Friday, March 14, 2014

Miraculous crossbeams: the real problem with the World Trade Center Cross

It's probably the most famous crossbeam in history: the 9/11 "miracle cross". The 9/11 museum is going to display it -- or the spruced up version of what was originally found -- and atheists are trying to ensure representation for nonbelievers as well. Predictably, Fox isn't happy.  

Now, aside from the question of whether it's right to enshrine Christian, Jewish and Hindu (a Star of David and Hindu holy water are also planned displays) symbols to memorialize practitioners of those faiths, without a thought for anyone else (what about the Buddhists? The Atheists? Etc.?), let's focus for a moment on the alleged "miracle" of finding an intact crossbeam in the rubble. 

The trade center complex was enormous, and full of lots of beams. Is it "miraculous" to find a twisted section of cross beam? 

No. It would be miraculous not to find crossbeam segments in the wreckage of buildings of that size. Beams crossing each other are common features. My house is full of them. So is yours. It's not miraculous stuff. Nor was it the "perfect cross" you see -- it was cutout of a larger segment of crossbeams,because people thought would be a good monument. In other words, a manufactured 'miracle'.

But aside from that...what kind of god decides to respond in miraculous fashion to a tragedy like 9/11, not by preventing it; not by letting everyone walk away from the rubble unscathed (how powerful a message would that have been?!), but by preserving some segments of extraordinarily common architecture? 

On the scale of "world wide flood" to "I'm pretty sure that's just the way shit happens", this 'miracle' lands squarely on the "just the way shit happens" end of the spectrum. It's as ordinary a feature of buildings as you can get (so, not miraculous). And -- let's be brutally honest -- only a true asshole would decide that the best way to convey a miraculous presence in the midst of tragedy would be to do absolutely nothing to help, but leave a calling card. "Yeah, you all died, and that sucks. But, hey, here's a tribute to me. I'm pretty badass, huh? Well, gotta go. So much to do..."

 Now I personally have no objection to including the cross -- as long as other victims are appropriately memorialized. But the insistence to see a "miracle" where the most mundane of explanations suffices -- and where a "miracle" would render the god performing it a heartless, self-aggrandizing schmuck? That's pretty sad.

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