OPINION: Thank Thor. The Hamilton City Council is finally set to open meetings with an interfaith prayer.
Frankly, it's about time. History tells us that one can never be sure with deities, and if they are not being placated before the human representatives of a city sit down to business, all kinds of trouble can result.
Indeed, I'm sure that the council's struggles in recent years can be directly attributed to only placating what amounts to less than 0.001 percent of history's innumerable gods before opening their meeting. The new Interfaith Prayer is a significant step forward. Representatives from the Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Mormon and Muslim communities will all take turns to open meetings with a prayer.
Between them, they cover many more godly bases than simply praying to the One True God of Christianity. We now have prayers floating heavenward to YHWH (which I think would make an amazing rap name) of Judaism, Allah of Islam and the Weird Version Of Christian God (Possibly With A Wife) that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints favours. That's three more gods in the bag.
Some may argue that these are all technically the same God, which is fine, but doesn't explain why I keep getting Mormons knocking on my door and Christians (usually through the letters page of the Waikato Times) telling me that their version of God is the correct one. Maybe it's like a movie translated into multiple languages, where each audience is very convinced that they are watching the true and correct version of El Senor De Los Anillos.
Then there's a Hindu prayer. This could go to any or all of thousands of gods. I personally hope it is made out to Ganesha, the elephant-headed god who is the Remover of Obstacles. This is an understandable attribute - if I had an elephant head and four arms, I'd want obstacles removed too, particularly in narrow doorways. I'm sure it will be useful for the Hamilton City Council, who could really use some obstacles removed right about now - like Council chief executive Barry Harris' locked-in, "austere" yearly pay rises, which makes them all look like greedy, out-of-touch shysters. But I'm sure they know that.
Placating Ganesha should be easy enough: he likes lollies. However, one of the most popular forms of Ganesha worship is reciting "the thousand names of Ganesha" which could take up a significant proportion of HCC meetings. Still, worth it. The worrying thing about a Hindu prayer is the myriad of other deities it could go out to. I worry about Shiva, who is associated with death, destruction and marijuana; and Kali, a goddess of empowerment who inspired the cult of the Thugees. Their modus operandi was to make friends with people, then strangle them while they slept. It's also where the word "thug" came from. Perhaps this is a metaphor for the HCC's relationship with ratepayers.
The Baha'i faith, on the other hand, seems to believe in most of the major Eastern gods and prophets, and plenty of others besides, with the usual caveat that their particular method of worship is rather more correct. I don't think it's quite enough, though.
Zoroastrianism, a traditional religion of Persia, is tragically missing from the list of religions represented by the interfaith prayers, possibly because their chief deity is called Ahura Mazda. Having this name evoked at council meetings could give rise to accusations of inappropriate commercial relationships.
The Norse pantheon is also under-represented - disappointing, given Odin literally gave his eye for wisdom, which the HCC desperately needs at any given time. He's also been known to provide to worthy poets the Mead of Inspiration, which could greatly improve councillor speeches. What else did he spend those nine days hanging on the World Tree for?
Let's not forget Thor and Freyr. Recently the Waikato has been ravaged alternately by drought and thunderstorms, and forging a relationship with the God of Thunder and the God of Fair Weather could help sort this out, providing a massive boost to our economy. I don't know how this has gone unnoticed, given the huge publicity given the Norse gods through the documentary series The Almighty Johnsons. The Norse gods may be Auckland-based, but that's never stopped the HCC before - they love bringing in consultants from other, more important cities.
I suppose the point of it all is that it's very nice - certainly an improvement - that we now have an interfaith prayer, but it's disappointing not to see the true range of religion represented. I suppose the alternative would be for the Council not to bother contacting the Gods and just get on with business, but that would be asking for trouble.
Joshua Drummond is a Hamilton freelance writer who likes Ahura Mazda best, just because of the name.