That is the number according to a recent survey by the Public Religion Institute. But even more curious is the next number. 67% of white Evangelicals believe that the increased severity of natural disasters is evidence of the end times. On the other side, 52% see it as evidence of Global Warming.
I am already skeptical of statics and surveys. And the numbers above don't help to change my mind. Either I don't understand the statistics or my math skills are off. Last I checked 67% and 52% equaled 119%. So either their numbers are off or those surveyed were VERY convinced of their opinion.
In any case, what is troubling is that a majority of people are more willing to blame God or God's plan to end the world for the recent spat of natural disasters. That a majority seems to think that human activity does not have at least some contributing factor is worrisome. The 40% who see this as God's way of testing faith or the 29% who think it is God punishing nations (see above graph) is also curious.
If one is going to embark upon such a theological explanation one would needs to look at all of the factors. If God punishes nations with natural disaster then God is a fairly capricious God. What I mean is, I can't remember when that last time a major earthquake or tsunami hit, say, England, or France. I suppose we could make a serious case for those countries being punished in much the same way as Japan. So the question is then, why some and not others? Is there an invisible set of scales in heaven that when tipped a little to far then "pow" some sort of natural disaster is sent from God?
And what about all of the innocent people who also are killed? Those who did not commit evil. The story of Abraham's negotiations with God over the fate of a "few righteous" (as few as ten) in Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18 suggests that God would, at the very least, rescue the "good people" before bringing a disaster upon a city or nation.
Or how about Cambodia during the time of Khmer Rouge? Here is a perfect example of evil. The atrocities committed against the people of Cambodia during this time were horrendous. Countless numbers of innocent people died. A former student of mine here at the seminary lost her entire family during that period. Yet, God never sent a tsunami to destroy those people. If ever a group of people deserved to be punished for their evil it was them.
Once again, I think Fretheim's suggestion that God created the world good, but not perfect is an appropriate way to think about things. And natural disasters are just that, natural. They are part of the created order. And we as humans only make things worse. Either through the way we pollute the planet, or our practice of building homes, schools and nuclear reactors on known fault lines, and then thinking that we can avoid the consequences. In such instances we demonstrate more evidence of the creature thinking that it is smarter than the creator.
Sometimes we blame the devil. Other times we blame God. I wonder how much we should just blame ourselves. We seem to be perfectly capable of creating our own messes and exacerbating the natural ones. Why would God or a devil need to get involved at all? We are perfectly capable of destroying ourselves and bringing about our own end.