It’s best to read this post knowing that my motivation is not intended to be harsh, mean-spirited or snobby. I think the simple and direct title demonstrates that restraint as I could have come up with something much more dramatic and sarcastic.
Fellow Christians, we need to stop the non-sense of declaring that our hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and various other natural disasters and violent attacks are divine judgments from God. They are not.
Just the other day, Shirley Phelps-Roper, (Westboro’s Fred Phelps’s daughter) thanked God on Twitter for Hurricane Sandy hitting the East Coast. In the eyes of the self-righteous who have superficial understanding of the Christian faith and Scriptures, natural disasters are a divine judgments from God. Unless God Himself declares them to be, then do not speak for Him.
Listen, until God Himself proclaims that a particular natural disaster is from Him for a particular reason, let us not dare to speak on His behalf.
I’ve always found such things to be mind-boggling as it seems so blatantly judgmental and borders on blasphemy. Yet, before and after just about every disaster theres’s always a religious leader (or a sincere-hearted Facebook friend) that blames this specific disaster on a specific sin. Inevitably the individual will offer a defense that usually goes along the lines of “We cannot be soft on sin as God hates sin” or “God judges like this in the Old Testament so …”
This is flawed on so many levels and I’m attempting to address some of them here.
One, in some cases, this is a ploy to manipulate and hurt others. It’s the ultimate “I told you so.” It generally comes from someone who has been griping about a specific demographic of people, feels ignored then, then exploits a tragic circumstance to speak for God. They usually consider themselves to be “prophetic” and I hate to say this, but most of us in the Church usually consider them to be delusional or to put it more politely, extremely off-base” if they really believe in what they are saying. If they don’t, then again, this is hurtful and manipulative. Examples include Fred Phelps and Pat Robertson and that Facebook friend whose profile pic is Jesus wearing an American flag robe with a bald eagle on his shoulder.
No one is suggesting that we be “soft on sin.” But when we start pointing out other people’s sins and ignore our own, we become the judgmental legalists that Jesus warned us about and He was clear that we needed to be authentic about the sins displayed by our actions and the ones hidden in our hearts. Further, the Lord taught us to always be loving, to be reconciling, even our rebukes were to be bathed in love.
Second, declaring such judgments paints God as violent, in need of anger-management and forgetful. Does not the story of Noah and the flood have God promising to never wipe out humanity with a natural disaster again? Are these natural disasters His way of saying, “Well technically it’s wind and rain and not a flood and I’m not wiping out humanity, only a few of them …” That’s simply not the God I believe in.
Further, why would God be more upset by one group of people’s sins like homosexuality over another, like adultery or pride or deceit or manipulation? This seems obviously odd. Why does God seem so angry at the sins that don’t define your life or your church but extremely angry with the sins that you happen to loathe the most? That is not only very convenient but again, self-righteous.
Why would God be so selective, especially since our Scriptures spend more time dealing with our selfish, idolatrous hearts than our sexual practices? Be careful how you answer this – it’s rhetorical. Now if a firmament of water were suddenly released on homes after visiting certain websites or if a home was leveled and a scarlet “A” was divinely painted on the lawn or if God plucked out an eye every time there was lust, then I’d retract. Btw, interesting in the latter example that Jesus uses hyperbole as opposed to a literal judgment. Even further, we see that he’s not interested in the superficial and external “better practices” but ultimately that followers be in pursuit of a pure heart.
Third, it’s just weird. Why would God choose the weather and what about the rest of the weather in the rest of the country and the rest of the world? What about the weather in the rest of the country? Do we assume that sunny days come only when God is happy? He seems to be quite moody in Washington State and quite happy with everyone in California. The world’s weather patterns are not going to be an accurate gauge of God’s feelings and again it’s just weird.
Lastly, such statements water down the gospel message of Jesus from proclaiming a Savior that offers life, forgiveness and unconditional love to a message that God has had enough with our crap and He’s cleaning up this mess … by creating a bigger one. Now again, if the righteous were spared during such violent acts like the Angel of Death taking the lives of the first born of Egypt (which by the way came with a prophecy, then the sparing of Israel’s firstborn and recorded in inspired Scripture, as opposed to a televangelist asking for money at the end of the program), then you’d have something.
What we see in Scripture is a God that is offering redemption to this world and has invited us to partake in bringing His Kingdom of peace, hope and love here on earth and to establish it forevermore. May the Lord be with us these days. May we brought to repentance and restoration for daring to speak on His behalf and may the Church be known not for a judgment but for hope and redemption … especially on the darkest of days.