Via Pharyngula, Greg Saunders picks up on an interesting set of similarities in the initial coverage of the tragic West Virginia coal mining collapse. Beside the clever observation that identical photos can be used to convey opposite messages, he makes the more important point that much of the initial ‘they live’ coverage attributed that fact to a miracle or answered prayers (America’s Prayers, no less–the most powerful prayers in the world). Church bells rang in the small town, hymns were sung, and exaltations to the Almighty were offered–and broadcast by emotion vultures like Rita Cosby and Geraldo.
A few hours later, we found out that the Lord ignored the American Prayers and completely fucked this small town in West Virginia. MSNBC even broadcast tape of one woman questioning her faith, which the FCC will not doubt investigate. Saunders imagines, as I often do, the degree of rationalization necessary to not place Blame Upon the Lord when the facts work themselves out to a loss.
Just like gambling addicts remember their big wins but not their losses, the fate of the twelve miners has transformed from a faith-inspiring act of God to another horrible tragedy in which it’s impolite to mention religion at all.
Saunders is referring to the media, not the town, but I suppose it’d be just as impolite to bring up religion in the town.
That same night, God fucked Florida State in a triple overtime thriller, but bestowed his blessing (and some oranges in a bowl) on Penn State.
And this is all fine, I guess—you can attribute whatever you like to a micro-managing god—but this worldview exposes these religious principles as cheap hucksterism, because it never accounts for the necessary implication of such expressions. That implication is: If your god is favoring you and your group, he’s disfavoring others—God is making decisions based on preferences (Ok, I take it back; that idea could never start a war). In West Virginia, this implication became all too real, as an Answered Prayer was later revealed to be a Clerical Error.
Of course, these deaths could be a part of His Plan, which brings us back to God the devious micro-manager, teaching lessons that are never quite clear but can be basically summarized as ‘life is tough.’ But we know life is tough—Marlon Perkins taught us lesson by way of slow motion footage depicting a pack of cheetahs ripping apart a mommy antelope.
And it’s not as if I’m being callous here towards the fate of those miners or their families. I feel awful for them. But the early focus on divine intervention detracts from the real story: someone (a very rich someone) authorized construction and maintenance of those mines and ignored nearly 300 safety inspection violations, no doubt because adherence to safety regulations was too costly. That’s where the outrage should be, but we’re too dulled with god-glaze to realize it.