Be careful what you pray for

Be careful what you pray for

There are times when Paul Carter has no problem with people praying for him. But anyone praying for a cure for him risks a violent backlash.

Now they say that there are certain things you shouldn’t talk about at parties. Judging by the number I’ve been asked to leave over the years, I’m guessing I’ve probably broached most of them at some point. The two famous ones though are those light, fluffy subjects that everyone loves – politics and religion. Despite my best efforts (and I googled a lot), it doesn’t seem that this rule applies to curmudgeonly columnists. Nobody seems to have come up with a quote saying, “You shouldn’t mention religion in a sniping disability diatribe,” so I’m going in. Blame the internet not me. Besides, in a column that’s covered such hot topics as spiders and how to eat spaghetti in the past, you can’t say I’m not afraid to tackle the big hard-hitting issues.

Before I begin, and conscious that I don’t want this to fall into. “I’m not racist but…” territory (in the way that people who say that invariably are, they just don’t like to admit it) this isn’t a religion-bashing thing, so relax. I’m not going into my own deeper thoughts on religion because this isn’t the place. It is though a reflection on a couple of incidents that happened to me recently that made me think about how religion relates to disability in the minds of some people.

Like many incidences in my life, the first inspiration for this came during a chance encounter with a member of the fine British public who deigned to speak to me on a bus. For those of you who don’t live in, or travel on, London’s public transport system permit me to try and explain. Speaking to a complete stranger on a tube or train in London would be akin to exposing yourself to them anywhere else in the country. It’s not socially acceptable and can get you arrested. Ok so the second part isn’t true, but it should be. For sociopathic misanthropes like me, this arrangement tends to meet with my universal approval.

Now, without waffling on too much, this middle aged lady started to try and strike up a conversation.

But despite my response (rank outright rudeness) at her initial attempts to speak to me, she eventually told me that she and her friends go to a bible group every week and that I could come and they could pray for me. She asked for my number, I told her I didn’t know it. She tried to give me hers, I said my phone battery was flat, despite the fact I’d been blatantly using it for the past five minutes to get her to stop talking to me. Eventually she gave me her friend from bible group’s number on a receipt before making me promise I’d call her. I did, purely so I could get off the bus.

The second incident happened when I was walking along the street the other day minding my own business. Someone saw me and crossed themselves quite openly. I’m not sure what the word is but you know the thing I mean – the spectacles/testicles/wallet/watch shenanigan. Seriously, I didn’t know whether to feel blessed or like the antichrist. What had that person seen in me to motivate that kind of response?

It’s always been an issue that I’ve found really difficult to deal with. On the one hand, I always appreciate a person’s good nature or kindness. There isn’t enough of it in the world. On the other, I’m deeply uneasy with being seen as someone or something that needs to be prayed for, or saved, or redeemed in some way. I mean I do for lots of other reasons but not inherently because I have some limbs missing. My own misdemeanours more than cover it thanks very much. If you’re praying for me on that front you better bring reinforcements. I’m talking an old priest and a young priest. I don’t know. I always feel that if people want to do that in their own mind because they feel it’s important, then fine. I’m just not sure I’ll ever feel comfortable with it involving me. Especially in public.

Until next time, by which point someone will probably have tried to exorcise me in the street.

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