Comedian Doug Stanhope engaged in a remarkable act of charity, raising over $100,000 for an atheist family in Oklahoma whose home fell to a tornado. The Raw Story reports:
“I didn’t do it because I felt sympathy because she got all her sh*t destroyed by a tornado. I did it simply to be a prick to her Okie Christian neighbors,” Stanhope said in a video uploaded to YouTube on Monday. “It’s funny how hate can make you do real nice things every now and then.”
After a tornado ripped through the town of Moore, Oklahoma in May, CNN host Wolf Blitzer asked resident Rebecca Vitsmun if she thanked the Lord for surviving. She replied that she was an atheist.
“If you didn’t think that took balls you’ve never been to Oklahoma,” Stanhope remarked. “Saying ‘I’m an atheist’ in Oklahoma is like screaming ‘Jihad’ at airport security. It took some nuts.”
“If you watch the footage, all the other victims are on the news thanking Jesus for only killing their neighbors and not them, while a crawler is on the screen telling me where I can text money to help them out,” Stanhope said.
“F*ck them. I don’t want Jesus getting credit for my $50. I’ll help that other girl out. She ain’t got no Jeebus, she gonna need money.”
Cutting through Stanhope’s coarse rhetoric, his giving was certainly motivated by sympathy. He may not have been particularly moved by Vitsmun’s physical loss, but he was clearly moved by her irreligious expression. He sought to affirm her values with a gift of money, an act fundamentally no different from any charity.
Stanhope’s perception of Christianity proves noteworthy. Three specifics manifest. First, he compares professing atheism in Oklahoma to “screaming ‘Jihad’ at airport security.” He then portrays Christian gratitude as somehow malevolent, “thanking Jesus for only killing [others].” Finally, he states that he does not want Jesus getting credit for his $50 donation. Let’s take these in turn.
While expressions of atheism no doubt earn social censure in Oklahoma, the nature of that censure differs greatly from the reaction of airport security to an Islamist outburst. People may raise an eyebrow Vitsmun’s way for not believing in God. But they’re not about to tackle her to the ground, cuff her, and hull her away to detention. Indeed, atheists increasingly enjoy greater freedom of expression in American society than Christians.
Stanhope’s line about thanking Jesus for killing others stands as a magnificently engineered straw man. Gratitude for surviving a disaster does not occupy the same conceptual space as celebrating the death of others. Stanhope targets God with this zinger more than Christians, evoking the philosophical problem of evil. How could a good god let bad things happen, or worse, do things which seem bad from a human perspective? We’ll forgo delving too deeply into that here. Suffice it to say Christian gratitude recognizes God’s sovereignty in all things.
That sovereignty includes God’s role in creating the universe, and us in it, which is why God deserves credit even for Stanhope’s $50 donation. Without God, there would be no Stanhope to make it.