Dear God: Thanks For Nothing!
Vol: 74 Issue: 20 Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Although I pledged myself not to watch the news for a week, I did hear a story in passing that I mentally marked for follow-up when I got back to work.
Last week in desperation, Governor Sonny Perdue called for a state-wide prayer vigil asking God to break the state of drought that has reached epic proportions across much of the southeast, and especially Georgia.
The part of the story that I caught was just a news-crawl saying something about it raining shortly afterwards. It was that part that caused me to make the mental followup note. I was curious to see what the media reaction would be.
The media has had several days to digest and distill it before I had a chance to get to the story. I don’t know what I was expecting, but whatever it was, it wasn’t what I got.
I failed to find even a single positive story about it in my news aggregators. But from my new perspective of having a few days outside of the spin machine, I did detect a bit of revisionist history going on.
For example, in several spun versions, there was already rain in the forecast, so it was at best a coincidence. That was the position taken by the Washington Post, for example.
But while I avoided the news for the most part, the one thing one cannot avoid on the North Carolina coast is the weather report. Along the coast, the Weather Network is the default station on every television.
The day before the prayer vigil, they were reporting a storm front that would move eastward, but warned that it would collapse before reaching drought-stricken Georgia.
Far from rain being in the forecast, the chance of the rain making it that far east meant, the weather guy quipped, that it would take ‘a miracle’ — but one could argue there was a ‘chance’.
Whether or not it was forecast is irrelevant, so why alter the facts? Were they expecting God to make rain without making clouds first?
One news report from the UK dated yesterday bore the sneering headline, “Sonny Prays For Rain — Georgia’s Solution to the US Water Crisis.”
The story went through all the details; selected quotes from the Governor’s prayer; background information on the drought itself, etc., ending the story with a line about how the drought is crippling the seafood industry — and never once mentioned that it rained three hours after the prayer vigil concluded.
I read it twice to make sure. One would think that a story about a state-wide prayer vigil might think to mention how it all turned out. They had four days to ask somebody.
The LA Times covered the story as well. “More than a few people who attended seemed skeptical that prayer would end the drought,” wrote LATimes staff writer Jenny Jarvis.
The piece continued, “Lance Warner, 22, a history student at Georgia State University, smirked as members of the crowd stretched their arms to the heavens and cried “Amen!” and “Hallelujah!”
“You couldn’t make this up,” he said. “You can’t make up for years of water mismanagement with a prayer session. It’s lunacy!”
About a block way, more than 20 protesters — some carrying placards saying “All hail Sonny Perdue” and “Is it raining yet?” — joined a rally organized by the Atlanta Freethought Society. The vigil, they said, violated the principle of separation of church and state.
“The governor is exceeding his constitutional authority,” said Ed Buckner, an atheist and treasurer of the group. “He has no right to set up prayer services on behalf of the people of Georgia, particularly not on the grounds of the state Capitol.”
The paper noted that Perdue was a Baptist. It noted that he prayed for rain in June in Macon. It noted that in 1986, then-Governor Joe Harris prayed for rain in Marietta.
The paper quoted bloggers scoffing at the prayer vigil, including such gems of theological wisdom as,
“God is not an ATM machine you can go to and get whatever you need whenever you ask for it,” and “Stop developing, seed the clouds, think of some other useful solution,” and “I’m praying for a new governor.”
The Times’ piece was careful to blame Georgians for being wasteful, finding an an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center to offer his unbiased theological opinion:
If he’s saying that Georgians are wasteful, we certainly agree,” he said. “I hope he is truly sorry we’ve been so wasteful. . . . If you look at the way Georgia is growing — paving over 50 acres a day in the Atlanta area, choking out streams and cutting down forests, we’ve got a long way to go.”
(Incidentally, with all that information available to it, the LATimes forgot to mention that it rained, too.)
In Canada, the Toronto Star used the prayer vigil as an excuse to preach its own gospel of global warming with Sonny Perdue serving as poster boy for all that is wrong with the environment.
“Oh Father, we acknowledge our wastefulness,” Governor Perdue advised God last week, adding that “we’re doing better.” But, sneered the Star, “it seems, not nearly enough.”
(And guess what! The Star never mentioned that it rained either.)
As I said, I found not a single positive story on the subject in the Google news aggregator — not even from places where one might expect to.
Christianity Today admitted in its headline that, “Georgia Gets Rain After Governor’s Prayer,” but cautioned in its subtitle that, “The rain will not be enough to end the state’s epic drought.”
The mainstream media’s message is that the fact it rained hours after the whole state officially prayed for rain means nothing.
The message from Christianity Today was, “Is that all? Thanks for nothing.”
Gee! And we’re so grateful for what we’ve already received.