Religion Explains Unfortunate Events

Gary McCullough of Christian Newswire steps in to explain a recent story that has generated controversy:

On March 24, our service distributed a submission from Gingi Edmonds that engendered much more than the usual number of replies questioning the character of Christian Newswire. This is not surprising since the item addressed is a combination of abortion, the death of born children, and the always popular topic of God’s wrath. Edmonds wrote about the recent Montana airplane crash in which several children died, and the ties the family has to the abortion business.

The plane crash was in Montana, and it killed a number of family members (plus a few others) of Irving “Bud” Feldkamp, who owns a chain of abortion clinics in California. The plane had changed course from its intended destination for an airstrip at Butte, but it crashed into the adjoining Holy Cross Cemetery. This cemetery is Roman Catholic, and reportedly contains a “Tomb of the Unborn” (the Knights of Columbus have apparently erected a number of these in Montana).

Edmonds, who had previously protested at Feldkamp’s residence, suggested a supernatural significance:

We warned him, for his children’s sake, to wash his hands of the innocent blood he assisted in spilling because, as Scripture warns, if “you did not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you”. (Ezekiel 35:6)

A news source states that Bud Feldkamp visited the site of the crash with his wife and their two surviving children on Monday. As they stood near the twisted and charred debris talking with investigators, light snow fell on the tarps that covered the remains of their children…

I don’t want to turn this tragic event into some creepy spiritual ‘I told you so’ moment, but I think of the time spent outside of Feldkamp’s…I think of the haunting words, ‘Think of your children.’ I wonder if those words were haunting Feldkamp as well as he stood in the snow among the remains of loved ones, just feet from the ‘Tomb of the Unborn’?

…”I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then.” (Deut. 30:19)

Edmonds also complained that the mainstream media had not reported these details, and some repostings claim they have been “censored”.

Unsurprisingly, Edmonds’ ruminations were widely regarded as in poor taste, and her article has been interpreted as suggesting that God struck the aircraft down in vengence, or even as expressing Fred Phelps-like glee over the tragedy. McCullough, however, complains of

…the common misunderstanding of God’s judgment and what Edmonds expressed.  Imagine if you will, a father telling his toddler son not to touch a hot stove. Over and over the father warns that the stove will burn him if he touches it.  Yet the toddler does, and cries out in pain. The infant mind might blame the father for the burn he just experienced — thinking he was being punished. “Why did you burn me daddy?”

I do not know the extent of the pain we will experience for failing to heed our Heavenly Father’s admonition not to murder. Child-on-child and child-on-adult murderers are becoming less rare. An overall lack of respect for human life is undoubtedly having an impact. The highest concentration of child-on-child murders occur within the segment of our society with the highest concentration of abortion clinics. And we cry out, “Why is this happening — is God punishing us?”

Ms. Edmonds does not claim that God took the lives of the airplane crash victims in an act of vengeance. She does point out the irony of such a loss being experienced by a leader in the child-killing profession.

Fair enough for the distinction, but McCullough tries to have to have it both ways. Obviously, touching something that is hot is likely to cause a burn (although, alas for McCullough, his example also raises the possiblity that religion may promote, or be based on, false understandings of causality). The assertion that tolerance of abortion leads to a violent society doesn’t have much behind it, but I can understand the causal argument he’s getting at. However, that’s very different from Edmond’s invocation of Ezekiel and Deuteronomy – she’s clearly claiming that the plane crashed because of Feldkamp’s business interests, and the inference is that the site of the disaster is a sign of this. That means that God intervened, either directly or through having established some kind of “karmic” law that results in the innocent relatives and employees of someone who offends against divine commands suffering harm. Such a causality – and its apparent absence in other situations – raises a number of obvious problems in theodicy that not even the various Biblical authors could agree on, and which I don’t need to rehearse here…