Friday, September 02, 2005

God as a Very Blunt Instrument

Behold the awsome power of God! He shall smite thee for thy ways. Make straight the way of the Lord!
Also: New Orleans is sinking, man, and I don't want to swim.
To hear some folk weighing in on the disaster in New Orleans, you'd think they brought it on themselves. With all the whoring and flashing and drinking and Godlessness. To wit:

Now New Orleans is under water, bathing in sewage and devastation rather than providing downtown fountains for homosexual capers aplenty.

All of this has prompted Repent America to conclude that the biblical God had a heavy hand in the Katrina swing along. It’s an "‘act of God,’" they claim to media. United States-based, Repent America goes to the streets to preach repentance of sin, conversion to Christ as personal Savior, and thereby living the holy lifestyle according to the biblical message.

As far as Repent America is concerned, divine judgment has come upon a metropolis that was bent on making its environs open to hell’s demons. Therefore, God intervened. There will be no "Southern Decadence" skipping the light fantastic. Over and out. Done. Gone. Under water.

The funny(-ish) part is that New Orleans, and Louisiana as a whole, is one of the more religious, church-going areas in the Red States.
So to get a few hedonistic homos, God, in his wisdom and mercy, sank a whole city of his devoted followers.
Of course, there are competing points of view on his divine mercy. For example:
At least one New Orleans-area resident believes God created the storm as punishment because of the recent role the United States played in expelling Jews from Gaza. On Sunday evening, Bridgett Magee of Slidell, La., told the Christian website Jerusalem Newswire that she saw the hurricane “as a direct ‘coming back on us’ [for] what we did to Israel: a home for a home.”
So, now He's pissed about something that happened over in Israel, but instead of hammering Jerusalem or some group of unbelievers or somebody directly involved in the pullout, he swamps a whole bunch of his devotees (and that group of hedonistic homos in the middle).
And this is where you end up with mixing divine will and natural disasters -- untenable theology. Divine will is so unclear here that there is no interpreting it. There is certainly no predicting it. Sorting out what God wants is a monumental and ultimately self-defeating task.
After Pat Robertson's shooting off of the mouth, the net was abuzz with Top 10 great quotes from him. And what do we get to see? Hate-filled diatribes, vitriol, narrow-mindedness and worse qualities all wrapped up in a sugar coating of the smug sanctimoniousness of shallow Christianity. One that stuck out to me was his conversation with Falwell, agreeing that the ACLU, Liberals and tolerance of homosexuality were to blame for 9/11. They made it happen.
The connection between the religious and the gloating is becoming all too strong, all to common.
A lot of this has been banging around in my head since the tsunami. That was when my own grandmother talked about God wanting to clear the world of non-Christians. She says a lot of things that I know she wouldn't have 5 years ago. Some of it is down to the her health issues; some is small town devotion. Still how distasteful is it? How uncomfortable in your own family?
In times of great pain and suffering borne by our fellow human beings, people swoop in with this kind of weak theology like vultures on a flattened gopher. The question they don't seem to ask is why God should choose a natural disaster or terrorist attack to express his will or anger. It's not an asked question because there is only danger in ascribing divine will to these events.
Ask for a moment how powerful a god must be to create such events. Then ask, why not powerful enough to strike down the ones he's aiming at. How merciful a god who kills ten he's against by killing 1000 others. Powerful enough to create a hurricaine; not powerful enough to just kill those he despises. Able to shift tectonic plates; not able to hit a few people with lightning. Can't he pick and choose his targets?
We know from the story of Job that god will fuck his most favoured into the dirt in a craven desperation to get approval and attention from Satan.
In a tantrum worthy of a three year old, he'll grind you under his heel because he wants to stomp your neighbour, or because he wants to prove to someone that he's big and strong.
He can't hit what he's aiming at, doesnt care what he's aiming at, and may deliberately aim the wrong way just to prove he's a bad-ass.
And we should put our trust in him.

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