Thursday, July 26, 2012

God was "Holding You In His Hands?" Don't Think So!

Nearly twenty years ago, after a US Air (Flight 405) crash in New York, where there were a number of survivors (27) - but many died (24) - I wrote an article that appeared in the (then ) Baltimore Evening Sun warning of "survivor hubris" and "beliefs in divine exceptionalism",  after a number of the survivors appeared in the media bragging that 'God saved me!' or "God heard my prayers!' or some such rot. While it is understandable that in the wake of a major trauma and near escape with one's life (I had my own in May, 1971, from a head on car collision near Avon Park, FL) people would believe they are special on account of having lived, they need to process that this take essentially spits on the lives of those who didn't make it - and may have prayed just as hard!

So, I make some allowances for harried or traumatized brains that have 'run off the rails' (such as those of 18-year old, home-schooled Southern girls)  who may have expressed such misbegotten beliefs personally and "off the record". Where I take objection is when such wayward beliefs are given major press space such as in today's Denver Post piece by a Lynn Bartels, recounting how survivor shooting victim Bonnie Kate Pourciau claimed "God was holding us in His hands" as the shooting unfolded - and hence, she and her friend (Elizabeth) managed to walk out  of the Century 16 cinema with Bonnie only having one gunshot in her leg. (One wonders, of course, if God really was holding her so fast, how in His infinite power he could have allowed that stray gunshot to hit her. But again, we must bear in mind this is a home-schooled 18 year old from the Deep South - and yeah, I have been to Baton Rouge, so am aware of the culture there.)

My point is that such publicized blarney essentially disrespects, albeit indirectly, the lives of those who didn't make it and who had every right to have lived - just as much as Bonnie Kate Pourciau. Now, maybe as my wife has opined, she -  like some others spouting special divine dispensation -  are "brainwashed" and hence their only recourse is to barf up the sort of specialized pap they've been fed over the years by their Sunday Schools,  ministers or padres. Fair enough. That still doesn't mean The Post has to print it and thereby give wide circulation and credence to such whacked out beliefs.

A question here for Bonnie Kate and other Personal Divine Exceptionalists: How is it that you couldn't have extended your God's power (in your prayers beseeching His Presence) to the others under fire or running for their lives? How is it that He would have allowed little 6-year old Veronica Moser-Sullivan to die? Didn't that child deserve life, survival as much as you did? Didn't Caleb Medley, husband and father, who now is in an induced coma because of a shot to the head - and facing $2 million in hospital bills - merit a better outcome? Inquiring minds want to know!

Could you not, in your desperate moments, have tried to extend the 'umbrella' of (presumably) infinite divine power and protection to all and sundry - instead of only you and your friend?

In the end it really matters not, except again, the Post giving credence to such shallow views and beliefs by their publication. The truth is those like Bonnie Kate and her friend simply lucked out. There was no real "divinity" clasping her hand except in her mind. It was a case of pure dumb luck that her seat wasn't more directly in the gunman's line of fire.

Just as in the case of those US Air Flt. 405 survivors back in March, 1992, who survived simply by the good fortune of being in the right seats. No divine intervention, no individual specialness.

And if survivors, whether of that crash, or the Aurora theater massacre, insist it was divine intervention that spared them, then they need to cut the crap - come clean- and explain logically and completely why a little innocent 6 year old wasn't also spared, or the other 11 now dead victims who might also have been praying as fervently as Bonnie Kate, and have believed just as intensely that their lives were in "His hands" until the last fatal gunshot.

In the meantime, it's best that major news organs,  if they run stories of human interest on the survivors, stick to the facts as opposed to wishful thinking "divine saving" fantasies that indirectly smear and demean the lives of those who perished - implying that they were not good enough, or devout enough to make it!  For myself, as a non-theist, I am at least glad I can provide a rational response to people who ask: "Why was I saved and not  (fill in name)?

Basically, pure dumb luck! Much preferable to a misbegotten species of personal idolatry!

No comments: