and rural life close up; our media elites clearly haven’t.  Some humility and manners wouldn’t go amiss, would they?

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16 thoughts on “The Prayers of Farmers

  1. There is an old joke — or a truth depending on how you regard these things — is that God always answers prayers. The answer however is almost always ‘no.’

    Like many things in life you can always ask, but again as it used to say on the wall of my local chip shop years ago: “Please do not ask for credit as a refusal often offends.” The trick about praying then I suppose is not minding when the refusal comes through.

    Discussions about God and Gods are fascinating but, from what we can observe, probably pointless. The question then becomes one of the nature of the universe (or again, what we know of it) in that how can something so intrinsically ingenious, blanked and inter-related just happen by chance? On the other side of the argument, how come human knees are so susceptible to damage, given how much work they have to do? Hmmmm, and then there is the miracle (to borrow the religious idea) of the eye. How did such a remarkable construct come to happen in so many varied creatures? It is all a mystery and sneering at it doesn’t make the mystery go away; it merely distances one from thinking about it all.

    By the way, on the subject of dismissing religion, is sneering at praying everywhere a feature of WaPo’s editorial stance? In which case they have to sneer openly too at those who adhere to, oh I dunno, say the RoP. But I wonder… do they?

  2. The trick about praying then I suppose is not minding when the refusal comes through.

    That’s what faith is all about, from what I can gather.

    In which case they have to sneer openly too at those who adhere to, oh I dunno, say the RoP

    Heh.

  3. Compared to what your average Progressive believes in, praying for rain in a drought is almost rational.

  4. By the way, on the subject of dismissing religion, is sneering at praying everywhere a feature of WaPo’s editorial stance?

    I’m not convinced an article laughing at the “72 virgins” thing would get past the WaPo editors. Or that the person submitting it would still be in employment at the end of the day.

  5. “By the way, on the subject of dismissing religion, is sneering at praying everywhere a feature of WaPo’s editorial stance? In which case they have to sneer openly too at those who adhere to, oh I dunno, say the RoP. But I wonder… do they?”
    But that’s their wonderful and so-exotic culture. Christians don’t have any of that.

  6. Only too happy to chip in a quick prayer for my neighbours when weather is making life tough on the lads driving tractors etc…costs nothing as I’m a God botherer anyway! I find it strange the left has a difficulty with this, after all they have believed that socialism works even in the face of famine and chaos.

  7. … and why the first instinct among rural folk when crops failed was to find a suitable candidate and burn her as a witch, to please God.

  8. and why the first instinct among rural folk when crops failed was to find a suitable candidate and burn her as a witch, to please God.

    My God, are you also from West Wales?!

  9. Compared to what your average Progressive believes in, praying for rain in a drought is almost rational.

    Indeed.

  10. Only too happy to chip in a quick prayer for my neighbours when weather is making life tough on the lads driving tractors etc…costs nothing as I’m a God botherer anyway!

    Good lad!

  11. The headline you cite is emblematic for what passes as wit in the chattering classes, which really could be more adequately described as sophomoric snark. I can imagine the editor and assorted man-bunned hipsters at the Washington Post passing this around the office and smugly smirking at the rubes in the feeling that they have delivered one more death blow to the incoming Trump administration, when all they have done is to show once again how far removed they are from the population that they think they should have a hand in governing.

    And this, of course, coming from people who are adamantly sure that humans impact THE CLIMATE and that buying indulgences in the form of carbon credits will ensure their salvation.

    As others have pointed out, #thisishowyougotTrump.

  12. I find it interesting they way they sneer at someone who prays, yet if they had meditated over the issue, it would be nods of agreement. Same thing, just different fashions.

    The praying isn’t about getting rain, it’s about finding internal comfort at being at the hands of events outside your personal control.

  13. I do know that a common prayer on the battlefield is for a flatter backside. My oh my does it feel exposed.

  14. Christianity is just another form of sun worship and the good folk that work the land have prayed to their sun and rain gods for their blessing for time eternal.

  15. I do know that a common prayer on the battlefield is for a flatter backside. My oh my does it feel exposed.

    Heh!

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