Night Owl Mk. II

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Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

NOTE: This is not a direct response to anything I've written previously in this section. This is a response to a letter which was forwarded to me apparently in an attempt to defend "God's love" in the wake of a terrible tragedy. The letter is such nonsense and is so typical of apologetic attempts to "glorify God" in situations where no coherent glorification is possible that I felt it to be appropriate material for this section. I hope that the letter's contents and my response to it will be both instructive and thought-provoking. I'd love to hear some feedback on this one!

(R) If you have not received this update, thought you might be encouraged upon reading it to praise our Lord and continue praying for His people (this is a note from a friend at Wedgewood Baptist Church)
(MB) My first reaction upon reading this "update" was one of utter astonishment. Are people really so credulous and gullible that they will gladly and honestly believe that a mindless and terrible tragedy was actually an example of God's "love" and "graciousness" in action? Such beliefs should do anything *but* encourage any thinking person and should put him off prayer for life.

(R) What God is doing at our church. By now almost everyone has heard of the tragedy that took place on Sept.15, when a gunman entered Wedgwood Baptist Church and killed 7 people and injured 7 others before taking his own life. That morning had been the day of "See You at the Pole," when students gather around their flagpole in the morning to pray for their school and nation. What the media hasn't reported, however, is how God has been so evident, both during and after the shooting. He has done amazing works!
(MB) Perhaps the media hasn't reported this because it's such an obvious crock of stercus tauri. Let me see if I have this straight. 15 casualties at a prayer ceremony is evidence of the power of God in action?

(R) Before The Shooting:
Our pastor, Brother Al, had prayed that God would do whatever it took to expand the ministry of Wedgwood Baptist Church. Our church is one that is used as a model of how NOT to pick a location, because no one in the world can find it. Now almost everyone in the world knows exactly where it is.

(MB) OK, I get it. It's a marketing plan! God condones the slaughter and maiming of innocent people in an attempt to publicize the location of a church. Brilliant! Of course, if I had conceived and executed such a plan myself, I would most certainly be facing the death penalty and universal scorn. But, God, on the other hand, is praised and glorified by the very same people upon whom the carnage was inflicted. Marketing! Marketing! People will buy *anything* if it's pitched properly.

(R) Evidence of God's Control During The Shooting:
*To enter the church, the gunman walked past our children's playground, which should have been full of kids, but for some reason every single children's and preschool class was running late. No one had made it to the playground yet.

(MB) Not all that unusual considering that it was a special celebratory day at the school. On such days, normal schedules are often suspended or altered.

(R) *He fired over 100 bullets into a crowd of over 400, but only 14 people were hit.
(MB) Again, this is not unusual. In war, it is estimated that less than one round in 100 ever hits anybody -- and this comes from trained professional soldiers. An untrained, agitated gunman firing essentially at random at a crowd will likely have most of his rounds go high over their heads since he will tend to jerk the trigger and force the gun barrel upwards. This is even more likely considering that the crowd will not just be standing around waiting to get hit. They will be ducking and trying to find cover. Also, the performance of many weapons tends to decrease significantly after the first 20-30 rounds due to barrel heating and carbon deposition.

(R) *He did not shoot the over 60 bullets he still had with him.
(MB) So? There are many possible reasons for this. He could have run out of easy targets. His weapon could have jammed or otherwise malfunctioned. His rage could have subsided. He could have been saving some ammunition for a potential shootout with police.

(R) *The bottom fell off of the pipe bomb he threw, and the bomb landed without ever exploding.
(MB) Pipe bombs are notoriously unreliable -- especially when made by amateurs.

(R) *One of the youth that was wounded (she was shielding a disabled friend with her body) has scoliosis. The curve in her spine directed the bullet away from major organs, saving her from serious injury.
(MB) Getting shot in the spine is hardly being "saved from serious injury". I would be more impressed if she had been hit but had been completely uninjured.

(R) *Because the first 911 call came in on a police radio, emergency vehicles were dispatched immediately, without spending precious time to verify that call was real.
(MB) Such verification normally adds less than a minute to the response time -- if it's necessary at all. Furthermore, police-band radios are owned by many civilians. There is no reason to trust a civilian call on such a radio any more than a 911 call.

(R) *One of the people in the church at the time was a paramedic, and he was able to stop bleeding and stabilize injured people before the emergency crews arrived.
(MB) What's so unusual about a paramedic being in a church? If not for him, certainly others would have stepped forward to help and some of them may well have had Red Cross First Aid training, military training, or have been doctors or nurses.

(R) *Leaders were able to get the children out of the building without the kids having to see any victims or any of the mess.
(MB) Surely, there was more than one exit to the building where such an evacuation could have taken place. It would only be sensible to use it.

(R) *Each children's worker stayed with his/her class even though they all had children elsewhere in the building, and some had teens in the sanctuary. Not one worker left his or her post.
(MB) So, everybody did their jobs properly? That may be unusual in many cases, but hardly requires any sort of divine intervention.

(R) *None of the adults who died have children.
(MB) So, God thinks it's OK for childless adults to be killed by maniacs?

(R) *All 7 victims were not just Christians, but bold Christians who were passionate about their faith.
(MB) One would think that such passionate believers would have received special protection from God and would not have been harmed at all. I'm sure they all prayed to God for protection. I guess he wasn't listening or has a strange connotation of "protection".

(R) "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is not being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20)
(MB) This is another example of a thoughtless misapplication of a Bible verse. The verse is from the ending of the story of Joseph. He is addressing his brothers after they came to him with a story about his father's last wish that he should forgive them. Joseph is not saving any of his brothers from death. He "saves their lives" by not enslaving them for their acts against him and by promising to provide for his brothers and their children.

(R) Or, what God has done since the shooting:
*Many denominations have pulled together to offer help and support. One example is the United Methodist Church who sent 15 people the following Sunday to cover our childcare. They didn't want any church members to have to miss the service because they were taking care of the children.

(MB) People can't help each other in the wake of a tragedy without the intervention of God?

(R) *A church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, drove over 5 hours just so they could march around our church and pray during our Sunday morning services.
(MB) People can't band together and show their support for one another in the wake of a tragedy without the intervention of God?

(R) *The Fort Worth Police Dept. planted flowers in the flower beds before we reentered the sanctuary to worship.
(MB) Well, *there's* a clinching argument! Imagine policemen doing something like planting flowers without God motivating them to do so!

(R) *We have received over 10,000 emails, 5000 cards, and $60,000 from all over the world.
(MB) So, if we divide that fortune by 15 casualties, we find that 666(!) e-mails, 333 cards, and $4,000 are a payment for each of those casualties which is sufficiently abundant to qualify as proof of God's love for them and their families?

(R) *Al Meredith, our pastor has had the microphone in his face continually and has over and over given an outstanding answer to the reason for our hope. He presented the gospel beautifully on Larry King Live when prompted by a question asked by Vice President Al Gore.
(MB) Imagine a pastor presenting the gospel! Imagine a church's pastor being interviewed after a nationally-publicized tragedy at his church!

(R) *Because of the live news coverage and interviews, over 200 million people have heard the gospel because of this tragedy.
(MB) So, tragedies such as these are acceptable so long as people hear the gospel as a result of the media coverage? Also, haven't the vast majority of those 200 million people already heard the gospel? It's not like this is something brand new.

(R) *Fifteen thousand turned out for a community wide service at TCU football stadium. Brother Al gave a very serious challenging message calling for a day of fasting and heart searching (Monday the 20th). The service was broadcast live in its entirety on WBAP 820 which is a news station that covers most of north Texas. This same news station has replayed our pastor's first press conference due to people calling in and requesting to hear his comforting words again.
(MB) Gee! Imagine a local news radio station providing coverage of a major event in the area! And, without God's intervention, the story would never have broadcast at all, I suppose?

(R) *CNN also broadcast the memorial service live.
(MB) Isn't that CNN's job?

(R) *Amazingly, because one of the victim's families lives and works in Saudi Arabia, that country allowed the service to be broadcast there as well.
(MB) A closed circuit transmission is not the same thing as a national network broadcast.

(R) In Saudi Arabia it is illegal to say the name of Jesus on the street.
(MB) No, it's just illegal to proselytize for any religion other than Islam.

(R) *Because of that same CNN broadcast, 35 people in Japan gave their lives to Christ.
(MB) OK, there are mindless people in Japan, too.

(R) *When President Clinton finally got through to him, Brother Al ended their conversation by praying, after gaining permission, for the Clinton family.
(MB) Imagine a pastor praying for somebody! Why would the pastor need permission to pray? Doesn't his authority come from God? Even Slick Willie couldn't overrule that!

(R) *At several schools, students met around their flagpoles the next day. At one school 25 students accepted Christ, and 110 at another.
(MB) Maybe they are hoping that God will "protect" them just like he "protected" the 15 casualties of the shooting.

(R) *A teacher led 22 students to Christ in her classroom.
(MB) Of course, the fact that this would be an illegal act didn't cross her mind, did it? Isn't it just slightly appalling that an adult teacher would take advantage of a tragedy to proselytize innocent school children?

(R) *Christian teachers all over North Texas have been able to share with their classes because the students are asking questions about their teachers' faith.
(MB) I don't suppose any of the teachers is pointing out any of the problems that I have been addressing here, have they?

(R) *In Burleson, prayers and Scripture are being said over the intercom.
(MB) Which is, again, illegal in a public school.

(R) *On the east coast, where "See You at the Pole" was delayed because of the hurricane, record numbers of kids showed up to pray.
(MB) Not surprising, given the stated proselytizing efforts of teachers in the wake of the tragedy.

(R) *Governor Bush and the Fort Worth mayor quietly came to our pastor's home while the staff were meeting and praying and joined in the prayer meeting. This was not political! Only those who are close to staff members heard about this; the media never knew.
(MB) Imagine the governor of a state being concerned over a tragedy that happened in his state!

(R) *Governor Bush has visited with our pastor several times, and Brother Al has had an impact on him. Just think of the influence our pastor could have if Governor Bush is the next president!
(MB) I rather doubt that "Brother Al" has changed any feelings or beliefs that Governor Bush did not already possess.

(R) *A caller to an area Christian radio station said that he didn't know what those people had but he wanted it. The DJ proceeded to lead him to Christ. Many notes left in front of the church contain the same sentiment.
(MB) Why would somebody have to be "led to Christ" if they were a listener of a Christian radio station? The target audience of such stations already has Christ in their lives.

(R) Those who don't know Jesus want what we have!
(MB) Mindlessness? Ignorance? Rose-colored glasses? Anybody who would actually "want" such things is already beyond hope.

(R) *The church has received so many emails asking us how we are able to have hope and continue on. There are teams of church member volunteers responding to these emails.
(MB) It's a church. Churches, by definition, are *supposed* to have hope. Burn down the building, cover the entire congregation in barbeque sauce and feed them to a pack of starving wolverines, and "hope" will continue to ride strong. And, of course, God will be praised for everything that happens to them.

(R) *My friend Jodi has been praying for her husband for years. She and their 4-yr-old daughter were at the church that night. 3 days ago Scott gave his life to Christ.
(MB) Traumatic experiences make people do thoughtless things.

(R) *We have had over 70,000 hits on our web page which displays the plan of salvation in multiple languages.
(MB) Considering the tens of million of Baptists in the world, the hundreds of millions of Christians, and the many millions of curious people, I would think that the tragedy should have produced more web site activity than that. The server hosting the Heaven's Gate web site couldn't handle the flood of hits in the wake of that silly tragedy and that cult was only a few dozen strong.

(R) *Many members at Wedgwood Baptist are healing broken relationships within the body and experiencing spiritual renewal. These are just a few of the miracles that are happening.
(MB) And, they wouldn't have done this on their own without the sacrifice of 15 people? Some "miracle".

(R) God's grace is almost overwhelming. Every time the gunman fired a bullet, he intended to take a life. Yet God turned that around and saved several lives for each bullet fired. The faith of those who died has been multiplied many times over.
(MB) This is incredible nonsense! How mindless slaughter can be transmogrified into a multiplication of faith is beyond me and, I expect, beyond anybody else with a functioning mind. If God wanted to impress us with his "power" and "grace", why was anybody hit at all? Wouldn't there have been *far* more reason to celebrate if a crazed gunman unloaded 100 rounds into a crowd of several hundred people and not a single person received so much as a scratch? As is, the result was entirely predictable and expected.

(R) "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.." Romans 1:8
(MB) How does this tragedy compare to the persecution of the fledgling band of early Christians in Rome to whom Paul was writing?

(R) Are you not amazed?
(MB) Absolutely! I'm amazed that anybody can actually believe the stercus tauri that's being shoveled here by the church. I'm amazed that anybody can praise God in any way, shape, or form for what happened. I'm amazed that most or all of the entire congregation didn't immediately reject the whole notion of a "loving" God after witnessing the carnage.

(R) May I point out a few things we should lean from this?
(MB) This ought to be rich....

(R) 1. While reading, I was fascinated and amazed that we have found out about some of these stories...salvation decisions made in Japan...a DJ leading someone to Christ...etc. This is not coincidence. Note that God is PRESERVING the testimonies, not be accident, but by Divine intention.
(MB) This is not coincidence? Would these things have happened if people did not have strong emotional reactions to the tragedy? Does God condone the slaughter of some of his believers so that others will can be conned into jumping on the bandwagon?

(R) 2. The plan of God is magnified and so evident through these stories: Do you see how it is His heart's desire to extend the boundaries of His kingdom?
(MB) I thought that God's "kingdom" already included everything in his creation? How can you extend the boundaries of an already infinite kingdom? How could the sacrifice of 15 insignificant humans further any such goal?

(R) That "He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance"? (2 Peter 3:9)
(MB) He's "not willing", but people perished anyway. But, if God is all-powerful, then *nothing* can happen without his forbearance and *everything* must be "his will". That means that God intended for those people to die -- which contradicts what Peter wrote.

(R) His plan is to save...His purpose for saving--to receive glory.
(MB) He "saves" by permitting innocents to be slaughtered? And, he does this just so that we will praise him for it? What sort of insane blather is that?

(R) 3. Realize that while He is accomplishing His plan to save and His purpose to be glorified, we as Christians are being comforted and strengthened. How great the realm of His ability to work! What perfect timing He has on every front.
(MB) I'm sure that the families of the victims were greatly comforted and strengthened by having their loved ones taken from them in such a violent and senseless manner. And, if they did approve of "God's purpose", why was there any mourning and sadness? Personally, I would consider anybody who actively supports that sort of nonsense to be the moral equivalents of the maniac who did the shooting.

(R) 4. Have you noticed that YOU are excited to hear the great things the Lord is doing?
(MB) Oh, yes! I can't tell you how excited I am to hear about these things! It makes me extremely proud to be a non-believer.

(R) That your heart has been stirred and that you are desirous of spreading His glory?
(MB) My stomach has been stirred by these tales, but that's about it. It is my hope that my response to this garbage will help spread a little more understanding of "His glory".

(R) Rejoice, for that is the evidence of the Holy Spirit in your life.
(MB) I can't tell you how much I want to be so blessed that some lunatic will come and shoot up *my* family and friends to help fulfill God's plan and spread his glory. Hallelujah!

(R) "For it is GOD who works in you, both to will and to do His good pleasure" (Phil. 1:6). His good pleasure is to spread His glory.
(MB) We can only conclude from this that either God is insane or his followers are morons (or both).

(R) 5. Last, when was the last time you asked the Lord what His plan and purpose was for your life?
(MB) Back when I was about five years old. The answer I didn't get started me down the much brighter path of non-belief. I gave up the silly notion of "God" long before I was able to come to not believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy.

(R) Do you want to know? If so, look! He is showing us RIGHT NOW what it is.
(MB) If so, I'm slamming the door and refusing to buy it.

(R) We are to mirror His purpose and plan, and join Him. Spread His glory, by your own life of worship, which once submitted as a "living sacrifice"--will draw people to Him.
(MB) I'm "spreading his glory" to be sure. Hopefully, those who read this will be be helped to come to their senses and reject that nonsense once and for all.

(R) Please pass this on, for His name's sake. Even sending e-mails can be kingdom work!
(MB) Hey, I guess I'm part of "God's plan", too, right? If so, I don't expect that I'll be hearing any arguments from his followers in response to what I've written. Yeah, right.... Actually, I'd truly love to hear from anybody who thinks they can defend this asinine drivel. In fact, if some believer wants to forward this to "Brother Al", I'd love to hear what he's got to say for himself and will gladly publish and debate whatever he might have to say.

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