'God put people on that plane for a reason,' Flight 1380 hero says -- but why does he believe that?

How many times could God be mentioned in a news conference without reporters asking a single follow-up question about, you know, faith?

I lost count of how many times hero firefighter Andrew Needum -- who rushed into action after an engine exploded aboard Southwest Flight 1380 last week -- and his family referenced God in the YouTube video embedded with this post.

I'll give a rough estimate of 20 or 30 mentions of God.

But questions from reporters about Needum's faith? I didn't hear a single one.

Instead, the media focused on details of the flight itself (understandably, to some extent) and the closeness of the family and, well, just about anything except for religion. Which is frustrating to anyone -- I'll raise my hand -- genuinely curious about the faith angle.

Interestingly, the quotes about God figured prominently in much of the news coverage I read — just without any context.

For instance, give credit to the Dallas Morning News for highlighting -- not ignoring -- Needum's "God talk."

The Dallas newspaper -- more so than other major news organizations, such as CNN and USA Today -- emphasized his faith emphasis in its headline and up high in its story.

The headline:

Celina firefighter who rushed to help woman on Southwest flight says God put him there for a reason

Here's the opening of the story: 

On Tuesday morning, Celina firefighter Andrew Needum hurried to New York's LaGuardia Airport with his parents, wife and two young children to catch a flight back home. He said he did not yet know that God had placed him on Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 for a reason.
The 34-year-old first responder was one of the passengers who jumped into action when the plane's engine failed in midflight, causing shrapnel to shatter a cabin window and injuring a woman seated next to it. The New Mexico executive and mother of two, Jennifer Riordan, was later pronounced dead.
Needum spoke about the flight Thursday morning at a news conference at the fire station in Celina, a town about 8,000 people that's 40 miles north of Dallas. He held hands with his wife, Stephanie, and put his arm around his mother, Julie. His father, Tommy, stood at his mother's side.
"God put people on that plane for a reason," he said. "And everybody acted, everybody stayed strong."

But the quotes -- compelling as they were -- were published without any details on why Needum was talking so much about God.

Is he a Christian? Does he have a church home? Why does he believe God was present on the flight? If God was there, why didn't he save the woman who died?

Those are the kind of questions I would have asked at the news conference. I think they are relevant questions and would have brought interesting responses. But unfortunately, nobody thought to ask them.

Remember that GetReligion mantra that tmatt offered up the other day: "If journalists want to cover real news in the real lives of real people in the real world then they need to get real serious about religion."

 

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