God, the Eternal Excuse

Here’s an absolutely appalling story of a truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel, killed a woman and left her son with permanent brain damage in a wheelchair. The husband of the woman who was killed actually helped get the guy released from prison, and this is how he’s repaid: By being told that it wasn’t the driver’s fault, it was God’s will.

A year after the crash, Bouch, now 52, was indicted on one count of aggravated vehicular homicide and two counts of vehicular assault. He pleaded guilty to all counts three months later in state court in Ravenna.

At the sentencing hearing in January 2012, Slattery wanted Portage County Judge John Enlow to send a message to the trucking industry. Slattery told a packed courtroom that Bouch deserved prison. Enlow sentenced Bouch to five years…

Amid Bouch’s suffering, he got a typed letter from Slattery, who said he was “a bit surprised at how stiff the penalty was.” He hoped Bouch would join him in telling the industry to “stop the killing and maiming.”

Slattery said he was angry with Bouch, yet forgave him. “How can we reconcile between ourselves and how can we make a positive difference in the world?” Slattery wrote. “We are inextricably bound now. Let’s make something good out of it.”

Bouch wrote back to say he was sorry at “having been involved in such an accident.” Slattery responded by chastising Bouch for not taking full responsibility.

“Say ‘I’m sorry,’ make amends and move on,” Slattery wrote. “Making amends for you is tough. You can’t undo the consequences of your actions.” He closed: “I forgive you. Susan’s family forgives you. Now, begin to forgive yourself.”

Bouch wrote back to Slattery in small, neat print.

“My having been involved in such a horrific accident haunts me constantly,” Bouch wrote. “You simply can’t understand how sincere my sorrow truly is. I can’t apologize enough to make you feel any better, but I pray you, your sons, and your family will accept one from the bottom of my heart.”

Slattery then wrote to Judge Enlow to urge Bouch’s release from prison so that he could “return to his family and begin to pick up the pieces of his life.”

Bouch was released after serving less than half his term. And then:

Bouch, who had a goatee and wore large aviator glasses, said he still has nightmares about the accident. He said he didn’t fall asleep before the crash.

“I signed the accident report but I didn’t write it and I didn’t read it,” Bouch said. “What’s in it is not the truth. When a police officer said could I give a statement, I said, ‘Sure, I had nothing to hide.’ I had nothing to fear.”

He put blame for the accident on Susan Slattery.

“Susan made a choice,” he said. “She made a choice to pass me on the right, she made a choice to cut back in front of me. When I realized I wasn’t going to be able to get stopped, I had to choose where to put the truck.”

Nothing in the accident report supports Bouch’s claim about Susan Slattery’s driving.

In any case, the crash was unavoidable, he said.

“There wasn’t anything I could have done, there wasn’t anything I should have done. But Ed Slattery had a choice, and he pushed and pushed and pushed for my incarceration. He chose to ruin my life, he chose to ruin my family.”

God, the ultimate excuse. No matter what you do, it can be chalked up to God’s will. You were powerless to do anything to stop it.

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • https://www.facebook.com/joseph.sexton.7 Joseph Sexton

    I don’t see any mention of god in Bouch’s statement. I see him blaming the victim, I see him giving a new and probably false version of how the accident happened, but victim-blaming is not god-blaming.

  • lofgren

    Am I missing something? I don’t see anything here about blaming God. It looks like he is blaming the victim.

  • John Pieret

    From the original article:

    Doug Bouch speaks during an interview at his home in Greenville, Pennsylvania, on Aug. 7, 2014. Bouch, who is a Baptist, said God had a plan for Susan Slattery to die that day and for him to drive the truck.

    “I had a very big problem with why God used my vehicle to take that woman’s life,” he said. “If it hadn’t been me, it would have been somebody else. She was gone that day at that moment. It was not my choice, it was God’s choice.”

  • stephenmurphy

    John P beat me to it. Indeed, the driver not only is not sorry, he does think it was God’s plan. Sheesh.

  • raven

    God is in charge and he has a plan for us. A common fundie belief.

    That means we have no free will, make no choices, need take no responsibility for our actions, and are just organic characters in a very large cosmic play. Life is essentially meaningless.

    Since US xianity is dying, it all must be part of god’s plan.

  • culuriel

    So…. if he had to choose “where to put the truck”, does that mean he chose to hit Susan Slattery? Or, would that be taking responsibility?

  • raven

    God, the Eternal Excuse

    This is so true.

    My friend’s sister made some mistakes that cost the family a lot of money.

    She has had a rough life and went fundie. Her excuse. “I’m just a flawed creature.”

    This is another all purpose fundie xian excuse. Because some woman ate an apple in a magic garden, we are all flawed creatures, evil, and deserve to go to hell and be tortured forever. A small number have a get out of hell free card. By believing jesus is god. Which has nothing to do with accepting responsibility and learning from your mistakes or even trying to do something good.

    As they say. Fundies aren’t better, just saved.

  • erichoug

    What an asshat.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    “I’m just a flawed creature.”

    I forgive myself.

    I punched you in the nose – but I forgive myself.

    I stole and totalled your car; it’s OK – I forgive myself.

    Sorry I put you in a wheelchair; I’ve forgiven myself for it and will eventually get over it even if you won’t!

  • John Pieret

    It gets worse:

    “There wasn’t anything I could have done, there wasn’t anything I should have done. But Ed Slattery had a choice, and he pushed and pushed and pushed for my incarceration. He chose to ruin my life, he chose to ruin my family.”

    You see, it’s only my transgressions that are god’s fault. God didn’t plan for me to go to jail, that was all Ed Slattery’s doing.

  • pacal

    What a vile and horrible way to behave. This man is despicable and worthy only of contempt. He is also a liar.

  • jimmyfromchicago

    How did he know it wasn’t god’s plan for him to remain in prison?

  • http://teethofthebuzzsaw.blogspot.com Leo Buzalsky

    Slattery said he was angry with Bouch, yet forgave him.

    Ah, well, I detect Christian influence on the part of Slattery. You know? This idea that you should forgive people who aren’t even sorry? Which probably makes this story even worse yet! Slattery “helped get the guy released from prison” perhaps due to his Christian influences and gets Christian influenced excuses later on in return. Ouch!

  • anubisprime

    So it either the case of the biter bit…or a really good guy getting kicked in the teeth…and I bet the congregation welcomes this douchebag back with open arms…

    Morals they claim come from their delusional sky daddy…pity is they have no conception of what they actually are or how to use them, or even worse have no intentions of using them.

  • Sastra

    Doug Bouch speaks during an interview at his home in Greenville, Pennsylvania, on Aug. 7, 2014. Bouch, who is a Baptist, said God had a plan for Susan Slattery to die that day and for him to drive the truck.

    “I had a very big problem with why God used my vehicle to take that woman’s life,” he said. “If it hadn’t been me, it would have been somebody else. She was gone that day at that moment. It was not my choice, it was God’s choice.”

    raven #7 wrote:

    This is another all purpose fundie xian excuse. Because some woman ate an apple in a magic garden, we are all flawed creatures, evil, and deserve to go to hell and be tortured forever. A small number have a get out of hell free card. By believing jesus is god. Which has nothing to do with accepting responsibility and learning from your mistakes or even trying to do something good.

    I’ve got to disagree with raven here. Not that Christian fundamentalists don’t use this excuse for the reasons stated, but for the implication that Bouch’s belief can only be derived from a Baptist background or similar. It’s not an exclusively fundie excuse.

    On the contrary, the idea that “everything happens for a reason” (a reason which involves spiritual or moral motives, not just physical cause-and-effect) seems to be pretty much standard in ALL supernatural belief systems from what I can tell.

    Western, Eastern, traditional, nontraditional, whatever. Whether its used as an excuse, blame, or comfort, the reassurance that Bad Things happen to Good People because there’s some secret (or not so secret) reason that this was necessary for the best possible outcome (happiness, salvation, justice, learning experience, harmony, balance, ascension to the next level) and was going to happen no matter what we did is a solid identifier of a supernatural world view. My New Age friends who hotly deny they are “religious” and profess to hate “fundamentalism” could easily have expressed a similar statement (though they would have put it in different language and tone.)

  • rationalinks

    What a completely worthless human being. This Bouch guy sounds like a sociopath. He said what he had to say in order to get off, not meaning a word of it. When released, he immediately attacks the victim and her family, amplifying their anger and grief, and then absolves himself by invoking “God’s will”. The guy is straight up evil.

  • raven

    On the contrary, the idea that “everything happens for a reason” (a reason which involves spiritual or moral motives, not just physical cause-and-effect) seems to be pretty much standard in ALL supernatural belief systems from what I can tell.

    It’s fatalism.

    And it is common in other religions. Asian religions. Mormons are big on it. Moslems frequently say, Inshallah, meaning god willing or If god wills.

  • mistertwo

    That’s a thing I never believed even when I was a Christian. Where does the idea that Biblegod plans every minute of everyone’s life come from? The old “everything happens for a reason” seems to be based on “all things work together for good to those who believe,” but to me that verse always meant “it may be bad, but Biblegod can make something good come from it,” not “Biblegod wanted this thing to happen.” Maybe it’s the story of Joseph where it says that the brothers intended it for evil, but Biblegod intended it for good. In that case the bad thing was part of his plan. I suppose people must extrapolate and decide that everything is part of the plan.

    The Bible says that it rains on the just and the unjust. True, it does also say that Biblegod will help his followers, but that was never clearly true (failures excused by “if it’s according to his will”, so the randomness implied with it raining on everyone seemed more likely to me.

    But people didn’t used to believe that their god was a micro-manager. I think that’s a new thing.