A little while ago, my three year-old daughter looked out the window at the trees swaying to and fro in the moderate winds and asked, "Why does it have to be windy?" She was a little forlorn knowing that there is a bit of a chil in the wind these days, and she didn't want to be cold. I didn't really try to answer her question. It was mostly a rhetorical question and besides, I didn't really have much of an answer for her. I could have offered a half-hearted, "Because God likes the wind," but what was the point? I don't know the mind of God in every situation. It's all I can do to get a glimpse of the mind of God on any occasion.
It seems that everywhere I turn on the world wide web today, the same subject follows me -- is Katrina God's punishment for the wickedness of New Orleans?
I'll admit I've tried to stay a little detached from the Katrina coverage this week for fear of sensory overload. I don't keep CNN or Fox News on 24/7 and I haven't been scouring the net for more information. (Reviewing my blog posts this week seems to contradict me, but it really is true.) Anyway, I hadn't heard much of this judgment talk until Tracey at Worship Naked pointed out a post at another blog with that implied theme. Byron at a ticking time blog picked up the theme as well, interacting with an article from "Repent America." Since then I've read various other bloggers chiming in with links to other posts and remembrances of the same type of discussion happening after 9-11.
Allow me to repeat and expand upon what I posted at Byron's place. Equating natural disasters with God’s judgment is dangerous territory. I realize that New Orleans seems a mighty sinful place, especially around Mardi Gras time. And I know that there was a particularly hedonistic group having a big event last weekend in the Crescent City. But making the jump to making Katrina into some sort of fire and brimstone is beyond the scope of what we can assume. Plus, those doing a little "superior dance" about the horror at the mouth of the Mississippi should really check their own backyards. "Ye who is without sin..."
If you buy into the whole "We Know The Hurricane Is Judgment" scenario, then you've got to be consistent. The same claim could be made for every icestorm, every earthquake, every tornado, flash flood and volcanic eruption. How could we as humans with limited knowledge be expected to distinguish between a Hurricane of Judgment and an Earthquake of Coincidence? "There are no coincidences," you say? Are all of these disasters judgment sent from God?
A couple of years ago, a small town in Illinois was wiped off the map by a tornado. Sounds like the same kind of judgment called down upon New Orleans to me. Natural disaster. Horrible consequences. But why hit this little burg? Was it because God was angry that the convenience store was selling beer? If so, then why aren’t the other small towns with beer sales completely flat? Was there a church there with a particularly fractured bickering congregation? Then maybe my home town will be next. A philandering pastor? A corrupt mayor? An uncaring populace? If those caused Tornadoes of Judgment to appear, I'm suprised there's a city left standing in North America!
It's really quite convenient to pretend we have God's knowledge and offer a reason for disaster by pronouncing condemnation. This is little more than an offshoot of Prosperity (health and wealth) teachings. How offputting it is for unbelievers to hear admitted Christians claim to have Divine insight; all the while claiming moral superiority instead of freely admitting their own sinfulness. I guess some think that their own sins "aren't that bad" when compared to others. How sad that any person who claims the name of Jesus Christ can think that he must be living right because his house is still standing.
Don't read me wrong -- I'm not denying that God can not punish through means of nature. But for anyone to claim to know that's what is going on is foolish at best. Anyone charging that Katrina was God's judgment upon New Orleans or upon a particular group should pick up his or her Bible and read the Old Testament book of Job. Am I the only one who loves Job?
Job's friends spent speech after speech trying to get disaster-victim Job to admit and repent of all those terrible sins he committed which caused God to strike him. Yet while proclaiming his innocence, Job pointed out that the righteous often fail while the wicked get rich from their wickedness. The simplistic attitude of Job's friends was further rebuffed by the Almighty Himself at the end of the book. Yet still we have those who sound like Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar in their ignorance.
Let us as Christians leave the judgments to the One True Judge and thank Him because we deserve the worst judgment imaginable yet are spared only by His grace.