As most of my friends and family know by now, Kirsten is not doing well. She has for the past few years had a pituitary brain tumor that was removed three times. After the last surgery she went through radiation treatment. Now she’s 85 pounds, has been diagnosed with Type I diabetes, Cushings syndrome, etc. and is in the hospital. I have no idea what the next x hours will bring, or whether or not the doctors will figure out a treatment, or what the rest of Kirsten’s life will be like or for how long.
This post isn’t about that.
Our friends and family have been wonderful. We appreciate the expressions of support and comfort, offers of help, coffee runs, phone calls, tight hugs, dry shoulders, and kind words. However, a couple of people who know us well have expressed to us that we will be in their prayers. This strikes me as insensitive, condescending, and opportunistic. We do not maintain a childish illusion of an afterlife or a benevolent omnipotent god. To use this tragedy of our lives as an opportunity to remind us of your imaginary friend is rude. It could be forgiven of a casual acquaintance, but when it comes from family or close friends it is inexcusable. I understand the expressions are well-intentioned and sincere, but that’s not an excuse for which I have much sympathy.
This isn’t easy to write, because I don’t want to seem ungrateful or bitter. I am neither.
Update – August 21, 2012
I’ll try to be more clear, because there is some confusion. I take nothing back. I’m also not as unreasonable as some suppose.
There are theists who think that the righteous have good lives and receive god’s favor and the wicked are miserable and do not. Remember what Pat Robertson said after Katrina?
Most people who have expressed concern about Kirsten’s malady have done so with compassion and great sensitivity. One or two, however, seem to use it as an opportunity to pointedly remind us, in a passive-aggressive and indirect way, that we are missing god’s blessings. That is rude. Need I say more?
What if a Christian said to a Muslim or Jew when they were going through some of life’s challenges, “I’ll pray to Jesus on your behalf”? Would you consider that rude? (I assume so.) What, then, is the difference?
Others who know we are non-believers say that we are in their “thoughts and prayers” in a way that is a bit too automatic. Which is, by definition, insensitive. I don’t think they even have the intention of actually praying. It’s like saying “bless you” when somebody sneezes. Perhaps I should give them a break and be more patient. (I never say “bless you” when somebody sneezes. Think about how dumb that is.)
I don’t mind people praying. It seems silly, but so does dancing for it to rain. Do it if you must. Just be sensitive to how telling us about it might come across.