Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Problem with Blaming God for Oklahoma

I was in class Monday evening when I first heard about the tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma. My students took a moment to pray for those afflicted by the storm and then moved ahead with the class. 

But almost immediately the thought in the back of my head was about  how will some blame this storm on God. It wasn't too long when the news sources and blogs began relating how certain Christian leaders were evaluating the storm as God's judgement and even suggesting that had Christians in Moore prayed, the storm would have gone around them. 

This is the same kind of nonsense that was trotted out after other natural disasters like the Tsunami that hit Japan.  Of course there is little thought given to a host of related problems like 1) The storm hit so quickly that Christians wouldn't have time to pray (assuming they knew it was coming) or 2) If they did "pray away" the storm that means they sent it elsewhere to kill someone else. 

I felt little energy to respond here to those who make such claims. I have in the past as when the tsunami  hit Japan and in a review I did of Fretheim's book Creation Untamed. Thankfully, my fellow blogger and colleague at Ashland Seminary, Allan Bevere, has responded. And I think he makes some excellent points. I found his second point to be particularly incisive when he discusses the level of arrogance one must reach to begin deciding what is and what is not an act of God's judgement. 

The second issue I have with people pointing to a natural disaster, such as a tornado or a hurricane as God's judgment is frankly the arrogance one has to have in order to claim an inside knowledge of when and where God is judging, and the assumption that a person knows the sins that are the cause of such disasters. I would ask those people who believe that God has passed judgment in Moore, Oklahoma if they are willing to apply that criteria to their own life? If a loved one is killed, do they believe that God is judging them or someone related to them? Do they see their own tragedy as simply unfortunate adversity, while the sufferings of those they don't know are experiencing the angry hand of God? People who point to tragic events as God's judgment have an arbitrary set of criteria for determine when and why the Almighty gets peeved at his children.

It looks like Allan is beginning a series on the topic so read his post here

1 comment:

  1. I understand, and agree with, with the excerpt taken from Allan Bevere's blog, which actually raises a question. How would you reconcile that the biblical writers essentially claim such arrogance in many explanations of the disaster that befell the Hebrews/Israel/Judah? I suppose one could play the “inspiration” card, but that seems weak, putting the cart before the horse. In the ancient contexts of the biblical texts, the writers presumed the type of arrogance required for such assertions...and before any concept of “inspiration,” etc., as I understand it. I am not defending those who make such assertions of natural disasters in any way, not am I trying insinuating anything. This is an honest question.