August 18, 2011

An Act of God or Unusual Force of Nature?

The news story getting a lot of attention over the last few days in Indianapolis is the tragic collapse of the stage at the State Fair. Sugarland band was preparing to perform, when an usually strong (70 mph) gust of wind blew under the temporary stage roof. Sadly, five persons attending the concert were killed and many, many more were injured.

I've listened to news reports since Saturday night, explaining over and over the details of the accident, trying to figure out what caused the stage to fall. Was it poor installation? Was there something structurally inadequate? Temporary stages like the one at the Fair, are put quickly so they can be taken down as quickly-- often several times during the Fair run.

"National experts" have been brought in to examine the structure and perhaps find some piece of information that will provide the clue that everyone wants to know, so we can know the possible cause.

A few commentators have used the phrase "an act of God" to explain what happened. Does this statement mean that God caused the wind to blow so hard that the stage collapsed? What sort of comfort would this comment be to the families of those whose loved ones were killed?

However, the explanation by the meteorologists who study weather patterns makes the most sense to me. Frequently, before storms approach, as was the case on Saturday night, it is not unusual for very localized gusts of wind to appear, which is exactly what happened.

The wind gust was not an "act of God." It was a naturally occurring phenomenon in nature which unfortunately had tragic results on a very stormy night. So many times, when persons are at a loss for explaining tragic circumstances, they look to blame God rather than ask God for help.

I don't feel that God causes unfortunate events to happen. Sometimes circumstances come together -- like extreme wind before a storm -- that cause tragic consequences. Many years ago I heard a young pastor friend preach his wife's funeral. She died in an unfortunate hiking accident. Kevin, the husband, explained to those gathered, that when Brenda fell, "God was the first to shed a tear."

I truly believe that "God was the first to shed a tear," Saturday night, as the stage collapsed in front of a very large crowd gathered to see a popular band. My prayer is that those who were touched by the tragedy will seek God as they deal with the events that left some of them injured, as well as families and friends who are mourning the loss of deeply loved persons.

God, we are often at a loss to explain tragic circumstances. Sometimes there is a reason why things happen. Sometimes there is no reason. In these times of confusion and loss, help us to look to you, to seek you, and to rest in your presence. Amen

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana (suburb of Indianapolis)

1 comment: