This Thing about Angels

So, I recently ran upon a story about a car wreck in Missouri, and about a “mystery priest” who prayed with a critically injured young woman and afterwards disappeared before anyone could thank him. Here’s the basic outline of the story:

Emergency workers and community members in eastern Missouri are not sure what to make of a mystery priest who showed up at a critical accident scene Sunday morning and whose prayer seemed to change life-threatening events for the positive.

Even odder, the black-garbed priest does not appear in any of the nearly 70 photos of the scene of the accident in which a 19-year-old girl almost died. No one knows the priest and he vanished without a word, said Raymond Reed, fire chief of New London, Mo.

“I think it’s a miracle,” Reed said. “I would say whether it was an angel that was sent to us in the form of a priest or a priest that became our angel, I don’t know. Either way, I’m good with it.”

What’s interesting to me is my thoughts on reading this article, and how different these thoughts are than the thoughts I would have had not all that many years ago. I grew up in a community where everyone believed in angels. I grew up hearing stories of people’s encounters with “angels among us.” I remember a time when I would have snapped up a story like this and slapped the label “miracle” on it. I believed in miracles completely and without a doubt.

But today, my reaction is so very different. I don’t have anything against the idea of a God. If there is a God out there, it wouldn’t bother me (unless there’s eternal torture in the mix, of course). The thing is, if there were a God out there, a God who sends angels dressed in black to pray with critically injured young women, I’d have some pretty big questions for him.

Why didn’t God stop the wreck before it happened?

Why don’t God send people to comfort every critically injured individual?

Why did the girl’s improvement correlate perfectly with the arrival of a new team with new equipment?

Why couldn’t God just heal her?

Why would God send an angel to help one critically injured woman when millions of people are starving around the world?

Why doesn’t God step in to stop genocides?

Why didn’t God send someone to keep Archduke Ferdinand from being shot? Preventing WWI and the death and destruction it brought would have been that easy! Is helping calm a single critically ill young woman more important than saving the lives of millions?

When I present these questions, I am told to just trust God, that he knows what’s best and that sometimes he doesn’t intervene because we need to learn and grow through times of struggle. But I can’t do that. I don’t see any reason to do that. Is there a reason I should smother and ignore my questions? I’d like to think that if there were a God out there, he or she would be the sort of individual who would value questions rather than dogma. Besides, honestly, the sort of God whose picture is painted through these stories of angels among us is a jack-in-the-box sort of God, an entity more interested in doing cheap parlor tricks than actually changing people’s lives for the better. I don’t want that kind of God. And here is where I am told to stop trying to make God in my own image. But what does that even mean? All I hear is “shut up, stop asking questions, and accept what we we believe about God as true even if it doesn’t make sense to you.” And I’m sorry, but I can’t do that.

And so, when I read an article like this, I don’t come away with warm fuzzies like I used to. Instead, I come away with questions, and I find myself wondering how others can read the story and see only an encouraging miracle. Did they drop their questions at the side of the road one day and forget to go back for them? Whatever it is, reading Christians’ gushing responses to this sort of story make me feel like they and I live on completely different planets.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.