'Miracle' Spares Aurora Shooting Victim, Insults Those Left Grieving

While any positive news regarding those injured in the Aurora theater shooting is certainly welcome, I find proclamations of miracles in the aftermath of such tragedy to be a slap in the face to those whose family members and loved ones did not survive.

Via Christian Post:
It is still unclear as to what exactly about Colorado shooting victim Petra Anderson's physical makeup helped save her life after one of four shotgun pellets went through her nose and into her brain cavity.

Was it a previously undetected birth defect? Was it a brain abnormality? Or was it simply the more common trait of having a channel or "void" that winds through the brain?

Brad Strait, who is the senior pastor at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo., where Anderson attends, and who was along her side in the emergency room, believes the 22-year-old's life was spared by a miracle.

"It seems as if the bullet traveled through Petra's brain without hitting any significant brain areas," Straight wrote in his blog post "A Miracle Inside the Aurora Shooting: One Victim's Story."

He continued, "The doctor explains that Petra's brain has had from birth a small 'defect' in it. It is a tiny channel of fluid running through her skull, like a tiny vein through marble, or a small hole in an oak board, winding from front to rear. Only a CAT scan would catch it, and Petra would have never noticed it."

He writes that the doctor talked about Anderson's recovery in "Hallmark Hall of Fame" terms, but that he and her mother, Kim, "know a miracle when we see it."
What are the faithful, church-going folks who lost their loved ones to believe? Did they simply not pray hard enough? Did their loved ones not deserve divine intervention?

These miraculous proclamations beg other questions: If God is powerful enough to ensure that stray buckshot enter at this precise brain location, why couldn't he simply have caused the guns to jam before any shots were fired? Or, better yet, why didn't God jam the exit door so that the shooter could not enter the theater? Why allow 12 deaths only to deftly navigate buckshot through an abnormality in the brain?

While it is certainly great news that Petra survived to see another day, is it necessary to lob metaphysical baggage into the laps of grieving families who were nut as lucky?
After he describes an awestruck surgeon explaining his analysis of what happened with the bullet in Anderson's head, Strait writes, "In Christianity we call it prevenient grace: God working ahead of time for a particular event in the future. It's just like the God I follow to plan the route of a bullet through a brain long before Batman ever rises. Twenty-two years before."
If we are to entertain this notion of "prevenient grace," we have no choice but to also entertain the notion that God planned the massacre.

Does that not make God a terrorist?

There is a part of me that says, "Whatever helps you get through the day." However, when that very thing that helps you get through the day insults those left grieving in the wake of such a horrible tragedy, people ought to consider keeping their miracles to themselves.


  1. This story and your thoughts on it remind me of a session I had with a client the other day (I'm a marriage and family therapist). During some intense storms in the area, my client explained that she was terrified. She was worried about me driving and was surprised I showed up at her house for our session. I her asked what she wanted to do to feel safe and she said she wanted to run to her room and hide under her bed like she did when she was a kid (she's almost 30). She was visibly anxious and I asked her what her parents would do when she was a kid when there was a bad storm. She said that her parents used to tell her that storms happen because it's God's way of saying that he was angry with her for bad things she did (she was raised as a Methodist). I thought this was interesting because I went to a Methodist college as an undergrad and never heard this belief about the root cause of storms. She's almost 30 and still believes this. I swung my chair around and set it next to hers. I got up and opened up her front door so we could watch the storm together through her storm door. I talked a little more about how beautiful the storm was and how powerful nature is. She concluded that she needed to accept that there were some things that were out of her control. I struggled with a response when she stated that she wanted to pray to make sure a tree didn't fall on her house. I questioned that for someone accepting that it was out of her control, wouldn't prayer be a form of trying to get control back? I then asked if her neighbor across the street prayed for the same thing, but the tree fell on her neighbor's house, what would that mean about prayer? Then I asked her if every storm she had been through eventually ended. She said yes while quickly noting Noah's experience. To which I replied, "Right, 40 days. Not 40 eternities." I asked her how she explained a storm to her young daughter. She said that she would tell her that it was God watering the earth to help things grow. That thunder was God clapping for his angels and all the good work they do and lightening was God's fireworks. I then asked how storms could be God's way of telling her she is a bad person AND encouragement for his angels while helping the earth grow. She was stumped. I asked her what it would be like if she started telling herself that the storms were God watering the earth and she let the myth that storms were because he was angry with her fade away. I also let her know, in a playfully sarcastic manner (we have a very good professional relationship and I'm not a traditional therapist), how arrogant it was for her to think that EVERY storm was ALL about her. She smiled. She was also a lot more relaxed when we ended our session. It saddens me deeply that this woman, again ALMOST 30, still carried this belief about a thunderstorm because of her parents' religious beliefs. This woman struggles daily with her self-worth because of the abuse she suffered (physical and emotional) under the guise of it being connected to and justified by God's laws. I appreciate that my client has been open to my encouragement to explore other religions as part of her goals to heal from the abuse she suffered. She recently wrote a poem about being a survivor and I noted that at no point in the poem that she was very proud of did she mention prayer being how she survived. I don't have a personal goal for her to be an atheist or agnostic as much as wanting her to question a lot of what she's been told because of how damaging it has been for her. If you want to believe there is a God, by all means do so. When it starts to become traumatic, abusive or one uses his or her beliefs to threaten, control or demean someone else is when it becomes really difficult for me to stand by and fully accept those beliefs when they cause so much pain. I understand why Mr. Strait's explanation is what it is. Whether it is intentional or not, it remains insensitive.

  2. You sound like a wonderful therapist. Your clients are fortunate to have you. :)

  3. When I was in high school, and still a Christian, I was told by someone that god allowed Hitler to kill the Jews because if he hadn't there may have been someone worse than Hitler. Basically saying that one tragedy stopped a greater tragedy. So by this logic more than 50 million people died just so god could stop 1 other person who might have done worse. Clearly a selective heart attack was out of the question. The apologists that try to rationalize these tragedies are sick. I can't imagine the pain the victims and their families are going through, but I know I would definitely not want my loved ones marginalized as some one off that god couldn't bother with that day.

  4. Well, I do see your point. However, I don't believe God planned the attack. I believe He knew it was going to happen and He allowed it to happen. And I know this sounds crazy, like Joshua P. stated above. I get his point of view. However, look at it this way: where would you be if your parents shielded you from everything painful, hard or negative? Would you still be the strong person you are having experienced all those things? Its like Yen and Yang. There's no good without bad and there is no bad without the good. It's easy to believe that the world would be better off or more awesome if there were no pain, hate and everything negative. However, I don't believe this to be true. I wouldn't be the strong, smart, giving, loving person I am without my parents getting divorced, surviving cancer and all the other trials and tribulations I have endured that God allowed. I'm not mad at God, I'm greatful and appreciative. I'm honored that God thought I was strong enough to take on those trials and tribulations. Those who died, it was their time. Those who survived, it wasn't their time. Its all a part of God's plan that as humans we just can't wrap our minds around sometimes. Just my thoughts and beliefs.