On August 21, the Moon covered the entire disk of the Sun and the phenomenon called total solar eclipse happened. Many people will come to the continental United States to watch the total solar eclipse, but the question is, what did they think about it? For many, the solar eclipse is one of nature’s greatest spectacles, a magnificent demonstration of what can happen when celestial objects align. But for others, religious ones, it is a miraculous sign.
Could there have been a solar eclipse at the time of Jesus’ death? Three of the four Gospels that record the earthly life and ministry of Jesus — Matthew, Mark and Luke — mention that the sky became dark as Jesus hung on the cross. A priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of La Crosse, Wis., the Rev. James Kurzynski said he sees the question as “a byproduct of living in a modernist culture that tries to explain everything with science.” Gary Ray, a writer for Unsealed, an evangelical Christian news site, told The Washington Post this week the eclipse may be a hint about the second coming of Jesus Christ. “The Bible says a number of times that there’s going to be signs in the heavens before Jesus Christ returns to Earth,” Ray said. “We see this as possibly one of those.”
While the continental United States hasn’t been in the direct path of a total solar eclipse in nearly 100 years, the phenomenon is visible from somewhere on Earth about every year and a half, according to NASA.
Dozens of church groups across the country organized eclipse-viewing parties and trips. Several institutions in Oregon, Wyoming, Missouri, and other states along the path of totality—the narrow stretch of land where the full effect of the eclipse was visible—treated the eclipse and the wave of visitors following it as an opportunity to spread gospel.
In Silverton, Oregon, Sonrise Ranch hosted a sold-out, family-friendly festival on its grounds called “Eclipsed With God’s Love,” which included outdoor church services and Christian film screenings. In Casper, Wyoming, which expected thousands of visitors, a pair of Baptist churches and a local chapter of a Christian nonprofit handed out hundreds of copies of God of Wonders, a movie styled like a nature documentary that features creationist explanations for everything from weather systems to DNA.
Different religions have different and creative explanations related to the sun’s eclipse. For instance, Hindu scripture teaches that an eclipse occurs when an angry spirit swallows the sun: "They have a score to settle with the sun and the moon. They basically swallow it. That's what causes the light to go out," Reddy, who is a member of the board of the Hindu Temple and Cultural Society of Southern Illinois, said. At Reddy’s temple, they're balancing old and new beliefs. They handed out eclipse glasses to the congregation last week, so members could safely enjoy watching the spectacle. Muslims around the world recite the same prayer whenever they find themselves in the path of an eclipse.
The point is that, regardless of the religion, the religious around the world believe that the wonder of solar eclipse is a sign from God, while atheists focus on the phenomenon itself.
Photo Credits: ABC News