In the last couple of weeks a chilling photo has gone viral on social media. The image, snapped by a surfer’s underwater camera as it dangled beneath his board off the coast of Queens, New York, captures a massive Great White shark looming in the soupy water just below his relaxed, bare feet. The fact that this surfer knew nothing about it until he got home and plugged in his camera somehow adds an extra “yikes” factor to the incident.
According to one noted shark expert who saw the picture, close encounters like this probably happen all the time. “We simply do not always have cameras in the water to see them,” he said. Yikes.
Well, revelations have just surfaced about another, far more terrifying close call. According to the U.K. Guardian, the 1961 crash of a B-52 bomber in rural North Carolina — a tragedy which claimed three lives and was quickly forgotten amid John F. Kennedy’s first days in office — could have turned out unimaginably worse.
You see, that airplane was carrying two hydrogen bombs, each 260 times more powerful than the nuke dropped on Hiroshima. The military assured citizens at the time that these weapons had “never put American lives in jeopardy.” But documents reveal that the bombs that crashed into a tree and a tobacco field that fateful day came shockingly close to altering our nation’s, and the world’s, history.
According to a nuclear weapons safety engineer in the 1960s, three out of the four failsafes on one bomb malfunctioned. He said, “One simple, dynamo-technology, low-voltage switch stood between the United States and a major catastrophe.” But it didn’t happen. Why not?
We might ask the same question about another near-apocalypse which happened just one year later. As a recent PBS documentary details, the American-Soviet face-off during the famous Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 came closer to sparking nuclear war than anyone originally thought. One man, who was later humiliated and ostracized for his decision, defused the situation.
Vasili Arkipov, commander of the Soviet submarine fleet en route to Cuba, vetoed his captain’s order to fire nuclear torpedoes when the U.S. Navy had them pinned down. Instead, he ordered his vessels to surrender, earning him a coward’s welcome back home — and very likely saving the world.
What are we to make of these types of close calls — times when one man or one switch prevented the unthinkable? It’s hard to imagine a world in which dumb luck is the only thing at work. Our natures cry out against it. And the Christian faith, with its attendant doctrine of Providence, tells us otherwise.
In a speech that likely also changed history, Benjamin Franklin famously exhorted his weary colleagues at the Constitutional Convention to pray, saying: “[T]the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?”
Wise words. Here’s another question: Is it probable that mankind’s narrow escapes from self-annihilation are the result of our superior technology, wisdom, and ability to forge our own destiny?
Years from now, when we glance below the murky surface of history, we should not be surprised to see just how close and how often we’ve come to catastrophe — and how our Savior continues to intervene on our behalf, even today.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Publication date: October 1, 2013