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THE IN-LAWS: "ARE YOU A PRAYING MAN?"


Sheldon Kornpett was a quiet, reserved man with a successful dental practice in Manhattan, that is, until he met his future in-laws, Mr. and Mrs. Vince Ricardo. Sheldon’s daughter was soon to be married to their son, so Sheldon’s wife hosted a dinner party at their house to meet the parents of her daughter’s fiancé. This is the setup, of course, for the 1979 film, The In-Laws, in which Alan Arkin plays the docile, subdued dentist and Peter Falk plays the wild and goofy Vince Ricardo.


On the day after the party, Vince drops by Sheldon’s office and tells him that he is actually a CIA operative and that he has secretly robbed the U.S. Mint of a number of engraving plates. He explains that it was a necessary action if he was to crack a worldwide plot against the economy of the United States. He had to act on his own, he says, because the CIA wouldn’t go along with him. Not only that, Vince says, but he left one of the stolen engraving plates in Sheldon’s house the night before. As you might expect, when Sheldon arrives home that evening, the Feds are there to meet him.


But Sheldon doesn’t go into the house; he turns his car around and goes the other way. He calls Vince, and, before he knows it, he and his daughter’s future father-in-law are in a somewhat unstable plane, flying over a vast expanse of water, headed for Central America as part of Vince’s plan to save the United States from financial ruin.


When they arrive, they fall into disfavor with the local dictator, a General Garcia, and they wind up in front of a firing squad. The General enjoys having these Americans at his mercy, and he struts around in front of them, trying to torment them with their fate. This works with the dentist, of course, but the Peter Falk character isn’t shaken a bit. I remember the General, prancing in his black, high gloss, knee-high boots, wielding a riding crop in one hand -- I remember him walking up to the Alan Arkin character, tilting his head to capture his prisoner’s line of vision, and saying: "Tell me, sir: Are you a praying man?"


It’s the question I want us to consider today. Are you a praying man? Are you a woman who prays? Is prayer a part of your practice?

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