Stay away! A smiting could occur any time!!

Stay away! A smiting could occur any time!!
This happened in only my first or second year of being in the "real world."

I was trying, with not a great deal of success, to try convince newspaper publishers and editors that, despite the fact that the ink wasn't even yet dry on my journalism diploma, I was worth the risk.

My situation contrasted greatly with the one experienced by one of my best friends, Ed. About six years earlier, he had addressed us as class valedictorian during commencement exercises at West Central High School.

The guy could do just about everything, but was especially keen with numbers, so it was only natural that he chose to continue his schooling at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, where he, once again, graduated at the top of his class.

The last time I saw him, he was driving down our home town's Main Street in his new car, preparing to travel to his new job at Westinghouse in Chicago, IL.

We lost track of each other. Eventually, however, word drifted back to Humboldt that he was suffering from back problems.

Naturally, he (and everyone else) thought he had overdone it in the gym one day; that eventually the pain would go away.

But it didn't. He visited a doctor, and the diagnosis was frightening.


None of us gave up hope. Ed was young and strong. He could lick this. He was more or less quarantined in his hospital room in Chicago, but a bunch of my classmates made a road trip during the summer to visit him. They had to wear masks and surgical gowns, but they came home upbeat; he was so happy to see everyone and he just seemed to be doing so well.

By the end of summer, he was gone.

Had I been a child, I would have concluded that my best friend had been tricking me during our short time together; that he was an embodiment of evil that God eventually had to strike from this earth.

Sunday School was full of examples: Lot's wife, we are told, became salt because she looked back on Sodom, disobeying orders.

A whole Egyptian army was smitten (Note: It's smite, smote, smitten) when God decided it was time to rejoin the sea after Moses and the good folks escaped.

On and on the smitings go.

We know that the God of the Bible is often cruel, dealing plagues, locusts, boils, and misery upon individuals (ask Job) as well as untold generations. In Genesis, he floods the earth and wipes out almost all of humankind because of our "wickedness." In Revelation, he orders the "seven golden bowls" of his wrath to be poured upon humanity. In between, he expects strict religious and political obedience.

Time passed, the age of reason dawned, there was a renaissance, and before you knew it, the idea that God actually smote people was abandoned by many. New thinking brought new ideas, namely that a God that cared so much for each of us that he knows the number of hairs on our head may not be the entity that is responsible for the misery experienced in this world.

Except for good old, level-headed Christian televangelist Pat Robertson who, in reverse order:

  • recently hinted that God was peeved at Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon because the land of Israel was being divided and so he smote him (my word, not Robertson's) with a whopping big stroke that left him close to death in an Israeli hospital. (Robertson later apologized to Sharon's family.) I mean, a 77-year-old guy having a stroke? Not exactly the same as the raining of brimstone, is it?
  • warned residents of a rural Pennsylvania town last November that disaster may strike there because they "voted God out of your city" by ousting school board members who favored teaching intelligent design.

    All eight Dover, PA, school board members up for re-election were defeated Tuesday after trying to introduce "intelligent design" — the belief that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power — as an alternative to the theory of evolution.

    "I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city," Robertson said on the Christian Broadcasting Network's 700 Club.

  • called for the August 2005 assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

    Here is why Robertson, and those who agree with him, are so wrong.

    I have known too many good people who died young, too many babies, too many young men and women, too many friends, including Ed, to buy into an argument that they had done anything to deserve it.

    Senseless death. That would be the first proof that Robertson and his ilk should just shut up.

    The second would be the fact that so many people who have deserved to die across history were able to hang on long enough to do a tremendous amount of damage.

    Adolf Hitler comes to mind first, with Josef Stalin and Vladimir Lenin close behind. But those are just the marquee names. There are oodles of bad people who frolic on the pathways of evil each day, spreading their badness the way a diesel truck spreads fumes.

    God does not come down and crush them, turn them into salt, evaporate them into nothingness, even though it would be grand if he did because they are so very bad.

    No, the bad and the good march along together, sharing the same air, passing at coffee shops and gas stations and awaiting the same mundane fate, a common, unremarkable death, maybe with something to cause some lingering before the time comes.

    As far as Robertson's apology: did he truly feel bad for making those remarks about Sharon? Did his fellow evangelicals pressure him? Perhaps that played a role. But according to Max Blumenthal, who investigates the religious right for the Nation magazine and knows this territory better than any journalist alive, something else could be at play as well.

    It turns out that Robertson's bank account � not just his soul � was on the line. The comments had created a huge uproar in Israel.

    "Outrageous" was the word that Daniel Ayalon, Israel's ambassador to Washington, used. The anger was so intense that the nation's tourism ministry took the unusual step of expelling Robertson from a group of evangelical Christians who are developing a Holy Land theme park in Galilee.

    It was a $50-million deal, 125 acres near the Sea of Galilee, close to the spot where Jesus is said to have walked on water and fed 5,000 with five loaves and two fish.

    And Robertson's big mouth had talked him out of the money.

    One would like to think that Robertson would engage his brain before opening his mouth and spouting yet another ludicrous religious announcement.

    I think there's a better chance for hell to freeze over first.

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