It may be late, but tornado season has arrived with a vengeance. More than thirty people have been killed during the two day outbreak of storms that is still going on today across the Deep South. The news networks have sent reporters fanning out across the land, and invariably, every one of them will do the same interview with survivors. We’ve all seen it. It’s the one where some poor disheveled soul, usually dressed in a Disney World t-shirt, is being interviewed in front of the pile of bricks and wood that yesterday was his home. And each and every one of them will say a variation of the same two things. The first is how they are just happy to be alive because all this, and here is where they point to the remains of their property, is “just stuff, and it can be replaced.”
Before I go any further with this let me say that I have a great deal of empathy for tornado victims and I am not making light of their plight. My work has taken me to the aftermath of several tornadoes over the years, most recently to Moore, OK. last year. I have talked with survivors about their experiences, and I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to lose everything in less time than it takes to make toast. I would never want to be in their shoes. So I agree they can and should replace their stuff, and it gives me satisfaction to know that I have played a small role in helping some of them do just that.
It’s the second statement they invariably make that always causes me to scratch my head. “God was looking out for us,” is usually how it goes. I assume when they say this they mean that God spared their lives, because He certainly wasn’t looking out for their property, as that is now scattered over two counties. But if they are right, and God was, in fact, looking out for them, does it also mean He was not looking out for their neighbor up the street who was pulled lifeless from the rubble of her home, or the young couple who died when their car was flipped a dozen times and now rests upside down in a soybean field. Why wasn’t God looking out for those people, too? Was he temporarily distracted? Or worse, did He deliberately cause their demise, and if so, why? What could they have done to deserve such unthinkable treatment? It must have been terrible, whatever it was. Why is Westboro Baptist Church never around to explain these things when we need them?
Or here is another thought. What about the possibility that a tornado is nothing more than a random event caused by a convergence of weather systems, and the things it hits and the havoc it wreaks all happen by chance, and whether you survive or not is more the result of timely warning, quick thinking and luck than it is from being “looked out for” by a white-haired old man who lives beyond the clouds.
But I suppose it’s an explanation that’s too scientific for the God-fearing to accept, well-intentioned and intelligent though they may otherwise be. It’s easier to believe tornadoes are the work of an all-seeing, all-knowing entity who controls every thing that happens to everybody, good and bad, all the time, and that some people are looked out for and some people aren’t. That’s a lot for a deity to have on his plate, even a perfect one. He must be very tired.