Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thank Honda and Other Religious Ideas

It isn't often that Shira and I find a theologically related article that we can both agree on, but it happened when she sent me this one: When my son survived a serious accident, I didn’t thank God. I thanked Honda. Here's the setup:

Last Friday night, a semi-trailer pushed the car my son was driving into a Jersey barrier. The trailer’s back wheel landed on the hood of the car, less than six inches from my son’s head. Every window shattered, throwing glass inches from his face.

But my son has not a scratch on him.

I was so overwhelmed with gratitude that I wrote a letter to Honda praising the expertly engineered safety features that saved his life. I explained that I had been in an equally serious accident 18 years earlier and had suffered a serious brain injury and broken bones all over the right side of my body, requiring countless surgeries.

I posted the letter on Facebook, and closed it with this:

> I want to extend my thanks to the engineers who used their intelligence and skill to create a car that safe, to the crash test dummies who have died a thousand horrible deaths and to your executives who did not scrimp on safety.
> Thank you, Honda.

That last line rubbed some people the wrong way. While many who left comments on my post were just glad that my son was alive and well, others wanted to know why I had thanked Honda for that outcome. The entity that deserved my thanks, they said, was God. One commenter wrote: “I am thankful that God held your son in His embrace and I am curious why you thanked Honda rather than Him.”

What makes this story especially interesting to me is the point the author makes later in the article:

Over many years of thinking about religion and faith, I have noticed that something sad and somewhat strange happens when we thank God: We tend to stop there. We simply overlook the decisions, the science, the policies and the people who contributed to the “miracle.” To put it another way: When we focus on supernatural deliverance from harm, we often ignore all of the human ways we can improve our own safety. I am concerned that we may associate survival of serious accidents with the unpredictable hand of Providence, not with airbags, safety testing and the regulations that have put them in place.

I think this is an important and valid point. It reminds me of the old joke:

So there's this huge flood one day, and an entire town looks like it's going to be swallowed up by the waters. And the Police and Rescue Agencies are running all over the place trying to get people to safety.

So they send the rescue boat over to this house where a guy's sitting on the roof with the water lapping around his ankles and they say "Come on, quickly, there isn't much time"

To which he says "Nah, it's ok, God will Provide"

So about an hour later they're zooming past in the boat again and they notice the guy's still there, only the water's up to his waist, almost at the top of the roof.. "Quick" they say, get in the boat, it's going to get worse before it gets better.

"Nah, don't worry - God will Provide"

An hour after that a rescue helicopter flies over the area and notices the guy, who must be standing on the peak of the roof now, with only his head and shoulders out of the water. "GRAB THE ROPE!" they cry "IT'S YOUR ONLY HOPE!"

"Don't worry" he replies calmly "God will provide."

So he gets drowned of course. And he goes to heaven, and is a little ticked off with god for drowning him like that, and expresses his concern saying "I had FAITH, I BELIEVED in you - and still you didn't help me"

"HELP YOU?!" God replies "What MORE did you want - I sent you two boats and a helicopter!"

This story actually came at an interesting time. I'm writing this post on the first day of Chanukah, a holiday where we recognize and celebrate miracles. Here's to doing that, and to appreciating all the miraculous things happen in our lives. And when those events happen, here's to saying thanks to all those who help make those miracles happen! Even Honda.

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