Thursday, May 23, 2013

When you Assume....

There is a story that I think is important to note this week  Wolf Blitzer interviewed a survivor of the devastating tornado in Moore, Okla.  "We're happy you're here. You guys did a great job," Blitzer said to Rebecca Vitsmun, who escaped from her house with her 19-month-old son right before the twister tore through it. "You've gotta thank the Lord, right? Do you thank the Lord for that split-second decision?"  Vitsmun stops  for a moment and smiles. "I -- I'm actually an atheist," she said, laughing off the awkward moment.  "You are. All right. But you made the right call," Blitzer said.
"We are here, and I don't blame anyone for thanking the Lord," Vitsmun said.  
Why is this important?  Well where do I begin.  First and foremost this is a prime example what most non-Christians at times and non-believers encounter a lot more than you expect.  People's default position in this country is that people believe in God and then in the Christian vision of God.  Even though people are becoming less religious and people have become more comfortable being publicly stating their atheism.  Not everyone you pass on the street believes in God and if they do they are likely to be envisioning God differently from you.  That is a fact and has been for a long time but we have been hiding from it to remain comfortable.  One of the biggest areas we see this come out is when certain religious people try to use the government to push through their vision of religious law as policy.  Currently it is happening in the gay marriage debate.  It is stunning to me that with the diverse vision of gay people both in and out of the religious community we still have people who are in government or running for office who say, out loud, in front of people, that gays are perverted and it is against American values.  Here is the thing, American values are what Americans decide American values are, and they are ever changing.  
And that brings me to the second point.  This little tete-a-tete became an internet sensation, in part because Wolf looked so deliciously like a fool.  But many many people posted it for the same reason I chose to write about it.  This woman who taught Wolf not to make assumption is actually been seen finally in the tapestry that is our country.   Think about it, suburban Oklahoma City would be a lot of people's image of middle America, and yet here we have a woman who comfortably address a reporter who assumed she prayed to God and received a miracle.  I think this is a turning point as much as electing an atheist to Congress like Peter Stark, former California Congressman and current member of Congress Kyrsten Sinema who was elected in November from Arizona.  Perhaps atheists will slowly move from the angry people who scream on television and who are more antitheists than atheists.  Because in the end I find here final statement so wonderful.  As she said she doesn't blame anyone for thanking God, pulling Wolf's foot out of his mouth, but showing that for her faith is not a problem.  
You see most atheists do not care if you believe in a God or Gods, as long as you don't force it on others or use government to promote your faith.  But this story, while hardly likely to be remembered as a watershed moment by many, it does create a way for us to continue to fill in the lines of what it means to be an American.  I hope we will look back on it and see that Rebecca Vitsmun was a pioneer.  She made us think, and frankly that is the highest honor anyone could have.  

No comments:

RIP Anthony Bourdain and We Must All Be More Aware

This morning I woke up with a little spring in my step.  It is Friday, Shabbat is almost here.  I can work outside this weekend for a bit a...