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The Anger of the Elephants

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Dec 22, 2009

It’s a once in a lifetime story, though our news department ranks it among the least important stories, so it appears only at the very end of yesterday’s daily news list. I refer, of course, to the Avenging Elephants of Orissa. It seems that exactly one year after the Hindu rioting against Christians that left 500 dead and drove thousands from their homes, a band of rogue elephants has left a sanctuary, travelled 180 kilometers, and selectively stampeded through the properties of the leaders of the anti-Christian attacks.

The story comes to us from the web site of the Archdiocese of Colombo, in Sri Lanka, complete with an impressive full-color photo of elephants on the move: Elephants attack Orissa exactly after one year of persecutions. But what is a Christian supposed to do with such a story? Take delight in the destruction of his enemies as would an Old Testament prophet? Suppress the story after the manner of our highly-sensitized diversity culture? Report it with a simple faith in miracles, as seems to be the case in the Archdiocese of Colombo?

Obviously, the first requirement would be to investigate the details very thoroughly. It is, of course, not impossible that the elephants are exacting God’s price for the persecution of His people, a severe mercy which might bring those who take signs and portents seriously to reconsider their hostility to Christ. It is even reminiscent of certain stories which used to appear in the very ancient lives of the saints. But for all that, it does run counter to the Christian understanding of how Our Lord works in history, a method rather decisively represented by the crucifixion not of the Hindu but of The Christian. Therefore, even from the point of view of Faith—in fact, especially from that point of view—it is essential to ascertain the truth of the phenomenon through independent witnesses, and it is doubly essential to avoid ascribing to the phenomenon a Divine intention that cannot be proven.

Even if an unbiased investigation proves that the elephants have attacked only the properties and lives of the persecutors, it could be a cruel trick of the Devil to portray the Christian God as vindictive, and to teach Christians that they should look to Christ for material victory over their enemies. For while Balaam’s ass seems to have been stopped cold by an angel of the Lord, the swine of the Gadarenes were stirred to destruction by evil spirits named Legion.

Thus the story is rated at our lowest level of importance, and yet it fascinates—the story of a lifetime, the rare story that invites us to face things we cannot understand, the intriguing story that forces us to ponder more deeply the Providence of God.

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Show 7 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Jeff Mirus - Dec. 29, 2009 11:47 AM ET USA

    My response, as requested by kman and poppop6363391 is here: On Elephants and Apparitions.

  • Posted by: poppop63633971 - Dec. 28, 2009 10:23 AM ET USA

    Dr. Mirus should offer a response to the question about the peasant girl at the dump.

  • Posted by: garedawg - Dec. 23, 2009 11:07 AM ET USA

    This brings back memories of the old Cheech and Chong spoof "Sister Mary Elephant".

  • Posted by: Erik George - Dec. 23, 2009 12:22 AM ET USA

    With no disrespect to the Archdiocese of Colombo, the photograph accompanying their story actually depicts African Elephants (note the large ears and flatter foreheads) rather than the Asian Elephants native to Sri Lanka. It is likely a file photo and not actual evidence of the alleged avenging pachyderms.

  • Posted by: mmduffy4279 - Dec. 22, 2009 11:47 PM ET USA

    Maybe the real answer is to turn the viewpoint around. The elephants are destroying non-Christian homes, etc. because the Christians were driven out last year and they are no longer there to be harmed. So, those who are being harmed this year are a self-selected group. Maybe this is a warning to others on a more macrocosmic stage.

  • Posted by: skladach - Dec. 22, 2009 5:29 PM ET USA

    Spectacular nature-miracles in the lives of the saints (e.g. St. Martin of Tours) usually occur at the frontier between entrenched paganism and Christian missionary work.

  • Posted by: kman - Dec. 22, 2009 1:18 PM ET USA

    Re: "Thus the story is rated at our lowest level of importance" Funny... I would have expected you to leave that to the readers to decide. Where would you rank a story about a poor ignorant peasant girl who claimed to see a "beautiful lady" in a dump?

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