Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Buckhannon mining disaster 2006: The hypocrisy.

(Knowing this is going to get me into a world of trouble, I'm going to write it anyway.)

So it turns out that those 12 miners who "miraculously" survived the mine explosion in Buckhannon, West Virginia didn't really survive after all. It was all a "miscommunication." And after all the kneeling and praying to God:

Family members streamed from the church where they had kept vigil, shouting "Praise the Lord!" ...

A few minutes after word came, the throng, several hundred strong, broke into a chorus of the hymn How Great Thou Art, in a chilly, night air.

“Miracles happen in West Virginia and today we got one,” said Charlotte Weaver, wife of Jack Weaver, one of the men who had been trapped in the mine.

And from the comments section of that article as well:

Sam C from Airdrie, Canada writes:
Are the first words out of my mouth when I read this article.
The Power of Prayer is a wonderful thing!

And now that all that miraculous goodness has turned to dust in people's mouths, who's in the bullseye? Why, apparently, the mine's CEO who relayed the initial good news, but waited three hours to correct himself. There's talk of massive lawsuits based on "emotional distress" and so on.

I have a suggestion: if those grieving relatives want to put the blame squarely where it belongs, then let them sue the Church. Let them sue God.

After all, if those miners had been rescued, you know as well as I do that there would have been no end of praising His infinite power and infinite compassion. "God answered our prayers," they would have said. "Praise the Lord," they would have said.

Naturally, there would have been a few compliments tossed in the direction of the rescue workers who risked their lives during the rescue attempt, but let's not get too cranked up over them -- they would have just been God's implements, or some such thing. No, this would have been entirely God's compassion and benevolence generously bestowed upon the devout.

And now? Well, I'm betting God has slunk quietly out a side door while the wrath of the family members is being turned on the mine owners and operators. Funny how that works, isn't it? Perhaps God wasn't listening to those prayers after all. Perhaps he was, like many of us, making himself comfortable, getting ready to watch Texas-USC in the Rose Bowl or something.

Whatever it is, you just know that all that praise that was lavished in His direction isn't suddenly going to turn to anger. No, God is always worthy of praise, but don't you even fucking think of blaming Him for anything. Do you think that even one right-wing pundit, who would have babbled on ceaselessly about divine intervention, will now go on the air and castigate the Supreme Being for his inattention or cruelty? Fat chance.

If those families want someone to blame, let them blame a God who apparently didn't give a shit about their now-dead family members. Let them sue the Church.

AFTERSNARK: If you use the examples of Hurricane Katrina and the Indonesian tsunami as a basis, then it's obvious that the town of Buckhannon was being punshed by God for being wicked and sinful, right?

I wonder which obnoxious, bloviating fundamentalist TV windbag is going to try that line?


Anonymous said...

Oh yeah! Praise the Lord and pass the ammo!

Mike said...

Hmm and Dover Pennsylvania yet remains unscathed.


The American Anthropologist said...

The safety inspector did say there was a dangerous buildup of gasses that could cause an explosion.
Perhaps they are being punished by goD for having a liberal using science to tell them what to do.

Scott in Montreal said...

CC, is this really the time for blaming people for not blaming God? I know you're a cynic and all, but this is pretty disrespectful. It's just human nature to turn to a higher being of your choice in distress. Why pour salt in these fresh wounds? You're usually above this.

CC said...

(Responding to scott in montreal)

Sorry, Scott, but this is exactly the time to be writing something like this, when it's still fresh in the news and you can point it out, because it continues to happen again and again and again.

When good things happen to the devout, it's invariably because God is being merciful and compassionate, and because He heard and acted upon someone's prayers.

When bad things happen, well, hey, you just didn't have enough faith. In short, it's your fault. Or, more often than not, it's because God is punishing the wicked and sinful.

Also, note well that what's particularly important about this event is that all those people initially thought that the miners were alive, at which point praise went up to God.

However, the instant they learned otherwise, their wrath was directed at their fellow man. You rarely get to see religious hypocrisy this up close and self-evident.

I should also point out that the same people who are, at the moment, completely distraught over the loss of their relatives are the same ones who will come up to you at the funeral of one of your loved ones and tell you that everything's all right since, after all, little Mary is in a "better place," or something patronizing like that.

In any event, I'm not pouring salt in anyone's wounds. I doubt any of those folks read my blog. I'm just an observer, and I just happen to be observing the irritating religious hypocrisy I see every day.

CC said...

One other note I'd like to make. There's no doubt that, if the miners had been rescued, every media outlet on the planet would have had some variation of, "It's a miracle!", or "Families' prayers answered," or something to that effect.

But now, does anyone believe you're going to see a headline along the lines of, "Families pray, but God kills their loved ones, anyway.", or "God rejects prayers of the devout, lets miners die."

I don't think so.

Organized religion has always gotten a free ride in the press. It gets all of the credit, and takes none of the blame. And I don't think it's unseemly to point that out, even when it doesn't seem like the "right" time.

Scott in Montreal said...

CC, you're larger point is well taken and I am often a silent champion of your rants. But you're forgetting that this is about a tragedy that just unfolded here, and if you can't forgive people for not being entirely sensible and rational about their loved ones dying a slow death in a dark pit, well that's just heartless of you.

Sometimes faith is the only thing that brings people through dark times, and perhaps it makes no sense at all, but that is human nature. If you're stronger than that good for you, but this rant just seems mean-spirited.

Organized religion - especially the fundamentalist or evangelical Christian variety that is calculatedly steeping itself into American (and perhaps Canadian) politics - is a dangerous threat to a free and just society, granted. But it doesn't mean the people in a small town in WV need to have anyone slam them for the one bit of certitude they feel they still have to hang onto on a day they are reeling, grieving and likely feeling guilty about still being alive themselves.

CC said...

scott writes:

CC, you're larger point is well taken and I am often a silent champion of your rants. But you're forgetting that this is about a tragedy that just unfolded here, ...

And, sadly, that's exactly why I chose to write about it -- because it just happened so everyone can make the same kind of observation I did, and while peoples' emotions are still fresh on the page.

I realize the timing makes me seem heartless -- so be it. But I'm not the one responsible for those deaths, and I'm not the one who kept the truth from those people for three hours.

As I said, I'm just making an observation. It's just unfortunate that, for what I wrote to have the most effect, I had to make that observation right now.

CC said...

I hate to belabour this issue, but there's one more point worth making.

Scott seems to suggest that it's not my point that's somewhat tasteless, but rather the timing, given that the tragedy is only a day old.

Perhaps, but let's keep in mind that many of the devout have no problem whatever demonstrating their smug sanctimony in the face of other peoples' tragedy without a proper waiting period.

As one example, the waters of the Indonesian tsunami had barely finished receding before religious loons were describing it as divine retribution. Not a lot of sympathy there.

But these are the same people who, when trying to come to grips with their own misfortune, insist on being left uninterrupted to grieve.

It's just one more layer of hypocrisy on top of all the rest. And with that, I think I've had my say.

Anonymous said...

But you're not an anti-religious bigot. Nope.