Five years ago, the “hero” we all know as “Sully” landed his plane on the Hudson River after hitting geese (we like to say the geese hit the plane–BAD geese!). It was one of those, Wow-Shit! Moments. We all watched that video with amazement at the. . .amazing thing that just happened.
So here we go again. It was, we all know, a MIRACLE! Of course it was. No doubt there. No question. Well, excuse me, the Secular Chaplain has a question. . .ok, more than one.
I know, I know, the word “miracle” has just become so common in our language that virtually anything counts. It’s almost meaningless. Like the word “hero” it seems like they’re on every street corner now. And, maybe they are (I know I’m one, aren’t you?). But here’s the thing: How was the skill of a pilot landing a modern jet equipped with high tech equipment (and the ability to float) near a major urban area with lots of potential rescuers nearby. . .how was this a “miracle”? If you’re telling me that an Almighty God somehow took the controls or smoothed the river or put some ferry boats in just the right place to save everyone. . .uh, how and why? “God was definitely looking over us there” says one “survivor” (another word used for just about anything). Ok. Umm. Then here’s my question stated another way:
If the plane had simply disintegrated and sank when it hit the river, killing everyone on board, would you say THAT was a “miracle”? No? Why not? Are you saying that God did not hear the prayers of hundreds and refused to save them? Maybe the “miracle” was that God DID act in causing or allowing the crash? Maybe, “God was definitely looking over us there. . .until God turned away for a moment and CRAP!” Whoops! The miracle was that God DID act but it was to KILL or to Do the Wrong Thing! Wow! There’s a miracle for the books.
I have a serious problem with this miracle-survivor-with-heroes syndrome. An awful thing happened here in the Bay Area last year when a little girl survived a plane crash (most people survived. . .miraculously) and then was run over by a fire truck! Really terrible, and I feel for the family and the firefighters and everyone. But it re-asserts the questions about what IS a miracle and what’s the purpose? Someone watching the scene might have exclaimed, “Hey, look at that girl, she survived, it’s a miracle!” Then the truck hits her! Oh, my Gawd. End of miracle! Are you starting to see why using this word is tragically, ridiculously meaningless?
We hear this over and over when people survive storms and earthquakes and crashes and almost anything. . .“It was a Miracle!” They thank God for singling them out for special protection and care. Doesn’t it make you want to ask, “Why YOU? What about everyone else?” At best you’d think those who were, I might say lucky, to survive a disaster might keep their mouths shut and ask themselves for the rest of their lives, “Why Me?” And no doubt many DO that. But these folks might hold their tongue about it being a “miracle.” Because, see, it always begs the question: What kind of God would step in to save this one or that one and let all the rest die, or suffer, or leave grieving families? Is that YOUR God? You can maybe understand for a second why Your God has absolutely no appeal and gets zero respect from someone like me.
Was there a “miracle” on the Hudson River that day five years ago? The real miracle would be if we could forget the word miracle and simply take a deep breath to simply say, “Whoa, Geez, THAT was Close!” Then learn some lessons to prevent something like this from happening again. Yes, learn something. And leave it at that. Oh, and maybe grieve for the geese!