First of all, let me say that I don’t find the idea of deadly-force windstorms funny. I was in South Florida in October 2005 when Hurricane Wilma plowed through the peninsula, incurring $26 billion in damage and resulting in a couple dozen deaths; although much of Boca Raton was badly damaged and we went two weeks without power, that was only a category 1-2 storm, and we had plenty of warning. There was no real element of fear, unlike the case with a tornado like the one that plowed through Magee, Mississippi this morning and injured 20 people.
What I do find funny, as well as perplexing, sad, and in some ways contemptible, is people’s eagerness to talk about what didn’t happen even in the face of significant damage and loss.
Tornado winds splintered Corinth Baptist Church in Magee this morning but left untouched the pristine white baptismal pool, a Bible and at least one grave headstone.
One of Barbara Fox’s sons was buried in the church cemetery in 2005. The ripping winds carried his flowers away but didn’t mar his headstone.
“It kills me,” Fox, a 56-year-old lifetime member, said of the damage. “But we’ll build back. We’ll be stronger.”
There were other small miracles, Fox said. The pastor’s Bible was found open on his desk.
“There was hardly any rain on it,” she said.
I have to cut people some slack in situations like this, because they’re being interviewed during a very difficult time and struggling to make sense of the event. But in some ways, this would seemingly be the perfect time for those honestly bent on getting people to question their faith to make some salient points. Even the most scornful atheists, however, are loath to browbeat people with logic and reason at times when they are already hurting, and tend to wait until everything in general seems neutral before launching salvos anew. I could never imagine myself telling, however gently or obliquely, a spouse or parent in a rabid religious fundamentalist family that had just experienced an inexplicable loss that there’s a pretty good chance that God didn’t choose to recuse himself from their affairs, He’s just on a permanent vacation.
Anyway, if people can see an open Bible as evidence of divine intervention when the rest of the place was destroyed, they can believe anything. Maybe they just reckon that if, say, Tiger Woods doesn’t eve have perfect aim, then God can shank a few here and there.