The Praise God Spam of the Day
I love my family. They’re still living back in Idaho and most of them are what I call “country Christians”. They go to churches that are small enough for everyone to know each other, they sing hymns and have potluck picnics, and they babysit each other’s kids. They’re not the kind of people who could ever support full abortion rights or full gay rights, yet they’re not the kind of people who would ostracize anyone or feel the need to protest publicly at the Planned Parenthood or Pride Parade. Their theological philosophy is what I’d call the USA Today of theology: short paragraphs, pretty charts, your “Ten Commandments and Golden Rule” Christians who really don’t put a whole lot of thought into the details. “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” is enough proof for them.
The “country Christians” are some of the nicest people you can meet and they do a lot of good for this country. They’re the kind who will generously donate to food banks and toy drives, for instance. But they’re also the kind who buy into “war on Christmas” rhetoric, too. All in all, decent salt-of-the-earth people who mean well, but have a faith-sized blind spot in their critical thinking — a mostly benign condition except for its effect on voting.
My “country Christian” family knows I’m the atheist secular liberal skeptical progressive pothead leftist moonbat black sheep of the family, a prodigal son if there ever was one. My aunt, bless her heart, even tried engaging me in an e-mail conversation on religion. She gave up and commented that I was “far too clever” for her to be able to convince (too smart for religion, now there’s a compliment!). I don’t think she thought I knew Scripture as well as I do and she was flustered when I asked why God would send bears to kill 42 children who were teasing Elijah about his bald head, or why Job had to suffer because God and Satan made a cruel bet, or why God had Abraham almost sacrifice his son (the first ever episode of “Punk’d”) to prove his loyalty — isn’t God omniscient? wouldn’t He know if Abe was faking?
They know all this about me and they know it is impossible for me to control the impulse to refute and debunk this stuff. Yet they continue to forward to me various bits of Praise God Spam. Today my inbox processed this little bit of internet flotsam, the story of a premature baby girl and a damp-smelling deity:
…That afternoon of March 10, 1991, complications had forced Diana, only 24-weeks pregnant, to undergo an emergency cesarean section to deliver the couple’s new daughter, Danae Lu Blessing. At 12 inches long and weighing only one pound and nine ounces, they already knew she was perilously premature. Still, the doctor’s soft words dropped like bombs. ‘I don’t think she’s going to make it'” he said, as kindly as he could. ‘”There’s only a 10-percent chance she will live through the night, and even then, if by some slim chance she does make it, her future could be a very cruel one.’
…Because Danae’s underdeveloped nervous system was essentially ‘raw,’ the lightest kiss or caress only intensified her discomfort – so they couldn’t even cradle their tiny baby girl against their chests to offer the strength of their love. All they could do, as Danae struggled alone beneath the ultra-violet light in the tangle of tubes and wires, was to pray that God would stay close to their precious little girl.
…Today, five years later, Danae is a petite but feisty young girl with glittering gray eyes and an unquenchable zest for life. She shows no signs, whatsoever, of any mental or physical impairments.
…Smelling the air and detecting the approach of a thunderstorm, Diana replied, ‘Yes, it smells like rain.’ Danae closed her eyes and again asked, ‘Do you smell that?’ Once again, her mother replied, ‘Yes, I think we’re about to get wet, it smells like rain.’ Still caught in the moment, Danae shook her head, patted her thin shoulders with her small hands and loudly announced, ‘No, it smells like Him. It smells like God when you lay your head on His chest.’
Tears blurred Diana’s eyes as Danae then happily hopped down to play with the other children. Before the rains came, her daughter’s words confirmed what Diana and all the members of the extended Blessing family had known, at least in their hearts, all along. During those long days and nights of her first two months of her life, when her nerves were too sensitive for them to touch her, God was holding Danae on His chest – and it is His loving scent that she remembers so well.
You now have 1 of 2 choices. You can either pass this on and let other people catch the chills like you did or you can delete this and act like it didn’t touch your heart like it did mine.
It worked! It worked! Praise God, I’ve seen the light and been welcomed into the bosom of Jesus! I’m saved! Whoo-hoo!
Oh. Wait. I think it was just indigestion. Never mind.
Let’s check out the internets before we send out more spam… http://www.snopes.com/glurge/rain.htm
This heartwarming story began its Internet life around April 1998, after having appeared under its original title, “Heaven Scent,” in Miracles in Our Midst, a 1997 compilation of inspirational tales. It’s a “true” story in the sense that there is such a child, and the tale of her premature birth and subsequent battle for health was a real one.
What elevates this story above other true accounts of seriously ill children and direly premature babies who beat impossible odds to go on to live healthy lives is the comment Danae makes about rain and the pursuant interpretation that “God was holding Danae on His chest” during those first fragile months of her life. A leap has been made between a five-year-old’s comment and the presumption that she could only have come by the knowledge behind it during her time as a newborn, when she was too tender to be held by her parents or other earth-bound caregivers. God may well smell like rain, [HERE’S THE IMPORTANT SCIENCY PART] but a child born three months prematurely lacks sufficiently developed olfactory senses to be able to detect it.
I know, I know, I should just accept this in the spirit it was given. I’m all for commuity and group hope and empathy, and this is just a way of saying “God is Good” and “I’m thinking of you” and “I love you”. I’m glad the little girl made it and it is a heck of a story of survival.
But I cannot ignore the underlying theme of sentimentality over science, of religion over reason, especially in a world when Biblical creation accounts are masquerading as science, when scientists’ unanimous warnings about the perils of serious climate change are whitewashed by an administration serving the petroleum industry, when a religious fringe lobbies to place the Ten Commandments in schoolhouses while few, if any, students can name the ten Amendments of the Bill of Rights, when China and India are kicking our butt in new engineering students, and when life-saving stem-cell research is quashed for fear of offending people who can’t tell a zygote from “My Pet Goat”.
I guess it just bugs me that people put so much faith in the idea that a five-year-old girl thinks God smells like a South Texas low pressure system that this tear jerker has floated around the internets since 1998, when the truly amazing story here involves a 24-week premature baby saved through some incredible neo-natal medical science. Rather than forwarding an e-mail praising God for this girl’s life, why not praise the inventors of those incredible machines and the well-educated doctors whose skills actually did save this girl’s life? After all, Who was it that kicked little Danae out of the womb 12 weeks early in the first place?