Perhaps somebody ought to try upping the ante on Christopher Hitchens’ salvation. You may recall that Hitchens is a devout atheist. (Is there such a thing? Can you be devout if you don’t have an object of your devotion? Or is that like ending a sentence with a preposition? There’s nothing on the receiving end? If you figure that out, lemme know.)
At any rate, Hitchens does not believe in God. Period. Even though he’s got a bad case of cancer. A lot of people have been praying for Mr. Hitchens. I already wrote about that here and here. Mr. Hitchens is still about the business of writing. He had an excellent piece in Slate on Serbia and his newest Kindle book on the death of Osama Bin Laden has just been released: The Enemy.
So I’m not sure he needs the cash but perhaps if someone offered him $1 million, Hitchens might reconsider his position on God.
That’s how Sal Bentivegna, 28, came to become a God-fan.
According to Newsday, young Sal was previously a self-declared atheist. (Is there any other kind? I mean is there someplace you can go and register yourself as an atheist? Where they write your name down in a ledger like they did for Ellis Island immigrants? Excuse me, ma’am! I said excuse me, ma’am. You done stuck me with the Baptists and I told you I’m an atheist! Now would erase my name? I don’t believe in no God. See it says so right here on my Serbian Driver’s License?)
But Sal does believe in voodoo, apparently, because he told his mama, a good Catholic woman, that she ought to ask God for a $1 million. But Sal’s mama, who has one of the hardest names in the world to live up to — Gloria — refused. I suspect she wanted her son to know that the God she loves and adores is not some Hocus-Pocus-Genie.
God has skin in this game, already.
The question all the rest of us have to answer is — do we?
Until his mama won the lottery.
Yep. That’s right.
We got us another lotto-winning convert.
What is it about winning the lottery that makes a believer out of people?
You may it see it differently, but if I wasn’t a believer beforehand, and I win the lottery, I’m not about to convert. Why would I want to take up a faith that might require me to share from my abundance? The more I have, the more I want. It’s the American way, right?
Since Gloria wouldn’t ask God for the million bucks, Sal did: “God, I don’t know if you’re real or not, but if you are there, please let my mother win a million dollars.”
He told his mother: “If Jesus wants me to believe in him, that’s what he’ll do.”
Apparently the Cross wasn’t good enough.
Sal need cold, hard cash.
The next day, Bentivegna, a single mom on disability, went to a charity auction at a Lutheran church (those loosey-goosey Lutherans!) where she bought several instant lottery tickets — and wouldn’t you know it? Praise Jesus and pass the bowl of cherries, please, one of those picks was a winner!
“I can’t shrug off that Jesus had a hand in it,” Sal said of his mama’s winnings.
Ummm… lemme see… we rise every morning to the gift of an illuminating sun seamlessly hanging in the spanse of sky overhead, and to a Tilt-o-Wheel world that gives to us generously from her bounty of oils, waters, perfumes, and nourishment — yet, that’s not gift enough to warrant a heart of gratitude?
For that we need God the Banker, God the Bookie, God the Gamblin’ Man?
We fail to see the gift that is the voice of a mother who has lifted our names, pleading for God to protect, guide and cherish us, the way she always has? That alone isn’t reason enough to drop to our knees in Glory be to God for having mamas who prayed us out of harm’s way and a life-long prison term, when the odds were high that we’d end up with one of those lousy Devil-in-a-Red dress mamas?
That doesn’t give you pause enough to say, Thank You, God. You’ve been good to me?
Why is it the hooting and hollering kind of Thank You Jesus gratitude only comes when we get a certified check from the state lotto department? How come such thankfulness doesn’t burst out of us when tulips bloom humbly, faithfully, demanding practically nothing from us other than a soft place to grow?
Why do we equate money with God and yet not the wealth of his wisdom found in the stories he has shared?
Why are we tempted to measure God’s faithfulness by provisions and not by his providential care for us?
Sal’s mama will receive $50,000 a year for the next 20 years. After taxes it will be around $35,000.
By New York standards, that’s hardly a living wage.
Do you suppose it won’t be long before Sal is upping the ante on God again?
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Will Jesus Buy me a Double-Wide? ’cause I need more room for my plasma TV.