I Don't Want Your Good Juju

Keep your superstitious amulets and spells and please pray for me instead.

(photo: William Henry Margetson, “The Amulet”, ca. 1910)

There's a trend that I've seen lately on social media, especially among the younger generation. When someone is (a) feeling sick or (b) going for a job interview or (c) facing a final exam, someone – either that person or a friend – will post a request on Facebook:  

“Please send thoughts, prayers, karma or good juju.”

I usually respond cordially, promising to pray for the person; and then I whisper a prayer right then. When a friend is facing a health crisis or a seemingly insurmountable problem, that just doesn't seem the right time to lecture, pulling out the dictionary to explain that those things really don't belong in the same sentence.

But honestly, when you're facing a stressful situation, do you really want someone to shake a rattle and dance in a circle?

Or would you prefer that they put in a request with the almighty God – or with one of his close friends the saints, gathered around the throne of glory – asking them to put in a good word with the God Who made you, Who loves you completely and passionately, and Who can perform a miracle and heal you?

I thought so.

But just in case you're still confused about which of the above-listed well-wishes you'd prefer to receive, here is a brief glossary:

Good Juju – Juju (or ju-ju) is a spiritual belief system that originates in West Africa, but came to the Americas with the slave trade. Practitioners of juju, called “witch doctors”, use amulets (sometimes skulls or bones, or simple objects) to cast a spell on an individual. Often the spell is intended to require a certain behavior; believers in juju also sometimes try to influence the outcome of a sport, such as a football game. From a Christian perspective, it would appear that juju is purely a waste of time; it is not petitioning God, who actually has the power to heal or to influence an outcome.

Karma – One good deed deserves another. At least, that's the idea which the Buddhist spiritual principle of “karma” evokes: It refers to a principle of cause and effect, by which the intent and actions of an individual influence the future of that individual. Good intent and good deeds lead to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deeds contribute to bad karma and future suffering. I think of it as, “You get what you deserve.” Since I'm a sinner, I don't like that thought so much; better, I think, to rely on God's extravagant love to give me His best, which I honestly don't deserve.

Good Thoughts – Okay, so you're over there and I'm over here. And you're going to be thinking good thoughts about me. On the one hand, I appreciate your respect and esteem; but that's not going to do much good if I'm running a 102-degree fever and staying awake coughing. If you don't mind, I'll wait while you offer a prayer, instead.

Prayer – Now you're talking! To God, that is, Who alone is able to hear your plea and respond. Will God always grant your request? Not necessarily – He may, in fact, have a different plan for your life or He may, seeing the whole picture, know that your simple request is not really what's best for you. But He loves you, and He wants you to be happy. Skip the juju and go directly to the Giver of all that is good.