Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Credit where credit is due...

I'm bothered sometimes when people "thank God" for that magnanimity of other human beings. Over the weekend I was watching one of the myriad variations of The World's Most Gruesome Animal Maulings Caught on Tape which contained footage of some lady being smote down by a polar bear at a zoo. She had jumped two guard rails and leaned into its cage to get a picture of the animal, and the bear, correctly noting that she was made of meat, made a truly heartfelt attempt to rip her leg off in return. Luckily for the woman, several zoo workers and other passers by leapt into action, fighting the enormous animal with sticks and their bare fists for several minutes until it eventually let go.

While the interview segment isn't available on the Youtube clip of the incident, the version I saw included several minutes of the lady talking about how she had just "looked up to heaven and begged God to make that bear let go". She then went on about how it was a miracle that the bear turned her loose, seeming to completely miss out on the fact that there were actually other people there, strangers, risking getting their own faces ripped off to save her from her ursine assailant. All in all I suppose that's a pretty minor example, but give credit where credit is due. This lady isn't alive because an ancient Palestinian sky god saved her, she's alive because a bunch of other human beings, none of whom knew her, were willing to put their own lives on the line for the sake of a stranger.

Another formulation of this comes up almost every single time that survivors are interviewed after some sort of disaster. The most egregious example I can think of is an interview I once saw with the mother of a survivor of the Columbine school shootings. "I just can't thank God enough for pushing my baby out of the way of those bullets," she said repeatedly. The unspoken flip side of that coin, unmentioned and perhaps completely absent from her train of thought, is that if God was pushing bullets away from one child, where was He when it came to the other children that were injured or killed during the attack? It would be foolish to begrudge a life spared, but there's a maddening implicit arrogance in those sorts of statements. After all, this woman's child was special enough that the Creator of the Universe intervened on their behalf even as others were slaughtered all around them.

In the scheme of things I suppose this is a relatively minor and idiosyncratic concern of mine, but it seems to me to be just another manifestation of the arrogance of the saved.

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