After the woman recounted the last-minute escape that saved her family’s life, Blitzer said, “I guess you got to thank the Lord, right?” The woman hedged and looked down at her baby.
“Do you thank the Lord? For that split-second decision?” Blitzer pressed. CNN cut to a close-up of the woman’s face.
“I’m actually an atheist,” the survivor said politely. There was a moment of silence, then the two laughed awkwardly.
“You are? Oh, all right,” Blitzer responded, visibly surprised. CNN cut back to the medium shot. “But,” he said, “you made the right call.”
But. Note the conjunction. Somehow, Blitzer seems to be saying, without any professed faith in a higher power, this woman and her child survived—even without God on her team. What a coup!
Blitzer’s behavior may seem startlingly condescending, insensitive, and mawkish. But in fact, mentions of God, miracles, and prayer have become the argot of post-disaster reportage. They shouldn’t be. If you want to pray for Oklahoma or thank God it didn’t kill more people, go ahead. But please, especially if you’re a journalist, keep it to yourself.
Thanking the Lord for deliverance just doesn’t make any sense. Any God powerful and attentive enough to save survivors’ lives should also be powerful and attentive enough to stop the catastrophe in the first place. It’s insulting, futile, and distracting from the reality of natural disasters to inject your god into a calamity like Oklahoma's.