The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk: Can My Car be Cursed?

I think my car is cursed. … Is it possible for objects to be cursed?

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at http://topics.mlive.com/tag/ethics-and-religion-talk/. More recent columns can be found on TheRapidian.org by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

David asks, “Twice in three months, my car was hit in a parking lot. The first time, I was in the car. Little bump, $600 damage, but I got the insurance info of the driver. Second time, I wasn’t in the car. Came out and found a dent. No note. So that time, I had to pay the deductible myself. I think my car is cursed. … Is it possible for objects to be cursed?”

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

“If you were to ask my wife of 25 years to recall instances where my temper got the better of me I think she’d come up with less than a handful of times. The reason is that I don’t allow people to control me in that way. My challenge is that it seems that I have given that power to inanimate objects; and my wife is never around when they decide to rebel, leaving me a fuming cinder. Whenever I must fix anything around the house I make sure I do so when I am alone -- as this is often when the conspiracy begins. This is because I prefer that no one witness my spiritual meltdown when it happens. As an adult I never believed in The Devil. I’m rethinking that now. But if he exists he doesn’t live in Hell. He resides in our vacuum, garbage disposal, computer, plumbing, light fixtures and, of course, the car.”

Ty Silzer, a former pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America, responds:

“When I was growing up, my friends of one particular Christian denomination introduced a new concept to me: whenever something would go wrong, they would curse the demon of that ailment. So, when stubbing their toe? ‘I curse you, demon-of-toe-stubbing.’ I think they just stubbed their toe.

“So, who cursed your car? Was it God? Jesus? Someone at the car factory? Why did they curse your car? Was it something you did? Or is it possible that you, like my friends, are looking for supernatural explanations for the clumsiness of man?”

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

“There are times in life when we all feel like things are working against us. We tend to make greater note of negative events. Some of us may recall the expression ‘bad news comes in threes.’ Something bad happens and then we wait for two other bad things to happen to prove the saying is correct.

“Our own mind set or perspective matters a great deal regarding how we view the string of events in our lives as good or bad or blessed or cursed. As a Unitarian Universalist I would draw upon the Taoist teachings - there is no such belief in purely all good or purely all bad, each event has a bit of both good and bad. A common Taoist story is the tale of the farmer and his horse: first he loses his most valuable possession, and then the horse returns bringing a dozen new horses with it. Then his son breaks his leg while taming one of the new horses. And then the son is not drafted into the army because of the broken leg. And the parable keeps going on like that …  

“While you may ask about your car being cursed I would offer that you were blessed to have car insurance and good luck to be in the car during the first hit in the parking lot. It is a matter of perspective.”

Rev. Ray Lanning, a retired minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, responds:

“Presbyterians believe that the whole world, and the whole human race, lies under God's curse. That's why if things can go wrong, they will. As for material objects, think of ‘Nehushtan,’ the brazen serpent lifted up by Moses in the wilderness to heal those whom God had plagued for their sins (Numbers 21:8, 9; John 3:14, 15). Preserved as a religious relic, later generations of Israelites began to venerate it. They burned incense to it, as an act of prayer and supplication. 

“In righteous indignation, King Hezekiah broke it in pieces and gave it the contemptuous name of Nehushtan, a mere “piece of brass” (II Kings 18:4); that is, just another ‘god’ that is no god at all. A sign of God’s grace and blessing became the object of God’s wrath and curse because of the sin of those who perverted it for their own purposes. So the curse may lie not in the material object but in the use that is made of it.

“Automobiles are a curse to Michigan in many ways, but chiefly because we have ordered our way of life so as to be dependent on them. So we must purchase them at great cost, register and insure them, refuel them, maintain, repair or replace them when damaged. Each day that we own them, they are worth less and less, and in the end they are hauled to a junkyard. ‘Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity!’ (Ecclesiastes 1:2).”

 

This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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