What would God think?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Sometimes, don't you have to wonder about what your God must think of all the things that have been done in His name?

Though the image of gods have changed through the ages of man, it is not at all uncommon from deep into prehistory to today for both sides in a war to declare that they are killing for God's sake and by God's will. In some cases, I suppose that is true for the current conflict.

God is assessed for every tragedy large and small. A child goes lost or drowned - it has to be God's will, not the fact that the parents lost track or the water was high.

The Almighty is being invoked alarmingly in the nightmarish aftermath of a hurricane.

Strange, isn't it? A hurricane breaks through a woefully inadequate levee and wreaks havoc; God's will.

Why wasn't it God's will on all of the thousands and thousands of days that the weak man-made levee held and people laughed and worked and played and loved?

If it was God's will that thousands died, wouldn't it also be his will that millions were spared, and so many were rescued?

And how did it become God's fault that people built a city on too low a grade, in a hurricane zone, with a weak levee system? It seems easy to assess blame to a silent deity, like some celestial Corps of Engineers.

After Hurricane Katrina battered the Gulf Coast, an e-mail from a former Grapevine, Texas, evangelist caused a bitter debate nationwide.

It contained a scary "prophecy" from an evangelist, Kim Clement, who claimed to have predicted at a meeting in Houston in July that doom and destruction would be visited upon New Orleans for its "transgressions" against God and his people.

"O New Orleans, God speaks to you from Houston tonight and says enough of this," Clement said that he had said... "Bodies will even rise and they will come forth on the water..."

Ultraconservatives of the religious right wing were quick to declare that the hurricane was an act of retribution by God for whatever the particular zealot happens to oppose - be it gambling, drinking, nudity, homosexuality, abortion, parades...

So what of the innocent babies that died, the church faithful, the senior citizens in nursing homes, the rescuers and givers of help?

The evangelists have yet to explain.

Is there evil in New Orleans? Sure, there is good and bad everywhere. Is New Orleans more wicked than Paris, Hollywood, Las Vegas, Denmark, Thailand, Iraq? Not for most of us to judge - if the extremist evangelists can make an informed comparison, the ball's in their court. I notice that they often speak of prostitution with a certain amount of seeming expertise...

Bishop T.D. Jakes, senior pastor of the Potter's House, is among those answering the "God's will" claims.

"I think what people should do is focus on God's love and mercy. ... To point a finger in the faces of people who are burying folks and say, `This is why they died,' I don't see that."

Even the hurricane's name, some argue, is a sign of God's plan of revenge. Katrina is a variant of Katherine, which comes from the Greek for pure, they insist.

Creative, but last time I checked, hurricanes were named rather clinically from lists by the National Hurricane Center and now World Meteorological Organization, seeking shortish, distinctive terms that will be easily understood in a variety of languages. The Lord may work in mysterious ways, but no stone tablets have been reported at these weather offices.

A spokesman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, was quoted as saying, that while the state leader does not agree that the hurricanes were the hand of God seeking to wipe out the gays, "Far be it for the governor to try to divine the will of the Almighty."

That sounds like a pretty safe answer. And he was smart enough to send some other guy to say it for him. No wonder Mr. Perry went into politics.

An evangelist named McKissic has been widely quoted as blaming - or to be more exact celebrating - God for wiping out some of the Gulf Coast:

"They openly practice voodoo and devil worship in New Orleans. You can't shake your fist in God's face 364 days a year and then ask, `Where was God when Katrina struck?'"

The Rev. David Crowe, executive director of Restore America, agreed. "We've known for decades and longer that New Orleans has been a place where immorality is flaunted and Christian values are laughed at," said Crowe.

Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, spoke in Dallas last week and called Katrina - along with Hurricane Rita - punishment for America's warmongering and racism.

"So my family, God is angry," he told hundreds at St. Luke Community United Methodist Church... "God is whipping America..."

Wait, I'm lost - I thought it was because of the drinking and gambling and gays, and now it's about racism?

Remember when Rev. Jerry Falwell after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks blamed "the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians ... the ACLU..."

I may be missing something, but to me it looks like it was the levee that broke, not goodness or the Christian spirit.

And I notice that churches in Storm Lake are helping to collect money, food and goods to help the poor hurricane victims, instead of ranting that they must be sinners deserving this woe in order to have something so bad happened to them.

I wonder what God thinks of that spirit of love and giving and compassion. Might He be smiling?

- Some news quotations courtesy editorialist Selwyn Crawford