3rd Rock From the Sun on Prayer

I’ve been watching the first season of 3rd Rock from the Sun and forgot how good the show was. John Lithgow is wonderfully hilarious with the pompous characterization of The High Commander known as “Dick” and the supporting cast all works well together to create all kinds of observational humor. If for some strange reason you haven’t seen the show it features a troop of aliens sent to earth to gather research on humans. They take on bodily forms and act as a  family in order to fit in.

The alien son named  Tommy Solomon played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt caught my interest in an episode where he joins the basketball team. The coach leads them in prayer as coaches are known for doing and Tommy suddenly chimes in and questions the purpose of the prayer itself, “Do you think we should be bothering God over a basketball game?” The coach looks at Tommy dumbfounded as it is probably the first time he has ever been questioned on this and the coach insists, “This is important.” And Tommy says, “But the other team is praying too?” After a slight pause, Tommy comes to the conclusion, “Oh, so our god is stronger than their god?” The coach replies, “There’s only one god, Solomon.” Tommy says, “Well, then am I the only one seeing the conflict of interest here?” The coach comes back with, “YES!”

It’s a classic skit on an old joke about who does God favor when two teams are praying to win. The idea that any team would pray to God to win a sporting event seems trivial in comparison to the other duties bestowed upon God such as healing the sick, saving sinners and maybe feeding some starving children. But Christians rarely see the conflict of interest. This can be taken further with nationalistic war and we all know that America prays to win while the other side prays to win too, whether it is to Allah or to the German version of God or whoever is the deity at hand. Very few Christians stop to think that if God is a god of peace then praying to win is completely the wrong thing to do. In fact, Christian martyrdom, which was so common in the early days of Christianity, may be more in line with the Bible than not turning the other cheek.

On the other hand, if you’re pragmatic and you believe war is necessary to achieve peace due to someone like Hitler then maybe there’s some sense in it, except why not pray to God to win the war for us instead of us having to sacrifice countless lives? Of course, this is the same God that advocated genocide during the Old Testament Joshua campaigns so maybe war is spectator sport for Him. I’ve never bought into the idea that the Christian god was a god of peace, though it sure seems to be tossed around in Christian circles alot.

Tommy Solomon tried to get through to us on prayer, will we listen?

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