April 3, 2013

‘Act of God’ misused?

By Wes Kerrick–

I feel compelled to express my concern over a story published in the Mar. 26 edition: “Baptist Campus Ministries building set ablaze over spring break.” The story concludes, “It will be left up to Campus Minister Paul Gibson to decide whether or not the fire was an act of God.” In my view, there are multiple problems with this line. I’d like for you to see them.

I assume writer Will Ryan meant to be witty. But as you likely know, an “act of God” is a legal term. Dictionary.com defines it as “a direct, sudden, and irresistible action of natural forces such as could not reasonably have been foreseen or prevented, as a flood, hurricane, earthquake, or other natural catastrophe.” The fire was a result of flying sparks from a saw, so it was not an act of God. But even if this were in question, the decision maker would be perhaps an insurance officer, not the campus minister.

Since this speculation about an “act of God” can’t be taken seriously, the reader is left to wonder what Ryan meant. Perhaps he’s implying that Baptists are superstitious and thus must assign everything a spiritual significance. Perhaps he’s implying they’re so out-of-touch that they don’t understand the fire was caused by sparks from a saw. Or, worse, maybe he so disagrees with Baptist ideology that he thinks Baptists deserve retribution.

Since you work so hard to make the Cardinal a place for unbiased reporting and tolerant discussion, it’s puzzling how something so intolerant slipped through. Baptist Campus Ministries, an organization that’s dealing with property damage, is not a fair victim for careless insults. If Ryan wishes to express disagreement with the organization or with Baptists in general, perhaps he could do so in an opinion article.

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Photo byWill Ryan/The Louisville Cardinal.

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