May 2, 2005, 8:50 P.M.
Two young sailors were recently rescued off the coast of South Carolina after drifting about 100 miles from the beach from which they set for a day sail. The boys, ages 15 and 18, were rescued after more than a week at sea with no food or water, and after the U.S. Coast Guard had downgraded their search from a rescue to a recovery.
I heard the reports of this story while vacationing in Florida, and I was thrilled to hear that the boys were rescued and that they were recovering at a hospital near where they were rescued. What bothered me was the characterization of the rescue of these boys as a ďmiracleĒ by the media. Family, friends, or pastors who were preparing for the worst might legitimately believe that a miracle had occurred. Were my children (two of whom are small boat sailors) lost at sea for 10 days without a radio, I might see their rescue as divine deliverance, but I donít see such characterizations by the media as appropriate or particularly helpful. Iím not talking here about people in the media reporting on the familyís belief that the recovery was a miracle, but, rather, media persons in this case were themselves implying that the rescue was somehow the result of something more than extreme luck, perseverance and endurance.
The bigger issue here is the trend in our country, since the last election, to interject God into every human situation and for the media to capitalize on this trend. God is getting credit for a lot these days, for everything from 3 point shots to the Red Sox 2004 season (although I think a pretty good case could be made for God having a hand in that), and the media is helping to feed the frenzy. I must ask, though, if God helps one player hit a home run, does that mean that God doesnít like the pitcher? Or the other team? Do we really think that, if there is a God, he or she really cares who wins a basketball game?
Of course, the religious right feels empowered by the result of the last election, and the media is all over the trend. But I think things are going too far. Those two boys were rescued because they were still alive, and they were still alive because they, through the force of their will, chose not to give up hope of being rescued. Faith may have played a part in giving them strength, but their rescue was not inexplicable. They were spotted, drifting, by a fishing boat operated by people who were obviously paying attention.
The line between religion, politics and everyday life are breaking down. A personís faith, religion or spirituality is their own business. I just donít think it needs to be crammed down our throats, nor do I think that recent actions on the part of Tom DeLay, Bill Frist and their ilk to influence the judicial selection process is anything more than an impermissible violation of the doctrine of separation of powers.
We are drifting too close to the line with our governmentís current religious agenda. The establishment clause of the United States Constitution calls for a bright line between government and religion. Lest we forget, there are lots of people in our country from many different religions. The idea is to not favor one religion over another, or to create an official state religion. When the media takes up the crusade, it becomes easy to forget that our government is not based on a single religion, but on tolerance for all religions.
Iím really pleased that those two boys were rescued. If they were my children, I would be thrilled to have them back. I might even thank God, in my own way. I would almost certainly whoop them with the radio that they should have had with them for just such an emergency, because if they had been rescued after several hours, instead of several days, no one would have called it a miracle.