Hey Ryan, we feel your pain.
That's my first response to the reader who contacted GetReligion concerning a CBS News report on the Joplin, Mo., tornado relief effort:
This story was just beyond weird and frustrating as you can't help but want to yell, "Who are these strangers showing up to help?"
Check out the headline and subhead on the piece:
Strangers flocking to help Joplin residents
84-year-old Joplin widow benefits from the kindness of total strangers as she rebuilds after the disaster
Not only are the mysterious helpers strangers; they are total strangers.
Ryan said his favorite paragraph from the report was this one:
About 30 volunteers suddenly appeared one day, and they lifted Mary's furniture and her spirits for a while. But when there is so much need, help has to keep moving.
Ryan's commentary on that graf:
This makes it sound as if people are like clouds and just appear out of nowhere. What brought these people? This might even be worse than a religion ghost behind it all, as I am left wondering in general what the motives are of these people just suddenly showing up to help strangers.
Just the other day, I scratched my (bald) head over tornado coverage by CNN that nailed the religion angle in the written version of a story but totally ignored God and faith in the video report.
In this case, I clicked the embedded CBS video to see if it matched the story Ryan called to our attention. In fact, the video itself helped answer some of the perplexing questions -- as much as CBS tried to ignore them.
A soundbite from one of the volunteers says:
We prayed that morning that if there was a need that we would know it, and God works these things out.
Hmmmmm, does it sound like -- just possibly -- there's a faith angle here? The woman quoted has a son who's wearing a green T-shirt that appears to display a Scripture on the back. Again, hmmmm ...
In the same video, many of the "strangers" who show up to volunteer are wearing orange T-shirts. The writing on the front of the T-shirts says, "Samaritan's Purse." I do believe that Samaritan's Purse is an evangelical Christian ministry with disaster relief experts and volunteer teams on the ground in Joplin. Even the video fails to mention Samaritan's Purse, but you can't miss the T-shirts ... or the volunteers giving the older woman a Bible and asking to pray with her.
My, my, my.
Hey Ryan, did I mention that we feel your pain?