Miracles in Moore, OK

By now, everyone knows about the devastating tornado that tore through Moore, Oklahoma on Monday, May 20th. This morning, on NBC’s Today Show, I heard a touching story about a woman who was in labor when the tornado hit Moore Medical Center.

After the chaos, [Shayla] Taylor said she heard not the freight train sound described by so many witnesses, but the absolute silence of the storm’s center. Then she opened her eyes.

“All of a sudden I could see daylight and the wall was gone,” she said. “I look out and I see I-35 and part of the Warren theater.”

She had been almost ready to deliver, but the nursing staff was able to give her a shot to delay the child’s birth. She was later transferred to another facility where she delivered a healthy boy, named Braeden Immanuel. Immanuel, as you may know, means “God with us.” As the mother said, “The name had been picked out for months. Now I know why.” And after the story, Al Roker mentioned something about this being one of the miracles in Moore.

At least 24 people died in the Moore tornado on Monday, 9 of whom were children. At least 70 of the 200 injured were also children. The tornado destroyed two elementary schools and a hospital. How could anyone refer to any event surrounding the tragedy in Moore as a “miracle”?

If God exists, why would he allow something like this to happen? Even if you believe that God sets natural events in motion, to allow a tornado to hit two schools and a hospital is just unthinkable. And if God has simply set things in motion and declines to interfere, of what value is prayer? One of the first things people asked for after the tragedy was prayer. Why? God obviously dropped the ball on this one — at best. Worst case scenario, he’s malicious. There’s really no other way to explain why the most sacred places in a society (places where our children and infirm are kept) would be hit by an “act of god.”

Events like this illustrate the problem of evil. If God is all-powerful and all-good, why do tragedies like this occur? Of course, if there is no God, then there’s nothing to explain. Tornadoes are natural events. They usually hit rural areas, because there are more rural areas than there are populated ones. But every now and then, a populated area will be hit.

In many ways, I feel cheap using this tragedy to make a point. I had wanted to avoid it, but after hearing some of the events around the devastation referred to as miracles, I felt the need to write something. If you disagree with me, please feel free to say so.

I also wanted to include this brief video, where a survivor is interviewed by Wolf Blitzer, who assumes she thanks God for making it through the storm.

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23 thoughts on “Miracles in Moore, OK

  1. I don’t know, Nate. And I *really* hate the uncertainty of that. Of course, I suppose that’s faith. Which sucks.

    I like to think God uses everything to give us an opportunity to experience His love. He works through people, and so often we only show love selflessly in the wake of senseless tragedy. This doesn’t help me sleep any better, or have any nice tender feelings of gratitude toward God; it just makes me want to be more aware of the needs of others, because if we treat folks right on any given Tuesday, then maybe He’ll relent.

    But, I doubt it.

    The hardest thing is when you can’t deny Him, when He’s made Himself known to you. Belief and doubt are two sides of the same awful coin.

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  2. Thanks Rodalena,

    I really appreciate your perspective. You sometimes bring up the other possibility when thinking about the problem of evil: maybe the “all-good” designation for God isn’t exactly accurate. It’s definitely something to think about.

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  3. I don’t think it *can* be: if God is the first cause of everything, then logic dictates He simply can’t be just the Safe Flat Two-Dimensional Good God everyone seems to want to think He is. He’s an all-consuming fire (I think I read that somewhere…), and therefore while certainly capable of providing warmth, He’s bound to leave some pretty nasty scars, and sometimes He leaves heaps of ashes in His wake.

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  4. I actually agree with you. As you know, I don’t actively believe in God, but at the same time, I recognize the possibility that some god exists. If one does, I fully agree that it’s just as nuanced as we are. “Good” and “evil” are too simplistic to use for such a being.

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  5. Reblogged this on The BitterSweet End and commented:
    I find it odd sometimes when I hear on the news or on T.V. giving glory to God, because to me it always sounds like it is coming at the expense of some else’s suffering. Because really it sounds like they are saying…”Thank God, I wasn’t that other guy who died.”

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  6. We live in a strange world. Well, maybe its not strange, since its the only world we know.

    But I just don’t know why God wouldn’t show His power and Authority by raining food on the poor.

    Why such violence?

    If the point is to use violence so that Gods loving miracle is revealed then is this like saying –

    – children in a school die to highlight that people other are spared?

    Yet a baby is born healthy even though building is falling down around him. I guess for that mother a natural response is gratitude, and that is understandable.

    But how is love shown in a world where no matter who dies in a disaster, survivors point to a mercful Providence. people look for the good in the tragedy – that people did heroic and selfless things, that harm and suffering was not inflicted on them or loved ones, that they themselves walked away.

    If a ball rolls through an ants nest, is the ball merciful because some of the ants avoided the ball?

    Say this ball was a tornado.
    Does the avoidence of harm equate to mercy.

    And if God allowed this tornado, Can love can only be expressed or identified through and in the presence of hardship and tragedy?

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  7. Just to revisit this,

    If a ball rolls through an ants nest,

    this ball is either

    (a) directed by a hand, or
    (b) just allowed to roll down a hill in accordance to gravity.

    In either of these cases, is Is the act of allowing a ball to roll through a nest merciful or kind to the ants?

    Is the fact that some of the ants avoided harm grounds for calling this interaction merciful?

    People can be grateful that they are still standing after such tragedy, and attribute value to tragedy by identifying how the event:

    – brings people together
    – gives opportunities for acts of love and perseverance to shine through disaster.
    – helps us appreciate how blessed we actually are.

    But celebration and kindness without tragedy can also:

    – bring people together

    – encourage further opportunities for acts of love and kindness and perseverance

    – Helps us appreciate how blessed we actually are.

    So what is the purpose of such a tragedy? What does it actually reveal or achieve that kindness by itself doesn’t?

    Does harm need to come for kindness to be recongnised?

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  8. And to say that we are living in the:

    – end times
    – A fallen world
    Or
    – due to peoples disobedience to God

    I find hard to accept.

    – If due to the end times – what is the purpose of hurting creation? In order to let people know that they don’t have much time left to repent? Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to let them know this by telling them?

    How do we then see tragedy? Is the tragedy of this world just here to be used as a contrast to show people that God will take away from those who love and follow Him? Is it here to give us the promise of a better place, if we trust and follow God?

    – If due to a fallen world – then this doesn’t really explain much. It just attributes harmful and tragic events to our own actions and redefines them as “fallen events”, and then blames us (via Adam). This makes sense if our actions have a direct consequence (eg. personal pollution) but for events outside of us, is it valid or healthy to blame ourselves for things we cannot control?

    – If due to disobedience to God – then why is Las Vegas not fire balled to the ground (with the righteous saved of course). I wonder about that, could it be that it’s harder for a natural disaster to hit the middle of a desert?

    And why are some people killed? Was everyone else righteous? Or was God just being merciful to those others by giving them more time to repent? In order to be merciful to some people, are other people killed in the disaster?

    If the point of a disaster is to send a warning, then you would expect that warning to be consistent, otherwise how can this warning really be clearly understood by those who apparently need to hear it?

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  9. I’ve always found the Abrahamic god quite absurd. The northwestern-Semitic speaking priests who fashioned the concept really made a mess of it. What would go on to become YHWH was, of course, a polytheistic god, with a wife, who only got molded into the monotheistic version between the 7th and 5th century’s after the Israelite elite were freed by Cyrus II. It’s patently clear they borrowed the idea from the Zoroastrian Ahura Mazda and then re-tooled it to become a “personal god”… and therein was their mistake. For those inclined to believe in the gods Ahura Mazda was quite a brilliant conception. In the eastern religion there was a striking disconnect between the uncreated creator and his greatest creation: humankind. Ahura Mazda was omniscient but, it was stressed, not omnipotent. It did not interfere in earthy affairs. This allowed the Proto-Indo-Iranians to live without the bother of always questioning their gods purpose and method.

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  10. Hey Nate! Long time no see! I’ll leave the discussions of the minutiae of religion to those more educated than myself. Besides, I think you already know the answer and that’s that no answer is going to be satisfactory amidst such tragedy.

    People will always question their faith in times like this–in everything from their deity to the very structures they chose to live in. Some will walk away, defeated and disillusioned; some will rebuild, stronger and more firm.

    The stories and the decisions are as personal and individual as the people who make them. None of them are going to ‘convince’ anyone else–to remain; to grow stronger; to walk away. But whatever evidence they have was and is enough to convince themselves.

    Another thought is that people are naturally hard-wired for stories of ‘miracles’ amongst tragedy. We look for them and revel in the good feelings, satisfaction and inspiration that come from such stories–Just as people are hard-wired to ‘root for the little guy’ (whistleblowers vs. corrupt corporations), to look for the ‘heart of gold’ (romance novels),, to cheer on stories of ‘triumph'(overcoming odds of disease or handicap).

    Why we are the way we are is a question for a whole ‘nuther debate. And again, the answer may well be an unsatisfactory “we just are”.

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  11. Matt

    I really liked rodalena’s comments. As to miricales in tragedy, I imagine you’d have to experience it first hand to be able to label it that. I’ve been in a tornado and survived, it’s actually a funny story and nothing miracouls about it. The problem of evil is a huge one, and I think you know most of the answers I’d suggest so no need to go over them I do want to strees that in the end I think it’s more about faith and personal experience, we never really have all the answers. I mean if we did have all the answers what’s the need in a god anyway?

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  12. The human need for God stems, in part, I think, from a basic human need that our suffering have some meaning. When people go through horrors like this, often the only way they can put their shoes on the next day is by assigning some deeper meaning to their grief.

    Some of the other commenters have asked if we need tragedy in order to notice or behave with genuine and selfless kindness. I don’t know if we need it, but as sure as rainbows follow storms, humans behave humanely afterward. We’re prone to apathy, generally speaking, and we are prone to seeing ourselves as the center of world.

    These storms remind us that we’re not.

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  13. William

    I can agree with most of that, i am just having problems understanding whether humans “need” a god.

    Do humans “need” a father? it may be beneficial if it’s a good father, but we can see many who get along fine who have not had a father, so “need” is the wrong term.

    And what if that father is never around, left before you were born, and only left a letter to you explaining (not always in the easiest or most direct of terms) how he expects you to behave and promises that he’ll take care of you and promises to severely punish you for disobedience or for leaving him?

    is that a good father? is that a father we need? isn’t it laughable that such a father could even begin to threaten the child for “leaving him” (since the father clearly left the child) not to mention how absurd it is to think that such a father actually does anything to really take care of the child?

    I’m having a hard time understanding how we’re ingrained to “need” such a father, or why we’d even call such a father good?

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  14. Wow, William, brilliantly said! And I’m going to jump on this one before Nan does and build a new post out of your comment. 🙂

    Thanks to everyone else too. There have been some great comments on this thread, and I appreciate the discussion.

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  15. HA! I see you did beat me to it, Nate (Is God a Good Father).

    I must say, this William person certainly makes some good points. If he had a blog, there’s no doubt I would be a follower.

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  16. William

    LOL, thank you, nan & nate. Yes, I have many disciples…. but no, I enjoy the discussion on this blog and others like it. I believe it helps me considerably.

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  17. I’ll throw my two cents in. My perspective is pretty similar to Rodalena. This stuff is hard. Do I question God and wonder why things like this happen? Of course. I don’t believe God caused the tornado, but he did allow it to happen (I think). As has already been said, the Christian hope is not that we will not suffer, but that our suffering will ultimately have redemptive meaning and a beauty which we cannot now possibly imagine. Whether 7 or 70 years it all goes by in the blink of an eye. Our lives are only a blip on the horizon of time. What ultimately matters is who we are and how we allow our character to be formed in treating others justly and selflessness. Also, I agree it is completely insensitive and wrong to talk about miracles at times like this.

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  18. Hi Nate,

    We agree on one thing – this was a terrible event that makes it harder to believe in God. I was one of many terrible events that have happened recently, and continue to happen.

    But we disagree other than that, and I write not to convince you, but to explain that there are other ways to look at things. I believe the problem of evil is indeed formidable, but it was there before recent events, and it will remain. If these facts were the only facts we had, I wouldn’t believe in God. But they aren’t the only facts we have.

    I believe (as I have said before here) because I think the sum total of evidence points very strongly to the existence of the God of Jesus. (For example, I’ve just finished reading a wonderful book – Why does the World Exist by Jim Holt – and while this wasn’t the conclusion of the author, it convinced me even more strongly that God is the best and only explanation for the universe, and the non-God answers all trip over themselves and fail on multiple levels. Not saying it would convince you, just reporting how I feel.) So I am stuck with what are to me two very clear facts – 1. God exists and 2. Suffering exists.

    So how to resolve them? Ignore the evidence for God? Ignore suffering? I can’t do either. There has to be a better way.

    Rodalena is on the track, I believe. We need a bigger view of God than the simple good and evil as we define them. And, having come to know that God is real, we need to trust that he is doing good even when we can’t see it. (CS Lewis says it’s like a dog with a paw in a trap – it has to trust its master, against all its senses, that pushing the paw further in is the way to be free of the pain.)

    So I have no difficulty in believing that God might set up a world that has the potential for good and evil, has physical thrills and physical dangers, that he might answer some prayers but not others, work some miracles but not others. Unless God takes away our freedom, there is bound to be some pain. The only issue is why this amount of pain, and I have no answer for that except why not?

    In the end, disbelieving because of suffering doesn’t work for me, it doesn’t cover nearly all the evidence. It is only if the majority of evidence points against God that I should, or could, disbelieve. But that doesn’t mean I have all the answers, or that I don’t feel the hurts that people experience.

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  19. Hi Ben and unklee,

    I appreciate the comments, and I see where you’re coming from. I’m not as convinced by the other evidence you speak of, which is why we’re on opposite sides of this thing. But I’m glad you offered your perspective.

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  20. Nate, I don’t think it’s cheap at all to use this tragedy to make a point. The points you raise here are very good ones for all of us to think about after events like these become front and center in our lives. It is not only fair, but also helpful to discuss these things publicly.

    While my own reasons for not believing in gods have much more to do with my difficulty in figuring out how to convince myself there is enough evidence for them, I do see the problem of suffering and evil (especially with random events like these) as a big problem for the traditional monotheistic or Abrahamic definition of “God” – in other words an “all loving, all powerful, all knowing God”. Polytheism interestingly enough seems to solve this problem in my mind.

    I also believe there are other ways to resolve this problem even in a monotheistic context. All of the solutions I have seen seem to modify one of the 3 “all” attributes – usually a nuanced modification of the “all powerful” attribute. Some solutions modify the “all loving” attribute of God. I’ve never seen a solution modify the “all knowing” attribute, but I’m sure there are some that would. But what leaves me a bit uneasy when I read these solutions from apologists is that they seem to still maintain that the 3 “all” attributes are still held intact. This is what I like so much about Rodalena’s approach – she makes no bones about it and is very clear about the fact that she views God as both good and evil. While it doesn’t resolve the evidence issue I believe at least it is a more honest way of describing a solution to this particular problem of random suffering (not that the apologists with other solutions are liars, but I personally would feel more honest describing a solution in Rodalena’s way).

    Further, I really liked it when Rebecca Vitsmun said to Wolf Blitzer “I don’t blame anyone for thanking the Lord”. I have the same perspective. However, I can also see Marcus’ point about there being an aspect of insensitivity or even selfishness when someone is publicly thanking God for sparing them from these kinds of events when there are others who are mourning the loss of family members who were not spared.

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  21. Josh

    Nate! Sorry, I missed a few posts. I forgot to check back after a while 🙂

    Suffering is indeed one of the most difficult things to square with belief in God. In fact, in the midst of suffering, for those who have been personally impacted, it is unwise and insensitive to resort to philosophizing the tragedy into a worldview. Unfortunately, I have no good answer. And, honestly, I don’t think there is one that would be satisfactory to someone who requires God intervene in every possible tragedy. Scriptures promise us that we will continue to experience pain, suffering, and tragedy in this life, and that God will be with us through them (“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.’” – Isaiah 43:1-2). Notice, in those verses, it doesn’t say “you won’t walk through fire” or even “IF you walk through fire”, but “WHEN you walk through fire”. So, if those realities lead you away from a belief in God, one point is that this god you believed in was not the one who speaks to us in OT and NT Scripture. Jesus also promises increased trouble in this world to his followers, and their lives after his resurrection are a testament to that. Why does all this happen? I don’t know. But, I trust that He does. Why do I trust Him? Because He chose to enter INTO the suffering and take insult, ridicule, torture, and the death of a criminal to prove that the answer to the question “Why is there suffering?” CANNOT be that He does not love us.

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  22. Amanda Dodson Gremillion

    I did get frustrated the other day by a friend saying God works in mysterious ways because if she had not been late for work that day it could have been her in a bad car accident on the interstate but she was praying for that family. I am a Christian but I did not agree with what she said, I though but what about the people in the accident, why did God not make them late? That being said, the Bible never promises no suffering, it actually promises suffering and death, and it never promises we will live a certain amount of time. If you are shared my beliefs you believe those children are safe in Heaven with God anyways, they would all be with him, and while that angers some because they are no longer with them and they miss them. they came from God and were never promised to us for a certain time, yet we seem to think we are entitled to no suffering, no death or at least a long life first, etc. Or only suffering as punishment or brought on ourselves is what we deserve but if it is not our fault it is somehow an injustice that there is no reason for and no good comes from. You see the best in people when tragedy strikes. I do believe God answers some personal prayers during these tragedies actually I believe he answers all of them but the answer is not for every single person to not die or suffer at all and if that were the case we would already be living in Heaven with no death or suffering, this is not Heaven. Everyone dies eventually one way or another, and suffering we often do not understand but often later see some good come from it. I lived in poverty as a child, I was happier then than I am now, everyone seems to think you have to have tons of money and perfect health and never have a tragedy strike or lose someone close to you to have a good life. That is our idea of good, not God’s. Trust me I hope to reach a Heaven one day where there is no suffering but for now I think any suffering I have experienced has helped make me a stronger better person although while going through some of it questioned it and God and cursed him and questioned his existence, so again I do understand people doing that.

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