Saturday, December 4, 2010

No Sparrow Shall Fall

Here in Southern Indiana, a stronghold of the Ku Klux Klan in the early 20th century, people have values. They know what's important, and aren't corrupted by the allure of creeping secularism. They know Whose birthday Christmas is. Hence this headline on a newspaper from the next town over:

There's a thought: why not have somebody dress up as Jesus each December instead of Santa Claus, to suffer the little children to come unto him and show them the true meaning of Christmas?

Meanwhile, the Man Upstairs is making sure that the little children will suffer a Merry Christmas:

When I first noticed that headline, I thought the FLC (the Family Life Center) had been vandalized -- such times we live in! - but then I read the story (available online with a different headline), and found out that it was actually terrorism.
Last week's stormy weather not only damaged the Family Life Center's roof, but it also destroyed a couple thousand dollars worth of Christmas toys that were to be given away to local children.

Dianne Langer, director of FLC, provided details on the unfortunate incident.

"Last Tuesday's storm damaged a roof on our FLC south building, the damage allowed the rain to pour in over the Christmas toys that were being gathered for FLC's Community Christmas," she explained in a press release.

Why God decided to destroy those toys is unknown. No communiques have been issued claiming responsibility for what is technically known as an Act of God, but there's no one else who could really be responsible. (Don't try to give Satan the credit: he can only make trouble, as the book of Job shows, if God lets him.)

Maybe you'll think I'm just being a snarky atheist. I won't concede that. Many Christians believe that their god micromanages on just this level. One example that sticks in my mind is a lady I used to work with in food services, who told me about a church that had been destroyed in a tornado, leaving a stack of new bibles untouched in the middle of the rubble. "It just goes to show," she said complacently, "that the Lord takes care of His own." I never really pressed on her on this, but -- wasn't the church also "His own"? For that matter, aren't people who are killed in natural disasters "His own"? To leave a stack of Bibles -- inanimate, cheap, easily replaceable -- untouched, while smashing to splinters the building in which they sat, is the evidence of Someone with a warped set of priorities. (Maybe I should have called this post "You Can Have My People But Please Don't Mess With My Book", but that doesn't really work, since the "you" would have to be God too.) Which is why I'd rather believe that there's No One up there, rather than Someone who sits there watching bad things happen and does nothing -- or worse, makes the bad things happen.

It could be worse, though: Francis Schaeffer, the father of Frank Schaeffer, told in one of his books how three out of four engines went out on an airliner on which he was a passenger. (For now I'm going to report this tale as I remember it, but I'll try to track it down and copy it from the source.) Schaeffer prayed, and before the plane crashed the engines came back on. When they landed, Schaeffer talked to the pilot, who told him that regaining three engines like that never happens. Schaeffer told him, "I know why the engines came back on. I prayed to my Father in Heaven, and he started them back up." That man gave him the strangest look, Schaeffer said, and walked away.
The arrogance and egoism in that declaration is remarkable, though it's also very Christian. Schaeffer didn't even consider the possibility that there were other Christians on the plane, praying to their Father in Heaven, and that He might have restarted the engines for their sake too (or even despite that pompous bearded godbotherer near the exit door -- yea, for the sake of ten righteous I will let him live).

This story is relevant to the destroyed toys in Greene County, too. Suppose that when the storm tore the roof of the Family Life Center, the toys had not been even damaged. Christians would have exulted that it was a miracle, showing how God takes care of His own. But they can't have it both ways, giving their god credit for the good coincidences and denying his responsibility for the bad. This is why even the nicer, more moderate Christians get my goat as much as the more extreme ones (whatever "extreme" means in this context). Pat Robertson might have been mistaken when he blamed the Haitian earthquake on two-hundred-year-old voodoo, but he was perfectly and respectably Christian in ascribing the disaster to his god. If the nice Christians really believe in divine providence, they have to believe in all of it. Just sweeping the bad stuff under the rug won't work.