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Whose God Rescued the Chilean Miners?

4 years ago
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As the dramatic rescue of the 33 Chilean miners trapped more than 2,000 feet underground wound to a happy, indeed miraculous ending, one of the great and emblematic lines of the saga was delivered by a miner who sent a letter up on Tuesday, the day before he made the journey to the surface.

"There are actually 34 of us," 19-year-old Jimmy Sanchez wrote, "because God has never left us down here."

Amen, a watching world would agree.

But now the question has become, exactly whose God was down there with Jimmy Sanchez and the others?

Different churches are laying claim to inspiring divine intervention in the remarkable rescue, giving short shrift to the impressive technological achievement of the Chilean engineers (and a giant U.S.-made drill) in their efforts to get a leg up on the competition for souls in South America's newly diverse religious marketplace.

"God has spoken to me clearly and guided my hand each step of the rescue," said Carlos Parra Diaz, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor at the San Jose Mine in Chile's mountainous Atacama Desert. "He wanted the miners to be rescued and I am His instrument."

A Pentecostal and an evangelical pastor also worked the site, and American evangelicals with the Orlando-based Campus Crusade for Christ sent each of the miners an MP3 player containing the entire New Testament and "The Story of Jesus," the audio adaptation of the famous "Jesus Film."

Diaz and his Seventh-day Adventist colleagues also managed to send tiny Bibles with magnifying glasses down a communication tube, and, as the Guardian of London put it, Diaz "stole a march over his rivals" by obtaining permission to give a 10-minute talk to the assembled families on the surface before their nightly briefing by government officials.

"I do macro work. I am pastor to all," Diaz told the British newspaper. The other churches, he said, did "micro" work.

But some denominations seemed contented with their share, however modest.

The Baptist Press, the news service of the U.S.-based Southern Baptist Convention, touted reports that two miners became Christians -- by which they mean evangelical Protestants -- during the underground imprisonment, and that when the mine collapsed, just three of the men "were Christians."

That characterization seemed to overlook the fact that the majority of the miners were at least nominally Catholic, as evidenced by the story that one of the first things the miners' relatives did after the collapse was to set up a statue of St. Lawrence, the patron saint of miners, at the mouth of the mine. Indeed, the entire rescue operation was dubbed Operation San Lorenzo.

Moreover, when contact was made with the miners, they also requested that statues of the Virgin Mary and the saints and religious pictures be sent down, in addition to a crucifix. "The miners want to set up a section of the chamber they are in as a shrine," Chile's Minister of Health, Jaime Manalich, told CNN.

And the miners all signed a flag that was ferried up and sent to Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.

Given such a longstanding cultural heft for Catholicism in Chile, the local bishop, Caspar Quintana, could perhaps afford to take the high road when reporters asked him about the religious competition. "What matters is that God is acting through human ingenuity to rescue these men," Bishop Quintana said.

On the other hand, non-Catholic churches are continuing to make inroads in Chile -- which is now 70 percent Catholic, with a booming Protestant and Mormon minority -- as well as in other traditionally Catholic countries across Latin America. Guatemala, for example, is now believed to be a majority Protestant nation, and Brazil and other once overwhelmingly Catholic countries in South America are also becoming more diverse.

This has led to growing competition among all churches, and the Chilean mine disaster was seen as a prime opportunity to witness to the faith. Chileans and people around the world were transfixed and inspired by the drama, with at least one miner claiming to have seen an angel during the 70-day ordeal and many others noting the fact that there were 33 miners, the same number of years Jesus walked the earth.

The miners themselves were the chief testimonies to the religious fervor the mine drama evoked.

"I've been near God, but I've also been near the devil," Mario Sepúlveda, the second miner to be rescued, said as he celebrated on reaching the surface. "God won."

Which God, however, is still an open question.

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226 Comments

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herbkjh714

Praise God for their rescue!

December 05 2010 at 1:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
muley135

The correct question should be "Whose God trapped them down there?" Why does a God get the credit for the rescue and not the collapse?

December 05 2010 at 8:43 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
normde

That's pure silliness, technology and hard work freed those miners.

December 05 2010 at 7:53 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
oommma

The question of whose God rescued the miners is a catchy title, but a ridiculous question. The author is clearly asking which if any denomination can take the credit. There seems to be no question that all denominations involved worship the God of Christ. In the end that's all that matters. The one God of Christ rescued the miners. Their God rescued them whether they were Catholic, Protestant, or Baptist. The implied contention between the denominations did not hinder in any way the rescue.

October 20 2010 at 10:04 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
tjcuda

Which God??? What a moronic story. All the churches represented were at least Christian churches, serving the one God, just in different ways. The author apparently does not know this, being too politically correct, probably not believing in any god. What is sad is having one church or minister trying to claim credit for saving the men, while we all know it was God himself who did the saving, and a great story is the one showing how these men did not lose their faith during their trial.

October 18 2010 at 10:44 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
msravenkittylotr

I don't get what this article is trying to hint at. Was this about the denominations of the miners? If it is its wrongly titled. It doesn't matter if someone is a Baptist, Seventh Day Adventist, Catholic or any other Christian denomination they are all worshipping the same God of the Bible. The differences among Christian denominations comes in the form of interpertation, doctrine, hiearchy, and such differences.

October 18 2010 at 1:22 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
kristeanity

Clearly, the author of this article does not know much about the Christian faith. I can't fault him for that, but I can educate him and others like him. Seventh-day Adventists, Baptists, Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Methodists, Episcopalians (must I go on?) all believe in and serve the SAME GOD. We have differences in styles of worship, and even different opinions on which day to worship, BUT, we all believe that JESUS is Lord and that He is God in human form and the only way to salvation, heaven and true peace. Some people insist on promoting their own denomination. But that's just what is is: a denomination. We have our differences, but when it comes to the fundamentals of the faith there is unity. It doesn't matter what you call yourself- Seventh-day Adventist, evangelical, Catholic...if you believe in Christ, you serve the SAME and ONE TRUE GOD. Jesus loves you - believe it or not! :)

October 18 2010 at 1:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
AddEleven

Whose God? We don't claim God as ours; He claims us as His. "AS EACH MAN STANDS ALONE IN THE KNOWLEGE OF GOD, SO MUST GOD BE ALONE IN THE KNOWLEGE OF EACH MAN"." - Kahlil Gibran from The Prophet . . . and each man will answer to God, standing alone before Him, in due time.

October 17 2010 at 9:58 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
mamoseley3

The answer to Mr. Sahchez' question is a simple one. THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD and He is the Almighty God. No piece of stone or wood or any idol can perform a miracle or any deed. Only the God in heaven has that power. Believe it -- it's true!

October 17 2010 at 9:42 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mamoseley3's comment
annedyth

With respect , other Gods can. So no, I don't believe it.

October 17 2010 at 7:52 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Wes

Whose God? "Their" God rescued the Chilean Miners. We belong to God not Him to us. Although different denominations have different ideas about the Christian God, the fact is that it is a Christian God. Not being perfect, many of those of various denominations are no more perfect than anyone else and should come down off their high horses. Although I'd probably put the Catholic Church last, there are folks in that church who are just as good Christians as anyone else. There is one church and one day the pieces (folks of those denominations including the Jehovah's Witnesses) will come together like Einstein's Unified Field Theory.

October 16 2010 at 6:24 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

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