Let's face it. It takes a certain degree of courage for a journalist to mock the people living along the Texas Gulf Coast -- the sprawling multicultural city of Houston in particular -- at this moment in time.
We are, in this case, talking about an editorial cartoonist -- Matt Wuerker of The Politico -- as opposed to an actual reporter or columnist.
As you can see in the screen shoot at the top of this post, the point of the cartoon appears to be that the people of Houston, and the thousands of volunteers from Louisiana, upstate Texas and all over the place, are giving too much praise to God for their deliverance and not enough thanks to agents of government.
I grew up in Port Arthur, most of which was under water in the most recent images I saw, and my late parents spent most of their adult lives in the Houston area and the Gulf Coast. That doesn't make me an expert on Hurricane Harvey. It does help me understand how Texans think and act under these circumstances. The bottom line: It's a complex region, with just as many progressives as libertarian, fundamentalist, anti-government Yahoos (or whoever that guy is in the Confederate flag shirt).
So I'll just state the question this way: If you have been watching media reports about the first responders -- government or volunteer -- and the people they have been rescuing, does the contents of this cartoon ring true to you? Is this how the people of Houston are acting?
I don't think so. And ditto for M.Z. "GetReligionista emerita" Hemingway, who lit into Wuerker in a piece at The Federalist. Consider this another installment of our ongoing series that could be called "Classic MZ." From a GetReligion point of view, this is the slam-dunk section of her essay.
What's wrong with this cartoon?
(1) Theological Ignorance
Oh, where to begin. How about with one of the most cliched Christian jokes out there. There are literally 1.6 million returns on Google for a search of the joke about God sending a boat.
I just got about 5 million just now. But you get the point. Let's read on:
Here it goes: A guy is sitting on his rooftop, praying to God to save him from a flood. A guy comes by in a rowboat and tells him to jump in. “No, thank you!” responds the man. “I’m praying to God and he will save me!”
Then motorboat comes by and the people in it shout at the stranded man to jump in. “No thanks!” says the flood victim. “I’m praying to God and he will save me!”
Finally, a helicopter comes by and the pilot lowers a rope to rescue him. The man says, “Thank you but no thanks! I’m praying to God and he will save me. I have faith in it.”
The man dies and goes to heaven. He asks God why he let him drown.
God says, “I sent you two boats and a helicopter! What more did you want?”
What's the relevance of this old standard to the cartoon at The Politico?
M.Z. for the win:
We were taught this joke as young children to show us that God works through means. Among those means are vocations. We serve God by serving our neighbors, including by helping them out in floods. Christians believe that a Coast Guard helicopter pilot and an accountant in a raft can both be instruments of providence. Christians do not believe that God must intervene supernaturally in order for him to intervene.
So hurrah for brave churches, and the Coast Guard too. Cheers for the Cajun Navy and for the local police and firefighters. A disaster of this size demands all forms of citizenship.
But forget theology for a moment.
MZ also notes that the cartoon doesn't even make much sense politically -- if the goal is to mock Texas as a, God forbid, territory in which quite a few people voted against Hlllary Clinton or even for Donald Trump. But what about Houston, again?
Even if you are the kind of jerk who thinks it’s fun to mock people for their politics as they’re drowning, Wuerker’s understanding of the political situation in Houston leaves much to be desired.
I get that most people in the media are currently out of their gourds with Trump derangement, but Texas isn’t even particularly Trump-enthusiastic. Ted Cruz won the GOP primary there with 44 percent of the vote to Trump’s 26.7 percent. Just over 52 percent of the state voted for him in the general. And in Houston’s Harris County, Hillary Clinton soundly defeated Trump.