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An essay donated by Susan Humphreys

Natural and Man Made Disasters:
WHO is God punishing & WHO is he protecting?

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The first time I heard a minister claim that a disaster was God‚€™s punishment was after the Oklahoma City Bombing.

At the time, I attended a local Methodist Church because I enjoyed singing, not because I was religious. The minister said that he didn‚€™t know what those people had done to deserve God‚€™s wrath but they must have done something terrible. I quit the choir and never attended another service.

At first I couldn‚€™t understand how anyone could be so self-righteous, so judgmental to make such a claim in the face of such a tragedy. Eventually I came to understand why such claims are made. I think Michael H. Brown of Spirit Daily -- who was quoted in this web sites article¬ ‚€œWhy natural disasters happen‚€ -- said it quite well.

‚€œGod allows this (the disaster, presumably natural or man made-my comment) to purge us when we don't purge ourselves. ‚€œ

THIS is dangerous rhetoric that leads to witch hunts, violence against the LGBT community, violence against Muslims, or others that don‚€™t believe what you believe. It is the attitude spawned by the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible. ONLY, those that claim this story as their justification for their position against LGBT rights (not just about marriage equality, but allowing them to purchase property, own a business or even do business in a community), don‚€™t grasp that the story is about the abuse of strangers NOT about consenting adults being allowed to have a homosexual relationship with a consenting and loving partner. ¬ The SIN is abusing strangers, those that are different, for whatever reason: whether they be strangers in town, or members of the LGBT community in your town, or people of other faith or no faith in your town.

This fall, a series of tornados hit Illinois. One was about 6 miles west and north of me. The worst hit town was about an hours drive north of me. This happened shortly after Governor Quinn signed the Marriage Equality bill into law. Christian Conservatives popped up everywhere claiming that God was punishing Illinois for the passage of this bill.

Where I could, I responded back that I have lived in Illinois for 34 years and during all of these years I have never seen a tornado let alone been harmed by one. I pointed out that I am an outspoken advocate of LGBT rights, of a woman‚€™s right to choose, AND an Atheist supporting the rights of people to not be Christian and to not have any religion. I asked them if they thought that God was intentionally protecting me, so that I could continue to speak out?

With every major disaster, natural or man-made, there will be devout Christians that are harmed and people of other faith traditions that are harmed and people that have no faith and no religious affiliation that are harmed. There will be truly good, worthy, honest, upright citizens harmed and truly bad people harmed. Do we just take the attitude that God will sort out his own, as one Pope is said to have declared when Crusaders questioned him about their concern for killing innocents?¬

OR should we look at these disasters in a different way.

I selected two more of the commentators from the article because what they said resonated with me.

  • Rev. Wayne Hilliker of Chalmers United Church in Kingston ON Canada sensed that many of his parishioners have been asking themselves how an "all-knowing, all-powerful God of love" could create a tsunami to slam into some of the poorest countries of the world and cause so many deaths. He said during an interview:

    "If you're looking for absolutes and certainties, then you'll find it easy to say it's the will of God. But anyone who has, it seems to me, a serious reflective mind about their faith is bound to question some of the traditional characteristics we've put upon God."

One comment I have made before is that people claim that God is all knowing, all seeing, all wise, all loving, all powerful, PERFECT in every way. Then they proceed to endow this God with all of their human imperfections:

  • He is narcissistic (not just demanding to be worshipped, but he must be worshipped in a specific way: you must believe the RIGHT beliefs, attend the RIGHT church, practice the RIGHT sacraments -- sprinkled rather than dunked in Baptism or vice versa, -- follow the RIGHT laws).

  • He is also jealous, judgmental, hypocritical, vindictive, hates ‚€œgays‚€, hates people of other faiths and especially hates Atheists‚€¶‚€¶

The God some Christians seem to worship appears to me to be a God unworthy of being worshipped and unworthy of the title of God.

  • Rabbi Elliot Dorff, rector and philosophy professor at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, said:

    "If God has made a finite world, then it has to suffer from the kinds of things finitude suffers from ... things like: life is not forever, there is illness as well as health, and there are earthquakes and rain....The real issue is not so much how we make sense of [the tsunami], because it's quite possible we can't make sense of it. The real issue is how we respond and try to ameliorate the suffering of the people who have suffered."

This, I think, is the MOST important point. There are some things that simply don‚€™t make sense, nor should we try to make ‚€œsense‚€ of them. That is why we have the word senseless.¬

How we choose to respond to disasters whether man made or natural shows the world what we are really made of, the kind of people we are.

Those that claim that a disaster (natural or man caused)¬ is God‚€™s punishment show us the kind of people they are. I wonder if these folks ever ask themselves -- what I understand has become a common question among some younger Christians -- ‚€œWhat would Jesus think and do‚€?

He is after all reported to have said,

‚€œIt is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.‚€ Matthew 15: 11.

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Originally posted: 2014-MAR-16
Latest update: 2014-MAR-16
Author: Susan Humphreys

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