A good friend in the US once sent me an e-mail he had received. It is highly likely that most of you have received this e-mail as well. It details several people who made flippant or disrespectful comments about God, and died horrible, untimely deaths. My friend was especially interested in the fact that three of the examples came from Brazil, and asked for my opinion.
Before I opine, let me reproduce the content of the e-mail as it referred to the “Brazilian blasphemers”.
The first has to do with former president Tancredo Neves:
During the Presidential campaign, he said if he got 500,000 votes from his party, not even God would remove him from Presidency. Sure he got the votes, but he got sick a day before being made President, then he died.
The next example is that of Cazuza, a musically gifted, sexually confused Brazilian entertainer:
During a show in Canecio ( Rio de Janeiro ), while smoking his cigarette, he puffed out some smoke into the air and said:”God, that’s for you.” He died at the age of 32 of LUNG CANCER in a horrible manner.
Then there is one of the most popular evangelical urban legends in Brazil today:
In Campinas , Brazila group of friends, drunk, went to pick up a friend. The mother accompanied her to the car and was so worried about the drunkenness of her friends and she said to the daughter holding her hand, who was already seated in the car: “My daughter, go with God and may He protect you.” She responded: “Only if He (God) travels in the trunk, because inside here…..it’s already full” Hours later, news came by that they had been involved in a fatal accident, everyone had died, the car could not be recognized what type of car it had been, but surprisingly, the trunk was intact. The police said there was no way the trunk could have remained intact. To their surprise, inside the trunk was a crate of eggs, none was broken.
Now, here’s the deal:
First off, I think there are so many references to Brazil because this e-mail (or at least part of it) actually originated here. I have seen it a few times in Portuguese. There are a few things wrong with this picture.
For starters, I can find absolutely no reference outside of this e-mail to the Tancredo Neves comment. It seems odd that he would make it, however, due to the fact that he was by all accounts and extremely devout (Catholic) individual.
As to the story of the eggs in the trunk, I have heard it told by someone from another city claiming that it happened there to someone they knew of. Also…according to this account, the make of the car was unrecognizable…but the trunk was intact? Hmmmm…
And Cazuza…he died of AIDS…not lung cancer. He was the Rock Hudson of Brazil in the sense that he was the first major celebrity to have publicly acknowledged having the disease. Fun fact: when I was a short-termer here in Brazil back in the ’90s people said I looked like him because I was so painfully thin.
Besides the factual license taken, however, the problem with this e-mail and others like it is theological. The main point seems to be “See what God did to these bad people who thought they were so big? They sure got what they deserved!” Ok…but then how do you explain the the hundreds upon hundreds of “bad people” who DON’T get “what they deserve”? Take George Burns, for example. He starred in the blasphemous “Oh God You Devil” movies, and lived to be 100. When Jeremiah complains about the prosperity of the wicked, it was because the wicked were indeed prospering.
Or take you and I. We certainly have not gotten what we deserve. Praise God for that! When we are tempted to look at someone’s particularly gruesome demise as punishment for some sin, we need to ask ourselves “why then am I still alive? For I am surely as great a sinner as these!” The only answer to that can be the unfathomable Grace of God.
I guess what I am trying to say is that we need to be wary of assigning motives to God’s actions. Make no mistake, violating the third commandment, or mocking that which is sacred, is not a matter to be taken lightly. In the Bible, God dealt severely with people who did so. So let’s stick to those examples. There is no need to make up new ones. In the Biblical narratives, we have the advantage of knowing exactly why God acted, because He gives us the reason. While God most certainly had a purpose in the untimely demise of Tancred Neves, we do not have the convenience of knowing what it was.
Author’s note: I wrote the article several years ago. Since then, it has been one of the most visited at this site. In going through it, I felt that the last few paragraphs were not very clear, so I have heavily edited them from the original. I hope that helps.
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