Dear Presbyterian Church

Dear Presbyterian Church of the United States,

First I should explain that I am not really a Presbyterian, or any sort of church goer for that matter.  I would classify myself more as a spiritual atheist and a cultural Christian.  My family, however, has had a long history with the Presbyterian Church in my home town.  Now, in honor of my mother I am a member of the Carillon bell choir that she founded almost 50 years ago.  So about every six weeks, I find myself sitting in a pew on Sunday.

I try, really try to stay focused on the worship, but I’ve got to say that the prayer of confession at the beginning is nothing but dreary negativity.  I already know that I can be a better person; every day I try to recognize my debts and trespasses and forgive those of others, deliver myself from evil and hope I have the wisdom to know the difference.  So why not start the service by celebrating positive accomplishments?  While watching a college football game the other day, I noticed an array of stickers on the players’ helmets that recognized individual achievements like an open field tackle or a successful blitz.  I imagined a young man swelling with pride as the coach put the first sticker on the blank canvas of his helmet.   I’m not looking for something as ostentatious as a sticker since I also embrace the Church’s enthusiasm for humility, but even a horse needs a lump of sugar now and then. 

So now during the opening prayer, I don’t beat myself up but instead focus on what I am grateful for.  I appreciate the efficiency of a monotheistic God who is in charge of everything, but I try to get very specific like our polytheistic ancestors who prayed to an entire pantheon of Gods, each responsible for a different aspect of daily life.  Far from the big flashy concepts of love, family or community, like my ancient ancestors I try to recognize individual underappreciated factors, those infrastructural details that allow us to be human.  I am quite enthusiastic with what I came up.


Sphincters are circular muscles that create tight seals that open and close as needed.  If you want a visual representation of a closed sphincter, find someone who plays a brass instrument and ask them to demo their lips when they hit a high note.  For an example of the type of pressure that a sphincter can maintain, visualize the dramatic plume of pressurized air spouting from the blow hole of a whale when the sphincter pops open.

The sphincters sprinkled along our intestinal tract are one of Nature’s (or God’s if you prefer) most clever designs.  As I sat in my pew, I realized that anal sphincters, equipped with both involuntary and voluntary control, are an engineering feat of staggering genius and an absolute prerequisite for any social animal living in a confined space.  Just think about it – voluntary sphincter control was a key infrastructural step to a social society.  Quite simply, in the human world, you cannot shit where you live and a dinged up sphincter results in embarrassment and social isolation.

Our sphincters are responsible for continence.  And Dear Presbyterians imagine my pleasure to discover that continence is considered one of the “Eleven Fruits of the Holy Spirit.”  Now of course I realize that in the setting of spirituality, continence refers to self control, i.e. not coveting the neighbor’s house or wife, so I hope you don’t object that I interpreted continence in an anatomic context.  This is my practical side speaking.

As I sat in my pew I idly scanned the hymnal and was surprised and pleased to realize that with a little wordsmithing – specifically subbing in the word sphincter for God – some rousing Presbyterian hymns can be repurposed to pay suitable homage.  Please understand that I do not mean to be flippant or blasphemous, but I don’t believe that it would be inappropriate to give thanks to this key infrastructural element.  I can’t imagine my life without properly functioning sphincters, and I am forever grateful.  I have provided some examples below.

Respectfully yours,

Liza Blue


Based on Now Thank We All Our Gods

Now thank we all our sphincters with hearts and hands and voices

What wondrous things they do, in whom this world rejoices;

It’s Mother Nature’s gift and every day we pray

Our sphincters stay intact until our dying day.


Based on Morning Has Broken:

My sphincter has broken, I’m in mourning

My body has spoken, don’t like what I heard

I pray for the doctoring, pray night and morning

I pray for solutions, bring me back to the world.


Based on the The Saints of God

I sing a song of sphincters all, faithful and brave and strong

Who toil for us deep within the whole of our good lives long

You can meet them in crannies, nooks or crevasse

In the stomach or bladder, but that one in the ass

Has the wisdom to discern a solid from a gas,  if it’s gas, it can let it pass

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