SOME DANGEROUS DETAILS

Just this week a boy in our community was killed in an automobile accident, and the only thing the newspaper considered worth discussing was whether he died immediately from the accident or was burned to death. With 40,000 people being killed in car accidents every year and many thousands more being maimed for life, there isn’t much news about another high school boy turning his car over while going full speed.

This particular boy had had some other troubles, and people weren’t surprised that he might have been traveling 100 miles an hour. “Just like him,” they said—but I wasn’t quite ready for the dear good Christian woman who said to me, “Well, that was a good thing. He got what he deserved.” With that remark I have been living restlessly ever since.

If I understand anything about our most Holy Faith, it is that it rests on one absolute and clear doctrine: that we are saved by grace. This idea of grace, as I get it, is that it is the unmerited favor of God. We are the objects of God’s love and his patience, not because of what we are but in spite of what we are. As I review my own life and think about drowning or crashing in an airplane or wrapping my car around a pole, about the only thing my religion teaches me is that I have some hope, because the one thing I will not get in this world or the next is what I deserve. My religion has nothing for me except the belief that He will not deal with us “after our sins or reward us according to our iniquities.” Who are the people who go around announcing to the rest of the world that all those other people got just what was coming to them?

And the other side of all this is those demanding ones who keep telling me they are going to get what is coming to them—that ...

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