So there was this statue in Ohio called King of Kings.
It was a massive sculpture of Jesus, but only the top half of him, so it looked like he’d sunk into quicksand and was reaching up for someone to help pull him out.
And on Monday night it was struck by lightning and burned down.
All the fibreglass and styrofoam that made up the structure itself is gone; there’s just a scorched metal frame left there.
The church that put it there is apparently planning to rebuild it. To rebuild the artificially created image of their god, which was struck by a bolt of lightning and destroyed.
I’m not aware of what the faithful churchgoers are saying about this event in general. No doubt they’re upset to have lost such a famous and popular landmark. Probably they’re glad that nobody seems to have been hurt. Maybe some are disappointed by the financial toll this will take.
But I don’t think there’s a lot of serious consideration among believers that this might have been God’s will.
Among all these people who devote substantial portions of their lives to their church and their worship of God, and who fervently believe that he is real and present in the world, nobody seems to be taking this as a sign.
A manmade object, which could in many ways be seen as an idol, has been destroyed by a lightning bolt – perhaps the single most iconic, archetypical, quintessential “sign from the heavens” in the history of religion – and none of the followers of the god in question appear to be reading anything into this at all.
It’s just a random act of nature, presumably. A “real tragedy“. Just one of those things that happens, I guess, and we deal with it as best we can, replacing what’s lost or adjusting to the aftermath.
And, y’know. They’re right, obviously.
The only problem is that, if they’re going to take this approach, it also completely negates the presence of God in their lives.
Because everything that happens, “just happens”. And if a lightning bolt striking down your graven image isn’t a sign from heaven, then neither is anything else.
Any time a sports team wins a game, you don’t get to claim that God was on that team’s side, even if someone on that team prayed for victory beforehand (given that they basically all do, on every team, in every game).
Any time someone being treated for a serious illness goes into remission, you don’t get to put it down to God’s intervention. Over 11 million people in the US alone have a history of cancer. And that’s just the ones who haven’t died yet. Million-to-one spontaneous “miracles” happen pretty regularly when the numbers are that big.
Any time a pilot with decades of experience brilliantly executes a safe landing in horrifying and dangerous conditions, you don’t get to give some holy overseer the credit for that guy’s awesomeness, skill, and coolness in the face of possible fiery death.
Any time it’s a nice day during the fucking summer, you don’t get to pretend it must be magic. There’s nearly seven billion people on the planet; some of them are going to appreciate the weather some of the time, it doesn’t mean you’re a precious snowflake and all this was made especially for you.
You don’t get to do any of those things any more.
…you also admit that God wanted Touchdown Jesus destroyed, and the people rebuilding it are arrogantly defying his divine will.
(And that every child who ever died of leukemia was God’s idea too.)
Or… you can draw some coherent distinction between the two cases, and explain why the instances that benefit you and support your pre-conceived biases are genuine examples of divine intervention, and the ones that it’s more convenient for you to ignore are just examples of shit happening.
Or… you’re okay with admitting that there is no consistency to your own entirely self-serving belief system, and that you wilfully ignore any evidence that doesn’t fit into the precise set of ideas you’re already comfortable with, regardless of how much reality has to be disregarded to maintain this frail and pitiful illusion.
Up to you.
I also wrote something sillier, funnier, and (most importantly) shorter about this story on my other blog, The Daily Half-Truth.