The city I live in has recently been on fire, causing the incredibly large religious population here to spew words of prayer, miracles and “it-was-his-time”s. While I am always happy to see a community come together to support each other, it is very interesting to me to see how god comes into play so much in the aftermath of natural (or man-made) disasters. For example, when a fire (or hurricane or tornado, etc) happen, people’s first response is to pray for people.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to ______”
“We are keeping everyone in our prayers”
BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH
Now, obviously the fact that religious people turn to prayer right away as a coping mechanism in response to destructive events is not a new revelation; it’s a pretty typical response. My confusion comes when things start looking better.
We had 3 fires going on at the same time in different parts of the state. One was contained fairly quickly (a couple of days), one took about a week to be contained and the other is still currently at 85% containment. As these fires continue to grow in percentages of containment, people’s love for god grows too.
Emergency response personnel warned the residents of the evacuation areas to leave, sometimes even knocking on doors and helping people gather their most prized possessions and animals.
“Thank god no one was hurt.”
When people were nervously waiting on pre-evacuation status to see if they needed to flee their homes, the winds changed direction and the status was lifted.
“God is looking out for me, he made the wind blow the other way.”
After the first few days of our state being on fire, it rained.
“Thank god for the rain!”
When people were slowly being released back into their neighborhoods after evacuations were lifted, some houses were left standing while the ones next door sat as a pile of ash.
“God’s hand was in this. He protected my home!”
These are actual phrases I heard people saying in response to the heroic actions by (wo)man. People’s lives were spared because (wo)man went above and beyond to ensure their safety and well-being. They made people their priority and, as a result, there have only been 2 confirmed deaths as of today.
The winds changed because that’s what they do here… all the time… Every. Single. Day.
The weatherman had predicted the rain would arrive days before the fires even broke out. There was a system headed our direction and it was an almost inevitable reality.
But, the one that pisses me off the most is the response by those people whose homes were spared while their neighbors’ were not. Obviously, they aren’t going around boasting to their neighbors about that fact, but there was one instance in particular in which a woman’s son’s house was spared and she claimed that it was the hand of god. When asked how she could possibly think that way when so many other houses were destroyed she responded with, “Well, I had everyone I knew praying, my son had everyone he knew praying — there were a lot of people praying for this outcome. It’s just the power of prayer.” When asked to consider that maybe those who lost their homes had actually been praying too and could have possibly had even more people praying for them, she responded with, “Sometimes god does favors for people.”
This doesn’t look like a favor to me.
Or even this…
So, why is it that god is always credited with the happy ending, but never the brutal beginning? How can they honestly believe that he brought on the rain but not the fire itself? How can a lightning strike that ignites a tree that then annihilates a town be a freak act of nature, but the hardworking firefighters risking their lives to put it out are a gift from god? And why wouldn’t he/she/it quench the fires immediately instead of waiting a few days? Why not save ALL of the homes and ALL of the people instead of just some?
THIS is why it is so strange to me that people huddle closer to god in response to natural disasters because all it does is push me even further away.