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It is what it isn’t
THE MOST awe-inspiring thing about the rescue of the Thai football team is not the sheer unlikeliness of it, nor the triumph of international cooperation between diligent, selfless, scientific experts, nor even our own irrepressible humanity that always searches for a better way of living together.
No, the most mind-blowing aspect of a dozen small children being brought out of the grave six miles underground by dint of the efforts of a handful of heroes is that the vast majority of people in Trinidad, perhaps the world, will look at the clearest imaginable evidence that there could not be a caring, omnipotent God capable of intervention in our affairs – and see it as proof of its exact opposite!
On the morning the last of the boys and their coach were brought out, I woke to a WhatsApp from my wife: “They’re all out safely, praise the rescuers!” What a wonderful thing to say! For it was the rescuers, not God, who brought those boys and their coach back from either certain death or a life made so miserable by prolonged suffering as to make death seem an improvement.
Try an experiment.
Lock yourself, in air-conditioned comfort, in a car on a downtown street in broad daylight, able to see everything and everyone outside, but unable to leave and, within 15 minutes, the simple fact of your imprisonment will make you squirm in your mind, body and soul.
Now imagine not a/c comfort, but stifling heat; instead of being dry, imagine yourself soaking wet, huddled on a tiny, muddy ledge, hearing either the water you will drown in rushing towards you or silence so profound the gastric juices of your companions working in their empty stomachs – for you have not eaten in ten days – roars in your ears.
Now add total darkness.
Blackness so deep you cannot see your hand in front of your face, cannot tell if your eyes are open or shut.
See if you could stand that for two weeks.
And imagine having to withstand those conditions for three months, perhaps six, with, at best, a probably intermittent and certainly inadequate food supply.
And that was the fate facing those boys, but for the heroism, the experience and the ingenuity of their rescuers.
Don’t thank God; thank Richard Stanton and John Volanthen, the British men who led the team of international divers who pulled off this amazing feat, not through God’s mercy, but despite either God’s incompetence or his downright sadism.
For who trapped those little boys deep underground and tortured them for two weeks, if not God?
The standard believers’ perspective is that God controls everything about everything, in all infinity and for all eternity. From a butterfly wing fluttering in Santa Cruz when Columbus landed to the path of an asteroid on the farthest reaches of Andromena that has been created to smash into New York City a thousand years from now, there is nothing God does not control completely.
So who flooded the caves? After he allowed the boys to enter them?
Who created the monsoons that meant that, but for their rescue by brave human beings last week, those little children would have almost certainly died as insane cannibals?
It’s the thing the rational mind cannot sidestep: if all glories are God’s, are not all ignominies? It is what it is; except, for the believer, it is what it isn’t! It is, indeed, the opposite of what it is.
The shrinking community – perhaps already a ghetto – of rational people across the world already faces a Garden of Gethsemane or Guantanamo Bay of its own, as the influence of the phenomenon Christian believers call “the Anti-Christ” swells and spreads. A proudly ignorant majority increases by snowballing over all opposing views and demanding orthodoxy on pain of excommunication and/or extermination.
And believers will look at the clearest possible demonstrations of God’s hatred or, worse, his indifference, and declare it proof of his love; it is already happening with the LGBT, the only minority guaranteed to be found in every society on the planet.
The world we live in will not be made better by people who convince themselves that it is fleeting and that life will, somehow, be better when they’re dead. We can make this world better while we’re here, but not by praising God for sparing the lives of the children he trapped underground and tortured in the darkness.
No, we can shed some light on our own darkness and see the way out by asking God why he took the life of Suman Kunan, the Thai diver.
Praise be to the rescuers.
BC Pires is swimming in near panic in the dark six miles underground but at least he’s not firetrucking whistling