Obituary for a God


Sam Vanstone’s prayers were grand magnificent affairs.

The simple old railway hand, who ever 

witnessed only man’s view of clouds,

would slide his twisted crippled legs down

to kneel on a hard wood floor

and lead his clan in epic supplication:

I pleaded him to bring it to ‘Amen’,

and let us taste the blessings of His grace.


It pleased him though to fill the cathedral of my mind

with an offering of words, a fragrant recital

in tribute to the immensity of One - 

     vast enough to occupy all space and time,

     inventive creator of the complexity of nature,

     author of the mystery of man himself

     redeemer of mankind’s cosmic debt–– 

a deity so manifestly wondrous as to be worthy 

of the humbled worship of his own greatest creation.


Sliding down the miles of an endless summer road

towards his deathbed, it came to me to invoke

on his behalf the name of his creator. 

Uncertain of his prayers, nor graced with his capacity for words, 

fecklessly imagining my desires important, and

missing by the width of the prairie 

the meaning of his faith, the vastness of his hope, 

I muttered inaudibly to the name of his great God

seeking not grace and peace for his journey, 

but postponement of his highest aspiration.


Father echoed old Samuel 

with loftier prayers concerned with more mundane affairs.

A practical but ineffectual man 

confident of righteousness, yet beset with grievance 

he aligned himself in faith and mighty words

that sought the power of his God to right the balance of his world, 

revive the righteous, confound their enemies, and 

secure the blessings of liberty to those deserving of His grace.


Doubting the false security and sure divisions of father’s world, 

we set aside his mighty walls, along with Sam’s mightier words, 

to plainly hail his Lord as prince of our Imagined peace, 

invoking His goodness more than grace, to fill our hearts 

with unity and love, charity, empathy, goodwill and better feelings.

Riffing like Hendrix the anthems of the ancients

to reveal to ourselves a re-created god, a being fit to serve

the deepest Freudian needs of his self-important creation.


And then it was a simple matter really

to harness into daily service this bespoke divinity,

imagined to be graciously obsessed 

with the minutiae of the lives of each of his creators

who now call upon their concierge god 

with every need life throws across the path. 

Like ordering a cocktail from a skampy waitress,

we tease and flirt with the divine:

no request too banal, no demand too absurd. 


No longer humble like Sam before the infinite One,

nor offering up magnificent thoughts and words 

fitting to the creator of the universe,

today, prayer is simply a claim 

on the available store of god’s abundant credit.


How utterly obliging is this self-created god

in whom satisfaction and righteousness are married,

how immensely convenient his grace, uniting

our wish to sate all daily needs with

our desire to be thought holy while doing so.  


Sam’s almighty God is dead. 

Prayer today requires instead

only the confidence of knowing your desire, 

entitlement to have all wants supplied, and 

the firm belief that a product of your own imagination 

is tending at the bar.

 © Philip Knight 2018