Do you see what mankind sees?
“God has spoken to me clearly and guided my hand each step of the rescue. He wanted the miners to be rescued and I am His instrument.” - - Pastor Carlos Parra Diaz.
“I believe this was a test. I believe God does test people.” - - Mario Sepulveda.
Popular interest the world over has been captured by the sixty-nine day tale, of the captivity and rescue from the ‘bowels of the earth’ of thirty-three Chilean miners. The singularity of cross-border news coverage – from the BBC to CNN and onto Al Jazeera and the rest – was a sight unseen since the fall of Saddam Hussein, or the darkest hours of September 11 2001.
The blanket coverage has sounded a distinctly joyous note, highlighting the individual and collective resolve of the miners, and the ingenuity and dexterity of the team of engineers who worked around the clock to free them. The President too – who for his part has wallowed in the glory of the moment, milking it until the udders run dry – has come out of this whole affair rather well.
Casting an ominous shadow in the background though, are the clerical voices seeking to diminish the achievements of man and retelling the heroic story as a parable and an act of God. “What matters is that God is acting through human ingenuity to rescue these men,” the Catholic Bishop Quintana told reporters, his temporary flock. Riving, hissing and spitting venom, they are looking to poison everything, resorting to outrageous mendacity to stand in the footlights, if for only a moment.
The saddest aspect their part of this tale is the influence they clearly had over the miners. The first to surface and be reunited with the sun and the sky said that he believed that this was a ‘test’. Such a statement, as sad as it is to hear coming from the mouth of a fellow mammal, speaks more to the pastors and bishops who decamped around the mine, whispering nothings into the ears of a captured, desperate and impressionable audience. A man who can tell another that an all-powerful and supposedly all-loving entity imprisoned you hundreds of feet below the surface, for three months, as a test of faith!, is someone of the lowest moral character.
Such a deed coming from a clergyman ought not to come as a surprise anyway, if one is to glance at the holy texts they inherit their scruples from. The God of the Bible – imbibed as He is with human characteristics having been created by man four-thousand years ago, and then developed by the followers of the Nazarene some time after his supposed death by thieving traits from the deities of Greece and Rome – is as Gore Vidal notes in Julian not just “jealous, as the Jews say, but evil”.
The sort of test that Mario Sepulveda hinted at was as merciless as the suffering of Job in the Old Testament, whose story has come to embody in the eyes of Christians giving up anything for the love of the Lord. But for the free-thinking, rational and nonreligious beings of this world, his misery occurred at the hand of a vengeful, petty and unforgiving god.
God allowed Satan to take everything from Job; “all that he hath is in thy power.” God permitted the murder of his sons, and slaughter of his livestock and menservants; He plagued him with sore boils “from the sole of his foot unto his crown”. Job was tormented and heavy with sorrow, and questioned the very nature of God (this chapter is better portrayed lyrically by Joni Mitchell than in any pious book of nonsense). “Do you have eyes?” he screamed to the vacant heavens, “do you see what mankind sees? Why have you soured and curdled me? Oh you tireless watcher! What have I done to you? That you make everything I dread and everything I fear come true?”
In order to have his life returned to him, he first has to subjugate himself to God. “Behold, I am vile,” he repents, going back to our second-rate biblical source, “what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.” It is an acknowledgement that this creator, or more accurately destroyer, is the omnipotent one – “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding?” – and that man must always be secondary, deferential to God. It is a sickening thought that the sort of world these priests and bishops would have us living in would be akin to a totalitarian state, where knowledge is always in the hands of the great leader.
So what should be one of the truly joyous stories of human resolve and ingenuity is being debased by a huddle of sinister holy men. By labelling it a miracle and introducing the irrational, as even one topographer dared to do, the achievements of man are doing diminished, as the event is deemed unexplainable. Moreover calling their suffering a test is wicked and cruel, and renders their existence meaningless outside of the realm of this ruthless god.
See this event for what is it – a remarkable triumph for mankind, as individuals and as a collective, in the face of natural disaster. Leave your god out of it.All biblical quotations come from Authorised King James Version of The Bible, as published by Oxford World’s Classics (Oxford, 2008).